warprompts

What’s Worth 72 Words in the Washington Post?

Listen to Andy Worthington on Counterspin discuss press coverage of the people released with Sami-al-Haj:

Sami al-Haj, the Al Jazeera cameraman recently released after six years in the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo, is back in his native Sudan. As the only journalist believed held in Guantamo, Al Haj’s story has become well known around the world. It is less well-known in the US-al-Haj’s May 1st release merited just a 72 word squib in the Washington Post, and a short report on page 14 of the New York Times.

Still less attention has been paid to the other Guantanamo detainees who were released with Al Haj. Journalist Andy Worthington will join us to tell their stories. He is the author of “The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison.”

Read the fascinating piece, Why the Police Wouldn’t Tase Me, by a journalist who asked to be tasered:

At lunch break, Cpl. Gillis shows up and says the lawyers got cold feet about the plan to zap me. “As you learned this morning, there’s risk of injury,” says the 43-year-old RCMP expert in taser training who has been exposed more than 20 times during training and compares its effects to the muscle burn of a gym workout. “You could potentially tear a muscle and we would be on the hook for your medical expenses and loss of income. You could come after us for pain and discomfort.”

I had been questioning my sanity for days, particularly after seeing a video of La Toya Jackson voluntarily zapped (in the back). But now I feel like a dinner guest promised a full meal that never materializes. Why can’t I sign my life away with a waiver? Gillis says he’ll make another call during lunch. “My school of thought is that if we’re saying this is safe for use on the public, why not?” offers Gillis.

Back in the classroom, Tarasoff hands us each a loaded X-26 Taser and then goes over recent policy and protocol changes. Example: even if they draw a Taser on a subject, they will have to file a report by the end of shift, not within 15 days, “because people haven’t been completing the forms.” Officers are now also allowed to remove the barbed darts from the subject instead of waiting for a medical officer, unless they’ve hit “sensitive areas” like eyes and genitals.

‘Excited delirium’ situations

“Remember that if the situation dictates, you can use multiple applications,” Tarasoff says once again. “If the subject is in the grips of a mental health crisis or has excited delirium (ED), they’ll need medical assistance ASAP. In order for EHS to intervene, they first have to be restrained and under control. It falls on us to do that. With ED, the use of a taser in probe deployment mode may be the most effective response to establish control.”

This is another surprising recommendation. The American Civil Liberties Union says Taser International uses the diagnosis to “whitewash” in-custody deaths and the Canadian government report specifically called for restricting use with ED subjects. “Right now [the report author] is putting out off-the-cuff comments if you will,” Gillis responds. “Where’s the meat and potatoes? We have to go on science and the leading medical expert in this country Christine Hall [a BC ER physician] is still saying, ‘Look this is better than fighting with these people and traditional methods.’ So as a result we’re going to continue to use it in ED cases.”

Background — another post on tasers:

The Ethics of Selling Tasers to Governments Who Torture

June 1, 2008 Posted by | Media Criticism, Torture News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

50 Bullets

So as we all know the cops who fired 50 shots at Sean Bell and his friends were acquitted of all charges last Friday morning. I went to the protest at the Queens DA after work at 5. Unlike pre-9/11 police brutality protests in New York (the one for Diallo comes to mind) it felt small and defeated. I don’t know if it was the disenfranchisement of the George Bush years, the verdict that there’s no such thing as too many shots or some combination. I don’t think, as the New York Times claimed, that it was that “Black New Yorkers See Nuances That Temper Rage.” Oy. The story went on to infuriatingly claim from those oh-so-scientific person on the street interviews (or probably more accurately the persons on the street interviewed who would substantiate the writer/editor’s thesis) that, “Some also said that after a seven-week trial, the picture of what happened the night Mr. Bell, a black man, was killed was still murky, and so they left the public outcry to a relatively small group of black activists who had been closely monitoring the case.” Oy, oy, oy.

We have a criminal justice system that over-charges, over-convicts and over-punishes defendants. We have a system that locks up people for life without the possibility of freedom for firing a lot less than 50 shots and sometimes for crimes that aren’t homicides. We lock people up for decades for non-violent offenses, for drunken brawls that turned tragic, for violating the baseball rule of 3 strikes, for mental illnesses that resulted in violence… But when three cops kill a Black man in 50 bullets — no time at all.

I found one part of the Judge’s rancid opinion interesting — where he noted that he didn’t trust the State witnesses, with their inconsistencies and criminal records:

We instruct juries that it is expected that multiple witnesses to the same event may vary in their recounting of minor aspects of what had been observed. However, where there are significant inconsistencies related to important facts, they should be considered.

Reference was made earlier to the credibility of witnesses. The court has found that the people’s ability to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt was affected by a combination of the following factors: the prosecution witnesses’ prior inconsistent statements, inconsistencies in testimony among prosecution witnesses, the renunciation of prior statements, criminal convictions, the interest of some witnesses in the outcome of the case, the demeanor on the witness stand of other witnesses and the motive witnesses may have had to lie and the effect it had on the truthfulness of a witness’s testimony. These factors played a significant part in the people’s ability to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and had the effect of eviscerating the credibility of those prosecution witnesses. And, at times, the testimony just didn’t make sense.

I wonder how many jailhouse snitches he’s trusted and used to convict — people who have an incentive to lie and have been a proven factor in wrongful convictions. And inconsistent statements? Well, I have no doubt that the DA threw the case and didn’t properly prepare the witnesses, but we all know, as the judge himself admitted, that three witnesses to the same event will have three different accounts. In fact, a victim after a crime may, and often does, change his or her story over time because it’s a traumatic, bombarding event that can’t be recorded verbatim.

I plan on looking at the now retiring judge‘s Westlaw opinions just to see who he’s convicted on a whole lot less than 50 bullets.

Here is Judge Cooperman’s verdict:

“Before dealing with the business at hand, I would like to remind everyone how important it is to honor the decorum of the court and remain quiet after the verdicts are rendered.

A trial is defined as a formal examination of the facts of a case by a court of law to decide the validity of a charge. It is also defined in the dictionary as a hardship. And, in many ways, this trial was a hardship.

But, it was not a competition. To overreact to the outcome while you are in this courtroom, whether you are satisfied or dissatisfied with the result, would detract from the great effort that was expended to assure a fair trial – by the court personnel and the attorneys who handled their responsibilities with the highest level of professionalism and skill.

Because establishments known as “strip clubs” often generate criminal activity including prostitution and narcotics, the police department Club Enforcement Unit was given the task of infiltrating such places and pursuing violations of law that would lead toward shutting them down.

So it was that the detectives charged in this case found themselves in the vicinity of Club Kalua in the early morning of November 25, 2006.

And as a result of the events of that morning, they are accused of the crimes alleged in the indictment.

Now, after eight weeks of trial, this court has the responsibility of making a determination of guilt or lack of guilt as to each of the charges set forth against each of the defendants.

As the trier of fact, this court must determine what the facts are, apply those facts to the applicable law, and render a verdict.

The court will do so. But before announcing a decision, a brief statement is in order.

In weighing the evidence, the court examined the testimony of the witnesses and the factors to be considered in determining credibility.

An objective consideration of the proof ruled out sympathy and prejudice and any other emotional response to the issues presented. The court did not view the victims or the NYPD as being on trial here.

The burden of proof was on the people to prove each defendant guilty of the crimes of which he was charged, beyond a reasonable doubt. And as with all criminal cases, each defendant was presumed to be innocent.

Because justification was raised as an issue, the people had the burden of proving as an element of each charged crime that each defendant was not justified.

It is important to note that in analyzing what happened here, it was necessary to consider the mind-set of each defendant at the time and place of occurrence, and not the mind-set of the victims. What the victims did was more pertinent to resolving the issues of fact than what may have been in their minds.

Also, carelessness and incompetence are not standards to be applied here, unless the conduct rises to the level of criminal acts, as defined by the law relating to each count charged.

What happened outside the Club Kalua on November 25, 2006, and the ensuing incident that occurred around the corner on Liverpool Street are the two significant events about which proof was elicited.

We instruct juries that it is expected that multiple witnesses to the same event may vary in their recounting of minor aspects of what had been observed. However, where there are significant inconsistencies related to important facts, they should be considered.

Reference was made earlier to the credibility of witnesses. The court has found that the people’s ability to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt was affected by a combination of the following factors: the prosecution witnesses’ prior inconsistent statements, inconsistencies in testimony among prosecution witnesses, the renunciation of prior statements, criminal convictions, the interest of some witnesses in the outcome of the case, the demeanor on the witness stand of other witnesses and the motive witnesses may have had to lie and the effect it had on the truthfulness of a witness’s testimony. These factors played a significant part in the people’s ability to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and had the effect of eviscerating the credibility of those prosecution witnesses. And, at times, the testimony just didn’t make sense.

Yet, it was apparent from the testimony of the participants that the confrontation that took place in front of the club was heated. The SUV owner, Fabio Coicou, gave the impression that he had a gun, causing at least one of the group to threaten to take it away from him.

And, the court finds, another threat was made by Joseph Guzman to retrieve a gun. At that point, nothing of a criminal nature had taken place. But, having witnessed that provocative confrontation between Mr. Coicou and the group, the undercover officers became concerned and followed the group around the corner to Liverpool Street.

Defendant Isnora approached the Nissan Altima into which Mr. Guzman and Sean Bell, two of the more active participants in the heated exchange, entered.

The Altima, which was driven by Mr. Bell, sped away from its parked position, struck defendant Isnora and collided head on with the police van that had entered Liverpool Street. The Altima then went into reverse, backed up onto the sidewalk, struck a gate and then went forward and to the right, striking the police van again. As this was happening, defendant Isnora — who testified in the grand jury –observed Mr. Guzman, the front passenger, move his body as if he were reaching for a weapon.

Defendant Isnora yelled, “gun” and fired.

Other officers, indicted and unindicted, joined in from different locations on the street.

The court has found that the incident lasted just seconds. The officers responded to perceived criminal conduct; the unfortunate consequences of their conduct were tragic.

The police response with respect to each defendant was not proved to be criminal, i.e. beyond a reasonable doubt. Questions of carelessness and incompetence must be left to other forums.

Although there were aspects of defense testimony that were not necessarily credible, the focus must be on the people’s proof to determine whether they have satisfied their burden of proving the defendants guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

To the extent that the defense of justification was applicable to the charged crimes, counts 1, 2, 3, 4 in part, 5 in part, 6, 7, and 8, the people have not proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that each defendant was not justified in the actions that each took.

With respect to counts 4 and 5, Trent Benefield, whose credibility was seriously impeached, testified that he was shot while running down liverpool street. Forensic evidence demonstrated otherwise. Thus, although the justification defense would not have applied to that aspect of counts 4 and 5, it was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Accordingly, the court finds each defendant not guilty of each of the respective counts in the indictment of which they were charged.

April 29, 2008 Posted by | Non-Fiction | , , , | Leave a comment

At the NYT, soldiers are seen but not heard

Listen to Jeff Cohen on Counterspin discuss the media black-out on Winter Soldier.

Read FAIR’s Action Alert here and the New York Times response here. One infuriating snippet of the NYT response:

News organizations like the Times, with its own substantial investment in independent reporting from Iraq tend to prefer their own on-scene accounts of the war, rather than relying on charges and counter-charges at home by organizations with strongly held political viewpoints about the war.

What a dishonest response. While the New York Times has been featuring several stories about the torment suffered by American veterans of the Iraq war, they chose not to cover the Winter Soldier hearings, where veterans and active duty soldiers detail the tragedy and immorality they witnessed in Iraq. So, according to the NYT, soldiers can be subjects of stories on the “costs of war” but they won’t be covered if they express political views while telling their stories?

They didn’t cover these soldiers because the vets dared to express a political view about the war they fought — a political view that contradicts the corporate media line.

April 9, 2008 Posted by | Media Criticism, Non-Fiction | , , | Leave a comment