Nicole Flatow reports in ThinkProgress:
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby surprised many observers by announcing severe criminal charges against all six officers involved in the death of 25-year-old Gray of a spinal cord injury, including depraved heart second-degree murder, a crime that suggests “callous disregard” on the part of the officers.
During her live press conference Friday morning, Mosby immediately set herself apart from the other prosecutors in prominent police death cases in the past few months, both by announcing that her office would file charges against her own police officers, without even the cover of a grand jury, but also with the rhetoric that she chose.
“I will seek justice on your behalf,” she said in closing her remarks. “This is a moment. This is your moment. Let’s ensure that we have peaceful and productive rallies that will develop structural and systemic changes for generations to come. You’re at the forefront of this cause. As young people, our time is now.”
Mosby, who noted with pride that she comes from five generations of police officers, also denounced those who led a skewed media narrative suggesting Gray was responsible for his own death with harsh words, saying, “I strongly condemn anyone in law enforcement with access to trial evidence who has leaked information prior to the resolution of this case.” And she balanced that with a message to rank-and-file officers: “please know that these accusations of these six officers are not an indictment on the entire force.”
Mosby’s comments stand in remarkable contrast to those of other prosecutors in recent prominent cases. St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch, for example, gave a winding late-night press conference this summer that lambasted the media, Michael Brown, and a host of other parties that were not the police.
“The most significant challenge encountered in this investigation has been the 24-hour news cycle and its insatiable appetite for something, for anything to talk about, following closely behind with the non-stop rumors on social media,” McCulloch said, as he made the case for exonerating Darren Wilson on behalf of the grand jury who had been tasked with assessing the case.
Mosby, 35, is “the youngest top prosecutor of any major city in America,” according to a recent NBC News profile, and was elected to office just four months ago on a campaign in which she pledged to tackle police brutality. She has received the highest of praiseeven from defense attorneys and community activists. She also has the credibility of coming from a family of police officers.
With Friday’s announcement, Mosby had an early opportunity to make the most forceful demonstration of her commitment on police brutality.
“She gave us her word,” activist Tawanda Jones told the New York Times. Jones’ brother was killed by police after a violent altercation. “I said, ‘How will you handle police brutality?’ She said, ‘If you put me in this chair, I don’t care if they are in uniform or not. I come from a family of officers. Some are good, some are bad, I will hold everybody accountable to the law.’ And thank you, Jesus, she lived it out.”
In addition to her supportive tone, Mosby is also extraordinary for having filed charges at all. Over the seven-year period ending in 2011, for example, a recent Bowling Green State University study found that only 41 officers had been charged with murder or manslaughter for on-duty shootings. During that period, there were, at the very least 2,718, shooting deaths — a federal figure that is known to vastly underestimate the true count. Freddie Gray’s case did not even involve a gun.
Part of the reason for this figure is that prosecutors are usually not well suited to file criminal charges against their own police. Prosecutors are law enforcers, like police. In most every case they take, they rely on police to provide them with cases, make arrests, present evidence, and even testify at trial. If prosecutors can’t work with cops, they can’t convict anybody. And they don’t want to alienate those very same people, particularly because they often maintain personal relationships. As a result, when faced with a case charging the police, “prosecutors face enormous pressure from both police and fellow prosecutors not to go forward with such cases,” explains law professor David A. Harris in a law review article on police accountability.
Because of this, it is the community that frequently calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor who is independent of this bias. But in the case of Baltimore, it was actuallythe police union that was calling for a special prosecutor, likely because they had heard about Mosby’s reputation.
If history is any indication, Mosby may face an extraordinary uphill battle going forward. When Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg recently filed charges against two police officers for the first time in recent memory over the shooting of an unarmed homeless man, police responded by excluding her from future investigations of police shootings. After Chicago prosecutors filed charges for the first time in 15 years against a cop for an on-duty shooting, a judge acquitted the officer in a bizarre ruling that reasoned the charges filed against the officer actually weren’t severe enough. If Mosby’s prosecution reaches a jury, she could face an audience with its own set of biases, as juries also tend to favor the police.
Police have been protected from accountability for too long, and now they cannot grasp why they should ever be held accountable, regardless of what they do. And they have done their best to rig the system so efforts to hold them accountable will fail. These are trappings of a police state.
Corporations will do anything to increase profits: Big Tobacco Reinterpreted the Koran to Try to Lure Muslim Smokers
Kaleigh Rogers reports for Motherboard:
When it comes to Big Industry flexing its muscles to manipulate the masses, the tobacco industry has a particularly dark record. But a review published this month in the American Journal of Public Health shows Big Tobacco went even further than we realized, attempting to woo largely Muslim countries by telling them their religious beliefs against tobacco use were wrong.
A team of researchers combed through the Legacy Documents Tobacco Library: an online collection of 14 million documents from the tobacco industry, many of which were were made public after the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. The team spent nearly two years searching specifically for documents that referred to Islam and Muslims, analyzing those documents, and comparing them to other historical records. They also consulted with an advisory group of Islamic representatives to gain better context.
What they uncovered painted a stark picture showing that, for decades, Big Tobacco not only felt threatened by Islamic beliefs against tobacco use, but also actively worked to try to change those beliefs, including enlisting lawyers to reinterpret the Koran.
“Once we got into it, it became clear that there was a significant body of evidence that showed it wasn’t just a minor issue, it was a major issue for them,” Mark Petticrew, a professor of public health evaluation at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and co-author of the study, told me on the phone.
The group found plenty of evidence that countries with mostly-Muslim populations were uncertain about whether or not tobacco use fit with their religious beliefs. In 1984, for example, one Pakistani newspaper declared that jihad should be waged against smoking. And there was a lot of evidence that the tobacco industry not only recognized this growing concern about tobacco use in Islam, but also feared it. Internal memos from executives at British American Tobacco throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s describe the rejection of tobacco use by Muslims as a “serious problem,” “a real danger to the industry,” and “a hurricane” that Big Tobacco must be prepared to fight.
Rather than accepting that some cultures and religions aren’t interested in drilling through a pack of Marlboros in a day, the study shows the tobacco industry took efforts to change the minds of Muslims and portray anti-tobacco beliefs as “extremist.”
An excerpt from a 1981 article in Tobacco Observer cited in the study illustrates how the industry routinely framed these beliefs:
In the early days of tobacco in the Old World, sadism went hand in hand with opposition to smoking, as smokers encountered persecution as brutal as anything meted out to religious dissidents and witches. … Throughout the Muslim world fanatical mullahs and ayatollahs ranted against tobacco as one of the “four pillars of the tent of debauchery.”
Records show Big Tobacco also enlisted Islamic leaders to try to spread the word that tobacco wasn’t haram (prohibited) and that the Koran made no restrictions on tobacco use. They even had a team of lawyers pore over the holy text in order to interpret it in a way that permitted tobacco use fully. . .
Colorado legislature does it right: CO Senate unanimously backs bill stating the public has the right to record cops
Perhaps the only possible improvement would have been a bill stating the public has the duty to record cops. The more that cops fight against the public recording their actions, the more we realize that there is a reason they fear having a public record of what they do.
Peter Roper reports in The Pueblo Chieftain:
As state lawmakers hurry to adjourn next week, the Senate has unanimously backed the public’s right to use cameras and cellphones to record police.
House Bill 1290 was passed 35-0 Thursday, but senators made one change — saying police could only confiscate a camera for up to 72 hours before obtaining a warrant to hold it longer or copy the wanted recording.
The House approved the bill two weeks ago but will consider the Senate amendment. If accepted, the bill goes to Gov. John Hickenlooper for signature.
It’s the first law of its kind nationally, according to its sponsors, state Reps. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo, and Joe Salazar, D-Thornton. . .
I hope it will not be the last.
A carefully done analysis, which shows quite a few lies coming from the Baltimore police department. It seems that we simply cannot believe what police departments say, particularly with respect to their use of deadly force.
Radley Balko points out this excellent series on police shootings in Palm Beach.
From this report in the Washington Post:
Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr. is charged with second-degree depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, manslaughter by vehicle, and misconduct in office.
Officer William G. Porter is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, and misconduct in office.
Lt. Brian W. Rice is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office, and false imprisonment.
Officer Edward M. Nero is charged with second-degree assault, misconduct in office, and false imprisonment.
Officer Garrett E. Miller is charged with second-degree assault, misconduct in office, and false imprisonment.
Sgt. Alicia D. White is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, and misconduct in office.
Dan Morse explains in the Washington Post a depraved-heart murder:
Maryland has several classifications of homicide, depending on the suspect’s mindset. The classifications range from the most serious – first-degree, premeditated homicide – to forms of manslaughter in which no malice is present.
Second-degree murder is just below first-degree murder and generally holds that there was no premeditation. Second-degree murder, in Maryland, carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, said Steven Kupferberg, a Maryland criminal defense attorney.
There are different forms of second-degree murder. Baltimore Police Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr. was charged Friday with second-degree depraved-heart murder in Gray’s death. “Depraved-heart” second-degree murder holds that the suspect held a reckless disregard for another person’s life.
Put another way, “it’s acting in gross negligence with a callous disregard for human life,” said David Moyse, also a Maryland defense attorney.
State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby is quoted in another story:
She said Gray had a knife on him at the time of the incident, but that it was not a switchblade. She said the knife was “lawful under Maryland law.” Officers “failed to establish probable cause for his arrest as no crime had been committed” Mosby said.
Officers “illegally arrested Mr. Gray,” she said.
In the meantime, the police department leaked a report that said that the second prisoner in the van reported hearing Freddie Gray banging himself against the walls. (The police often release false stories in attempts to deflect blame—in the Tamir Rice case the police said that the boy was sitting at a table and pointed his (toy) gun at them and ignored repeated requests to drop the gun. Videos from surveillance cameras show that the police report was completely false. And in the murder of Scott Walker, police released a statement that he was shot while he was struggling to take the Taser away from the officer—again, a total lie. Police statements are not to be trusted, as we see.)
The facts: (a) the second prisoner was in the van only for the final five minutes of the ride, at which point Freddie Gray was already unresponsive; and (b) the second prisoner denies that he made any such statement. The police are lying again. They do this because usually they get away with lying.