Category Archives: Crime and Punishment

Justice for Anthony Dansbury

Anthony Dansberry is serving a seventy-five-year sentence for a robbery and murder he didn’t commit. He has already served twenty-two years for the crime, the snatching of an elderly woman’s purse that resulted in the woman’s death four months later as result of injuries she suffered when the attacker knocked her to the ground. Because there is no physical evidence for DNA testing, Anthony’s best hope of being released is clemency from Governor Quinn.

Please urge Governor Quinn to exercise his clemency power and release Anthony.

Anthony was twenty-seven at the time of his arrest and had no criminal record or history of violence. He was convicted based on shaky identification evidence and a typed confession that he signed under the mistaken belief that the papers would secure his release. Four eyewitnesses viewed a lineup that included Anthony, and only one witness picked him. That witness had previously viewed Anthony’s photo in a photo array. One of the other witnesses said that Anthony was definitely not the perpetrator, and another selected a different person from the lineup. Additionally, his palmprint did not match a palmprint found on the hood of a car that the attacker touched while fleeing the scene.

Anthony has a low IQ and the reading comprehension of a first grader. His “confession” uses words like “viaduct” and “southbound,” which are not in his vocabulary. Anthony has always maintained that he was told that the papers he signed were for his release. His aunt corroborated his account, saying that he told her after his arrest that he had signed “release papers.”

The Center on Wrongful Convictions, which is representing Anthony, has produced a short video about his case here.

The end of the year is when most lawmakers exercise their clemency power. Please take just a few minutes to urge Gov. Quinn to right this injustice and bring Anthony come home for the holidays.

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Filed under Crime and Punishment, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist, Sick Sad World

States Charging Inmates for Jail Facilities

Toilet paper Español: Papel higiénico

Toilet paper Español: Papel higiénico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Citing a 2010 Brennan Center reportTime published a story on how cash-strapped municipalities are charging jail inmates for items such as pants, blankets and each sheet of toilet paper. Echoing the Brennan Center’s findings, the magazine noted that such efforts are often futile.

“Legal experts point out that prison fees don’t yield much revenue because the majority of prisoners in the U.S. are poor,” the story said. Discussing the subject on Washington Post TV, Lauren-Brooke Eisen pointed out that these policies can lead to the re-incarceration of ex-offenders who have done nothing wrong other than fail to pay their jail fees.

“You’re talking about a population that just doesn’t have the funds creating a debtor’s prison,” Eisen said. “Most of the counties that have done this have spent more money trying to collect these fees than they have actually received.”

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Senate Examines Marijuana Policy

English: Close up shot of some high quality ma...

English: Close up shot of some high quality marijuana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Following Colorado and Washington’s vote to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examined emerging tensions between federal and state marijuana policy.

Inimai Chettiar writes on that the government has yet to find a solution to the question of how to reform marijuana laws. “The new approach will do little to mitigate the failed ‘war on drugs’,” she explained. “To create genuine and lasting progress, federal drug laws must be completely revamped.” Removing harsh mandatory minimum sentences, Chettiar said, should be the first step.

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Sandy Hook Mother Praises Teachers of America

English: Ruby Lee Strickland, AVID teacher at ...

English: Ruby Lee Strickland, AVID teacher at Faith Middle School, helps Cassandra Unrein fill out the demographics sheet for the PSAT Tuesday. This is the first time Faith eighth-graders have had the opportunity to take the PSAT. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The mother of one of the victims of last year’s Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre has written a letter to the teachers of America. Nebla Marquez-Green had two children attending Sandy Hook Elementary. Her daughter, six-year-old Ana Grace, was killed in the massacre. Her son was uninjured.

Her letter, posted on the Education Week website is powerful, gut-wrenching, and encouraging all in one.

As another school year begins and old routines settle back into place, I wanted to share my story in honor of the teachers everywhere who care for our children.

I lost my 6-year-old daughter Ana Grace on Dec. 14, 2012, in the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School. My son, who was in the building and heard the shooting, survived.

While waiting in the firehouse that day to hear the official news that our daughter was dead, my husband and I made promises to ourselves, to each other, and to our son. We promised to face the future with courage, faith, and love.

As teachers and school employees begin this new year, my wish for you is that same courage, faith, and love.

It takes guts to be a teacher. Six brave women gave their lives trying to protect their students at Sandy Hook. Other teachers were forced to run from the building, stepping over the bodies of their friends and colleagues, and they came right back to work.

When I asked my son’s teacher why she returned, she responded, “Because they are my kids. And my students need me now more than ever.” She sent daily updates on my son’s progress, from his behavior to what he’d eaten for lunch. And four months later, when my son finally smiled one day after school, I asked him about it. His response? “Mom. My teacher is so funny. I had an epic day.”

While I pray you will never find yourself in the position of the teachers at Sandy Hook, your courage will support students like my son, who have lived through traumas no child should have to.

Your courage will support students who are left out and overlooked, like the isolated young man who killed my daughter. At some point he was a young, impressionable student, often sitting all alone at school. You will have kids facing long odds for whom your smile, your encouraging word, and your willingness to go the extra mile will provide the comfort and security they need to try again tomorrow.

When you Google “hero,” there should be a picture of a principal, a school lunch worker, a custodian, a reading specialist, a teacher, or a bus monitor. Real heroes don’t wear capes. They work in America’s schools.

Being courageous requires faith. It took faith to go back to work at Sandy Hook after the shooting. Nobody had the answers or knew what would come tomorrow, but they just kept going. Every opportunity you have to create welcoming environments in our schools where parents and students feel connected counts.

Have faith that your hard work is having a profound impact on your students. Of the 15,000 personal letters I received after the shooting, only one stays at my bedside. It’s from my high school English teacher, Robert Buckley.

But you can’t be courageous or step out on faith without a deep love for what you do.

Parents are sending their precious children to you this fall. Some will come fully prepared, and others not. They will come fed and with empty bellies. They will come from intact homes and fractured ones. Love them all.

When my son returned to school in January, I thought I was going to lose my mind. Imagine the difficulty in sending your surviving child into a classroom when you lost your baby in a school shooting. We sent him because we didn’t want him to be afraid.

 We sent him because we wanted him to understand that while our lives would never be the same, our lives still needed to move forward.

According to the 2011-12 National Survey of Children’s Health, nearly half of America’s children will have suffered at least one childhood trauma before the age of 18. They need your love.

A few weeks before the shooting, Ana Grace and I shared a special morning. Lunches were packed and clothes were picked out the night before, so we had extra time to snuggle. And while I lay in bed with my beautiful caramel princess, she sensed that I was distracted and asked, “What’s the matter, Mom?” I remember saying to her, “Nothing, baby. It’s just work.” She looked at me for a very long time with a thoughtful stare, then she told me, “Don’t let them suck your fun circuits dry, Mom.”

As you begin this school year, remember Ana Grace. Walk with courage, with faith, and with love. And don’t let them suck your fun circuits dry.

Via MyChannel957.

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Tom Hanks Is So Nice That He Gets Court Cases Thrown Out

English: Tom Hanks at a ceremony for George Ha...

English: Tom Hanks at a ceremony for George Harrison to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tom Hanks is the most gracious famous person ever. When he’s not helping people take amazing drunk photos, he’s serving on jury duty and not even trying to get out of it. In fact, he’s so approachable that a member of the L.A. City Attorney’s Office just couldn’t help herself and spoke to Hanks outside of the courtroom, breaching courtroom ethics and causing the case to get thrown out.

The encounter happened on a lunch break. “She made contact with Mr Hanks in the stairwell of the building. She came up to him and thanked him, and [said] how impressed everyone is that such a celebrity would still be here serving jury duty,” said the Defense Attorney. He continued, “she, in essence, was being maybe a little star-struck and nice, but it’s an absolute 100% no-no and should never have happened.”

After the defense pointed out the misconduct and called for a mistrial, both sides agreed to a settlement.

Via Death and Taxes.

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Zimmerman’s Lawyer: “Pay Me”

Anderson Cooper visited Wolfson Children's Hos...

Anderson Cooper visited Wolfson Children’s Hospital. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In an interview on Tuesday, George Zimmerman‘s attorney, Mark O’Mara, told ABC News that he would no longer be representing Zimmerman. That isn’t surprising, considering that Zimmerman was almost arrested outside of the home of his estranged wife earlier in the week for an alleged domestic violence incident. While some media sites claim that the police stated Zimmerman didn’t have a gun, these reports, according to Zimmermans’s own attorney, are false. In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, O’Mara said that Zimmerman was in possession of a weapon when he went to his wife’s home.

O’Mara may not have dropped Zimmerman because of his tendency to get into trouble with the law. During the ABC interview, when O’Mara was asked if he had any advice for his former client, he said this: “Pay me.”

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Trayvon Martin Medical Examiner Says Prosecution Threw Case

Dr. Shiping Bao, the Medical Examiner who performed Trayvon Martin’s autopsy, is claiming that the prosecution ignored evidence in the case, due to a belief that Zimmerman was in the right. Bao is suing the state for $100 million in a wrongful termination case, after being fired over disagreements about the investigation.

He says the ME’s office, the State Attorney’s office, and the Sanford Police were biased against Martin and believed that he “got what he deserved.”

Dr. Bao says that the autopsy he performed on Trayvon Martin proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there was no possible way that Martin had been on top of George Zimmerman when the shooting took place. However, that evidence was hushed away, and Bao was told to keep his mouth shut. During the trial, the prosecution declined to question him about the scientific evidence about how Martin and Zimmerman were positioned during the altercation.

The State’s Attorney’s office denies Bao’s claims. 

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Minnesota Family Has Two Accidental Shootings in One Week

A Chaska, Minnesota, family is not having a good week when it comes to accidentally shooting each other.

From CBS Minnesota:

Police in Chaska say that three in-laws were accidentally shot by other family members in two separate incidents, one of which happened during a game of Monopoly.

Officers say the first incident they responded to a number of days ago involved a man accidentally shooting his father-in-law in the foot with a handgun.

Police say alcohol was not involved and the entire incident was due to “negligent weapon handling.”

Well, you’d think that after that, they’d learn their lesson and brush up on their gun safety tips and never mishandle a firearm again.

Then, this past weekend, officers said they responded to another shooting involving the family. This time, the father-in-law was apparently mishandling his handgun and shot himself in the hand while they were playing a board game.

The bullet, after passing through his hand, then struck his wife in the stomach, police said.

Again, officers say alcohol does not appear to have been involved in the second shooting.

Via CBS Minnesota.


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5 Rules for Talking about Rape

English: Miley Cyrus singing in concert

English: Miley Cyrus singing in concert (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over at Salon, Katie McDonough has written a piece called “How not to be terrible when talking about rape.” It’s fantastic, and I’ve re-posted it in large part below (with editing for length and language). Head over to Salon to read the original.


Fourteen-year-old girls in juvenile detention facilities do not “consent” to rape by corrections officers. Latex-clad pop stars do not “encourage a teenage culture” in which boys can sexually assault unconscious girls. A thirty-day sentence for a convicted rapist who violated the terms of his rehabilitation programs has not received a sentence “appropriate given the nature of the case.”

A year after the “legitimate rape” comment that killed Todd Akin’s political career, it’s become clear that Akin’s view of sexual violence is how many people talk about rape: quick to blame survivors and excuse perpetrators.

It is so easy to be better. Here are five ways to start.

1. Being sexually assaulted is a tragedy. Going to prison for sexually assaulting someone is not. 

Empathy is a good thing. Empathy for people who commit terrible crimes can be a good thing.

Judge G. Todd Baugh initially agreed with Stacey Dean Rambold’s defense attorney when he argued that Rambold — a forty-nine-year-old teacher who raped his fourteen-year-old student — should not serve the recommended fifteen years behind bars because he had “suffered enough” during his trial.

Rambold’s victim, however, was repeatedly raped by an adult who was legally responsible for her care; she committed suicide at only sixteen years old.

To suggest Rambold’s experience of being found guilty of a crime is on par with the experience of being a victim of that crime is not only offensive — it’s delusional.

Then there was CNN’s commentary on Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, the two high school football players found guilty of raping an unconscious teenage girl and, in Mays’ case, circulating photos of the assault. After delivering news of the guilty verdict, correspondent Poppy Harlow lamented:

Incredibly difficult, even for an outsider like me, to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart … when that sentence came down, [Richmond] collapsed in the arms of his attorney … He said to him, “My life is over. No one is going to want me now.”

It isn’t a tragedy when people who commit crimes face consequences. It’s justice.

2. Female sexuality does not ever invite rape.

On Tuesday, the Washington Post ran a piece by Richard Cohen suggesting that Miley Cyrus might be responsible for the crimes committed in Steubenville.

In a story for USA Today, Joanne Bamberger took a similar position, blaming Cyrus for failures of accountability from the criminal justice system. Bamberger cites the pop star’s onstage writhing and grinding as the reason that judges like Baugh think girls like Rambold’s victim are “as much in control of the situation” as their assailants:

Even though [Cyrus] is 20, many of us still see her as the tween/teen star of Disney’s “Hannah Montana,” and maintain a mental image of her as that more wholesome child, even as she struts on stage today, inviting sexual attention. Shows like “16 and Pregnant” reinforce the idea that girls are sexually mature before they graduate from high school. The music industry inundates us with salacious female images, like the Britney Spears/Madonna French-kissing episode ten years ago on same MTV award show.

3. Being anti-rape is not anti-sex.

Only days before the Washington Post ran Cohen’s editorial, they published Betsy Karasik’s musings on why sending a forty-nine-year-old man who raped a fourteen-year-old girl to prison for longer than 30 days is “utter hysteria.” Teachers who rape students, Karasik says, exist on a “nuanced continuum of sexual interactions.”

As Katie Halper recently noted for Salon, a fourteen-year-old girl literally cannot consent to have sex with a forty-nine-year-old man. There is no “sex” between a teacher and a fourteen-year-old student. It is rape. The same goes for the recent trial of a forty-year-old corrections officer who raped an incarcerated fourteen-year-old girl.

The Poytner Institute has a wonderfully concise rule of thumb on distinguishing between rape and sex when reporting on sexual violence: “Describe charges of sex without consent as rape, not anything less … sometimes writers minimize the trauma of rape by describing it as sex or intercourse if the rape doesn’t involve the kind of physical violence that requires medical attention.”

4. Don’t use a stand-up comedian as the crux of your defense of a convicted rapist. 

Seriously. Just don’t do it.

5. “Prison rape” is rape.

Last month, the Daily Beast ran a piece announcing that “true rape” does not happen in prison and that it’s “really not that unusual” for incarcerated people to lie about being sexually assaulted. Mansfield Frazier’s piece (which has since been edited to remove this passage) continued:

Indeed, the vast majority of experienced convicts know that “true” rape is not a common occurrence in prison. That doesn’t mean that homosexual sex doesn’t occur — it certainly does. But it’s really not that unusual for a new prisoner to show up on the compound and begin walking around the yard in pants far too tight. Before long they drop the soap in the shower, get a little close to another naked man, and then — simply because they’ve never been able to come to terms with their own sexuality — tell anyone who will listen (but, interestingly enough, they usually never complain to the guards) that they were “raped.” And a week or two later it could happen again, and then again.

The story generated near-immediate outrage, which the editors responded to by significantly altering the piece and posting a public apology, but the Daily Beast was far from the first media outlet to make light of sexual assault in prison.

On CNN that week, Richard Herman said that Chelsea Manning, a transgender woman, would get “good practice at being a woman” while in prison. Disgusting.

As Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams noted in 2012, minimizing rape in prison isn’t funny. “Ever wonder why, though men make up at least 3 percent of rape victims, the crime so often goes unreported?” Williams asks. “Couldn’t have anything to do with our cultural propensity for turning sexual violence against men into a smug joke?”

Rape doesn’t suddenly become acceptable when it’s committed against a person who is incarcerated. It actually just keeps being rape.

Via Salon.


Filed under Cheers!, Crime and Punishment, If You Were Gay, Sick Sad World, War on Women

Florida Man Kills Neighbors, Cites “Stand Your Ground” and “Bush Doctrine” as Defenses

Florida man William Woodward “snuck up” on three of his neighbors and unleashed a campaign of shock and awe on their Labor Day barbecue in the form of over fifty rounds, killing two and severely injuring (with eleven shots) a third person.

Now his lawyers have cited not only the state’s Stand Your Ground law, but also President George W. Bush’s pre-emptive war in Iraq and the Bush Doctrine as a defense.

In their motion, Woodward’s attorneys claimed that the victims had called him names and threatened to “get him.”

The motion referenced Enoch V. [sic] State, which suggests that an “imminent” threat can include something that is likely to occur at sometime in the future.

“I think legally that term has sort of been evolving especially given changes of our government’s definition of ‘imminent,’” attorney Robert Berry, who is representing Woodward, told Florida Today. “It’s become more expansive than someone putting a gun right to your head. It’s things that could become, you know, an immediate threat.”

You really can’t fault the attorneys for the obvious use of Stand Your Ground, even if it was the neighbor’s ground. After the outcome of the Zimmerman case, we understand that the law stands for the proposition that you can stalk someone to provoke them into confronting you, and then you can kill them. But the Bush Doctrine? That’s ingenious.

The court document filed by the defense also cited “The Bush Doctrine,” a foreign policy principle used by President George W. Bush to justify the invasion of Iraq. “The Bush Doctrine” embraces “preventive” or pre-emptive war.

If the Bush Doctrine taught us anything, it is that one does not leave possible threats out there. “Imminent threat” now means “something that might happen in the future” just as “no duty to retreat” means “You can hunt down unarmed people and shoot the shit out of them on their own property.”



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