Archive for verdict

Prison Guard Beats Inmate And Illinois Must Pay

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The headline in HuffPo reads:

James Degorski, Man Who Killed 7 At Brown's Chicken Restaurant, Awarded $451,000 In Civil Suit

So I was interested to see how a convicted killer was awarded money. Could it be related to his murdering 7 innocent people? I didn't think so but I had to read on.

CHICAGO (AP) — A former handyman serving life in prison for the 1993 murder of seven people at a suburban Chicago restaurant has been awarded nearly a half-million dollars in a civil lawsuit in which he alleged a jail guard punched him in the face.

Degorski, now 41, accused a Cook County Jail guard of punching him and breaking his cheekbone and eye socket in 2002.

As it turns out, this was really not about the inmate's crime, but about the inmate's treatment. His abuse. His being deprived of his civil rights.  Degorski's attorney put it this way:

"I think it's a beautiful day for civil rights when a jury can put aside emotions and say we are all entitled to our civil rights," she said. "It's about protecting the constitutional rights of the least among us."

Well, I'm not so sure that it's a beautiful day, but I do feel strongly that we have constitutional rights which, contrary to popular opinion, are not relinquished when someone's sentenced to prison.

Why should we care, or more importantly why should a jury care to the tune of nearly half a million bucks?

Simple. We have the eighth amendment which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. The jury heard the facts, the details of this brutal attack on a brutal man who was in his care. Yet a prison sentence doesn't give the guards the right to dispatch their own kind of justice. Guards are there to serve the justice system, not create their own. And this guard evidently thought he could. Now the state must pay, which means the people of Illinois have to cough up half a mil for this crime.

If it seems like I'm taking the side of a killer, you're wrong. I'm taking the side of justice. We can't allow people behind bars to become animals, pets, treated unkindly by brutal guards. If we do, there's no chance at rehabilitation. I don't think prison should become a vacation spot, but basic human rights shouldn't be denied, either.

This prisoner who was beaten could just as easily been incarcerated for fixing the books at a financial institution or possession of a controlled substance. His crime got him put there for just punishment, not to become a guard's punching bag. But this guard took justice into his own hands, abused it and a jury found him guilty. Hopefully he will lose his job for this. But most certainly, the good and innocent people of Illinois will be covering the tab. Perhaps that's the real injustice in this case.

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Disturbing Sentencing News From Alabama

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When it comes to meting out punishment in courts, there's sentencing guidelines and generally they are followed. But judges are, for the most part, given discretion based on the facts and evidence in a case. Sometimes additional time is tacked on, sometimes a lesser sentence is granted. And then there's always the consideration of probation for some or all of the term. From AL.com:

ATHENS, Alabama - A man accused of raping a teenage acquaintance was convicted by a Limestone County jury this afternoon, according to District Attorney Brian Jones.

Some of the incidents occurred when she was under 16, [14 years old for two of the attacks] which included the second-degree counts, and one when she was over 16, which led to the first-degree count of forcible sex.

After deliberating for just under two hours, the jury returned with guilty verdicts for one count of first-degree rape and two counts of second-degree rape against 25-year-old Austin Smith Clem, Jones said. Clem will be sentenced Nov. 13 in Limestone County Circuit Court.

It doesn't seem like the jury had a particularly difficult time in reaching a verdict. Then two days later, the judge didn't seem to have too much difficulty in meting out sentencing...

According to Mother Jones who carried this story, here's the judges declared sentence for Mr. Clem:

Limestone County Circuit Judge James Woodroof sentenced Clem to 10 years in prison for each of the second-degree rape charges and 20 years for first-degree rape.

If you do the crime, you gotta do the time -- isn't that how the saying goes?

But Woodroof structured the sentence in such a way that Clem will only be hit with community corrections and probation. Clem will have to register as a sex offender and pay fines and restitution—a total of $2,381, according to the sentencing document provided to Mother Jones—but he will not serve jail time unless he violates the terms of his sentencing.

Huh? Whoa. What?

On Wednesday, a judge in Athens, Alabama, ruled that the rapist will be punished by serving two years in a program aimed at nonviolent criminals and three years of probation.

According to Clem's sentencing order, which Brian Jones, the Limestone County district attorney, provided to Mother Jones, Clem will serve the first half of his sentence under the supervision of the Limestone County community corrections program. The program is aimed at "redirecting the lives" of nonviolent, low-level offenders who are "likely to maintain a productive and law-abiding life as a result of accountability, guidance and direction to services they need," according to the program's website.

Multiple rape CONVICTIONS and no jail sentence? These weren't plea agreements. These charges went to trial and this man was found guilty by a jury. Sounds to me like Lady Justice just got raped and this time by Circuit Judge James Woodroof.

This guy Clem is sentenced to a program which "is aimed at "redirecting the lives" of nonviolent, low-level offenders." Excuse me. Income tax evasion and driving without a license are nonviolent crimes. But RAPE, and especially of a minor? Where's this judge stashing his crack pipe, under his robes?

Dan Totten, Clem's defense attorney, did agree that this was a light, but fair sentence. After all, he points out,

"But [Clem's] lifestyle for the next six years is going to be very controlled…If he goes to a party and they're serving beer, he can't say, 'Can I have one?' If he wanted to go across the Tennessee line, which as the crow flies is eight or nine miles from his house, and buy a lottery ticket, he can't do that…It's not a slap on the wrist."

He can't ask for a beer at a party or go buy a lottery ticket across state lines? Are you sh**ing me? That is harsh.

Can the victim just go out and ask for her innocence back? What's her lifetime sentence compared with three years of probation?

Somebody talk me down from this, if you think you can.

While you're at it, don't forget to follow me on Twitter: @Linzack

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Cartoons of the Day- Conversations on Race

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Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

Clay Bennett

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John Cole

Injecting Race

Adam Zyglis

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Signe Wilkinson

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#Trayvon Martin’s father to speak on Capitol Hill + The whole problem with #Zimmerman case in one graphic

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problem with trayvon case in one graphic

The One Simple Graphic that Sums Up the Whole Problem with the Trayvon Martin Case

The Hill:

Trayvon Martin’s father will speak at Wednesday’s inaugural hearing of the Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys.

Tracy Martin will give the opening remarks at a hearing called “The Status of Black Males: Ensuring Our Boys Mature into Strong Men.” The newly formed caucus is chaired by Reps. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). [...]

Member of the Congressional Black Caucus are also drafting a number of bills including anti-violence measures, efforts to scrap stand-your-ground laws and prohibitions on racial profiling. 

Three others will also speak.

Of course, we all know this will get very little media attention as long as there is something like a royal door that the media can focus on:

royal door baby

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