California Chronicle

Sunday, October 22, 2006News

Corrupt Criminal Justice System Contributes to Over-Crowded Prisons 
Dr. B. Cayenne Bird

Dr. B. Cayenne Bird is an ordained minister and a 37-year veteran op-ed journalist and publisher. She volunteers her time as founder and director of United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect UNION. The UNION is active in prison reform and criminal justice issues. She is a mother and grandmother and focuses on human rights and restorative justice. She is also the host of television series "Cayenne Common Sense" and publishes a daily online newsletter to subscribers. 

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California's criminal justice system is corrupt arrest through parole. I wasn't born with these views, they are conclusions I've reached after having interviewed literally thousands of prisoners and their families over the past decade. I believe that my observations and recommendations contribute greatly to identifying why we have a prison crisis and what can be humanely done to reduce the prison population and stop the bloodshed. My own personal baptism in the fire through the loss of a precious loved one to the inhumanity of this destructive machine gives me an ability to provide a first person report in addition to the research of shattered lives that have touched mine. None of the corporate candidates are addressing these vital issues or making any real efforts for long time reform.

Three earlier columns in this series on prison reform discussed the need to deal with serious emergency situations threatening prisoners’ lives and their families’ sanity, with correcting some chronic wrongs within the dysfunctional, corrupt, and nearly paralyzed prison system, and with the dire need to revamp both the sentencing and parole systems to help prevent some of the critical prison issues, such as overcrowding, that we face today. You can read these columns at the following links:

Voters Must Demand Sane Prison Reforms to Protect the Public Safety

Prison Reform for Dummies: What’s Right and What’s Wrong

Real Prison Reform Must Include Sentencing and Parole Changes

This fourth-in-the-series column points to some key failings in California’s criminal justice system and to how the prevailing public concern for safety and tough-on-crime attitude feed into its increasingly corrupt culture. It also shows how some questionable police practices can hinder a defendant’s case before he ever enters a courtroom. Not only does California continue to toughen its laws and conditions of parole, but prosecutors and judges feel the misguided public pressure to lock up more and more criminals and to ensure victim rights are given more and more public attention. Masquerading as justice, fear and hatred pervade the entire system in a manner akin to mob hysteria, rendering few players capable of thinking clearly or acting sanely.

In this environment, even defense attorneys find it difficult to measure up to the challenge of a seemingly “guilty-until-proven-innocent” standard. The rights of the accused at times seem secondary to everything else going on during arrests, interrogations, and court proceedings. Certainly the rights of the accused today are a far cry from those exemplified by U.S. Supreme Court decisions during Chief Justice Earl Warren’s term during the 1950s and 1960s. The built-in checks and balances that protect everyone's right to a fair trial are crumbling away. 

In the paragraphs below I will discuss some specific kinds of misconduct engaged in by prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, appellate courts, as well as police and other arresting entities (i.e., corrections officers within prison walls) with emphasis on why this routine misconduct cannot be allowed to continue.

Hold unscrupulous prosecutors criminally accountable for their misconduct

Too often misconduct by prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges is routinely tolerated. This blatant tolerance by district attorneys, judges, and appellate courts robs defendants of their right to a fair trial and worse has caused people to be wrongly convicted and sentenced to long prison terms. Prosecutors who lie, distort , or withhold evidence must be held accountable with criminal charges for their routine misconduct.

A wide range of prosecutorial misconduct occurs: withholding evidence (which they are bound by their oath to provide and that could help defendants), telling jurors that no evidence exists to support a defense argument when actually the judge has prohibited the defense from presenting the evidence, misstating the law, disparaging the defendant or his attorney, defying judge's orders, and misleading juries or making other improper statements during closing arguments. Instances like these can sometimes be attributed to human error, but when patterns are seen with particular attorneys, it is more likely intentional. Judges who turn a blind eye to prosecutors' misconduct should be held equally responsible.

Defense attorneys often complain that prosecutors ignore their legal obligation to exchange evidence promptly during the pre-trial “discovery” process. Judges often must step in and order prosecutors to turn over additional evidence. Discovery issues can continue after the trial as well. Many times defense attorneys learn after the trial that a prosecution witness had a questionable background that could have cast doubt on that witness’s credibility, or that scientific reports were not as conclusive as juries were led to believe, or that there was actually evidence that someone other than the defendant had committed the crime.

Most criminal cases, however, are handled with plea bargains -- a practice with its own problems. Most defendants, especially the uneducated and poor, are confused, fearful, and gullible. Many times defendants fear long sentences that could result from district attorneys’ tactic of bringing multiple charges to overwhelm the defense. These charges are often frivolous or overblown, but typically convince defendants to plea bargain for any hope of a lesser sentence. Defendants simply do what their attorney tells them to do. Too many innocent people have gone to prison victims of plea bargains.

With the three strikes law going back so far to include non-violent offenses, people are using plea bargains less in a desperate attempt to stand up for themselves. This trend is resulting in more trials and overloading the court systems which is harmful to all citizens. Everyone is paying more tax dollars and getting less justice for their investment in today’s broken system. 

District attorneys’ offices should do more to curb patterns of questionable behavior among their prosecutors. Patterns of misconduct suggest a deliberate disregard for ethical rules, or if not intent, certainly incompetence.

Dr. Les Sachs, a writer widely published on American corruption, who is now living abroad, says in his article, Portrait of America's Legal System:

“Complaints about lawyers in America usually go to the "Bar," which is itself run by the judges who are involved in bribery with the lawyers. And complaints about judges go to other judges, their friends.

”Nearly all the complaints about lawyers and judges - tens of thousands of them - are kept secret. Nearly all are dismissed or ignored. They are generally only used if the judges or politicians want to specially destroy someone - some radical minority lawyer, someone who is not playing the bribery game, somebody who has dared to expose wrongdoing. Otherwise, even criminal acts by lawyers and judges get a smiling cover-up."

”You will almost certainly not find any lawyers to help you sue another lawyer for wrongdoing. They are too scared of revenge by the judges. Even the lawyers who are broke and unemployed and desperate for work are too scared to sue another lawyer. As the judges and lawyers get away with committing crimes, they are getting more open and blatant, committing felony crimes in broad daylight, because they know no one will stop them or bring them to account....”

The Citizens must hold unscrupulous judges criminally accountable for their misconduct

Trial judges have been known to allow evidence that unfairly taints defendants, or to prohibit evidence that might support their defense. Many judges fail to properly instruct jurors on legal principles. Some judges even instruct juries in ways that make a guilty verdict more likely.

In the case of Eric K'napp, about which a movie is being made and a book written, the trial judge told the jury "to convict if the evidence seemed reasonable." This is contrary to a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. This same judge had been a prosecutor in the same court system for a number of years. It should be against the law for prosecutors to become judges in the same courts where they become best friends with other prosecutors while climbing their career ladders. Cronyism amongst judges and prosecutors is a huge problem that no one is addressing. 

In cases like K'napp's where the prosecutor later became a judge, the appellate court would need to expose the wrongs committed by two current judges, which is never going to happen under the present buddy system, If there is going to be any justice delivered by the courts this cronyism must come to end. Until the citizens demand accountability of judges and prosecutors by organizing to do initiative campaigns, the current corruption will continue.

In trials involving wealthy clients, it is not uncommon for judges to receive bribe money from certain ‘connected’ law firms. The lawyer(s) on the case quietly slip large sums of money under the table to the judge. Such bribery is rarely spoken about, simply understood ‘among friends.

The poor have no chance for a fair trial in California. Justice and press coverage is primarily for the rich. Trials for the poor are not at all conducted with such emphasis on the details as we observed in O.J. Simpson’s case, or in Michael Jackson’s case, not at all. Television programs portraying the real world of court trials for the poor would be a rude awakening for an unknowing public to see just how much injustice is the rule, rather than the exception.

A growing number of citizens are losing faith in the judicial system, but find little or no recourse. Judges seem to be immune to prosecution themselves. Suits against a judge are heard by another judge. By covering for the defendant judge, the judge on the bench maintains his own potential for immunity lest he ever be sued. This unwritten law is called "Judicial Immunity." 

Written complaints about a judge can be sent to the State Judicial Commission. But conflicts of interest come into play here as well. The commission usually responds with a basically generic letter stating that there is not enough evidence to justify any action on the commission’s part. As long as the appeal is in process, which could be more than a decade, prisoners and their families are terrified to complain about the judges, still hoping for some sign of humanitarianism from people who are mostly incapable of it.

Nationwide, people concerned about the dangers of judicial immunity have informally organized and are attempting to get on state ballots a "Judicial Accountability Initiative Law” (JAIL). These initiatives usually take the form of an amendment to a state constitution and lay out a citizens' process to enforce individual judicial accountability. I am in full support of this initiative, but one won't be brought to California until enough people are going to get behind it, do the work, and donate the money to make it a success. In South Dakota, where fewer signatures are required to change laws, the initiative is on the November 7 ballot. If you have relatives in South Dakota who would like to see judges held accountable, please encourage them to vote yes on Measure E. Success there means it will be tried in those states where voting groups are going to put the funds and volunteers required to meet the signature requirements within the deadlines.

As soon as our UNION reaches 6,500 writers, protesters, and recruiters who will each put up funds and collect 200 signatures within the deadline of 150 days, we are going to hopefully be able to bring that initiative or another one similarly written here. Among the poor and uneducated, 6,500 workers is a lofty number to reach because typically folks at this level of our society do not vote, do not bring people to vote, and do not write to editors. They just don't seem to understand that by doing nothing to organize, that the disadvantaged people are consenting to their chains and imprisonment. The poor need to realize that people who organize have the power to change laws and elect or recall politicians elected by greedy law enforcement labor unions and special interests. Good advocates will not waste too much time on people who will not support them with funds and volunteers. So the accountability of judges might have to wait until enough Californians decide this is something worth working for. I hope it won’t take too much longer for the uneducated to become motivated to turn their pain into organizing action. I've supported this initiative for at least six years and plan to back it up all the way. Learn more about California’s JAIL Initiative.

Empower defense attorneys to object more to prosecutorial misconduct and motivate them to work harder for their clients

Too many defense attorneys fail to take the most basic of measures, from properly investigating their case to presenting the evidence they have gathered. Others fail to object as prosecutors or judges engage in questionable conduct. Still others push plea bargains on fearful, ignorant, and poor defendants. Too many defense attorneys, particularly public defenders, are under-funded, overworked, lazy, or incompetent.

I know of a California case where a family was barely able to beg and borrow just enough money to hire a criminal defense attorney, who eventually brought in a private investigator to interview the alleged victim and witnesses, as well as obtain a surveillance video at the scene. The family paid the attorney $10,000 and the PI an additional $500 advance to be charged at a rate of $50 per hour. The case ended with a plea bargain not favorable to the defendant and a half-page report from the PI saying that the alleged victim and witnesses refused to talk to him and the surveillance video was no longer available. The PI couldn’t have spent more than one hour on the case and yet refused to refund any of the advance. He soon left the country to become a private contractor in Iraq. It became painfully clear to the family that it was all about the money for those people.

Dr. Sachs attests, “. . . you essentially have no recourse whatsoever against wrongdoing by your own lawyer. A lawyer can sell you out, betray you, steal your money, engage in malpractice, help out the other side, hide the evidence that proved you were right, or commit felony crime against you, and there is nothing you can do about it, so long as the lawyer made the judge happy, . . .” American lawyers are directly under the thumb of the judges. . . . Lawyers who try to fight the system can find themselves not only disbarred, but also criminally charged and jailed, and no other lawyer will help them.”

In the Eric K'napp case, one of his lawyers was disbarred after K’napp’s family scraped together the money to pay for a habeas corpus when new evidence surfaced a decade after the original conviction. There was documentation that K'napp was one of Dangler's many abandoned cases, but the Bar never did refund the money to the family, even though the Bar has a special fund set up for doing so. 

When a lawyer doesn't refund the money to a client he has abandoned, it usually means that there will never be another chance for that legal action to take place. People are spending their last money in the world in these desperate legal struggles but the Bar and many of the lawyers are still stealing from them. Never is a long time not to get a refund when a lawyer failed and with today’s ridiculous sentences, it could mean a lifetime. Lawyer fees often cause the parents and even grandparents to become homeless, a price they're willing to pay for justice in their loved ones' cases -- if the lawyer would just do the work. The lawyers know they can't win with 70 percent Conservative judges sitting in power in California, but they take the money anyway. I do know of two good lawyers, but they are going up against political brick walls intentionally put in place to keep the prisons stocked with fresh humans to continue the profit off suffering and misery. 

Empower and require appellate courts to act on more appeals

The appellate courts typically uphold verdicts, even as they acknowledge that errors had in fact occurred but made no difference in the outcome of the case. Sometimes those conclusions are appropriate, but many times the appellate courts devise questionable rationales to dismiss errors. The “post card” denial of an appeal or writ has become commonplace. No logic, reasoning, or law is cited; just a “denied” is issued. To hide this shoddy work, the legislatures pass laws not to publish decisions and expose the rubber stamp mentality, thereby further encouraging the evil in the system. The percentage of cases that find relief in the State level courts on appeal is fractional.

Ninety-eight percent of the time California’s appellate courts designate their opinions as “not to be published.” This means that they will not to be cited as legal authority in subsequent cases. Higher courts are extremely unlikely to review unpublished opinions; thus the appellate courts are the final word on most criminal trials. 

More from Dr. Sachs, “Yes, there are appeals courts, but these are just more judges, who are often friends with the lower court judge who originally sold you out. The appeals judges tend to go along with the lower court judge, unless you have suddenly acquired some politically powerful backing on your side.”

More from Dr. Sachs, “Yes, there are appeals courts, but these are just more judges, who are often friends with the lower court judge who originally sold you out. The appeals judges tend to go along with the lower court judge, unless you have suddenly acquired some politically powerful backing on your side.”

In the K'napp case there were at least twenty Constitutional violations, including a recantation of testimony by a key witness who admitted in court that she lied. The movie will be quite an eye-opener about what’s really going on in those back rooms. The State level courts are so corrupt that there is a total disregard for the Constitution as well as the rule of law. Their excuses are ridiculous and flimsy, but that doesn't matter unless the case gets to the Federal level. It is more likely that justice will be found at the Federal level, but this takes at least a decade while deteriorating in prison. The prison system does everything in its power to discourage legal access to the courts, including blocking mail, disallowing typewriters or their use, denying paper and postage, even denying indigent copies, throwing precious legal work in the garbage or ruining it in the toilet during a “cell search.” Even after lies are admitted and disproved, the judges hang onto the original sentencing, regardless of how ridiculous and unjust it is, but the average citizen has no way to be aware of this before they go through the courts.

Appoint truly unbiased judges with no political agenda 

Former prosecutors, who typically are focused on mindless punishing --which never has been a solution to crime -- should not qualify for judgeships, in my opinion. This class of people has serious mental problems to delight in destroying people for minor crimes. I perceive that prosecutors are lower than judges on the hierarchy of enlightenment and good will. All it takes is a 30-minute conversation with the majority of judges and prosecutors I've encountered who number in the hundreds now, to determine that there is wisdom in my statements. Try it for yourself. One exception has been Judge James P. Gray, who has authored a book which is a judicial indictment on the failed drug war Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do about It He matured to this higher level of thinking and a belief in restorative justice while most other judges remain stagnant and callous, arrogant and on power trips rather than seeking to serve the public good. Seventy percent of California’s judges are Conservatives, and many have proven themselves to be more politicians than fair judges. They do not deserve to preside in court rooms. The key to getting them out is for the citizenry to elect liberal politicians to make these appointments.

The American Judicature Society has put together a bird’s eye view of California’s judicial system, beginning with the judicial selection process. As you can see, Superior Court judges are elected, and Courts of Appeal as well as Supreme Court judges are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments.

California judges can be removed by one of three ways:

1. Impeachment by the assembly and conviction by two thirds of the senate.

2. A recall election.

3. Action of the Commission on Judicial Performance (CJP), which after investigating complaints of judicial misconduct and incapacity, may also privately admonish, suspend, censure, retire, or remove a judge. The commission's decisions are subject to review by the Supreme Court.

In looking at the history of admonishments, suspensions, censures, retirements, and removals by the commission, one would at first glance be impressed. But bear in mind that this history goes back nearly 50 years to 1960. So the number of actions is relatively small. The commission has only removed five judges from the bench in the past eleven years. The latest (2005) statistics on discipline taken by the CJP are broken down by different types of misconduct. 

In “Judicial Independence and Democratic Accountability in Highest State Courts,” the author, Paul D. Carrington, Chadwick Professor of Law, Duke University School of Law, says of the judicial crisis he studied in 1998, “The Supreme Court of California in the years after the appointment of Chief Justice Wright in 1970, by its lack of self-restraint and disregard for the legislative process, departed from professional traditions that were only a half-century old. And its rash deployment of political power after 1970 was not unique to California. Other highest state courts also began to assert themselves; new parameters and new principles were discovered in state constitutions.142 In some measure, this movement seems to have been inspired by the role model of the Warren Court,143 which seemed for a generation of lawyers to have demonstrated that anything legislatures can do, courts can do better.144

Dr. Carrington concluded: “While the foregoing is not quite a complete review of every idea ever proposed for handling political campaigns for highest state courts,271 it covers all that I could find in the literature that seem to me worthy of consideration by state legislatures or bar associations at this time as responses to the crisis of integrity in their courts. None of them is perfect, but almost any of them would be an improvement on a system entailing privately financed, multi-million dollar campaigns for high judicial office. 

However highest state court judges are selected, and whatever the terms of their employment, the outcome will reflect the condition of the social and political order from which they come. It will also depend on a measure of luck. It is a comfort to reflect that our Republic has over two hundred years enjoyed sufficient luck in these matters to suggest the intervention of Providence, even if, alas, not all our judges are the sorts of persons we might hope with President Taft to meet in Heaven.”

Give anyone imprisoned since Pete Wilson took office a chance to have a new trial

During his term (1991 - 1999), then Republican Governor Pete Wilson took the human bondage industry in California from 20,000 to 150,000 so he could run for the presidency. Let's undo his evil scheme by giving everyone with a long sentence a chance for a retrial. Why not, when each long sentence will cost the taxpayers about a million dollars over each prisoner's lifetime?

Before any retrials are put on the dockets, however, I would want to see the kinds of sentencing reforms discussed in the previous column in this series, Real Prison Reform Must Include Sentencing and Parole Changes And of course, we would want our attorneys and judges to have raised their ethical standards by then as well. Unfortunately though, that is unlikely to happen until they are truly held accountable.

Conducting actual investigations and spending more money on trials for the poor instead of automatic convictions regardless of guilt or innocence would slow down the over-filling of the prisons. You would think that “justice for all” would ensure that public defenders’ budgets are equal to district attorneys’ budgets, and that judges would not be politically motivated, not get caught up in the frenzied “tough on crime” game, and not even consider being bought by prosecutors. Wrongful convictions happen, and nobody seems to care -- despite the fact that entire family units are destroyed when a loved one is falsely accused or over-charged and over-sentenced. The people who must care enough to do something about these wrongs are the families themselves; they must care enough to elect or recall people from office.

A return to the system under which Abraham Lincoln practiced law should be implemented. In his time, lawyers were assigned either side of cases -- sometimes the prosecution and sometimes the defense. Lawyers that became judges were those who performed well, not those who “won.” The District Attorneys Office and the Public Defenders Office should be combined. The first phony police report or bit of evidence would, quite properly, be tossed out. 

The citizens must elect the right Governor in the first place, one who knows of the injustice that courses throughout every vein, every artery of our corrupt criminal justice system, a Governor who would call for retrials. The citizens must put up and finance the campaign of such a Governor instead of settling for what law enforcement labor unions and business interests want to see happen. Until enough of the citizens wake up to their options and assume personal responsibility for helping with and financing campaigns designed to give them some relief, the oppression will continue.

Train -- and require -- police to use more discretion when arresting a suspect and hold police officers criminally accountable for misconduct, such as planting evidence or coercing false confessions.

The police seem to have little or no concern about whether they have arrested an innocent person. When a crime is committed, the police typically rush out to arrest whomever they can. They are so focused on “success” that they will sometimes resort to fabricating or planting false evidence. They also have been known to recruit criminals who are facing jail or prison on other charges to be false witnesses. Police seem to justify their overzealous actions by prejudicial judgments, e.g., a bulge in a pocket is not only considered as possibly a gun, but communicated to other officers at or approaching the scene as, “Suspect has a gun.”

It is common for police to charge a person with numerous crimes to make him look bad, or get him to feel hopeless and set him up for a plea bargain. Many police and prosecutors seem to see their work as sporting game of sorts, and the goal is to raise their conviction rate. Some interrogators relentlessly badger a suspect for hours with the intent of breaking him down to the point that he will say anything just to be left alone. They will slowly guide the suspect to say words that can be construed to be a confession -- albeit a false confession. Mishandling of evidence is another all too common occurrence by overzealous police.

Two bills that the California State Senate passed on August 31, 2006, (SB 171 and SB 1544) were intended to help prevent questionable interrogation techniques and mishandling of eyewitness identifications, practices which jeopardize justice and even lead to wrongful convictions. The State Senate had created the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice to make recommendations on these issues, and after the commission made its recommendations, the senate drafted and passed the bills. 

But on September 30, 2006, Governor Schwartzenegger vetoed both bills on what may be questionable grounds. He vetoed SB 171 (which would have mandated electronic recording of police interrogations and required that a jury be advised to view with caution statements made in custodial interrogations that were not recorded) on the grounds that the definition of ‘custodial interrogation’ in the bill differed from how the U.S. Supreme Court defines it for giving ‘Miranda rights’ -- albeit in a different context. He vetoed SB 1544 because in his view it would have allowed the Department of Justice and the Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training to “circumvent the legislative process” with regard to the development of guidelines for collecting and handling eyewitness evidence in criminal investigations -- seemingly ignoring the fact that the legislature can always rescind or modify regulations to which it objects. 

It remains to be seen whether these vetoes are only about specific language in the bills or whether the Governor is afraid of appearing soft on crime just before the election. A strong governor would care more about delivering justice than his “image.” Electing smart-on-crime politicians must be the goal, and I have yet to witness any Conservative with one modicum of vision or any depth of understanding about law as it applies to real people.

Stop prosecuting the mentally ill who act out their illness in prisons 

The mentally ill endure psychological torment in prison because their illness makes it impossible for them to follow the rules. Men in prison are denied human contact until they commit suicide, mutilate their bodies, or just turn into animals due to constant psychological torture. 

These men are prosecuted for masturbating, even in their own cells. Masturbating is something that our species does when there is no one with whom to mate. I cannot understand why this is a prosecutable offense when they are in their "homes" in prison. Nor can I understand why men, particularly mentally ill men, are expected to act with social graces while they are being deprived of human touch and are being abused to such an extreme extent as occurs in California prisons today. 

Group punishment, such as a lock down of an entire prison for months, often follows the “acting-out” behavior of one or more mentally ill inmates. This is non-productive and unjustly punishes thousands of prisoners. It makes everyone much sicker than before they were incarcerated, thereby further endangering the public safety. Crime victims ought to help get the 27,000 mentally ill people completely out of a system which tries to punish them into being well. 

A thinking person might ask why female guards are working in the hostile and brutal environment of a prison and expecting not to see men masturbating. Prisoners, mentally ill people especially, are getting years added to their sentences for masturbating. I'm confused about how courts can take normal sexual behavior and pervert it into crime so easily and everyone buys into it. Tell me how it benefits society to prosecute and persecute the mentally ill? They will predictably act out, especially in adverse housing conditions. Why aren't the people responsible for making people mentally ill in mismanaged prison being held accountable?

One case that I've studied and know well happened recently where a young schizophrenic man was placed in extreme isolation for 2 l/2 years. Most people break after two weeks under such harsh living conditions. First they made him sicker than he was before incarceration through abusive isolation confinement, then they took his hysterical ramblings to his uncle, which were never mailed, and prosecuted him for “making threats.” His mother was helpless to save him, and four more years were added to his sentence. 

This horrible action is not an isolated case; it is typical of routine actions. The prison guards need only point a finger against a mentally ill prisoner and he can easily end up with a third strike. One might think that a public servant would never stoop so low, but certain bully prison guards, who’s union rules our state, obliterate people’s lives on a daily basis -- because they can do it and get away with it under the protection of the CCPOA. Never vote for anyone who has taken money from the CCPOA or other law enforcement groups. Angelides lost the three million potential votes of devastated families attached to a state prisoner when he sold out to the CCPOA. They moved to the Green Party which gets larger with each election as more and more people are disenfranchised.

Although allegations of judicial error or misconduct have received little public exposure over the years, a few well documented exposé’s have been written lately. Joe Domanick, senior fellow in criminal justice at the USC Annenberg Institute for Justice and Journalism, and award-winning investigative journalist and author, has written a compelling book, Cruel Justice: Three Strikes and the Politics of Crime in America's Golden State, in which he exposes improprieties and injustices in the California judicial system.

The San Jose Mercury News published a highly informative series early this year called “Tainted Trials, Broken Justice,” which detailed the results of their three-year study of the Santa Clara County judicial system, which found that questionable conduct marred more than a third of all cases, that mistakes at all phases of trials were tolerated by the appellate court, and that in the worst cases defendants were wrongly convicted. You must read "Tainted Trials, Broken Justice" to get the details of what I have barely covered in this op-ed if you are still trusting that our criminal justice system is intact.

One of the great problems we have in our society is that the journalists are often just out of college and turning out five articles a day. Not like in the old days when real investigative reporters could be relied upon to give both sides of a story. Unless an accused is a celebrity, his case will never get fair news coverage. Journalists are often controlled by editors who fear lawsuits from mob-like organizations such as the CCPOA. And most of the advertisers who support media outlets are Republicans. 

In our forefathers' day, the patriots would burn down the newspapers that sided with the King. Today the problems persist: most young journalists are not really aware or trained in criminal law; many editors are too cautious and do not allocate time or space to the common people; and too many journalists consider judges and prosecutors to be the good guys and the accused to be guilty. Anyone who has had injustice knock on his or her door has a different perspective on all this, and those are the very people whose obligation it is to clean things up before Canadians must come down to be our jailers, or more judges and prosecutors end up being shot dead.

People may not realize that only 10 percent of the population fought the French Revolution. Today, it takes only 10 percent of registered voters for a third party’s candidate for governor to be included in pre-election debates. October 23 is the last day to register to vote. If you register as "Decline to State" instead of Democrat or Republican, it will decrease the party percentages for the major parties. And if you register in the Green Party you can help the largest third party truly of the people achieve the 10 percent required for its candidates to be included in the pre-election debates next time.

There is a very large potential out there for bringing in Latino votes for Peter Camejo. When you go into the Post Office, a fast food drive-in -- anywhere that Latinos are working -- take along forms and register them to vote. You can sign up about 20 people in 30 minutes, and if you give them extra forms, they can register their entire families to vote for Peter Camejo. We need to lodge this protest vote because Schwarzenegger is so far ahead of Angelides in the polls. Besides, why on earth would Democrats want to put anyone in office who wants to build five new prisons at $300 million each and support an $8 billion-plus human bondage industry? What would be the benefit of having someone in office who pledges his undying support to the prison guards' union? Nobody in their right mind wants to continue to be dominated by law enforcement labor unions or have Republican politicians up there turning down everything that would prevent mental illness, rehabilitate, educate, or heal.

There's work to be done.

If you like my columns and would like to help me bring about these changes, please join my UNION group of writers, protesters, and recruiters -- people who know that liberty cannot be had without work and money invested.

Write to me:

Rev. B. Cayenne Bird
United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect
P.O. Box 340371
Sacramento, Ca. 95834

Voter Registration forms must be postmarked no later than October 23. Each county has different forms, and you can get them at most Post Offices, at the public library, or at the County Office of the Registrar. Give the people you register more forms, and let's do a protest vote that really registers this time!

Or do nothing and witness more prisoners die or wish they were dead because not enough people took the proper action to elect the right people to office in the first place to represent their interests

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