THIS BLOG is NOW RETIRED

I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

David Rovics: We Are Everywhere

To my fellow activists now struggling through life - let this be a reminder that you are not alone and that we desperately need you here. All the injustice, grief, war, and human suffering calls for us to stay and do everything we can about it - you can't help us anymore when you're gone. Don't give up the fight - your last shred of hope may just keep someone else alive, too.
BLOG POSTS

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Justicia Ahora: Resist State Violence this Friday.


National Day of Action Against Police Brutality

Friday, October 22, 2010 11am- 1pm

MEDICAL NEGLECT
IS VIOLENCE:

STOP KILLING THE PRISONERS!!!

Arizona Department of Corrections
1601 W. Jefferson St. (at 16th Ave)
Phoenix, AZ 85007
(park in the SE lot at Wes Bolin off Jefferson - the ADC is across the street.)


17 suicides/15mos
5 homicides/9 months
6,000 HCV+ prisoners and counting…

HARD TIME HEP C ALLIANCE - AZ
http://hardtimehepc.blogspot.com

For more information, contact:
Peggy at 480-580-6807 or
prisonabolitionist@gmail.com

ALL FAMILIES WELCOME:
CHALK, BUBBLES,
and GREAT PEOPLE WILL BE THERE.

PLEASE WEAR BLACK.
(and come prepared to kick some Hep C ass)

My Prison Watching Compa.

Less than two months after I started blogging at the Prison Abolitionist last summer, I came across Nevada Prison Watch and a couple of other sites my dear friend ASE was involved with. I saw that she'd somehow helped compile a bunch of medical records and testimony for the ACLU with the guys in prison there to initiate legal action and posted them to her site, along with the results of inquiries, letters to (and about) the administration about cleaning up Ely State Prison, and letters from prisoners themselves. My friend's main focus in her prison outreach and blogging has been on amplifying prisoner voices rather than her own.

Most of what I've learned about watching prisons and working with prisoners I've learned from her. That means that a lot of folks have been spared some of my own trial and error. If you've landed on a fledgling Prison Watch site for just about any other state in the nation, ASE is probably the one who helped get it up and keeps it going. She's also behind Prison Watch for Imprisoned Women, Immigrant Detention Watch , and Prison Watch International.

No one but the prisoners she corresponds with, a handful of other prison watchers, and a few state administrators probably even knows her name, much less her face or where in the world she's blogging from. Whether she's been 5 or 5000 miles away, though, she's never been very far from any of us.

Anyway, I've been blessed to have her company on this leg of my journey, and I don't think I tell her that often enough. Tonight I thought I should.


--------------

A. -

You have been one of the most devoted constant friends and comrades I've ever had. Knowing that you're there, always checking in on me, ready to back me up, telling me how awesome I am - and praying for me, I bet - has made it possible for me to push these people harder and for longer than I ever would have been able to do otherwise.

You inspired AZ Prison Watch, and helped me Free Marcia Powell. You've seen me through both the highs and the lows that might have derailed me without the solid ground that only the well-grounded could be a bridge to. You've taught me a lot about being steady and strong for prisoners, and about collaborating with others to build something bigger than both of us. And by example you've shown me that if you keep the faith and hang in there long enough, you just might be able to shine enough light on a dark place in the world to bring the exiled out of the shadows - and maybe even bring some home.


I wouldn't still be doing this today without you.

Gracias.

Justicia Ahora!!!

Love,

Peg

On Tue, Oct 19, 2010 at 2:37 PM, Nevada Prison Watch wrote:

Dear Peg,

It is bedtime here, but I wanted to say you do such great work, thank you!
I am so glad to have you in my life.
Am back on Facebook, was on holiday from that for a while...

Love!

A.


--
"Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness, and our ability to tell our own stories..."

- Arundhati Roy

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Burying Danny Rodriguez.

Outside of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office today

I'll post later on the protests of the past week at the Phoenix Police Department, as well as today's gathering at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office to thank Rick Romley for filing second degree murder charges against Danny's killer. First I wanted to get up his obituary and the info about his funeral service tomorrow; the visitation and memorial were held tonight.

This has just been so heartbreaking.


Also, there will be a car wash on Saturday, October 16, 7am-3pm, at "la Cocina" Restaurant (1550 N. 16th St. at McDowell Rd). Please come and support the family; bring your bike if you don't have a car, or take the bus and come help wash.


-------from KSAZ FOX News/Channel 10-------

Viewing, Funeral Planned for Victim of Officer-Involved Shooting

Updated: Wednesday, 13 Oct 2010, 4:32 PM MDT

Funeral Mass and Interment

Friday, October 15th, 2010

12:30PM at the First Congregational United Church of Christ

1407 N. 2nd Street, Phoenix, 85004

Rev. John Moreno, presiding

*With Interment following the service at Holy Cross Cemetery in Tolleson, AZ
10045 W. Thomas Road, Avondale, 85323

Memorial Fund

The Daniel Rodriguez Memorial Fund has been established with Bank of America. All Contributions/Donations may be made in the name of the memorial fund, at any branch

Obituary (submitted by family)

Daniel F. Rodriguez
March 15th, 1981 - October 5th, 2010

Daniel F. Rodriguez was born in Phoenix, Arizona on March 15th, 1981. In his formative years; Daniel began a lifelong involvement in the community when, as an infant, his mother carried him along with her throughout the community collecting signatures for neighborhood improvement through her organizing work for the United Farm Workers (UFW) Union.

As Daniel continued to grow, his life was forever imprinted with service to his community. In grade school, Daniel was a committed student. Growing up surrounded by loving family and friends, Daniel is remembered warmly for his devotion to family and his sense of humor. With this support he continued to educate himself, earning his GED and becoming a certified tradesman. Daniel enjoyed life.

One of his life's greatest joys was his mother, Elvira Fernandez. Together through love, devotion, and encouragement Daniel helped his injured mother come out of a wheelchair. He taught her to walk again. Daniel also loved and enjoyed his relationship with his father, Frank Rodriguez. In the prime of his youth, on October 5th of this year, Daniel died. While his life on this Earth has come to a close, his legacy and spirit continues on with and in his family, friends, and community.

He leaves behind to mourn this tragic loss his mother Elvira Fernandez, father Frank M. Rodriguez, sister Irene Bustos (Ruben), brother Armando Arvizu (Juana), sister Anita Rodriguez, sister Delilah Rodriguez Grijalva, six special uncles, an aunt, four nephews, eight nieces, and a host of extended family, friends, and community.





Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Secure borders and AZ deserts kill record numbers of someone else's loved ones.

I don't how all of America can't be deeply disturbed by what is happening here. We think it can never happen to us only because we haven't yet lived through the economic devastation that NAFTA nations to our south have. We profited from their losses, in fact, blamed them for their poverty, exploited their labor, and then criminalized them when we decided they presented the white supremacist power structure with too much of a challenge. That's why Russ Pearce is all about changing the 14th Amendment: Latinos are the next majority.

I think we should at least try to walk in their shoes, though. After all, the gap between the rich and poor in America is wider than ever - more people are falling down the ladder than moving up.

Just imagine the US economy crashing further, and Obamacare, Medicare D, and Medicaid all getting rescinded under President Haley Barbour and Vice President Palin in order to protect corporate welfare and preserve the Bush tax cuts for the elite.
That's not an unlikely scenario these days - look at what's been coming out of the Republican party of late.

Pharmaceuticals and most medical services are already more than what most of the middle class can afford without insurance. What would ordinary Americans do?

We'd do whatever we had to for the people we loved - just as ordinary Mexicans have done.

If Mexico decided to apply our policies to us in such an economic downturn, those would be our bodies showing up in the desert, trying to cross a fortified, hostile border to get health care and purchase antibiotics, insulin, AZT, and other lifesaving drugs - including narcotics for patients in exceptional pain.

The pharmaceutical industry would try to get both the US and Mexico to crack down on us - they'd call us all criminals and drug smugglers and finish the border wall, send more armed soldiers, and push us further into the wilderness where the heat and bandits take their toll.

While it may seem good for Mexico's economy to have all that new business, the American Medical Association, pharmaceutical industry, and US government will quickly buy their elected officials off in order to develop a cooperative "crime-fighting" strategy to thwart the efforts of desperate people just trying to keep themselves or others alive.
We'll even arm their paramilitary border patrols.

Our own legislators, at the urging of Arizona's pharmacies and physicians, would establish harsh criminal penalties for bringing drugs like penicillin into the country from Mexico, throwing thousands more ordinary people into prison.
Increasing numbers of children - whether obtaining medicines for family, or smuggling large quantities for drug cartels, would be charged and sentenced as adults on both sides of the border to teach us a lesson.

Parents seeking medical care for their sick children in Mexico would have to show proof of Mexican citizenship or risk arrest and criminalization - not just deportation. At all costs, the medical industrial complex and the US government would try to prevent us from subverting their control over the American people.

But that wouldn't stop us from trying to save our dying children, or deter youth from supporting their family by making pharmacy runs for the neighborhood, or prevent sisters from setting out to find the brothers who never came home. Did they die in the desert, or are they languishing in a Mexican detention center or prison? We "lose" family members in our immigrant detention centers all the time, and Arizona alone presently has over 6,000 foreign nationals in our prison system as "criminal aliens." We take such pleasure in punishing people in Arizona that instead of deporting migrants we don't want, we spend over $20,000 per year to incarcerate each one - most of whom are non-violent offenders.


What if Mexico started losing or imprisoning our loved ones like that?

Of course, organized crime would be expanding their own black market with all it's attendant violence and exploitation. Americans who couldn't buy direct from Mexican pharmacies would no doubt get their needed drugs from them. Some communities will organize neighborhood collectives in sheds and church basements where people can share pharmaceuticals as well as non-traditional medicinal resources. Such collectives will be outlawed as well, as will herbal and alternative medicines. Cancer and AIDS patient support groups will be infiltrated by the FBI in an effort to catch dying people seeking relief outside of the mainstream economy. In fact, they already do.

A whole class of "law-abiding" citizens would suddenly find themselves choosing between saving the lives of loved ones, or maintaining their allegiance to the laws that would let people needlessly die - some spending their final days or weeks or months in agony. Insistent that violent crime is rising due to people illegally seeking health care, Russ Pearce will make sure that those who know of such activity on the part of a neighbor, relative, or member of their church will also be criminalized if they fail to report them to the authorities.

Even the most trivial traffic stop or noise complaint will give the police reason to search for medical contraband and evidence that drugs or health care may have been criminally obtained - the poor and middle class, the sick and disabled, will be the likely suspects they profile. Then more of us will begin to understand a little more about what it is like to be Latino in Arizona right now.


That's the most comparable and truly possible scenario I can imagine in which large numbers of "honest", "decent" Americans would suddenly become criminal aliens, drug smugglers, and unidentified bodies in the deserts of Arizona and Mexico. Then they would begin to understand why people migrate here for life-sustaining resources, like jobs, and why that act alone does not make them dangerous, evil, or criminal.


Then perhaps the number of people being forced to cross our border in increasingly treacherous regions will be seen by the public and lawmakers as evidence of failed border and health care policies and unjust distribution of wealth and resources in our hemisphere, not evidence that we need more walls. Even though most Americans can't see it yet, we really are in this together with our neighbors from the South, and should hope that they will deal with us more graciously should we cross their border illegally than we have dealt with them. Those bodies we keep finding belong to someone's loved ones. It is only by way of fortune and grace that we and our loved ones have not yet had to face the same fate.


The following AZ Daily Star article comes via No More Deaths-Phoenix. They try to keep border crossers alive long enough to reach safety. Join them every Tuesday night if you can.

--------------------------------

Greetings,

these are the numbers of migrant deaths for Fiscal year 2010. As we know, there are hundreds of remains that will never be recovered. Please keep these migrants, and their families in your thoughts and prayers.
Remember, NMD-Phoenix is meeting tonight at 7:30pm at the Central United Methodist Church.

AZ border saw record 252 deaths in fiscal '10

Brady McCombs

Arizona Daily Star

Posted: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 12:00 am


The recently completed fiscal year set a record for deaths along a stretch of Arizona's border with Mexico.


The bodies of 252 illegal border crossers were found along Arizona's border from New Mexico to Yuma County from Oct. 1, 2009, to Sept. 30, 2010, the Arizona Daily Star's border death database shows. The database is based on information from Southern Arizona county medical examiners.


The 2010 total breaks the record of 234 set in 2007. It has been a deadly decade in Arizona's desert for illegal immigrants, with the bodies of nearly 2,000 men, women and children found since 2001.

The Pima County Medical Examiner's Office handled most of the bodies again this fiscal year: 228 of the 252. The office receives bodies found on the Tohono O'odham Nation and in Pima, Pinal and Santa Cruz counties.

The office recovered the bodies of 59 illegal border crossers in July alone. This summer tied with 1996 as the second-hottest Tucson summer on record.

It's difficult to determine exactly how much it costs taxpayers to perform the work because the recoveries, autopsies and investigations are blended with the rest of the county-funded office's work. But each autopsy runs about $2,000, which means the 228 done over the past fiscal year would add up to about $456,000.


The record for deaths comes during a fiscal year when the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector recorded reduced apprehensions for the sixth consecutive year. The downturn in arrests is one of several indicators that show significantly fewer people are illegally crossing the border, perhaps due to the U.S. economic recession.


Yet more people are dying than ever, which has led many experts to conclude that illegal immigrants face a deadlier trek than ever across Arizona's desert.


Border-county law enforcement, Mexican consular officials, Tohono O'odham tribal officials and humanitarian groups say the buildup of border fencing, technology and agents has caused illegal border crossers to walk longer distances in more treacherous terrain, increasing the likelihood that people will get hurt or fatigued and left behind to die.


The Border Patrol agrees that illegal immigrants are crossing in more remote areas because of the increased presence but says the blame should be placed on greedy smugglers leading them there, not agents protecting the nation's border. The agency points to its rescue efforts as evidence that its presence prevents deaths rather than causes them.


On StarNet: Search an online database of individuals who have died attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border at go.azstarnet.com/borderdeaths


Record year for border deaths
Here are the number of bodies of illegal border crossers recovered in Arizona's desert from New Mexico to Yuma County, by fiscal year:
2002 142
2003 177
2004 196
2005 233
2006 189
2007 234
2008 185
2009 215
2010 252


Source: Arizona Daily Star's border death database, which comes from data collected by the Pima and Cochise County medical examiner's offices. Pima County handles bodies found in Santa Cruz, Pinal and Pima Counties. The federal fiscal year runs Oct. 1 - Sept. 30.
Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or bmccombs@azstarnet.com



--
Laura Ilardo
No More Deaths-Phoenix
(602)818-5447
www.my.calendars.net/nomoredeaths

Monday, October 11, 2010

Protest the PHX PD: Justice for Danny Rodriguez.

Hey peeps: Lets turn out to show our support tonight: Phoenix PD, 7th AVe/W. Washington 6pm. Re-enactment begins at 7pm. This isn't just a Latino issue - show the PPD that the rest of Phoenix rejects police brutality, too, against people of all colors and hues.

Also, remember to mark Friday, October 22 on your calendar as Police Brutality Day. There will be actions in several locations, soon to be announced. Anyone planning one, please email me so we can support each other, instead of compete for support. prisonabolitionist@gmail.com.

-----------------------------------------------

From Carlos Galindo:

We will be reenacting the murder of the young unarmed Latino killed by a rogue Phoenix cop. Dramatization will occur at 7:00 PM. Please attend!!! We need your support!!!

We have suffered enough abuse under law enforcement's regime here in Arizona. The Phoenix Police Department has been responsible for much of the abuse and cover up and spin of incidents that have occurred in the primarily Latino neighborhoods.

On Tuesday October 5..., 2010 a rogue Phoenix Police Officer killed an unarmed member of the Latino community and another Phoenix Police Officer witnessed it and reported his abuse actions and what some are calling outright murder. The same Rogue cop Richard Chrisman killed the family puppy (a Boxer) that was just a few months old. The police officer who was a witness indicates that the puppy was not posing a threat. More importantly the police officer say's that his "partner" acted inappropriately and that the 29 year old Latino was not armed!!!

We cannot no longer standby as law enforcement abuses our community members and our Immigrant community.

Join us in insisting that the charges of aggravated assault be readdressed and that murder charges be filed against this rogue police officer.

We can no longer stand by and watch these abuses occur.

PLEASE JOIN US TODAY AT 6:00 PM AT THE PHOENIX POLICE HEADQUARTERS 620 W. WASHINGTON, STREET, PHOENIX, ARIZONA (GROUND ZERO FOR ABUSE AGAINST THE LATINO COMMUNITY)

IF you are out of state please post a comment in solidarity of this protest!!!

Please don't be apathetic!!! Come and join us, regardless of your skin color or ethnicity. We are all in this fight together!!!


In solidarity..............


Respectfully,


Carlos E. Galindo


This video explains what occurred....

http://www.azcentral.com/video/627198897001


Another video from a news source.....

http://www.azfamily.com/news/local/Man-shot-and-killed-by-police-during-officer-involved-shooting-104380449.html

First Things First: Russ Pearce's deception and lies.

The AZ Republic's BS-detector found quite a mound of it in Russ Pearce's propaganda on the First Things First program. Don't them let them rob our schools through Prop 302. They'll just be using it to build new prisons for our kids, instead.


-------------------------Hooray for the AZ Republic Fact Checker-----------------


The issue: Use of funds by First Things First

Who said it: Russell Pearce (R)

by Mary Jo Pitzl - October 7, 2010, 7:27 pm

What we're looking at:

In an e-mail supporting Proposition 302, Sen. Russell Pearce claimed the First Things First program, which provides health and human services to preschool-age children, spends money on illegal immigrants, funds abortions, and pays its staff $70,000-plus salaries.

The comment:

"PLEASE VOTE YES ON PROP. 302: THE ATTACHMENT SHOWS YOU THE WAST (sic) OF MONEY, BUREAUCRACY, IN ADDITION I UNDERSTAND THE FUNDING OF ABORTION, STAFF PAID $70K AND UP FOR JUST HANDING OUT MONEY, MONEY BEING SPENT ON ILLEGAL ALIENS."

The forum:

E-mail sent to Pearce supporters in September.

Analysis:

First Things First is the target of Proposition 302, which seeks voter approval to repeal the 4-year-old program. Lawmakers such as Pearce say they need the money in the program's fund balance -- about $345 million -- to help balance this year's state budget. First Things First makes grants to various programs that provide services to improve the health and education of children from birth to age 5.

Pearce made three specific allegations against the program.

1) Pearce claims that the program spends money on illegal immigrants. In explaining that accusation, Pearce claims that a man, whom he identified as a pastor, walked into one of the offices of a First Things First service provider and made it clear that he had a family that needed help, but the family did not have legal status in the U.S.

Pearce refuses to identify the man, the office's location, the date of the interaction or any other details beyond a list of four agencies that have received First Things First dollars. They are: Teen Outreach Pregnancy Services, Mariposa Community Health Center, Association for Supportive Child Care, and Pinal Gila Child Care Services.

Liz Barker Alvarez, a spokeswoman for First Things First, said the program meets all state and federal laws governing people who are not legally present in the U.S., "and to the best of our knowledge, our grantees are also."

She added that Pearce has not contacted the agency with his complaints, leaving her to rely on his remarks to news media. "We are dealing with allegations and innuendos," she said.

At the Association for Supportive Child Care, Executive Director Susan Wilkins was unaware of anyone getting services they're not entitled to receive.

Besides, she said, the group does not provide tangible services such as housing, transportation or financial aid. Rather, it offers professional development for preschool teachers and uses First Things First dollars for scholarships for those teachers. Scholarship recipients have to work at licensed day-care facilities, which are regulated by the state and therefore checked to ensure they are not providing service to people in the country illegally, Wilkins said.

In addition, the scholarships are typically used at local community colleges, and the colleges' entry requirements would screen out anyone not legally present in the U.S., she said.

Pearce said he will seek an investigation into the First Things First program, either by the state Attorney General's Office or a county attorney. Pearce said it is against state law to use taxpayer money to provide services to people who are not authorized to be in the United States. There is no indication that he has yet sought such an investigation.

2) Pearce also indicated First Things First may have provided funding for abortions.

Pearce says that information also came from an inquiry made to a First Things First grantee about a crisis pregnancy, and the service provider indicated that the situation could be dealt with.

Again, Pearce gave no specifics other than the agency names.

Once again, Barker Alvarez said Pearce's claims that First Things First pays for abortions are allegations and innuendo.

Representatives of the groups Pearce highlighted said they're unaware of the inquiries the senator referenced.

Marie Fordney, outreach director for Teen Outreach Pregnancy Services, said that her group provides free pregnancy tests for anyone younger than 21. But First Things First dollars are not used for these services.

"It is ridiculous to imagine that First Things First would fund abortions, since its goal is to support children age zero to 5 and make sure they enter kindergarten ready to succeed," she said. "(It's) not to have fewer children in Arizona."

3) As for the salaries, Barker Alvarez acknowledged that some staffers make more than $70,000, but a breakdown of all 126 staff salaries is still being produced.

Bottom line:

Pearce could not provide documents or details to back up his allegations, and they could not be substantiated.


Sources:

E-mail from Sen. Russell Pearce
Interviews with Sen. Russell Pearce, First Things First, Teen Outreach Pregnancy Services, Mariposa Community Health Center, Association for Supportive Child Care, and Pinal Gila Child Care Services.
Arizona Revised Statute 8-1171

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Poverty in America is a crime: Debtors prisons on the rise.

Check out the reports this article links to below. Seems to be a real problem in Arizona too, with parolees and probationers being reincarcerated for not making their restitution and court payments - some preferring to work off their time back in prison because they can't support their families with the court-imposed debts and jail fees, etc.

So, if they can't collect a few hundred bucks from an impoverished felon, the state removes him from his family, community, and the workforce (where, with a criminal record he can only get jobs that pay dirt) and pays $21,000/year to punish him for being poor, stigmatized, and marginalized - therefore perpetuating the problem (and the budget crisis) - just to give people like Arpaio a few extra pennies a year to misappropriate.


Real bright, Arizona. You sure showed those criminals.


So, other than collection agencies and some jails (if they can take in more than the shell out by rounding up their debtors when they can't pay), I wonder who would profit from these kinds of laws, then. Private prisons, perhaps? Would be interesting to see just what all the private prison lobby is up to. They have to keep finding more reasons to justify imprisoning people, since states around the country (except Arizona) are trying to reduce incarceration in other ways, and private prisons are emptying...I bet we see more go into the business of running local jails soon - and aggressively pushing for these kinds of laws.


------------------ACLU------------------

ACLU And Brennan Center Reports Expose Resurgence Of Debtors' Prisons

Friday, October 8, 2010

The anguished exit of Kent Knudson, Community Activist.

As most of you from Phoenix know, Kent Knudson was a local community activist who committed suicide September 25, having fallen into a deep depression in large part because of a series of criminal prosecutions. He was an outspoken critic of the CJ system, and fought for reform and prisoner rights, among other things.

I didn't really know Kent myself, though I'm sure we've been shoulder to shoulder at a few demonstrations and other events, particularly this past year.
The peace and justice community that he was such a part of is devastated, of course.

I'm still sorting through all the grieving emails and tributes that showed up in my in-box this week, and will post more about his life and legal battles when I find the most complete story about what happened. For now, here's his obituary, sent to everyone in his email address book; that's his own electronic signature at the bottom.


Because of the public scrutiny of the accused, the dehumanization of "criminals", the expense and energy one needs to invest in legal defense, the humiliation of jail, the constant coercion to take a plea under threat of state violence if found guilty at trial, and all the social consequences of being a felon, prosecution and criminalization can be so much more damaging to a life, career, family, and spirit than what may actually be handed down by a judge - that truth is always left out of the sentencing. It pushes way too many people - including the innocent and mentally impaired - to take their own lives over things that should never even merit jail, much less execution. I hope we can turn that around soon.

Please, all, remember that while suicide is 100% preventable, it can trigger a cascade of despair and further self-destruction within communities; keep close tabs on your own moods as well as on your loved ones in the coming weeks and months. If you need to, call a friend, see a professional, or dial a hotline to talk, cry, or rage. Try to wait to act on your impulses until the urgency passes - you can always reserve the option of suicide for when your moods improve, which they eventually will; that's why I'm still here - once I feel better, even if conditions are worse, killing myself never looks like the best solution to whatever I'm struggling with. Remember - we need all the help we can get on this planet; we need to keep the good guys alive to get through this.

Condolences to Kent's family and friends - to all whom his life and death so deeply touched.


Have a blessed journey Home, Kent.

------------------------

From: Kent 911cd@cox.net>
Date: October 2, 2010 9:19:24 AM EDT
To: kent knudson 911cd@cox.net>
Subject: Kent Knudson in Memoriam

It is with great sadness that I must report to you the news of the passing of my great friend and hero, Kent Knudson. Kent had been suffering from depression over yet another traumatic legal difficulty and facing two felony charges, on top of his "Cowcrap" conviction. The pressures of this latest legal action taken against him, the possibility of 3 years of jail time, and other factors lead him into a depression from which Kent had decided to take matters into his own control, ending his life.

This has been a very difficult time for me and Sarah, and others who were close to Kent. I ask you to come together at Kent's memorial service to reflect and celebrate with us Kent's life, pursuits and achievements.

Memorial services will be held on Wednesday, October 6th at 7pm, at the Arizona Biltmore Resort.

Thank You,
Sham Rao

OBITUARY
Kent Randolph Knudson
November 11, 1949 - September 25, 2010

Although schooled in Engineering Mathematics, Kent's greatest contributions are the result of his life long career as an photographer. Having licensed his works to commercial stock agencies, advertisers, and marketing companies, Kent's art has dominated and influenced all of his life's pursuits.

Kent's later life was radically altered as a result of an unfortunate cascading injustice at the hands of the government. During the years that Kent spent caring for his beloved mother who was developing Alzheimer's disease, Kent fell into legal trouble as a result of attempting to safeguard his mother against an invading herd of cattle on their 40 acre ranch near Snowflake, AZ.

Compelled into a new life of social justice and activism, Kent sought to fight the injustices he has suffered as a consequence of his "Cowcrap" ordeal, devoting his activist efforts towards:

1. Repealing Open Range Laws
2. Ending Malicious Prosecution
3. Facilitating Prison Reform, and Inmate Human Rights
4. Promoting Jury Nullification and Court Reform

Among other activist pursuits, Kent is well known for leading the 9/11Truth movement in Phoenix, AZ and hosting a 9/11 Truth and Accountability conference. He also supported various other Peace and Justice causes including: Ending the US military occupations, defending human rights, environmentalism and sustainability.

Kent is survived by his sister Cathy Leavitt, nephews Brent Leavitt & Thomas Leavitt, niece Paula Thompson, companion Sarah Fox, longtime friend Sham Rao, his cat Ewok, and the Social Justice Activist Community.

Kent will be missed mostly for the passion and drive with which he lived and demonstrated throughout his life and art.

SERVICES:

Memorial service:
Arizona Biltmore Resort
Wednesday, October 6th, 2010
Visitation: 7-8pm
Memorial: 8-10pm

Burial:
Snowflake Cemetery
Snowflake, AZ
Saturday, October 9th, 2010 @3pm
For more information:
Sham Rao
623-229-4754

Kent
{The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. - Edmund Burke (1729-1797)}

-----------------------------

A reminder for all the colorful peace and justice activists we've lost over the years, from the film about Abbie Hoffman, "Steal This Movie": We can't sing louder than the guns when we're gone...


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Justicia Ahora: Danny Rodriguez, police brutality, and the Phoenix PD.


I just got home from a demonstration in front of the Phoenix Police Department downtown. I got there pretty la
te, but there were still about 50 people of all ages protesting, most of whom were Latino. There was a feeling of a pretty tight community there, and with the candles and photos of Danny, it was as much a vigil and memorial service as it was a protest.

Danny Rodriguez' mom's heart must be absolutely shredded.


I've never before heard of someone shooting an unarmed person to death in front of witnesses and just being charged with assault and given a bond - that's extremely dangerous behavior. I see mentally ill people detained in jail for months for competency exams for little more than trespassing - even sent to prison for criminal damage - but the guy who killed Danny made bail in a day.

Understandably, the Maricopa County Attorney's office wants to be sure they have all the facts before leveling more serious charges against
Chrisman - but all the facts that are out thus far suggest that the only time murder is called an assault is when the accused is a cop. I really don't believe that it would take them more than a couple of hours to decide to charge a civilian with some form of murder if he forced his way into someone's home at gunpoint, got into an argument, and took his life when he tried to run away from the confrontation. I don't even think they could get away with calling that manslaughter. That all happened in front of an armed law enforcement officer, too - one who would have drawn his own gun and fired at one of us right there if we did what Chrisman did to Danny. Actually, his gun and handcuffs would have been out as soon as the dog got it, and Danny would still be alive.


If Romley's caution and desire to be responsible about charging this guy readily applied to the rest of us, I could be more patient. But there are
still innocent people in prison his office should be saving, defendants too incompetent to stand trial being incarcerated for petty crimes secondary to the symptoms of their mental illness, and graffitti artists facing over 6 years in prison because the MCAO has decided that's a priority crime which needs to be "prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law". That's more time for vandalism than this cop will likely ever get for killing someone, though. In fact, a lot of people get more time for hurting themselves than most cops ever get for assaulting, maiming, or killing unarmed civilians in irresponsible exercises of power.


All of that suggests that double standards still exist in the MCAO - which is par for the rest of the country, unfortunately. Oscar Grant was on the ground on his stomach with his hands visible and his killer still only got 4 years in priso
n - which will undoubtedly be knocked down to nothing on appeal, because while it's okay for the rest of us to face being raped and murdered when locked away, it's not okay to put a cop in that position. No matter how criminal their conduct, cops in this country are supposed to be protected from the consequences of incarceration. Meanwhile, Americans execute the mentally retarded when they take responsibility for their crimes, and people with psychiatric disabilities are three times more likely to be incarcerated than hospitalized (and it's not because we're all criminally-inclined). I find that very troubling.


Danny must have feared for his life after Chrisman put that gun to his head then killed his dog - no wonder he went for his bike. As far as I can tell, he hadn't even committed a crime before the scuffle with the cop. What a disturbing message to send the rest of us: "criminal" or not, if you run from the cops they can pepper spray, taser, arrest or even shoot and kill you without consequence. If you don't get away they might still shoot you dead - even if you surrendered peacefully. What are we supposed to do?

Putting on a badge and a uniform alone does not make a person honorable or a champion of justice - SS officers did that all the time, in service to their country. And firing weapons at unarmed civilians is by no means a sign of courage. Other cops should be ashamed of Chrisman wearing their uniform and join us in protest. Instead, of course, they apparently helped bail him out last night, and we've all learned to expect them to persecute his partner for telling the truth. What a sad thing that it's so exceptional for a cop to tell the truth when they witness a another officer commit a crime that the public takes it as commonplace and even has a term for it.


In light of all that, why do the boys in blue get any more the benefit of the doubt than the rest of us in situations like this? We aren't ever really "presumed innocent" by the courts until proven otherwise - as soon as the police decide to charge you, you're pretty much done with and will be coerced into a plea deal - their word, even if it's just an opinion - carries more weight than ours ever does.


If Danny had survived, they'd be charging him with assaulting Chrisman and resisting arrest right now (none of which may have happened if the cops hadn't entered his home in the first place). Then they could have locked him up and he could be tortured and killed by deputies or prison guards, instead, who may not even be charged with a misdemeanor in the aftermath. This is one reason I was so troubled that no charges were brought against those responsible for Marcia Powell's death - even more so that some of those people are getting their jobs back from the State. It emboldens officers of the law all the more to feel free to abuse us, whether we're prisoners, suspects, or even just witnesses.


As Chrisman told Danny when he put the gun to his head to get in the door, they don't really even need warrants. They clearly have plenty of power to do as they please without one. One f my anarchist friends noted that
it seems as if police are becoming more violent these days. I think so as well, and that it coincided with "non-lethal" weapons hitting the market and police consequently choosing to assault people (including those who are suicidal) instead of talking to us when there's a problem. No matter how trivial the reason we were originally questioned we can't even argue with them when they cross the line without risking serious repercussions. We have to fight out the legalities of police conduct in court and just hope they don't damage us or our lives too much before we get that far.

I
t seems increasingly as if we are at the mercy of everyone wearing a badge - some of us more than others, of course. Since I have freckles and no color and am not living on the street or visibly impoverished, I doubt I'd get shot for refusing to put down my sidewalk chalk when ordered to do so. I drop it as soon as they tell me to, though, because you just never know what will scare or piss one of them off enough to really do harm. Uninitiated citizens who expect the police to be professional and courteous when they become a suspect are in for a rude awakening; they tend to be the ones who get into arguments with bad cops because they make the mistake of expressing indignation over not being treated better. So do folks who have decided they just aren't going to be violated anymore. The cops can violate us all they want - they have us outgunned. Ironic that we're the ones who pay for those weapons, too.

There should be a higher standard of conduct expected of law enforcement officers than the rest of us, not a lower one. They're supposed to be the ones who are trained and paid to keep the public safe - they work for us, but we're supposed to be subservient and submissive, under penalty of death. There's something wrong with that which most people don't seem to notice. That's how fascists gain power - we willingly surrender it to them in exchange for the promise of protection, denying that the scope of power we've given them may come at someone else's expense because we never think it will be ours.

Danny's family and friends plan to be in front of the Phoenix Police Department for the next 7 days, demanding that his killing be treated as such, not just as an assault. Even though I just posted one on this yesterday, I'm posting the article below because it goes into greater depth about other police shootings in the Valley, as well as the commission that's been looking at police brutality. It's actually better than most AZ Republic articles - though that bit about Phoenix Councilman Michael Johnson being "detained" was downplayed - I thought that cop cuffed him and actually put his boot on his head until he found out who he was.

Please drop by the PHX PD HQ at 7th Ave and W. Washington Friday, October 8, at 6pm for the next protest. Come again the next day. And the next. Bring chalk. Also mark October 22 on your calendars - that's National Police Brutality Day. If you can't make it to an organized demonstration that day, then chalk some public sidewalks, paint your car's rear window, or write to the County Attorney, Rick Romley, at 301 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix, AZ 85003. A simple "Justicia Ahora" will probably be well understood by then.


--------------from the Arizona Republic--------------------------

Phoenix police officer in fatal shooting arrested


Elvira Fernandez said she called police to teach her son respect after she caught him throwing things at the wall of her south Phoenix trailer.

Fearing the 29-year-old would hit her, she went to a neighbor's house to dial 911.

When Phoenix police Officer Richard Chrisman and another patrolman arrived in response to her domestic-violence call, she asked them to reason with her son. She expected they would issue a warning and cool things down.

Instead, about 15 minutes later, Danny Frank Rodriquez was shot dead inside the trailer. One of the family's dogs was also fatally shot.

And Chrisman now faces felony charges.

"I felt like I made the wrong choice calling the police," Fernandez, 60, told The Republic on Wednesday from a friend's trailer in the same complex where her son was killed Tuesday. "I regret it with everything in my heart."

Chrisman, a nine-year veteran who spent his career patrolling the South Mountain Precinct, was arrested hours after the shooting on suspicion of aggravated assault. Police officials said Wednesday that he could face additional charges, possibly murder.

The other officer on the scene told police investigators that Rodriquez was unarmed and that neither officer faced any serious threat of violence, according to court documents that describe his interview with police investigators.

The south Phoenix shooting came amid ongoing citywide discussion of how police misconduct should be investigated, with a municipal task force scheduled to offer recommendations next month.

Michael Johnson, a former Phoenix homicide detective and the only African-American on the City Council, has called for a civilian review board to provide independent oversight of the city's internal-affairs process, after a March incident in which Johnson was detained by an officer.

Investigators on Wednesday said additional interviews and evidence could lead Maricopa County prosecutors to file more-severe charges.

Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris and Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley said they will seek those charges if an autopsy report and additional information reveals that Chrisman abused his authority.

"We must be very careful to do this right," Romley said. "If it has occurred, we better not make a mistake, and the officer should be held accountable like anyone else."

Harris said he couldn't recall an officer being charged with murder or a similar crime in a police shooting in his career of more than 30 years.

National experts on excessive use of force by police said it is rare for an officer to be prosecuted and extremely unusual to see convictions.

David Klinger, author of a book on the subject titled "Into the Kill Zone," said there is no nationwide data, but officers who shoot subjects while on duty are prosecuted less than 2 percent of the time, and most of those wind up being acquitted.

However, when told that the other officer on the scene described the suspect as unarmed and not a threat, Klinger and others said this case may prove to be an exception to the general rule.

"It doesn't look good," noted Klinger, adding that he'd still want to see all the evidence and hear the shooter's statement.

Officer's statements

Investigators said Wednesday that they would examine the sequence of events leading up to the shooting. Those events are described in statements from Officer Sergio Virgillo, a 14-year-veteran, described in court documents:

Chrisman and Virgillo, patrolling in separate vehicles, both responded to the call at 12:20 p.m. Virgillo said Fernandez asked them to go inside the trailer and talk to her son.

When the man refused to let officers in, Virgillo said, Chrisman responded by holding his service weapon to the man's temple and stating that he didn't need a warrant.

Virgillo said Chrisman re-holstered his weapon but that a scuffle ensued inside. The officers attempted to subdue Rodriquez with a Taser and with pepper spray.

Amid the struggle, Virgillo said, Chrisman shot a dog that was barking inside the trailer.

As the struggle continued, Rodriquez tried to leave the trailer on a bicycle and grappled with the officers over the handlebars.

As Rodriquez stood near the bike, Virgillo said, Chrisman raised his gun and fired.

Paramedics declared Rodriquez dead at the scene.

Chrisman, 36, was taken into custody at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Harris said Wednesday that he was unclear on why Chrisman ended up firing shots inside the trailer.

The chief and other police officers described the dog that was shot dead as a pit bull, though relatives and neighbors said the dog was a several-month-old boxer puppy.

Virgillo had told investigators the dog was barking but never threatened the officers.

Chrisman made his initial appearance Wednesday. His bond was set at $150,000.

The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, which will represent Chrisman through the internal-affairs investigation, issued a statement of support for the officer, saying the union would help Chrisman's family raise money for bail.

Internal inquiries

Since 2007, Chrisman has faced four internal inquiries handled by the Phoenix Police Professional Standards Bureau - the department's internal-affairs unit.

The cases include an excessive-force allegation in 2009, in addition to complaints about personal conduct and inattention to duty, police records show. Police leaders declined to comment on the nature of the complaints or if Chrisman faced any discipline.

Police in the city's South Mountain Precinct have come under public scrutiny this year by Councilman Johnson and members of the south Phoenix community in the wake of a March incident in which Johnson accused a patrol officer of violating his civil rights during a predawn handcuffing incident outside his home.

Johnson commended Virgillo for "coming forward" and "telling the truth" about the shooting.

Other community leaders also praised Virgillo's actions.

"He needs to be protected from peer scrutiny and publicly commended for his integrity to the sacred oath he lives by," said Adolfo Maldonado, a south Phoenix community activist who sits on the city's police-review task force.

Harris on Wednesday met with nearly 40 south Phoenix community leaders and members of a city-appointed task force designed to come up with recommendations on how the department should better address citizen complaints about police misconduct.

He urged them to remind neighbors and residents to remain calm - to judge the case based on facts, rather than rumors.

"I wanted to assure them . . . that we will investigate this thoroughly, that we have the facts, and that we take the appropriate action based on the facts," Harris said.

Tuesday's south Phoenix slaying is believed to be the first Valley officer-involved shooting in which criminal charges were filed against the officer since a 2002 incident in Chandler.

Chandler Officer Dan Lovelace responded to a report of a woman accused of trying to fill a phony prescription at a pharmacy drive-through. When the woman accelerated in her car, Lovelace fired, killing her.

Lovelace was charged with second-degree murder, though he was acquitted years later.

Phoenix also has seen controversy in the past, including a series of police homicides that prompted public demonstrations. In 1994, a man with no legs named Edward Mallet died in custody when he was placed in a choke hold.

Officers were cleared by internal investigations, but the city lost a wrongful-death suit and wound up paying $5.3 million. One year later, a deranged suspect died in a hail of gunfire - hit by 30 rounds from numerous Phoenix officers. Finally, in 1996, a 16-year-old boy was shot 25 times after he brandished a butcher knife. No officer was charged in any of the slayings.

Recent cases have kept the issue in the news.

Oakland transit Officer Johannes Mehserle, was charged with murder after video evidence showed him shooting Oscar J. Grant III in the back as the suspect lay on the ground. In July, after Mehserle claimed he pulled out his firearm thinking it was a Taser, jurors found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

Use-of-force cases

Gene O'Donnell, a professor of law and criminal justice at John Jay College of Law and Criminal Justice, said police, prosecutors, jurors, judges and the public are likely to give an officer the benefit of the doubt in use-of-force cases. The alternative, he said, would be to send a dangerous message to law officers: When in danger, hesitate.

O'Donnell said the question in any police shooting is whether it was reasonable in context, and the law is extremely forgiving. "There's broad interpretations of what's reasonable, including mistakes and tragedies."

Although a shooting may be followed by outbursts from relatives, and even a public outcry, O'Donnell said emotional reactions often yield in the courtroom to the sober understanding of a peace officer's role and dangers. Ultimately, O'Donnell said, jurors must ask themselves, "Do I want to send a cop to prison - make him a felon - for doing the job we sent him to do?"

However, he added, a prosecutor might overcome those obstacles with testimony from a fellow officer, and with the image of an officer holding a gun to a suspect's head. Barbara Attard, a consultant who served as independent police auditor for excessive force cases in San Jose, gasped when portions of the initial report were read to her over the phone.

"There is a thin blue line, and officers are very reluctant to testify against other officers," Attard said. "I think it's going to be a different kind of case than you usually see."


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Prosecuting Innocence: Resistance is (damn near) Futile

----------Mental Illness Awareness Week: October 3-9, 2010-----------

Article originally posted Thursday, February 25, 2010.

Resurrected for the Arpaio 5 and the Freedom March.

The sentencing committee meeting was canceled again today, by the way - I have no idea when it's rescheduled for. I hung out at the Capitol awhile anyway, handing out copies of Tenacious to the women legislators I could find, since it was "Women's Day at the Legislature" today, and I didn't think they'd made any arrangements for state prisoners to participate or talk to their legislators. I also left one for Governor Brewer, with an article done by a woman who had cancer while at Perryville a few years back. She's now with an organization that helps women in prison. I'll post her story here when I get permission.

I hope those legislators I gave the zines to actually bother to read them. I don't know when or how they're going to hear a woman prisoner's voice address their conditions otherwise. Maybe we should try to get them to hold hearings out at the prisons themselves. Given the Arizona Republic and Lumley Vampire reports on the physical condition of the facilities alone, they should have organized an emergency oversight committee to check it out in person. The legislature is responsible, after all, for compromising the safety of state prisoners and corrections employees in the first place. They've now been duly warned that they'll be held liable for failing to follow up on it.

Anyway, the following article is very pertinent to the work of the House Sentencing Committee - and most of the issues I have with Andrew Thomas' office. In fact, this is a very good reason why we don't want that man to be Attorney General. He'll be putting ten times as many innocent people away, while letting the really guilty ones walk by making questionable deals - like the one that put the Scott Sisters away. The innocent don't have anything to fear, they think, nor do they have anything to trade. The guilty, on the other hand - the "triggermen" - can trade them.

There's nothing guaranteed to get you a more severe punishment in America than insisting that you're innocent and losing to the prosecutor at trial - and they make sure you know that when they make their offer. Their job is to prove guilt, not to find truth - don't make any mistakes about that. They're out to get convictions, by and large - not to protect the innocent. Victims are just useful tools to win their cases with, and to use to promote their own tough-on-crime image.

There are a few remarkable exceptions to that rule, of course. Some DA's have been very committed to investigating reports of wrongful prosecutions/convictions. I hope that's the beginning of a trend towards more ethical, responsible prosecutorial conduct. I have yet to see evidence of that happening in Arizona, though.

Borrowed the post below from our friends at Idaho Prison Watch...

-------------

What is Wrong with the Plea Bargain System in our Courts Today?

Frontline Interview with
John H. Langbein


John Langbein is a professor of law and legal history at Yale Law School. In this interview, he describes how the plea bargain system pressures people to buckle and accept a plea-even if they are innocent-and how prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys have a role, a stake even, in seeing that this happens. He also talks about the Supreme Court's indifference to the pressures on a defendant in the plea process, and why he believes the rampant growth of pleas is rooted in the trial system's failures.

(I have condensed this interview for the sake of this forum. You can view the entire interview on the link I provided below)

Q: "What is wrong with the plea bargain system in our courts today?"

Plea bargaining is a system that is best described as one of condemnation without adjudication. It is a system that replaces trial, which is what our constitution intended, with deals.

Second, those deals are coerced. The prosecutor is basically forcing people to waive their rights to jury trial by threatening them with ever greater sanctions if they refuse to plead and instead demand the right to jury trial.
But every defendant has a right to go to trial; it's a choice they make to plead guilty.

The problem with choice arguments is that they neglect the main dynamic of plea bargan which is the pressure that the prosecutor puts on you to do it his way.

Plea bargain works by threat. What the prosecutor says to a criminal defendant in plea bargaining is, "Surrender your right to jury trial, or if you go to trial and are convicted of an offense, we will see to it that you are punished twice. Once for the offense, and once for having had the temerity to exercise your right to jury trial." THAT is a coercive system.

And the prosecutor has many devices which increase the level of coercion: multiplying the counts, threatening to recommend the most severe end of the sentence range, keeping you locked up in pretrial detention if you're poor - most people who are in the criminal justice system are poor - prosecuting your wife as well as yourself, and things of this sort. The prosecutor can pile it on if you don't play it his way. It is therefore a deeply coercive system. Yes, you have a choice, but your choice is constrained by coercion.

Q: What is the role of the defense lawyer?

Sometimes defense counsel does a very good job for people in the plea bargaining process, and gets you a good deal. But there are many other outcomes.

In the public defender system the defense counsel is representing a hundred other people; the defense counsel can not take every case to trial....

Defense counsel in some circumstances is not very competent and is delighted simply to take his money and run, so to speak."

"So there's no particular reason to think that defense counsel is any serious answer to the intrinsically coercive nature of plea bargaining."

Q: Whom does the system benefit?

The main winner in the plea bargaining process is the prosecutor. I describe plea bargaining as a system of prosecutorial tyranny..."

What has happened is that a single officer, the prosecutor, now is in charge of investigating, charging--that is, bringing formal charges--deciding whether to prosecute, evaluating that evidence, deciding whether or not in his or her judgment you're guilty or not, and then basically sentencing you.

"....what we have now is a system in which one officer, and indeed a somewhat dangerous officer, the prosecutor, has complete power over the fate of the criminal accused."


Q: You let the defense attorney off lightly.

I think defense counsel is to some extent at the mercy of a bad system. There's not a lot you can do when the other guy has all the chips. And the prosecutor has an awesome pile of chips in our plea bargaining system, because the prosecutor can threaten ever larger sanctions if you don't do what he wants.

So I believe that by far the worst failure in the plea bargaining system is the prosecutor, and I think that's in part because the prosecutor is not always as noble as he would like you to believe he is."

"It's a lot easier to coerce somebody into waiving all his defenses than to actually investigate the case thoroughly..."

But, again, the trial is there for anyone who chooses that option.

It is true that one always has the right to go to trial, but the prosecutor can make that right so costly that only a fool will exercise the right..."

Part of the reason why we in this country have criminal sentences that are so much more severe than in the rest of the civilized world, is the need that prosecutors have to threaten people with these huge sentences in order to get them to waive the right to jury trial...."

".... most people (in the system) are too poor to afford bail, and these people are particularly likely to yield to the demand that they confess whatever it is they're being charged with rather than wait for some kind of trial, because they'll be sitting in jail for months and months and months, and therefore there is a very evil interaction of prosecutorial power with poverty, with indigence."

It is very sad that the Supreme Court, which has been so anxious to protect various rights of persons who go to trial, has been so cowardly about seeing the evils of the plea bargaining process."

"...the Supreme Court has been indifferent to the pressures on accused in the plea bargaining process, as exemplified by the famous Alford case, where the fellow actually stood up and said, "I'm innocent, but I'm pleading because the disparity of outcome that they're threatening me with is too great". It's terribly sad."

"...the prosecutor is allowed to coerce people out of trial."

"...what happens is that prosecutors don't have to prove their cases; they're simply allowed to coerce people into waiving their rights. Judges are spared the difficulty of conducting trials and the danger of being found to have erred; they (plea bargains) can't be appealed from .."

"...what actually happens is you're coerced into confessing yourself guilty, whether you are or not."

"The saddest things about plea bargaining is that it is not widely understood. Most people have the television model of Perry Mason or somebody similar contesting for a verdict of a jury."

"Plea bargaining is sometimes justified on the ground that we are giving a lighter sentence to someone who is showing contrition or remorse for the offense. But that's a pack of lies. What is in fact happening is that the accused is being told by the prosecutor, "You accept guilt and confess and bear false witness against yourself and we will then see to it that it gets characterized as contrition or remorse."

The point is that the coercion, which eliminates trial, eliminates our ability to know you were in fact beyond reasonable doubt, guilty or not. And therefore it makes the remorse talk just window dressing by apologists who want to keep this existing system which is convenient for them."

Q: Do you have a solution?

I think the solution is very complex. I think it requires facing the underlying failure of this adversary criminal justice system. The idea that having one pack of lawyers and investigators saying, "You did it," and another pack saying, "We didn't," and nobody actually looking for what actually happened, nobody having an interest in investigating the truth, is a bit mistake."

"No knowledgeable student of comparative criminal justice is likely to fall victim to the notion that our is an admirable system.

It is an appalling system.

We have ten times as large a percent of our population locked up in jail by comparison with the European countries. We have sentences which are draconian. We've just had a 12 year old put in jail for life in Florida. Things of this sort are unheard of in the rest of the world.

There are many causes, but the failure of our adversary system is central, and the political nature of our prosecutorial system is also central..."

(complete interview at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/plea/interviews/langbein.html)