3/13/2005 Newsletter

Contents:

  • Tony Moore Court Watch
  • Taser Panel Discussion and Community Meeting
  • Victory in Michael Porter Case
  • Victory in Marcus Robinson Case
  • Report: Thousands Wrongfully Convicted Each Year

ALERT--CHANGE IN CASE DATES
We've just learned that the Alisha Smith case is being delayed by about a week.  However, if you were already planning to go to court for that case tomorrow morning, there is another very compelling case we'd like to you to attend that will be happening at the same time.  In fact, this case is the reason the Smith case is being moved back--since both cases involve the same lawyers.

Cops raided the house of Tony Moore on 3/3/04.  It is unclear why the house was raided, as cops found nothing.  While they were searching the house they physically abused, threatened and even tortured the people there.  One of the cops took Tony aside and demanded he "work for them" (become an informant).  This action in and of itself is a serious violation of department policy, as all meetings to arrange confidential informants are supposed to involve two police officers and before arrangements are made the "candidate" has to meet with a prosecutor and agreement papers are executed.  This is to protect the informant from being charged with activities connected with their informant work.

However, Tony did not want to "work for the cops."  Six months later, when he told the cop NO, the cop threw him against a wall and told him that if he didn't start working for him, he would "put [his] ass in jail in five days."

Five days later, to the day, Tony was picked up and charged in the original March incident.  However, it has already come out in court that police never even filed police reports on that incident until September 2004.  Clearly this is a set up.

We should tell you that all of the above has ALREADY come out in court.  Just wait until what comes next.  Prosecutors are clearly nervous about this case--a number of them sit in court every time there is a hearing (at taxpayer expense!).  We need to be there, too, to be a counter veiling force against this attempt to intimidate the judge.

Tony Moore
March 14, 9:30 a.m.
Hennepin County Government Center
Courtroom 1655

We will let you know as soon as we know when Alisha Smith's case is rescheduled.
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TASERS: A PANEL DISCUSSION AND COMMUNITY MEETING
With the introduction of Tasers into the St. Paul schools, increased use of Tasers on children, the elderly and others and increased reporting of deaths following Tasering, CUAPB is sponsoring a panel discussion and community meeting on Tasers.  Through this effort, we hope to educate the community on Tasers but also to touch on the role of Tasers and newer technologies in policing, the criminalization of children's behavior in schools, and the role of corporations (specifically Taser International) in obscuring the dangers of these weapons.

TASERS UNDER FIRE
Panel Discussion and Community Meeting
Wednesday, March 23rd
7:00 p.m.
Walker Community Church
3104 16th Avenue South, Minneapolis

For more information or directions, call our hotline at 612-874-7867.
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VICTORIES IN TWO KEY CASES!
Michael Porter
was experiencing a mental health incident when he wandered through a neighborhood in southwest Minneapolis knocking on doors and asking for help.  What he got, instead, was anything but.  Minneapolis police unleashed a dog on him who bit him several times, including biting off his testicle.  Although he was bleeding and probably in shock, police officers continued to assault him with flashlights, fists and Tasers.  He was hospitalized repeatedly for injuries from the assault and continues to have affects.

As is the norm in serious police brutality cases, Porter was charged with a number of felonies.  None of the cops was charged.  As for the police dog, it was to have been taken off the street by order of Chief McManus.  However, the dog was taken back out on the street again recently in violation of that order and it bit another person.

Last week, prosecutors "saw the light" after police tried to make the claim that the dog made the use of force decision (we kid you not!).  Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of defense attorney Jill Clark, prosecutors dropped all charges against Michael Porter.
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Marcus Robinson is an African American man married to a white woman in a rural community in southwest Minnesota.  His in-laws came to us several months ago because Marcus, his wife Debby and their children were being harassed by white supremacists in the community, including the local police chief.  At one point, the chief vowed to "run [Marcus] out of town" or to get a felony prosecution against him and send him to prison.  There were several incidents and even though Marcus and his family were the victims, Marcus kept getting slapped with bogus charges.  Fighting the charges was wiping out the family's finances.

In the most recent incident, Marcus had gone to the local bar with a white friend to play pool.  The police chief was in the bar, in full uniform, with his squad car running outside.  He was talking with the "gang of eight" white supremacists who had been harassing Marcus.  They all came over to the pool table and starting harassing Marcus and his friend.  Marcus asked them to just leave them alone.  They attacked and started beating up Marcus, with the chief standing by and watching.  When Marcus' friend stepped in, they pulled him outside, put his leg over the edge of a curb, and stomped it and broke it so badly that he had to be airlifted to HCMC for emergency care.  In the meantime, the chief attempted to arrest Marcus but the bar owner and another witness intervened.  Still, Marcus was later charged.  None of the attackers was charged.

After that, the harassment stepped up even more.  The gang of thugs followed the children to the school bus stop and taunted them until the family convinced the school to pick up the kids in front of their house. In December, as the family slept, a frozen road-kill animal was thrown through their living room window about 2:30 a.m.  The message could not be clearer and the family began to really fear for their lives.

Luckily, a courageous people's attorney, Ted Dooley, stepped in.  Ted is based in St. Paul and is active with the Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.  Folks may know him from his other work--he was instrumental in putting together the Cry Justice conference.  Since taking on Marcus' case, he  succeeded in getting all remaining charges against Marcus dropped and the family is now working with him on a lawsuit.  Since then, all harassment of this family has stopped.  Even still, we will be watching this situation closely and will step in if the harassment starts up again.  Props to Ted Dooley for his wonderful work on this case.
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WHAT WE'VE KNOWN ALL ALONG--AND HAVE SEEN FIRST HAND
This article talks about what we see everyday outside the arraignment room--innocent folks coerced to take deals by unscrupulous lawyers or overworked public defenders.  One wonders if the statistics would have been even higher if Minnesota had been included in this study, since Minnesota has the highest rate of overprosecution of Blacks of any state in the entire country.

Report: Thousands wrongly convicted each year
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2005-02-11-wrongly-convicted_x.htm
2/11/2005

WASHINGTON (AP) Thousands of suspects unable to afford lawyers are wrongly convicted each year because they are pressured to accept guilty pleas or have incompetent attorneys, the American Bar Association says in a report.

The study by a committee of the nation's largest lawyers' group says that legal representation of indigents is in "a state of crisis." These defendants are at constant risk of wrongful conviction and unjust punishment, including the death penalty, according to the study being released Friday.

"The fundamental right to a lawyer that Americans assume apply to everyone accused of criminal conduct effectively does not exist in practice for countless people across the United States," the study states. "All too often, defendants plead guilty, even if they are innocent, without really understanding their legal rights."

The ABA committee wants Congress and local governments to spend more money and create oversight groups to guard against shoddy legal representation. Judges also are asked to be more vigilant in ensuring defendants have competent counsel.

It has been more than 40 years since the Supreme Court ruled the government must provide legal counsel to indigent defendants who are charged with serious crimes.

The report comes one week after President Bush called for more training for lawyers who represent accused killers and greater use of DNA testing. That proposal is not on the agenda at the ABA winter meeting in Salt Lake City, which runs through Tuesday.

The ABA study points to people like Brandon Moon of Kansas City, Mo., who served nearly 17 years for the rape of an El Paso, woman before DNA tests determined he was not responsible; and Ryan Matthews, a Louisiana man who sat on death row for five years before he was exonerated.

More than 150 people who were convicted in 31 states and the District of Columbia served a total of 1,800 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. All were exonerated due to DNA evidence.

"The challenge is coming up with politically viable ways to fix the problem," said Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University who tracks death penalty cases. "The long-term costs of underfunding defense counsel are hard to see when a state is facing budget crises.

"Needless to say, criminals or accused criminals are not a very powerful lobby or a group that particularly draws sympathy for more dollars and cents," Berman said.

The report also pointed to negligent or otherwise unprepared lawyers, leading to faulty convictions or more serious punishment. No formal training existed for lawyers for the indigent in Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas, which puts more people to death than any other state.

In the majority of states surveyed, money for prosecutors outpaced public defenders. For example, California allocates defense counsel an average of $60.90 for every $100 the prosecution receives.

In the South, the report cited a problem of "meet 'em and plead 'em lawyers" where lawyers in states such as Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia often negotiate a plea agreement the first day they meet their clients.

In Texas, Rhode Island and elsewhere, legal experts reported incidences where indigent clients languished in jail for months without access to a lawyer or were improperly urged by prosecutors to accept plea deals without a lawyer present.

The report recommends that:

*states provide money for public defenders that is on par with prosecutors.

*states establish oversight organizations to police potential abuses such as forced plea agreements or otherwise negligent or inadequate counsel.

*lawyers refuse new cases if workloads are so excessive that it would substantially impair their defense preparation.

*judges report prosecutors who seek to obtain waivers of counsel and guilty pleas that are not voluntary and on the record.

The study was based on research and testimony gathered from 22 states. The states are: Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
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Communities United Against Police Brutality
3104 16th Avenue S
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)


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