Municipal Violations, Debtors’ Prisons, For-Profit Probation Companies…and a John Oliver Video

By Elaine Magliaro

Two years ago, I wrote a column for Res Ipsa Loquitor on the subject of debtors’ prisons in the United States. In that posting, I told about a 2010 report published by the America Civil Liberties Union titled In for a Penny: The Rise of America’s New Debtors’ Prisons. The ACLU said it had found that debtors’ prisons were “flourishing” in this country, “more than two decades after the Supreme Court prohibited imprisoning those who are too poor to pay their legal debts.”

According to the ACLU report, some state and local governments had “turned aggressively to using the threat and reality of imprisonment to squeeze revenue out of the poorest defendants who appear in their courts.” The ACLU said that these “modern-day debtors’ prisons impose devastating human costs, waste taxpayer money and resources, undermine our criminal justice system, are racially skewed, and create a two-tiered system of justice.”

On Sunday, Jon Oliver did an in-depth segment on “municipal violations”—and what happens to people who can’t afford to pay their fines on time. Like Ferguson, Missouri, other towns also target black and low-income people and impose fines and court fees on them in order to raise money to balance their local budgets.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Municipal Violations (HBO)

German Lopez (Vox)

In many cities and counties, failing to pay a ticket can often lead to more fines and fees, driver’s license suspensions, and even jail time. What’s worse, sometimes private, for-profit companies like Judicial Correction Services handle this debt collection for local governments, racking up as much money as possible. These schemes can often turn tickets worth $40 or $100 into monthly payments that add up to the thousands.

During his Sunday night program, Oliver said, “Not only should municipalities not be balancing their books on the backs of some of their most vulnerable citizens, but we cannot have a system where committing a minor violation can end up putting you in — and I’m going to use a legal term of art here — the fuck barrel.”

Around the same time that I had written my RIL post about debtors’ prisons, the ACLU of Ohio published a report titled The Outskirts of Hope: How Ohio’s Debtors’ Prisons Are Ruining Lives and Costing Communities. In 2013, the ACLU found that many municipalities in Ohio “routinely imprison those who are unable to pay fines and court costs despite a 1983 United States Supreme Court decision declaring this practice to be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.” The ACLU said that affluent residents of Ohio who are sentenced to pay fines after being convicted of a criminal or traffic offense can simply pay the fines and go on with their lives. The same does not hold true for “Ohio’s poor and working poor” who may not have the monetary resources to pay their fines. Such people may find themselves at the “beginning of a protracted process that may involve contempt charges, mounting fees, arrest warrants, and even jail time. The stark reality is that, in 2013, Ohioans are being repeatedly jailed simply for being too poor to pay fines.”

The ACLU of Ohio reported that the U.S. Constitution, the Ohio Constitution, and Ohio Revised Code all prohibit debtors’ prisons. It said that the courts are required by law to determine whether an individual is too poor to pay a fine before jailing the person. It added that “debtors’ prisons actually waste taxpayer dollars by arresting and incarcerating people who will simply never be able to pay their fines, which are in any event usually smaller than the amount it costs to arrest and jail them.”

Modern Day Debtors’ Prison in the Deep South: The Story of Harriet Cleveland of Alabama (SPLC)

CBS News reported in 2013 that “high rates of unemployment and government fiscal shortfalls that followed the housing crash” had “increased the use of debtors’ prisons, as states look for ways to replenish their coffers.”  Inimai Chettiar, director of the justice program at New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, said, “It’s like drawing blood from a stone. States are trying to increase their revenue on the backs of the poor.” He added, “It’s a growing problem nationally, particularly because of the economic crisis.”

People of means may suffer a minor inconvenience when they commit a municipal violation. Poor people, on the other hand, may suffer devastating consequences when they can’t afford to pay their fines and court fees.

**********

“Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope — some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.”

– President Lyndon B. Johnson (State of the Union, 1964)

 

SOURCES

John Oliver slams for-profit policing in Ferguson and across the country (Vox)

The Rise of “Debtors’ Prisons” in the US (Res Ipsa Loquitor)

SPLC lawsuit closes debtors’ prison in Alabama capital (Southern Poverty Law Center)

This entry was posted in Alabama, Civil Liberties, Countries, Courts, Democracy, Equal Rights, Government, Jurisprudence, Law Enforcement, Local Government, Prison, Racism, Short Video, Society, United States and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

96 Responses to Municipal Violations, Debtors’ Prisons, For-Profit Probation Companies…and a John Oliver Video

  1. Mike Spindell says:

    Elaine,

    All this time that I’ve been warning of feudalism taking over America, I was somehow hoping it would never occur. This is a confirmation that it HAS occurred, yet most people haven’t caught up with understanding it.

  2. Elaine M. says:

    Mike,

    The people haven’t caught up with understanding it because–for the most part–the media hadn’t drawn much attention to the problem. I think the DOJ Ferguson report may help to bring more media attention to the issue.

  3. swarthmoremom says:

    Mike S,”All this time that I’ve been warning of feudalism taking over America, I was somehow hoping it would never occur. This is a confirmation that it HAS occurred, yet most people haven’t caught up with understanding it.” That may be because these debtor’s prisons predominately incarcerate african americans.

  4. swarthmoremom says:

  5. swarthmoremom says:

    Fifteen states have debtors prisons. Seven are in the South.

  6. Bob Stone says:

    This is part of the reason I think the DOJ’s conclusions are flawed. Generating revenue through excessive fines and ticketing is not evidence of racism; it’s evidence of greed, corruption and lawlessness. Furthermore, grouping it with seven emails written over seven years — two of which could have been written by Don Rickles — does not make it any more racist.

    Greed, corruption and lawlessness.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/03/the-conservative-ambivalence-about-abuses-in-ferguson-department-of-justice-michael-brown/387196/

    Lawlessness, corruption and greed.

    http://www.redstate.com/2015/03/15/many-conservatives-blowing-it-ferguson-doj-report/

  7. swarthmoremom says:

    https://www.aclu.org/ending-modern-day-debtors-prisons “Debtors’ prisons impose devastating human costs. They lead to coercive debt collection, forcing poor people to forgo the basic necessities of life in order to avoid arrest and jailing. Debtors’ prisons waste taxpayer money and resources by jailing people who may never be able to pay their debts. This imposes direct costs on the government and further destabilizes the lives of poor people struggling to pay their debts and leave the criminal justice system behind. And most troubling, debtors’ prisons create a racially-skewed, two-tiered system of justice in which the poor receive harsher, longer punishments for committing the same crimes as the rich, simply because they are poor.” The words the ACLU uses are “racially skewed”. Some people will go to any length to deny racism. Why is that?

  8. Bob Stone says:

    I don’t deny the existence of racism SWM, I simply reject the form of reasoning being used to draw the conclusion in this case. For if the two-tiered system of justice is truly driven by racism, then how do you explain the Brown family attorney being the worst violator of them all in North County?

  9. swarthmoremom says:

    You seem to have something against the entire Brown family and their attorney. Someone else can pursue this if he or she cares to.

    • Bob Stone says:

      SWM, that reasoning is about as sound as saying it’s only “torture” if Dick Cheney authorizes it.

  10. swarthmoremom says:

    Whatever…..I am going to work on taxes.

  11. Bob Kauten says:

    Where the fuckbarrel is nivico, when we need him to deny the racism inherent in fuckbarrels?

  12. Elaine M. says:

    swarthmoremom,

    “…And most troubling, debtors’ prisons create a racially-skewed…”

    So what if the debtors’ prisons are “racially skewed.” Racism has nothing to do with it…at all…ever. Case closed!

  13. Bob,
    An anecdote does not make a study. A single data point does not make a statistic.

    However, I think the issue of greed is probably the underlying motive for this issue. I don’t think municipalities or the bottom feeding debt collectors set out to make it a racial issue. The color is green. It just so happens that the population most impacted are minorities. Minorities, especially black, are more likely to be poor, and thus more likely to be victimized by these practices. I suspect that in areas where more of the poor population is white (think Appalachia), we will find large cohorts of white victims wherever this system is set up.

  14. Bob Stone says:

    “The color is green. It just so happens that the population most impacted are minorities. Minorities, especially black, are more likely to be poor, and thus more likely to be victimized by these practices. I suspect that in areas where more of the poor population is white (think Appalachia), we will find large cohorts of white victims wherever this system is set up.”

    Chuck,

    I couldn’t have said it better myself; in fact, I just may end up quoting you later. But recall what Holder said in the press conference and what he’s been saying ever since: “[O]ur review of the evidence found no alternative explanation for the disproportionate impact on African American residents other than implicit and explicit racial bias.”

    That’s simply false.

    Anthony Gray is more than a mere “anecdote” or “data point” for the simple reason that he’s located in the same county, what’s more only a few city blocks over from, where this “harm” allegedly stemming from “racial bias” is occurring. Anthony Gray is the smoking gun evidence supporting the argument you and I are making; i.e. that “the color is green.”

  15. pete says:

    WHO FUCKING CARES WHY. JUST STOP DOING IT.

    Arguing over who it effects most isn’t relevant, obscures the issue and wastes time.

  16. Bob Stone says:

    Because Pete, crying racism at every injustice renders the term meaningless.

    Refraining from being the boy who cried wolf ensures that people pay attention when racism actually does rear its ugly head.

  17. gbk says:

    “WHO FUCKING CARES WHY. JUST STOP DOING IT.” — pete

    There’s a lot of truth in this angst.

    Should the tribulations of “others” be merely viewed as a stepping stone for rhetoric; or should all be concerned?

  18. gbk says:

    “Refraining from being the boy who cried wolf . . .”

    Sometimes, though, the wolf is really there.

  19. Bob Stone says:

    “Sometimes, though, the wolf is really there.”

    GBK,

    That’s exactly my point.

    On a tangential note…

    It used to be the word “literally” actually meant what the dictionary told us it meant.

    And it used to be that composing “music” actually meant knowing something about playing an instrument and actually taking the time to compose your own songs.

    http://www.vogue.com/6589441/joni-mitchell-box-set-love-has-many-faces/

  20. Elaine M. says:

    Gbk,

    “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you”

    ― Joseph Heller, Catch-22

  21. gbk says:

    “It used to be the word ‘literally’ actually meant what the dictionary told us [what] it meant.

    And it used to be that composing ‘music’ actually meant knowing something about playing an instrument and actually taking the time to compose your own songs.” — Bob Stone

    Yes, I know this all too well. what is your point?

    • Bob Stone says:

      Just a segue into an interesting article about Joni Mitchell and her thoughts about a thoughtless generation.

  22. gbk says:

    So cough it up.

    I know the article you are referring to. I don’t think any generation is thoughtless; selfish fits better.

  23. That wasn’t funny. At all.

  24. gbk says:

    Chuck,

    No, not funny at all; very disturbing, actually.

  25. pete says:

    it wasn’t meant to be. it was just pure exasperation.

  26. gbk says:

    Pete,

    I don’t think you know the meaning of “exasperation.”

  27. pete says:

    just because black people are involved, doesn’t mean somebody is “crying” racism.

    do you know what a 250.00 dollar redlight cam ticket would do to me.

  28. Bob Stone says:

    Gee Mike,

    I don’t recall mentioning dogs, or cops for that matter, in any context.

    But your complete lack of empathy for the “little people” you hurt with false accusations of racism is duly noted.

  29. gbk says:

    Elaine,

    “― Joseph Heller, Catch-22”

    Exactly. I must admit to having never read the book; but I’ve watched the movie at least fifty times. It is in the top three of my all time favorite movies.

    It’s time to read the book.
    ____________________________________

    This is for Bob. I know I linked to this before; on Mike’s Dylan thread; but in case you missed it, which I don’t think you did given your segue above — here it is again.

    What is your point?

  30. Bob Kauten says:

    gbk,
    The movie captures the spirit of the book, well.
    Yes, you should read it. I have, a few times. Full of quotable lines. Yossarian’s crazy.

  31. Elaine,
    My response to that report is the same I made to Bob last night. One data point does not a statistic make. Ferguson is one community out of tens of thousands. Mercifully, most do not use the debtor’s prison enforcement model. I have no doubt that many places use profiling for selective enforcement. The big picture, however, is the persons victimized by the ticket to debtor’s prison system are the poor. Got money? Pay the ticket and get on with your life. Otherwise, you are in a world of hurt.

    Here in Tennessee, there is a brewing scandal about the State Highway Patrol having quotas. Denials all around, but what has been revealed so far shows no memos or paper trail. The word gets to patrol officers by word of mouth. You know how it works. Visualize a Sergeant giving the daily squad room briefing before the shift goes out on patrol:

    “Ladies & gentlemen, we have been noticing a slump in the number of tickets written. Promotions will be coming up soon, and those who are not doing enough to promote safety (wink, wink) will not be getting favorable reviews. The Major will be looking for improved enforcement action figures come performance review time.”

  32. Elaine M. says:

    Chuck,

    Bob wrote: “This is part of the reason I think the DOJ’s conclusions are flawed. Generating revenue through excessive fines and ticketing is not evidence of racism; it’s evidence of greed, corruption and lawlessness. Furthermore, grouping it with seven emails written over seven years — two of which could have been written by Don Rickles — does not make it any more racist.”

    *****

    Do you agree with Bob that the DOJ’s report is flawed–and that there is no evidence of racism in Ferguson?

    • Bob Stone says:

      Elaine,

      Do you understand what I said? Did you read those articles I posted? Do you know the importance of correctly diagnosing a problem before trying to solve it?

      Why do you feel compelled to take what I said and convert it into something more emphatic, absolute and ultimately idiotic?

  33. Elaine M. says:

    The Gangsters of Ferguson
    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/03/The-Gangsters-Of-Ferguson/386893/

    Excerpt:
    The “focus on revenue” was almost wholly a focus on black people as revenue. Black people in Ferguson were twice as likely to be searched during a stop, twice as likely to receive a citation when stopped, and twice as likely to be arrested during the stop, and yet were 26 percent less likely to be found with contraband. Black people were more likely to see a single incident turn into multiple citations. The disparity in outcomes remained “even after regression analysis is used to control for non-race-based variables.”

    One should understand that the Justice Department did not simply find indirect evidence of unintentionally racist practices which harm black people, but “discriminatory intent”—that is to say willful racism aimed to generate cash. Justice in Ferguson is not a matter of “racism without racists,” but racism with racists so secure, so proud, so brazen that they used their government emails to flaunt it.

  34. Elaine M. says:

    Bob,

    What’s idiotic? Can you ‘splain that to me? I’m just a feeble-minded member of the mob who doesn’t know how to use reason.

  35. Elaine,
    I agree in part and disagree in part. This is not an “all or nothing” issue. There is no doubt at least part of the behavior of the City of Ferguson and its employees is racist. On the other hand, the discussion started off about cities using law enforcement as revenue agents. In those cases, the motivation is not, “Lets go out and make life miserable for blacks (or other minorities).” It is one of gouging money. Many communities make a specialty of targeting out of state motorists. Target those least able to fight back, where they can add on extra penalties and court costs if the victims don’t pay up right away.

    Don’t forget, I have been working with law enforcement ranging from local small towns to Federal alphabet agencies for four decades. I sit in on training, and do risk management assessments on problem officers. I have a pretty good handle on how things work.

  36. Elaine M. says:

    Chuck,

    I know how this discussion started off. We have talked about whether or not racism may have been a factor. The motivation may not have been “Let’s go out and make life miserable for black people.” But that is what may have happened in some communities.

    • Mike Spindell says:

      Part of the difficulty we’re having in this discussion is that Bob frames it as a matter of cause and effect. In terms of cause he defines it in an actual proof of racist intent. A very convenient framing if you want to deny the fact that the effect of the policies are racist. Using Bob’s approach, as many conservatives today are doing, then you posit a question almost impossible to prove without a Court of Law and a Jury trial determining intent. Therefore one can never look at the effect of of a practice and determine if there is racism, without in depth interviews with everyone involved. We already know though that Bob was never interested in determining intent in Wilson’s case, since he was fine without a trial. Using Bob’s simulacrum of logic there is no proof that “Jim Crow” was racist because we don’t have enough evidence of intent.

      How nice that Bob acknowledges that racism exists in the U.S. today, but how peculiar that under his “logic”, we have no way of proving it.

  37. Elaine M. says:

    It’s Not Just Ferguson
    http://m.thenation.com/article/200345-its-not-just-ferguson

    Excerpt:
    In Michigan, where residents are often jailed over unpaid traffic offenses, the ACLU profiled a mother named Kawana Young in a 2010 report on debtors’ prisons. Young received three arrest warrants for three previous traffic violations: driving without a license, playing her music too loud and having an expired tag. She was jailed five different times because she was unable to pay hundreds of dollars in fines. In Michigan—unlike in Ferguson—data is not yet available on the racial breakdown of who is hit with these fines. But racial bias in traffic stops has been shown in cities across the state. In some towns, such as Ferndale, black people made up 60 percent of traffic stops, even though they’re less than 10 percent of the town’s population.

  38. Bob Stone says:

    GBK,

    You asked a fair question and I’ll try to explain where my head was at when I said what I did. Just before reading that article about Joni, I had watched Jann Wenner interview John Melencamp on PBS for a show called Speakeasy. There was a portion of the interview where Melencamp was saying essentially the same thing about “music” today as Joni did.

    I just saw a common denominator of intellectual laziness and dishonesty. It’s like a disease that’s spreading; and much more so in the past two decades. You described it as selfishness. Initially I disagreed when I read what you wrote. But after sleeping on it, I think you’ve described another dimension to the problem.

    This increasing trend of lying and lack of self-honesty seems to be at the root of the problem in both music and how we govern today. In the past two decades, certain technological “advances” have only served to worsen things exponentially. The “smart” phone not only serves as a crutch substituting for actual thinking but it also serves as the “pool” for each and every Narcissus obsessed with it. Selfies?

    For reasons that are too numerous to get into here, this same disregard for honest reasoning was exhibited in the conclusion of the DOJ report on Ferguson; i.e. that racial discrimination was the ONLY explanation for such unlawful practices. It’s not; and Anthony Gray is just one proof of that.

    With the perpetual lying to one’s self and others while slipping into increasing states of narcissism — in the classic sense of the outside world virtually disappearing – is it any wonder that Congress is incapable of reaching compromises like adults anymore?

    Like I said GBK, it was more of a segue; an attempt to sketch out an overall feeling of hopelessness and futility.

    • Mike Spindell says:

      “I just saw a common denominator of intellectual laziness and dishonesty. It’s like a disease that’s spreading; and much more so in the past two decades. You described it as selfishness. Initially I disagreed when I read what you wrote. But after sleeping on it, I think you’ve described another dimension to the problem.

      This increasing trend of lying and lack of self-honesty seems to be at the root of the problem in both music and how we govern today. In the past two decades, certain technological “advances” have only served to worsen things exponentially. The “smart” phone not only serves as a crutch substituting for actual thinking but it also serves as the “pool” for each and every Narcissus obsessed with it. Selfies?”

      Bob,
      The more you write, the more you sound like the crabby old men I heard in my youth telling me that things were better when they were young. It just isn’t true. Despite lack of technology, narcissists were just as narcissistic back then and sociopaths still ran things. Life today is appreciably better than when I was young, despite the fact that the world is falling apart. There was never any “Golden Age” in human history, despite historical hagiography. Many humans are liars, cheats and murderers, as has always been the case. We are after all predatory animals at heart, despite the “civilization” philosophers and prophets try to impose on us. Our only hope to change the messes we humans keep making, is to first understand ourselves as individuals and then try to understand our common reality. Many, many people get lost on the former proposition of self-awareness.

  39. blouise says:

    “In 2010, the city’s finance director wrote to Police Chief Tom Jackson that “unless ticket writing ramps up significantly before the end of the year, it will be hard to significantly raise collections next year. What are your thoughts?”, according to the Justice Department report.

    The next year, when Jackson wrote to Shaw that court revenue in February was over $179,800, and that the total “beat our next biggest month in the last four years by over $17,000,” Shaw responded: “Wonderful!” the report said.

    In 2012, after a city councilmember complained that the city’s municipal court judge, Judge Brockmeyer, wasn’t listening to testimony or allowing all witnesses to testify before imposing judgment, and that he shouldn’t be reappointed, Shaw urged that the judge remain in place, arguing that, “[i]t goes without saying the City cannot afford to lose any efficiency in our Courts, nor experience any decrease in our Fines and Forfeitures,” the report said. Brockmeyer resigned Monday.

    Shaw, in his statement Tuesday, denied that his office played any part in targeting black people. “Any inferences of that kind from the (DOJ) report are simply false,” the statement said.” (NBCnews)

    We are to believe that the policy was color blind. The emails mocking black folk were aberations sent and received by a few bad apples working in the Ferguson justice system and racism within Ferguson’s political power structure is a figment of the DOJ’s imagination.

  40. Bob Stone says:

    GBK,

    Mike’s comments about me = case in point

    • Mike Spindell says:

      “For if the two-tiered system of justice is truly driven by racism, then how do you explain the Brown family attorney being the worst violator of them all in North County?” Bob Stone 3/24 at 4:43pm.

      “Gee Mike,
      I don’t recall mentioning dogs, or cops for that matter, in any context.
      But your complete lack of empathy for the “little people” you hurt with false accusations of racism is duly noted.” Bob Stone, 3/24 at 10:23pm.

      “GBK,
      Mike’s comments about me = case in point” Bob Stone 3/25 at 10:12am

      Bob,
      Either your memory is failing or you are being disingenuous. Especially when you imply I’m unfairly attacking you. Your mention of Brown’s Family elicited my “dog” comment and then you conflated my comment to bolster your argument. As for personal attacks where you feel you are the victim, well “my complete lack of empathy” seem rather personal, but under your logical pretensions, I guess anything is possible, even concluding that that wasn’t a personal attack.

  41. bron98 says:

    I think it is pretty hard to determine the intent of an individual without investigation, unless he is a klan member and was yelling kill the n…s as he killed people. Jim Crow was perpetrated by society and not individuals. This is where the left always goes wrong, they cannot seem to differentiate between individuals and society. Ferguson’s police department is racist so all police officers on the force are racist is not necessarily a true statement.

  42. Mike Spindell says:

    “Ferguson’s police department is racist so all police officers on the force are racist is not necessarily a true statement.”

    Bron,

    A straw man. No one here has stated that proposition.

  43. Bob Stone says:

    “A significant positive relationship was found between narcissism and addiction to the phones, suggesting that the more narcissistic a person is, the more likely they are to be addicted to their smartphone. When the participants were asked if they used their phone in banned areas, 35% answered yes.”

    http://www.derby.ac.uk/newsevents/news/archive/news-archive/smartphones-are-addictive–reveals-first-uk-study-from-the-university-of-derby.php

    See also…

    http://thechive.com/2015/01/28/the-zombie-apocalypse-is-upon-us-35-photos/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=chivetrafficfacebook

    • Mike Spindell says:

      Bob,

      I hope your two links are not typical of the “proof” you present in courts as evidence. You have become such an authoritarian.

  44. Bob Stone says:

    Mike,

    It’s incredibly easy to attack me for things I never said and conclusions I never reached.

    You’re wasting my time.

  45. gbk says:

    Bob,

    “I just saw a common denominator of intellectual laziness and dishonesty. It’s like a disease that’s spreading; and much more so in the past two decades.”

    While I agree with the generalized cultural assessment of your 9:43 am post, I’m curious if you see McCulloch’s presenting of witness 40 — a person even McCulloch admitted was nowhere near the scene — as “intellectual laziness”?

  46. Bob Kauten says:

    “When I was a kid,” Orr replied, “I used to walk around all day with crab apples in my cheeks. One in each cheek.”
    … A minute passed. “Why?” [Yossarian] found himself forced to ask finally.
    Orr tittered triumphantly. “Because they’re better than horse chestnuts… When I couldn’t get crab apples,” Orr continued, “I used horse chestnuts. Horse chestnuts are about the same size as crab apples and actually have a better shape, although the shape doesn’t matter a bit.”
    “Why did you walk around with crab apples in your cheeks?” Yossarian asked again. “That’s what I asked.”
    “Because they’ve got a better shape than horse chestnuts,” Orr answered. “I just told you that.”
    “Why,” swore Yossarian at him approvingly, “you evil-eyed, mechanically aptituded, disaffiliated son of a bitch, did you walk around with anything in your cheeks?”
    “I didn’t,” Orr said, “walk around with anything in my cheeks. I walked around with crab applies in my cheeks. When I couldn’t get crab apples I walked around with horse chestnuts. In my cheeks.”
    ― Joseph Heller, Catch-22

  47. Bob Stone says:

    GBK,

    “all of the physical evidence gathered, all people claiming to have witnessed any part or all of the shooting, and any and all other related matters would be presented to the grand jury.”

    That’s the rule McCulloch committed to and that’s the rule he followed.

    All the articles you’ve read about Witness 40 omitted all the other witnesses that lied to the grand jury as well; making it sound like she was the only liar in the case and that McCulloch was stacking the deck in Wilson’s favor.

    Witness 40 was only one of NINE witnesses that admitted to providing false claims. The others were Witnesses 22, 35, 37, 41, 42, 45, 46, and 57. All eight of those admitted to making false claims so as to get Wilson indicted. And Witness 22 testified to obtain immunity because her two previous statements were found to be entirely false. And if you read the DOJ report you’ll see they weren’t the only ones.

    In fact, the DOJ report on the shooting reads like a symphony of clarity. Although they don’t state it outright, they discussed the witnesses in decreasing order of believability–you have to read it to see what I mean. In any case, Witness 40 came in 4th; behind Witness 139 (aka witness 46) and Witness 120, (aka Witness 35) who was second to last. The last and worst one of all was one I never heard of until reading the report; Witness 148. She didn’t give any statements until February of 2015. You have to read pages 75-77 to see just how incredible she is.

    The point is once McCulloch committed to making sure the grand jury saw everything he had no choice but to follow through. I encourage you to read Volume 15 pg 184 and Vol 18 pg 124 to see how the prosecutors, and the grand jury itself, handled Witness 40 and then ask yourself if you were told the truth or if you were being lied to by people who had an agenda.

  48. blouise says:

    Bob K,

    Perfect illustration. Your neuro-pathways are marvelously mischievous.

  49. Bob Kauten says:

    blouise,
    I have neuro-pathways?

  50. blouise17 says:

    Bob K,

  51. gbk says:

    “The point is once McCulloch committed to making sure the grand jury saw everything he had no choice but to follow through.” — Bob Stone

    Does “everything” include pure fantasy?

    We’ve discussed this before, and McCulloch’s presenting of witness 40 escapes the bounds of “intellectual laziness and dishonesty.”

    Many witnesses “lie” relative to “prosecutorial facts”; many for reasons of their own; many due to the frailty of human memory.

    However, witness 40 was not even there, and McCulloch knew this. This is very different from lying; it is whole cloth fabrication lent validity through the very process meant to discover factual reconstruction of events.

    The fact that the GJ gave the testimony of witness 40 little credence does not excuse McCulloch from “intellectual laziness or dishonesty.”

  52. Bob Stone says:

    GBK: “However, witness 40 was not even there, and McCulloch knew this. This is very different from lying; it is whole cloth fabrication lent validity through the very process meant to discover factual reconstruction of events.”

    I see. And when did McCulloch plan all this out? Was he at the FBI office on October 22nd between 2 and 4pm when Witness 40 gave her statement? Nope. Perhaps he listened to the tape of the interview, there being no transcript, with his assistant prosecutor that night, figured out Witness 40 was lying and then called Witness 40 later that night to tell her to appear before the grand jury the very next morning on October 23rd?

    BTW, we did in fact land on the moon.

  53. gbk says:

    Bob,

    “I see. And when did McCulloch plan all this out?”

    You would have to ask him, Bob.

    But in my opinion it wasn’t so much a plan — it was more akin to a magicians trick, a blunderbuss of expected cultural acceptance, a foregone conclusion.

    “BTW, we did in fact land on the moon.”

    And all these years I thought it was staged!!!

    When you can justify how McCulloch presented testimony of a “witness” that he admits wasn’t even there, and successfully smear this into your, “they all lie” and “no one took the testimony seriously” meme, then maybe you will have some success with your arguments.

    McCulloch presented a witness to the GJ with full knowledge that the testimony was fantasy.

    How can this ever be justified?

  54. Bob Stone says:

    GBK: “McCulloch presented a witness to the GJ with full knowledge that the testimony was fantasy.

    How can this ever be justified?”

    I just showed you that it was impossible for McCulloch to know that Witness 40 was lying before she gave testimony due to the timeline of events alone. Yet it’s my arguments that are faulty?

    “The reasons that lead mankind to believe the marvelously false and to disbelieve the marvelously true may be easily summarized: Of all the offspring of Time, Error is the most ancient and is so old and familiar an acquaintance that Truth, when discovered, comes upon most of us like an intruder and meets the intruder’s welcome. ” — Charles Mackay

  55. I have not followed the timeline as closely as others. Question is, when did McCulloch first learn that #40 was lying, or would lie if put on the stand. Is there anything–anywhere–that reveals that exact time for certain? If he knew before, then it is legal malpractice, or worse. If afterward, he looks silly, but not actually guilty of anything more than rushing things and lousy management of the Grand Jury presentation.

    If there is documentation as to exactly when McCulloch knew he had a lying witness, could somebody please copy and past that information into a comment, with a source link. I have been burning the candle at both ends here, and have read little more than summaries of news events for the past two or three months.

    • Bob Stone says:

      Chuck,

      Witness 40 gave a statement to the FBI during the afternoon of October 22nd that lasted until just before 4pm that day. One of the assistant prosecutors was given a tape of that interview, since no transcript was available so soon, and listened to it the night before Witness 40 was already scheduled to appear.

      On the morning of October 23rd, the tape of the FBI interview was played for the Grand Jury and the court reporter for the record. Immediately thereafter, Witness 40 made her first appearance before the Grand Jury.

      The claim that “McCulloch knew Witness 40 was going to lie to the grand jury” is therefore absolutely false.

      Furthermore, the notion that McCulloch had an obligation to keep witnesses that he suspected of lying away from the Grand Jury is comparing apples to oranges. To paraphrase Judge Cassell, you cannot compare (APPLES) i.e. “cases where federal prosecutors had already screened the evidence for probable cause” … to (ORANGES) i.e. “situation[s] where a grand jury is investigating with no assurance that any criminal conduct is present.”

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/11/25/the-michael-brown-grand-jury-process-was-fair/

      The purpose of an investigative grand jury is to examine “ALL of the physical evidence gathered, ALL people claiming to have witnessed any part or all of the shooting, and any and ALL other related matters” so as to determine if any criminal conduct is present.

      And lest we forget the “hands up don’t shoot” lie necessitated the use of an investigative grand jury in lieu of refusing to indict as a matter of prosecutorial discretion. As the grand jury transcripts reveal, and as the DOJ report confirms:

      “There are no credible witness accounts that state that Brown was clearly attempting to surrender when Wilson shot him.”

      “Not only do eyewitnesses and physical evidence corroborate Wilson’s account, but there is no credible evidence to disprove Wilson’s perception that Brown posed a threat to Wilson as Brown advanced toward him.”

      “Given that Wilson’s account is corroborated by physical evidence and that his perception of a threat posed by Brown is corroborated by other eyewitnesses, to include aspects of the testimony of Witness 101, there is no credible evidence that Wilson willfully shot Brown as he was attempting to surrender or was otherwise not posing a threat.”

      Under normal circumstances the foregoing would compel a prosecutor to refuse to seek indictment much less submit the case to a grand jury; as the DOJ did.

      But because of the “hands up don’t shoot” lie, the Ferguson investigative grand jury was charged with making that decision based on an examination of “ALL of the physical evidence gathered, ALL people claiming to have witnessed any part or all of the shooting, and any and ALL other related matters.”

  56. Elaine M. says:

    Chuck,

    St. Louis Prosecutor Bob McCulloch Says He Knew “Witness 40″ Lied to the Ferguson Grand Jury
    12/20/14
    https://flowersforsocrates.com/2014/12/20/st-louis-prosecutor-bob-mcculloch-says-he-knew-witness-40-lied-to-the-ferguson-grand-jury/

    Excerpt:
    Mike Hayes (BuzzFeed) has reported that St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch admitted during a radio interview with KTRS on Friday that he let witnesses who he knew were lying testify before the Ferguson grand jury. McCulloch told radio host McGraw Milhaven, “There were people who came in and, yes, absolutely lied under oath. Some lied to the FBI. Even though they’re not under oath, that’s another potential offense — a federal offense. I thought it was much more important to present the entire picture.” The Ferguson grand jury chose not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

    Excerpt from the radio interview:

    KTRS: Why did you allow people to testify in front of the grand jury in which you knew their information was either flat-out wrong, or flat-out lying, or just weren’t telling the truth?

    McCulloch: Well, early on, I decided that anyone who claimed to have witnessed anything was going to be presented to the grand jury.

    And I knew that no matter how I handled it, there would be criticism of it. So if I didn’t put those witnesses on, then we’d be discussing now why I didn’t put those witnesses on. Even though their statements were not accurate.

    So my determination was to put everybody on and let the grand jurors assess their credibility, which they did. This grand jury poured their hearts and souls into this. It was a very emotional few months for them. It took a lot of them.

  57. Thanks Elaine,
    That is a piss-poor excuse for lawyering. His response to public opinion is to put witnesses on the stand who he knew in advance were going to lie? I don’t know what the Missouri Bar will do, but here in Tennessee, it would cost him his license. Mississippi as well.

    Some of the lawyers who post here may have an idea whether that constitutes an indictable offense, either at the State or Federal level. I know a witness who lies is committing a crime, but what about the lawyer who knowingly puts the witness on the stand. I know a couple of lawyers who asked the Court to be removed from representing a client, when the client insisted on testifying, under their right to testify. The Canon of Ethics prevented the lawyer from telling the judge his or her client was going to commit perjury, but everyone in the courtroom knew what was about to happen.

  58. As for his excuse, it is easy enough to call a press conference. Tell the public and press that the person(s) who claimed to have been there were someplace else at the time, therefore if they testified they saw something, it would have been perjury.

  59. Elaine M. says:

    Chuck,

    McCulloch’s a real prince of a prosecutor, isn’t he?

  60. Bob Kauten says:

    “I thought it was much more important to present the entire picture.”
    If the stupid bastard knowingly presented lies, now that’s not the entire picture, is it?

  61. blouise says:

    We’ve written quite a bit about the adults and their actions in Ferguson but there is a real barn burner in the DOJ report that I suspect will be playing out in Ferguson for years to come.

    On page one of DOJ’s report we find this cite … 42 U.S.C. 14141… as one source of its legal authority. This statute protects the constitutional rights of juveniles and the DOJ has threatened lawsuits if things don’t change. The examples within the report concerning the police’s treatment of black children are horrendous.

    I’ve read them all and vomited.

  62. Bob Stone says:

    BTW Chuck,

    Using your criteria, Dorian Johnson, Tiffany Mitchell and Piaget Crenshaw (the “key” witnesses against Wilson) would never have been allowed to testify before the grand jury.

  63. Bob,
    Last time I looked at a calendar, October 22 comes before October 23. Since he had the FBI recording, the prosecutor knew…or certainly should have known….the witness did not know anything. Not being there equals not having any information. My question is how come a witness who knows nothing is testifying to something they know nothing about? A witness can be jerked at the last minute if information surfaces they are either useless or misleading. The witness schedule is not set in concrete.

    Blouise, I think the manner in which the Ferguson police treated kids is a separate issue from this one. Egregious, true, and should not be tolerated by anyone under any circumstances. However, Brown was roughly the size of an NFL offensive lineman, which makes him not so much a child as an extremely large young adult.

    • Bob Stone says:

      Chuck,

      Surely you’ll admit that McCulloch didn’t personally know anything about Witness 40. Furthermore, it was also clear that Dorian Johnson was lying as soon as the DNA results came back contradicting his fable about Brown not reaching in the car and not grabbing the gun.

      ” if they don’t know anything, and would only confuse the facts, then they should not have been presented.”

      That’s if its job is to hear cases already screened by a prosecutor seeking indictment. You’re applying APPLE criteria to an ORANGE situation (see above). The investigative grand jury does not get anything already screened by prosecutors. They get the salt with the sweet.

  64. Bob,
    As I said before, I have not been reading anything in detail in recent months. I don’t recall who those last people you named are, but if they don’t know anything, and would only confuse the facts, then they should not have been presented. All the prosecutor needs to do is present the basic facts to the GJ, not flood them with so much information that by the end of the procedure they can’t remember the beginning.

  65. Elaine M. says:

    Chuck,

    I have an adult nephew who was always big for his age when he was young. People often assumed he was much older than he was. Big as he was his size did not make him an adult.

  66. blouise17 says:

    Just for fun:

    A court could appoint a special prosecutor, under Missouri Rev Stat § 56.110. That statute authorizes the state court with criminal jurisdiction over the County to appoint another, independent attorney to prosecute the case if the Court believes there was a conflict of interest for the prosecutor in the first grand jury proceeding. The court with jurisdiction in this matter is the 21st Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri, whose presiding judge is Hon. Maura McShane. There is precedent in Missouri for the appointment of a special prosecutor. In 1996, in State v. Copeland (928 S.W.2d 828 (Mo. 1996)), a Missouri court replaced the local prosecutor, citing conflicts of interest due to “the advocacy of the prosecutor for the defendant’s position.” [13]. Whether a state court takes such action in this case is up to that Court.

    And:

    Article I, Section 16 of the Missouri Bill of Rights reads:
    Section 16. That a grand jury shall consist of twelve citizens, any nine of whom concurring may find an indictment or a true bill: Provided, that no grand jury shall be convened except upon an order of a judge of a court having the power to try and determine felonies; but when so assembled such grand jury shall have power to investigate and return indictments for all character and grades of crime; and that the power of grand juries to inquire into the willful misconduct in office of public officers, and to find indictments in connection therewith, shall never be suspended.

    But, sadly, the state of Missouri has caught the Gerald Ford disease and will certainly be content with McCulloch’s GJ no true bill.

    • Bob Stone says:

      The DOJ could not find one credible witness inculpating Wilson and you still blame McCulloch.

  67. Elaine,
    On the street, perception is everything. No matter if you are an ordinary citizen or a police officer, when approached by someone who could pass for The Incredible Hulk, you may assume that person is older than they really are. I worked on such a case some time back. Kid was barely 13 years old, but he was as big as I am. Literally. For reference, I am exactly the same size as former football player Dick Butkus. His father actually towered over me.

    His size and musculature worked against him. He was transferred to adult court and tried as an adult for something that could, and should have, been handled in juvenile court.

    When he was released, he was much bigger and imposing than he was at 13. He was recruited by several major university football teams, and finally signed for a full scholarship. A happier ending, but still nearly ruined his life because he looked older than he really was.

  68. blouise17 says:

    Chuck,

    Wasn’t Brown also 18 years old and no longer legally an adolescent?

    My point in presenting the info on the DOJ regarding children is the Feds have made special note of the violations of juvenile civil rights. McCulloch and his merry band of cops have had their final hurrah.

  69. Bob,
    I am not disagreeing with you that Wilson may be totally innocent of any crime or wrongdoing. What created the problem for both Wilson and McCullough in the first place was the fact McCullough, for whatever reason, put on a real smoke and mirrors show that created doubt about the fairness of the process. If he had done what 99% of the District Attorneys I know would do, the GJ presentation would have lasted a few days, maybe a week, and returned either no true bill or an indictment. Instead, he drug it out, threw in everything but the kitchen sink, and managed to create a scandal where there may not have been one.

    I was involved in a Grand Jury proceeding that investigated the entire State Department of Mental Health, which included the State Hospital, all the state mental health centers, and even the State Director of Mental Health. That proceeding, under the leadership of then District Attorney Ed Peters (who was played by Craig T. Nelson in Ghosts of Mississippi), lasted about two and a half weeks. They had detailed criticisms, but no one was indicted. Keep in mind that was not one lonesome encounter with police, but a full court press on the entire department of mental health services.

    FWIW, in that same district where Mr. Peters served, several police officers have been indicted recently, the latest one just this weekend, but details not released yet. My sources tell me it was an assault. The double arrest at the link was from earlier this month. Some departments don’t play around.
    http://www.wapt.com/news/central-mississippi/jackson/jpd-officers-arrested-fired/31564262

  70. Elaine M. says:

    No Jonathan Capehart: Hands Up, Don’t Shoot is not a “Lie”
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/03/27/1371761/-No-Jonathon-Capehart-Hands-Up-Don-t-Shoot-is-not-a-Lie

    Excerpt:
    Following the Release of the first Justice Department Report on the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri, a new narrative has begun to be formed.

    Headed by this article from Jonathan Capehart it is now claimed, without hesitation or pause, that the source for the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” movement, was built entirely on a Lie…

    Video Statement By Capehart

    “The DOJ report notes on page 44 that Johnson “made multiple statements to the media immediately following the incident that spawned the popular narrative that Wilson shot Brown execution-style as he held up his hands in surrender.” In one of those interviews, Johnson told MSNBC that Brown was shot in the back by Wilson. It was then that Johnson said Brown stopped, turned around with his hands up and said, “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!” And, like that, “hands up, don’t shoot” became the mantra of a movement. But it was wrong, built on a lie.”

    These are pretty strong words, and fairly strong sentiment particularly from an author who is largely known for his more Liberal leanings. It of course deserves a fair and thorough response which I hope to provide both Capehart and the DOJ on the other side of the flip.

    The first issue to address is the sweeping scope of Capehart’s statement. That essentially all those who claimed that they saw Michael Brown shot at while he was fleeing or while his hands were in the air, or that he ever put his hands in the air, are not simply mistaken or confused but are perpetrating a deliberate lie. Starting with Dorian Johnson who first went on tv to give his view of the events that day, Capehart argues that his story then tainted all the others and caused a cascade effect that skewed the testimony and accounts of all others who might be sympathetic to innocent and/or unarmed persons being shot down by police.

    The accusation that this was all a “Lie” indicates that the DOJ must have definitively proven that it simply wasn’t possible for Brown to have been shot at while his back was turned or his hands were raised based on the cold hard forensic evidence.

    The problem is that the DOJ doesn’t say anything of the kind.

    From Page 7

    “After the initial shooting inside the SUV, the evidence establishes that Brown ran eastbound on Canfield Drive and Wilson chased after him. The autopsy results confirm that Wilson did not shoot Brown in the back as he was running away because there were no entrance wounds to Brown’s back. The autopsy results alone do not indicate the direction Brown was facing when he received two wounds to his right arm, given the mobility of the arm. However, as detailed later in this report, there are no witness accounts that could be relied upon in a prosecution to prove that Wilson shot at Brown as he was running away. Witnesses who say so cannot be relied upon in a prosecution because they have given accounts that are inconsistent with the physical and forensic evidence or are significantly inconsistent with their own prior statements made throughout the investigation.”

    from Page 19

    “Given the mobility of the arm, it is impossible to determine the position of the body relative to the shooter at the time the arm wounds were inflicted. Therefore, the autopsy results do not indicate whether Brown was facing Wilson or had his back to him. They do not indicate whether Brown sustained those two arm wounds while his hands were up, down, or by his waistband. The private forensic pathologist opined that he would expect a re-entry wound across Brown’s stomach if Brown’s hand was at his waistband at the time Wilson fired. However, as mentioned, there is no way to know the exact position of Brown’s arm relative to his waistband at the time the bullets struck. Therefore, these gunshot wounds neither corroborate nor discredit Wilson’s account or the account of any other witness. However, the concentration of bullet wounds on Brown’s right side is consistent with Wilson’s description that he focused on Brown’s right arm while shooting.”

    From Page 81.

    “The evidence does not support concluding that Wilson shot Brown while Brown’s back
    was toward Wilson. Witnesses, such as Witness 118, Witness 128, Witness 139 and others, who claim to have seen Wilson fire directly into Brown’s back, gave accounts that lack credibility because the physical evidence establishes that there were no entry wounds to Brown’s back, although there was a wound to the anatomical back of Brown’s right arm, and a graze wound to Brown’s right arm.”

    Clearly and consistently the DOJ Forensic analysis Does Not rule out the possibility that the shooting may have occurred in the manner that witnesses such as Dorian Johnson have described. They very specifically say that they can’t prove or disprove any of these claims definitively. Therefore claiming that anyone who says they saw Brown raise his arms is a “LIAR” is more than a little strong. It’s completely uncalled for based on the DOJ’s own analysis.

  71. bron98 says:

    Elaine:

    is that for real? Wow, how come he never testified? how come it just came to light now? why wouldn’t the owner of the video have sent it to the media?

  72. Elaine M. says:

    bron,

    I wrote a post about that video months ago–on September 11, 2014.

    Exclusive CNN Video Captures Witnesses’ Disbelief to the Shooting Death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri
    https://flowersforsocrates.com/2014/09/11/exclusive-cnn-video-captures-witnesses-disbelief-to-the-shooting-death-of-michael-brown-in-ferguson-missouri/

  73. blouise says:

    “Clearly and consistently the DOJ Forensic analysis Does Not rule out the possibility that the shooting may have occurred in the manner that witnesses such as Dorian Johnson have described. They very specifically say that they can’t prove or disprove any of these claims definitively. Therefore claiming that anyone who says they saw Brown raise his arms is a “LIAR” is more than a little strong. It’s completely uncalled for based on the DOJ’s own analysis.” (From Elaine’s link @ 8:21am)

    You can lead a horse to water … etc

    Lots of people get away with murder, Wilson had more help than most in doing so.

    Hands up; Don’t Shoot was a stroke of genius and thus far 6 Ferguson officials have been felled by it’s power. Good riddance.

  74. bron98 says:

    Elaine:

    if that is true, that is very bad for Wilson. why wasn’t it shown to the grand jury?

  75. bron98 says:

    if that is true, that changes my whole opinion of what happened. You guys are probably right.

  76. Bob Stone says:

    “The accusation that this was all a “Lie” indicates that the DOJ must have definitively proven that it simply wasn’t possible for Brown to have been shot at while his back was turned or his hands were raised based on the cold hard forensic evidence.”

    Really Elaine?

    “The reasons that lead mankind to believe the marvelously false and to disbelieve the marvelously true may be easily summarized: Of all the offspring of Time, Error is the most ancient and is so old and familiar an acquaintance that Truth, when discovered, comes upon most of us like an intruder and meets the intruder’s welcome. ” — Charles Mackay

  77. Bob Stone says:

    Bron,

    Read the damn report, (or at least pgs 58-60, Witnesses 122 and 130 “the contractors”, if you’re really lazy) and stop trying to figure out the answers by looking at Elaine’s desk.

  78. Bob Kauten says:

    Yeah, bron,
    Don’t look at the video evidence. Just look at the report of testimony engineered by the corrupt district attorney.

Comments are closed.