Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Go Get 'Em, Bill! Senate Committee Rejects "Public Option"

The Washington Post is breaking the news that the Senate Finance Committee has just rejected an amendment to the Baucus bill which would have included a "public option" recently championed by, of all people, Bill O'Reilly.

The Post reports:

The Senate Finance Committee voted down a government-run "public option" as part an overhaul of the nation's health-care system Tuesday, rejecting the first of two amendments offered by Democrats.

The panel's chairman, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), and four other Democrats sided with Republicans in opposing a public-option amendment offered by Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.). Baucus said he voted against the politically volatile provision because he feared that a bill including it would not get the 60 votes it would need to pass on the Senate floor. The committee voted 15 to 8 to reject the amendment.

* * * *

The debate came as the committee worked for a fifth day on an overall health-care reform bill authored by Baucus. His bill, which he says would cost nearly $900 billion over 10 years, contains no public option, favoring instead a system in which nonprofit cooperatives would offer health insurance to people who could not afford private companies' plans.

Other Democrats who favor a public option argued that polls show 65 percent of Americans support including it in health-insurance reform legislation. House committees have included such an option in their proposals, and President Obama has expressed support for a public option, while also indicating that this is not the most important consideration for him and leaving the way open for cooperatives.

Rockefeller said his proposal would save about $50 billion over 10 years. He denied that it represents "some kind of government takeover," insisting that enrollment in a public plan would be strictly optional.

Charging that private insurance companies have "failed to meet their obligations" to the public, Rockefeller said the firms are "determined to protect their profits and put their customers second." A public option, he said, would act as a "counterweight" to "rapacious" health-insurance companies, helping to reduce excessive growth in the cost of premiums.

* * * *

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the top Republican on the committee, acknowledged "shortcomings" in the U.S. health-care system and said he was "not arguing for the status quo." But he maintained that "a government-run plan is not the answer."

Such a plan, he said, "will ultimately force private insurers out of business" and lead to "single-payer health care" in which the federal government runs health insurance and the health-care system.

"The government is not a fair competitor," he said. "It's a predator."
I find it interesting that a United States Senator thinks the Government is "a predator." Recall that when Franklin Roosevelt was attacked for proposing Social Security, he had to respond to the same demagoguery:

"[They are guilty of more than deceit,” Roosevelt went on to say of his Social Security critics. When they promote the idea that the Social Security reserves will be stolen by some future Congress, “they attack the integrity of American government itself. Those who suggest that are already aliens to the spirit of American democracy.”
I hope Bill O gives the Senate Committee majority pure Hell in the next days . . . wouldn't THAT be fun?

Protest Now! TLC Sends "Dear Jon" Letter, Discriminating Against Playful Dads Everywhere

Well, it's finally happened. Jon Gosselin has been fired from "Jon and Kate Plus 8" by the TLC Network. People magazine reports:

“Given Jon’s recent antics, there was no way the show could continue to portray him as a doting Dad, not while all this other crap was going on,” a source close to Jon Gosselin tells PEOPLE.

“Jon will still be seen on the show from time to time,” the source adds.
TIME opines that "having Jon show up with another 'new mommy' every week would be too gross even for TLC."

My question: are Jon's antics really worse than those depicted in prime time on Two and a Half Men?

Or Desperate Housewives? Or How I Met Your Mother?

For shame, TLC. The Men's Liberation Movement will be protesting your show. In fact, my guess is that there will be an American Male boycott of "Kate Plus 8" -- assuming any men ever watched this show in the first place.

Will Wonders Never Cease? Bill O for the "Public Option"?

While Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, chair of the Republican Governor's Association and a frequently-named possible Presidential candidate, is leading the charge against Senator Baucus' compromise health care reform bill, it's interesting that another well-known conservative has come out in support of a part of the far more liberal plan advanced by top House Democrats.

Believe it or not, Bill O'Reilly told a Heritage Foundation scholar that he favored the "public option". O'Reilly said:

"If the government can cobble together a cheaper insurance policy that gives the same benefits, I see that as a plus."

See it for yourself:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Jim Hood Rides Into The Next Gun Rights Battle . . .

This coming Monday, October 5, the United States Supreme Court begins its October 2009 Term. As always, the Court will issue its largest set of rulings (called "grants of certiorari") which decide the cases it will hear in the coming months.

One of the most high-profile sets of cases involves the Second Amendment. The Heller case, in which the Court decided that the Second Amendment did secure an individual right to bear arms, invalidated an ordinance in the District of Columbia. But Heller does not necessarily mean that the State of Mississippi (or California, or New York) cannot pass strict gun control statutes.

That's because in the nineteenth-century Slaughter-House Cases, the Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment does not automatically impose all of the obligations of the Bill of Rights on the States. Instead, in each situation where one of the provisions of the Bill of Rights has been clarified or enforced, the Supreme Court eventually decided whether that particular right also limits State Governments under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (The concept is called Incorporation).

Back to the present. There are three cases pending before the Supreme Court asking the Court to decide whether the Second Amendment bars State, as well as Federal, laws on gun control.

The cases are:

NRA, et al. v. City of Chicago, No. 08-1497; McDonald, et al. v. City of Chicago, No. 08-1521.

Issue: Whether the Second Amendment is incorporated into the Due Process Clause or the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment so as to be applicable to the States, thereby invalidating ordinances prohibiting possession of handguns in the home.

Here is the Seventh Circuit's Opinion that it being appealed:

NRA 7th Circuit Op

Here is the NRA's Petition for Writ of Certiorari:
NRA 7th Cir Cert Pet

Here is the Brief of TEXAS (who else?) -- joined by many other States, including Mississippi (Jim Hood, no less) arguing in favor of the NRA

NRA 7th Cir AG Brief

So my red-meat eating, Red-State friends (not to be confused with my Red friends) can be happy with General Hood today, right? He rides into Little Big Horn with the rest of the posse. Yippee . . .

Saturday, September 26, 2009

More on Anonymous Commenting

It has been suggested that IB would get more comments on local issues such as the Pickering case if we returned to anonymous blogging.

Keep in mind that the Google Open ID function allows you to pick a pseudonym under which to post.  I don't know why that can't be "Anonymous Number 1" (or so forth).

From Ranked to Rank

While the faithful in Oxford nurse their hangovers from the South Carolina loss, they have at least one consolation: they are not suffering the indignity of Cal's blowout loss to Oregon. The Golden Bear D-Line is about as effective as Maginot's was, and Jahvid was decidedly not Best.

So much for hoping Cal and Ole Miss would meet on New Year's Day. See you in Shreveport.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Former Gulfport mayor and his wife reach a plea deal with Feds ***UPDATE***

WLOX is reporting that the Warrs have reached a plea agreement with the federal government in the criminal action pending against them for Katrina fraud.

From WLOX:
Former Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr and his wife Laura will be in federal court this morning. A source told WLOX News that the couple is making a plea deal with prosecutors, and that the charges against Laura Warr will be dropped.

Meanwhile, the Sun-Herald will only say that the Warrs were at the federal courthouse.  I'm betting WLOX is right on this one.


WLOX now has the details of the plea deal.  From their story:

Prosecutors dropped 19 of the 20 charges facing Brent Warr. All charges were dropped against Laura Warr.  Brent Warr pleaded guilty to count seven of the indictment, filing false records with FEMA pertaining to disaster assistance.....  Brent Warr received three years probation, and must serve 100 hours of community service. He must also pay FEMA $9,558 in restitution by Monday.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Eric Ray and Rebecca Mansell tie for best prosecutor

Eric and Rebecca tied with 34 votes each.  There will be no runoff, so they're going to have to share the imaginary trophy this year. 

At least my Choctaws got a mention on ESPN.com...

Pat Forde's consistently good "Forde-yard Dash" recognized my alma mater's football team this week:

Putting Out An APB For …

… A pair of former SEC coaches gone obscure, Hal Mumme (38) and Joe Lee Dunn (39). The Dash found the former offensive gimmick master at Kentucky and the former defensive gimmick master at Mississippi and Mississippi State at McMurry (Texas) University -- where they got their clocks cleaned on Saturday by Mississippi College. Mississippi College walloped winless McMurry 61-14, scoring three unanswered touchdowns to open the game and leading 31-7 at halftime. And so two cocky guys who always thought they were too smart to play it by the book are now 0-3 in Division III.

Way to go, Chocs

Glenn Beck boils a frog...

Yeah, that's exactly what he did.  Watch this fool in action.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nightmare in Iraq for Halliburton Employee Disclosed by Fifth Circuit Opinion

From the Fifth Circuit Civil News, the following harrowing story:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit published the following on Tuesday, September 15: Jones v. Halliburton Co., No. 08-20380 (5th Cir. Sept. 15, 2009) (Barksdale, DeMoss and Stewart): Jones's lawsuit alleged that she, a Halliburton employee working in Baghdad, "was drugged, beaten and gang-raped" by co-workers in her company-provided housing.

The district court granted in part Halliburton's motion to compel arbitration; it denied the motion to the extent of Jones's claims for assault and battery; intentional infliction of emotional distress arising out of the alleged attack; negligent hiring, retention, and supervision of the alleged attackers; and false imprisonment.
So what happened on appeal?

The District Court ordered that litigation of the employee's non-arbitrable claims be stayed until completion of the arbitration. Halliburton appealed the partial denial. Holding: Affirmed and remanded. The scope of the arbitration agreement was determined by the Federal Arbitration Act and its case law, not by the Texas Arbitration Act (though it was otherwise governed by Texas law); thus, a TAA limitation on arbitrability of personal injury claims did not apply. The scope of the agreement extended to employment-related claims, but that provision "certainly stops at Jones's bedroom door"; it also extended to personal injury claims that arose in or about the workplace, but there was "very persuasive" evidence that Halliburton "did not consider the barracks to be a 'workplace.'"

What does this mean in terms of legal tactics? Halliburton's attempt to defend the case -- saying their barracks weren't part of the workplace -- will result in the assaulted employee getting a jury trial instead of arbitration on that claim.

But what's most important, and most disturbing, is that this major Federal contractor, with its well-known ties to former Vice President Cheney, failed its employee twice -- once, when it couldn't keep her safe, and second, when it failed to take responsibility for her injuries.

So: where are all the Republican Senators and Congress-folk who are clamoring for a review of ACORN? Are they also pushing for a review of THIS Federal contractor?

Don't hold your breath waiting to see that happen.

Here's the full Fifth Circuit opinion:


Some Thoughts on the Pickering-Vitter Contribution From An Anonymous Correspondent

Yesterday I received the following musings from a correspondent via our e-mail option. It's interesting enough to quote in full:

On August 11, 2009, Haley Barbour's PAC (named "Haley's PAC") gave $5,000 to Louisiana Congressman David Vitter (who clearly has had problems with prostitutes), and then, four days later, on August 15, 2009, Chip Pickering's PAC (named "Commerce, Hope, Innovation & Progress PAC) gave $5,000 to Haley Barbour's PAC?

If so, it sure makes you wonder what all it is that these guys know about one another.
Maybe Max Blumenthal's
article about the Pickering diaries at isn't too far off the mark. (This article was mentioned a few weeks ago by NMissCommentor.)

Could Haley Barbour actually be considering Chip Pickering as a replacement for Thad Cochran's Senate seat when Cochran retires, even in light of the allegations of Chip's adultery with Beth Creekmore Byrd? Could Chip Pickering's "people" (whoever that might include) possibly be able to buy Leisha Pickering's silence?

I'm reminded of how John McCain and his second wife, Cindy Hensley (I think of the wealthy family that owns the Coors' beer business), seemed to basically buy the silence and cooperation of John's first wife, Carol. I had liked McCain pretty well until I read
the Daily Mail article about it.

Do you think something like this could happen in the Pickering situation, using the money of the wealthy family that owns Cellular South?
Dear Correspondent:

Stranger things have happened . . .


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Congressional Quarterly runs with the Pickering-Barbour-Vitter story

Good reporting work done here by Jonathan Allen.  Here's a quote that sums it up:

Pickering's otherwise dormant CHIP PAC made its first donation of the year to Haley's PAC on Aug. 15 -- four days after the governor gave to Vitter's 2010 re-election campaign -- according to a Sept. 20 filing with the Federal Election Commission. The two checks comprise all of the month's activities for Haley's PAC, which has just $13,281.37 in the bank and has made only one other contribution this year.

I really thought some folks would be smart enough to stay away from this...

Y'all may remember this post, in which I wrote about a rumored Jackson fundraiser for Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) thrown by former Rep. Chip Pickering (R-MS). Well, since the post, I've had the fundraiser confirmed by more than a few actual attendees.

Why was the fundraiser such a big deal?  Well, Pickering's obviously tainted goods right now thanks to the things he allegedly wrote in his own diary.  Sen. Vitter has had his own marital issues in the past.  Here's a history of his penchant for hookers. As a result, I'm sure Vitter didn't want to be publicly connected to Chip if at all possible.  Here's where it gets worse..

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Philip Thomas over at MS Litigation Review is hot on the heels of the Peters immunity deal

Bravo to Philip Thomas, who is working to get the details of Ed Peters' immunity deal in the DeLaughter case. He tried a FOIA request, but:
According to the DOJ, I am not entitled to the information because Peters did not consent and there was no showing that the public disclosure outweighs Peters' privacy interests.
Philip's got a good blog going over at MS Litigation Review, and I suggest y'all check out both the article linked above and the blog as a whole. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pickering v. Pickering removed from the Mississippi Electronic Courts online system

Mississippi Electronic Courts, or "MEC", is currently in a pilot period, as I have blogged about before. During this pilot project, only Madison County Chancery is online. That's handy, as one of the most talked about cases in Mississippi is currently pending there: the divorce case of Pickering v. Pickering.

A funny thing happened today, though.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Radley Balko pens another excellent column for Reason Magazine

Radley Balko, known primarily around these parts for his work on the Dr. Steven Hayne front, has put together a good read on something that I find particularly troubling in our society today: the growing need to find someone criminally responsible for any tragedy.

In his latest article, Balko writes about the troubling case of Kevin Kadamus, a Vermont father who accidentally shot his son while turkey hunting. Balko's paints a picture in which the populous seems to be screaming for "justice" when confronted with a horrible accident. Balko's point is that we, as a society, place prosecutors in a very awkward position:

When was the last time you read a big story about your local district attorney declining to bring charges? It happens, of course. But it isn't covered. Even rarer, when was the last time a prosecutor was praised for such restraint? (The one exception might be police-involved shootings.) The truth is that prosecutors are praised, reelected, and promoted based on the cases they win, and on the number of people they put away.

This is a fundamental problem with our justice system, I believe. We ask the public to choose prosecutors, but the public has a poor view of what we as a society actually ask the chosen prosecutor to do. Thus, the prosecutor is faced with an oath that requires him to be a minister of justice, and employers (the people) who want him to find an evil motive where none exists.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Who's the best prosecutor in the Jackson area? You decide...

In an effort not to leave prosecutors out of the "fun" created by a poll pitting lawyers and their egos against one another, I've decided to create a poll asking you to choose the best prosecutor in Jackson. Criteria are of course subjective.

Note: If I left someone off, it was merely an oversight, and I apologize in advance. I am not going back and re-doing the poll. It messes up the voting.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Nation: "Mississippi Growing" Explores FDR's Delta Initiative

The Nation magazine has an interesting article and photo spread about FDR's initiative to provide farming opportunities for African-Americans in Mississippi. You can find the article here, and the accompanying photos are here.

Tort Reform: Does Gov. Barbour really want to bring this up again?

Some of you may be aware of Gov. Barbour's latest attempt to scare the populous into thinking trial lawyers are baby-eating devils. If not, here's a synopsis: The Mississippi Supreme Court recently held that pre-suit notice is required under the Tort Claims Act, but that the time period for that notice is tolled by the filing of suit. The suit will be dismissed of course for failure to give notice, but you can still go back and give that pre-suit notice.

Now, having practiced in the civil arena before, I can assure you that pre-suit notice, in reality, does nothing more to help settle a case than the filing of a complaint does. It's just a trap to ensnare unwary citizens and keep them from getting justice when they are harmed by a state actor. Period.

But if Gov. Barbour wants to bring up tort reform, I say go ahead. Now that some time has passed since the passage of tort reform legislation, let's look back at some numbers provided by none other than the American Medical Association itself.

Here are the number of physicians in Mississippi by year from 1998 through 2007:

1998 - 5,133
1999 - 5,232
2000 - 5,399
2001 - 5,544
2002 - 5,680
2003 - 5,820
2004 - 5,872
2005 - 5,872
2006 - 5,890
2007 - 5,961

Anyone notice anything odd? For all the hue and cry from tort reform proponents about doctors leaving Mississippi and the health care crisis that would ensue, we had growth in the number of physicians in Mississippi during the 6 years leading up to tort reform, and in fact, we have had less growth since tort reform.

And anecdotal evidence suggests that insurance rates for physicians haven't declined as promised, either. Oh, and the number of entities writing med mal policies hasn't gone up, either.

"You Whore!" -- Calling Out Joe "You Lie" Wilson

As most of you probably know by now, as President Obama stated that no health care reform bill would mandate coverage for aliens who entered the United States without permission, one Congressman from the Republican side of the chamber shouted, "You Lie!"

That Congressman was Rep. Addison Graves "Joe" Wilson, Republican from South Carolina.

Facing South, the blog of the Institute of Southern Studies, has a good piece out this morning about Mr. Wilson. It turns out that the vociferous representative has been a longtime recipient of largesse from the health care industry. Sue Sturgis of Facing South writes:

Wilson is a major recipient of contributions from the health care industry. In fact, over his entire congressional career, health professionals represent Wilson's top industry contributors, donating a total of $244,196 to his campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics OpenSecrets.org database.

He received another $86,150 from pharmaceutical companies, $73,050 from insurance companies and $68,000 from hospitals and nursing homes. Among Wilson's top contributors are the American Hospital Association, a lobby group that represents the interests of hospitals and health networks, and the American Medical Association, which represents physicians.

When the incident happened, I was wishing the President would have beckoned to the Republican side, invited the vicious commenter to the podium, and had it out with him. There is, of course, nothing in the legislative pipeline requiring treatment of immigrants who entered the country illegally.

But having read Ms. Sturgis' report, I now wish the President had merely fired back, "You Whore!"

But, if course, the President has more class than that.

Unconstrained by such impulses, I will say it myself: "Joe, you lying whore, crawl back under your rock. And say hello to your Governor when you get there."

And if you agree with me, please consider contributing to Rob Miller, the Democrat running against Mr. Wilson.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

MHAP: Why Mississippi Needs Health Care Reform

I just received an email from the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, describing the effects of health care reform in Mississippi. Their email is worth quoting at length:

Here is how our broken health care system affects people in Mississippi:

130 residents of Mississippi are losing health insurance every day, and 14,000 Americans nationwidelose insurance daily.

The average family premium in Mississippi costs $800 more because our system fails to cover everyone-and $1,100 more nationally.

Our broken health insurance system will cost the Mississippi economy as much as $2.6 billion this year in productivity losses due to the uninsured-and up to $248 billion nationally.

In Mississippi there has been a 10 percent increase in the uninsured rate since 2007.

550,000 are uninsured today in Mississippi.

The average family premium will rise from $11,288 to $19,261 by 2019 in Mississippi without health care reform.

In Mississippi, without health care reform, 85,180 will have lost coverage from January 2008 to December 2010.

In Mississippi, 284,000 people would gain coverage as a result of the House health care reform bill by 2013, and 457,000 would gain coverage by 2019.
That's a pretty impressive set of reasons for Mississippians to support the President's plan.

It Seems to Me We've Heard This Song Before . . .

The President of the United States is elected on a platform of saving Americans from the precipice of economic disaster and hardship, by creating innovative social programs . . . the flagship program proposed by the President is opposed by business interests that accuse him of trying to "Sovietize America" and by Republican politicians who call it a "cruel hoax." Working Americans get bombarded by media attacking the program.

Sound familiar? Does it seem to you you've heard that song before?

The time is 1935-36, the President is Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the program is Social Security.

The Republican politician was Alf Landon, popular Governor of Kansas. Nicholaus Mills' excellent article in Dissent magazine, published during the 2005 debate over whether to privatize Social Security, summarizes the 1935-36 debates well:

Landon’s attack on Social Security was stated most sharply in a September 26, 1936, speech, “I Will Not Promise the Moon,” that he gave in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Based on a report done for the Twentieth Century Fund, Landon’s speech attacked Social Security, which was due to begin collecting contributions on January 1, 1937, as a philosophical and economic disaster. As Landon put it, “This law is unjust, unworkable, stupidly drafted, and wastefully financed.”

Landon argued that Social Security was “paternal government,” at its worst. “It assumes that Americans are irresponsible. It assumes that old-age pensions are necessary because Americans lack the foresight to provide for their old age.” The contribution Social Security required from the employer, Landon argued, was sure to be “imposed” on the consumer, while the contribution Social Security required from the worker was too much for him to bear.

As if that were not enough, the “vast army of clerks” required to administer Social Security, would, Landon insisted, create a bloated bureaucracy that would be a “cruel hoax” on American workers. There was, he predicted, “every probability that the cash they pay in will be used for current deficits and new extravagances,” and in the end impoverish the system. “If the present compulsory insurance plan remains in force, our old people are only too apt to find the cupboard bare,” Landon concluded.

Landon’s contention that the government was taking workers’ money and might never give it back received strong support in the business community. Two weeks before the election, workers in Detroit found placards in their plants telling them, “YOU’RE SENTENCED TO A WEEKLY PAY REDUCTION FOR ALL OF YOUR WORKING LIFE. YOU’LL HAVE TO SERVE THAT SENTENCE UNLESS YOU HELP REVERSE IT NOVEMBER 3.” When they opened their pay envelopes, the warning was even more dire. “Effective January 1937, we are compelled by a Roosevelt New Deal law to make a 1 percent deduction from your wages and turn it over to the government. You might get this money back . . . but only if Congress decides to make the appropriations for this purpose.”
But as recounted by both Mills and Roosevelt's premier biographer, Arthur Schlesinger, this opposition forced FDR into a full-throated attack on the moneyed interests aligned against the program.

Again, Mills:

But in his response to the 1936 attacks on Social Security, a different and more passionate Roosevelt took center stage. FDR did not hesitate to label those opposed to Social Security as “organized money” and to describe the assault on Social Security as class warfare by the rich.

* * * *

“But they are guilty of more than deceit,” Roosevelt went on to say of his Social Security critics. When they promote the idea that the Social Security reserves will be stolen by some future Congress, “they attack the integrity of American government itself. Those who suggest that are already aliens to the spirit of American democracy.”

Most important, in his Madison Square Garden speech FDR drew a clear moral distinction between those who wanted to dismantle Social Security and the New Deal and those who saw them as essential to the country. “Your Government is still on the same side of the street with the Good Samaritan and not with those who pass by on the other side,” Roosevelt told his audience. “I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.”

Nowdays, Social Security is the quintessential "third rail" of politics. Although it is, without doubt, a "public option" program -- a Government agency that acts alongside private retirement and pension plans -- Social Security enjoys overwhelming public support.

So FDR did not "Sovietize America" with the signing of the Social Security Act, any more than Obama will create a "Socialist America" by creating a publicly funded health insurance entity. President Obama needs to come out swinging tonight, with the fire that characterized FDR's defense of Social Security in 1936.

He couldn't ask for a better precedent: Alf Landon was trounced by FDR in the 1936 election, 60% to 36% in the popular vote, and 523-8 in the Electoral College.

Back down the fearmongers, Mr. President.

Master "the forces of selfishness and lust for power" that are blocking the right to health care.

Don't back down now.

New poll up at Jackson Jambalaya

Kingfish over at Jackson Jambalaya has a poll up on his front page for "Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Jackson." I'm honored to be included in the poll, especially since most of my clients seem to think that a public defender is somehow not really a lawyer.

Clarion-Ledger story on Delta manhunt

The Clarion-Ledger ran a Holbrook Mohr article yesterday on the incident involving John Whitten, a tank, and a burglary suspect in Tallahatchie County. In the article, Whitten claims that he's being targeted because his father defended Emmitt Till's murderers back in 1955. Mohr follows that up, though, exactly as I would have:

This isn't the first time Whitten has been accused of taking the law into his own hands. Whitten was fined $2,500 in the 1990s when he was a city judge and accused of holding three suspected trespassers at gunpoint after shooting their truck tire.

In my opinion, it's Whitten's own past, and his penchant for owning things like a British FV432 armored personnel carrier (here's a photo of one) that have drawn the attention.

Here's the article.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

No Holds Barr-ed: Former Clinton Impeachment Prosecutor Takes Aim at Justice Scalia on Habeas Corpus

I doubt anyone would accuse Bob Barr of being a liberal. You will remember him as having served as a Republican Congressman from Georgia, and being a leader in the fight to impeach President Bill Clinton and remove him from office. He was also a leading sponsor of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, trying to forestall the movement for gay and lesbian marriage. Mr. Barr later ran for President in 2008 as the nominee of the Libertarian Party.

As a Congressman, Mr. Barr was one of the authors of the Anti-Terrorist and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), which was on the the low points of the Clinton Administration. In particular, it stripped many of the protections of the writ of habeas corpus, the grounds for Federal review of convictions and sentences imposed by State courts.

But, according to Mr. Barr, Justice Scalia has gone too far in interpreting ADEPA. Today, Mr. Barr published a Washington Times Op-Ed piece criticizing Justice Scalia's dissent in the recent Troy Davis case. Justice Scalia claimed that, in light of ADEPA, even evidence of actual innocence is not sufficient to justify a second petition for writ of habeas corpus.

Barr dissents from Justice Scalia's dissent. In the Washington Times piece, he notes first that "The conviction was subsequently upheld on appeals. However, the fact that seven of nine of those eyewitnesses have recanted their testimony, coupled with the fact that none of the state or federal courts have yet heard directly from any of those witnesses, presented to the Supreme Court a strong argument that Davis should at least be allowed to make such a case [of actual innocence of the crime]."

Then, saying that the Troy Davis dissent "cemented Justice Antonin Scalia's reputation as the high court curmudgeon," Mr. Barr trained his sights directly on the Justice:

Specifically, Justice Scalia said that AEDPA barred a habeas corpus writ regarding any state court claim unless based on "... a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law." Justice Scalia surmised that, since the Supreme Court "has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who ... is later able to convince a habeas court that he is 'actually' innocent ... ," Davis is simply out of luck.

The Constitution of the United States was adopted in 1787; the Bill of Rights four years later in 1791. Apparently for Justice Scalia, these past 218 years have not sufficed to "clearly establish" that federal law is based on the premise that only the guilty are to be executed.

* * * *

I was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee in 1996 when we debated and voted on AEDPA. I can state unequivocally that this legislation was not intended to preclude a claim of actual innocence based on post-sentence evidence from being considered in a habeas petition. Employing such a pinched and erroneous reading of the law to deny a condemned man the opportunity to present substantial evidence of innocence would constitute a major travesty of justice in America.
Amazing world we live in, isn't it? We have to debate whether a strong claim of actual innocence justifies a re-examination of the death sentence?

Thankfully, whether libertarian or liberal, many thoughtful citizens can join hands to fight for the Great Writ, as our last bulwark against capricious Government power.

Way to go, Mr. Barr. Keep firing away.

H/t to The Constitution Project

Excuse me, did you say a TANK?!?!?!?!!?!?

The Jackson Free Press did some great investigative reporting in the Delta over the past few weeks concerning what must have been an eerie scene. I'm stunned over this one:

"I heard (Tallahatchie County Prosecutor John) Whitten telling the guy in the Jeep with him that he was going to go back and get his tank...."

And yes, this is the same John Whitten who got in trouble back in 1995 for the incident described in Whitten v. Cox. 799 So.2d 1 (Miss. 2000). Here's an excerpt from that opinion:

The plaintiffs claim that Whitten pointed the cocked pistol directly at them, waving it in their faces, shouting, cursing, and ordering them out of the truck and onto the ground. Cox claims that Whitten pressed the barrel of the gun to Cox's temple and told Cox he ought to kill him or “kick his fucking face in” for being on the runway. Whitten denies pointing the gun at anyone, though it is undisputed that he was armed, that his friends standing around were armed with loaded assault rifles and that Whitten ordered the plaintiffs to kneel on the ground. Once they were out of the truck, Whitten informed all three that they were under arrest for trespass. One of Whitten's sons who was present brought some handcuffs from a nearby vehicle.

The Judicial Performance Commission got after him as well, since he was a Municipal Judge at the time. Here's how the Mississippi Supreme Court described his actions before reprimanding him in Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance v. Whitten, 687 So.2d 744 (Miss.1997):

During these proceedings and that time period covered by the formal complaint in this cause, Judge John W. Whitten, III, was and is the Municipal Judge for Oakland, Tutwiler and Webb, Mississippi municipalities.

The basis of the three formal complaints against Judge Whitten stem from the same set of facts which occurred on the same day and time but involved three separate individuals.

Judge Whitten appeared before the hearing panel without legal counsel, representing himself, and Wyatt Collins represented the Commission on Judicial Performance.

On or about March 19, 1995, Cox, Spinosa and Logan drove onto a tract of land being farmed and leased by Cox's brother, whom Randy Cox was helping with the operation.

Judge John W. Whitten, III, with the assistance of several friends, stopped at gun point the vehicle in which Cox, Spinosa and Logan were riding. Not only was Judge Whitten armed with a loaded pistol but so were his friends who assisted him.

Judge Whitten stopped the vehicle on his neighbor's property, in which he admits to having no lawful interest. Judge Whitten avers some form of easement in an alleged landing strip which is on the neighbor's property.

Judge Whitten fired several shots to stop the vehicle in which Cox, Spinosa and Logan were riding. The direction in which said shots were fired by Judge Whitten remains in dispute. The panel did find, however, by Judge Whitten's own testimony, that he did in fact eventually shoot out a tire on the vehicle causing it to come to a stop.

After the vehicle was stopped, Cox, Spinosa and Logan were removed from the vehicle at gunpoint and under Judge Whitten's specific orders and demand.

Judge Whitten, not recognizing any of the complainants after they were removed from the vehicle, ordered them on the ground. The orders again were under threat of loaded weapons, which both Judge Whitten and his associates were carrying. The complainants were detained for an undetermined period of time, and Judge Whitten made threats of serious bodily harm and possible death while he made inquiry concerning their identities*746 and reasons for being on his neighbor's property and his alleged air field or landing strip.

While on the ground, handcuffs were placed on the complainant, Cox, by order of Judge Whitten, who continued his inquiry under threat of bodily harm with his loaded weapon in hand.

The three complainants were then escorted, under armed guard, from the property where they had been stopped, across the road on to Judge Whitten's private property where he keeps some form of camp and firing range. There the complainants reached an agreement with Judge Whitten to leave the premises if no one would file any charges against Judge Whitten for the so-called misunderstanding which had occurred.

During the entire incident described, Judge Whitten acted as if in charge. He was giving orders and commands to his associates and orders to the complainants, while holding a loaded pistol which he discharged numerous times, including shooting out the tire on Cox's vehicle.

All of the above actions were directed by Judge Whitten under threat of loaded weapons and with the use of handcuffs and the assistance of associates who also carried loaded weapons and acted under Judge Whitten's command.

It is disputed whether any of the weapons were actually aimed at the three complainants or fired in their direction, but there is no dispute that the weapons were present and some were fired.

I'm sure we'll here more about this one as time goes on. Any Delta readers heard anything?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Reason Magazine runs with Hayne DPS blog post

Radley Balko, a consistent and thoughtful voice on the Dr. Steven Hayne issue, picked up this blog's post on Dr. Hayne's 2006 "Chief State Pathologist" contract with Mississippi's Department of Public Safety. Here's his article.

Put Up Or Shut Up, Mr. Weill

The Jackson Free Press is reporting that City Councilman Jeff Weill claims over 300 City of Jackson employees are "patronage" appointments -- given jobs by former Mayor Frank Melton only because of their connection to him.

The JFP story states:

During the administration of former Mayor Frank Melton, Weill said he had learned from city leaders that a high number of unqualified employees had been hired as a result of little more than their connection to Melton.

"When I first came on as councilman, I'd asked them how many patronage positions are we talking about." Weill said. "Twenty, maybe? Thirty, even? And they'd said more like 300. I was amazed."

His implication is that Melton created new "patronage" positions for his friends since the last Johnson administration, but the report does not actually include such an analysis or historical context of how positions under Melton compared to Johnson's last administration.

Neither Weill nor the report named specific positions created merely as favors, although he emphasizes that Melton hired unqualified people to fill positions.

Now, Weill's assessment is that the positions should be cut out rather than be retained and filled with better-qualified employees.

* * * *

Still, Weill would like to see immediate cuts of civilian positions, while Johnson warns that such a rush to judgment without further study—such was the internal audit recommended by Weill's report—wouldn't be wise. "Don't ignore that the police department is doing a lot," Johnson said. "We have 184 civilians in the department that Montgomery doesn't have in its police department."

My two cents: Councilman Weill was in office when these 300 alleged patronage hires were made. And he claims to have sources who told him about the hires. Shouldn't it be easy for him to say who they are? Name names, Mr. Weill. Tell us who was hired for their connections to Frank Melton, and what they are doing now. Until then, you're just blowing smoke.