Friday December 19, 2014
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On string 736, which is about a new AZLEG bill which holds pubic officials legally responsible for any attempt to go around the Arizona law regulating firearms, we have been talking about the need for a general law of that type.
I have a personal interest in this kind of thing, and in the case I am going to tell you about, because I come from a New York City family which was deeply involved with the law. In fact, the only time I ever heard my Uncle Farrell, who was a New York DA, really swear, was when he was talking about someone he worked with. Uncle Farrell saw his job as a search for truth and justice, not for convictions.
Consider this case, which was recently reported:
On August 15, 1989, when a friend of his named Darryl Rush, was shot to death in Brooklyn, New York, 26 year old Jonathan Fleming was more than 1,000 miles away in Florida on vacation at DisneyLand.
Not only was Fleming's 46 year old mother with him at the time, and not only did he have plane tickets, videos, and postcards from the trip to prove where he was, but he had a hotel receipt showing that he had paid his hotel bill just five hours before the shooting occurred. On top of that, a letter from the Orlando police department dated October 1989 said that employees at the Orlando hotel said they clearly remembered Fleming.
He was convicted of the murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
A woman who had been arrested by New York PD on a completely unrelated charge made a plea agreement in which she testified that she had seen Fleming commit the murder.
Even so, how would a conviction have been possible? By not releasing the hotel receipt or the letter from Orlando PD to the defense attorneys, and in the absence of that evidence convincing a jury that Fleming "could have made a quick round-trip plane trip to New York."
But then, soon after his 1990 conviction, the woman who had testified against him recanted her testimony, saying she had lied so police would cut her a deal on her unrelated arrest. Nevertheless, Fleming LOST his appeals. Why? Because same corroborating evidence showing that he was in Orlando, Florida, was STILL withheld.
Twenty-four years have gone by since then.
Please go to the second post.
Today there is a new prosecuting attorney in New York City, one who has been looking into "questionable convictions." His name — God bless him! — is Kenneth Thompson.
Ken Thompson said in a recent statement that after a months-long review, he decided to drop the case against Fleming because of "key alibi facts that place Fleming in Florida at the time of the murder." Ken, you see, is engaged in a new process, one which scrutinizes how questionable convictions in Brooklyn are reviewed.
And he has turned up the hotel receipt and the report of eye witnesses in Florida that says that Fleming was where he said he was.
The AP reports, "Thompson took office in January, after unseating longtime District Attorney Charles "Joe" Hynes with a campaign that focused partly on questionable convictions on Hynes' watch. Hynes had created a special conviction integrity unit to review false-conviction claims, but some saw the effort as slow-moving and defensive.
"Thompson has agreed to dismiss the murder convictions of two men who spent more than 20 years in prison for a triple homicide. He also dropped his predecessor's appeal challenging the 2013 release of another man who had served 22 years in prison on a questioned murder conviction."
You see? One man! One honest man! That's all it takes.
But we could certainly helps matters along with a well thought out and well written federal law, couldn't we? We need a law which says a public official will be held criminally responsible for his or her acts if and when they involve abuse of office. A law that says that when you break the law, or try to go around the law, you are on your own, the state or municipality will not pay for your defense, and at the very least you are out of a job.
What does Jonathan Fleming, who at age 51 has lost the best 24 years of his life — those between 26 and 51 —have to say about all this?
With his arms around his mother's shoulders, he said, "I'm going to go eat dinner with my mother and my family, and I'm going to live the rest of my life."
The Question Is....
What do YOU have to say?
God bless the new man.
Send the other one and the attorneys that withheld evidence to prison.
"Send the other one and the attorneys that withheld evidence to prison."
That would be the absolute miniumum I would do.
What is the worst thing you can steal from someone?
What's the next worst thing?
A large part of his life.
It can never be returned to him. Nothing can be done to make up for the years he suffered in prison, knowing full well he was innocent. Nothing can change the past. But I'll tell you this: If I were running this show the people who deliberately withheld evidence that led to that man's terrible loss would be quaking in their boots.
Arthur Cheney Train, a New York district attorney who ought to know what he is talking about, wrote a book called "Courts and Criminals." In the first chapter, titled "The Pleasant Fiction of the Presumption of Innocence," he pulls no punches. He makes it transparently clear that our legal system is not what we think it is.
He begins with something we all know, "Without dwelling further on the matter it is enough to say that in general the State constitutions, their general laws, or penal statutes provide that a person who is accused or suspected of crime must be presumed innocent and treated accordingly until his guilt has been affirmatively established in a jury trial; that meantime he must not be confined or detained unless a crime has in fact been committed and there is at least reasonable cause to believe that he has committed it; and, further, that if arrested he must be given an immediate opportunity to secure bail, to have the advice of counsel, and must in no way be compelled to give any evidence against himself. So much for the law. It is as plain as a pikestaff."
He then adds, "But the unfortunate fact remains that all laws, however perfect, must in the end be administered by imperfect men."
A little while later he tells the plain, unvarnished truth. He says, "No one presumes a person charged with crime to be innocent, either in Delhi, Peking, Moscow, or New York. The doctrine of reasonable doubt is almost as much of a fiction as that of the presumption of innocence."
"It must be admitted that this is rather hard on the innocent," he says, "but they now have to suffer with the guilty for the sins of an indolent and uninterested legislature."
And finally he says that while you and I believe that our "personal liberties" are guaranteed to us, we only believe it "until one of us happens to be arrested." At that point we learn "by sad experience the practical methods of the police in dealing with criminals and the agreeable but deceptive character of the pleasant fiction of the presumption of innocence."
Want a shock to your system?
Just click on this link and the whole dang book will be downloaded free of charge onto your computer in less than a second in a form you can read right there in your browser.
If you want to read the whole thing just go up to the File Menu and select "Save page as..." You can save it as HTML and open it again any time you want, or you can do a "Save all files" and keep a copy right there on your machine.
I was talking to my son last night and we were asking ourselves how anyone, knowing full well that someone is innocent, could possibly put him in prison for 24 years.
What kind of person would you have to be to do that?
How could you live with yourself?
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