Tag Archives: cruel and unusual punishment

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/28/17

Good Morning!

Ready for an ethical week?

1. In a comment thread about Joe Arpaio’s pardon, the absurd assertion was made that Chelsea Manning was “tortured” at Leavenworth. In knocking down this anti-U.S. propaganda, courtesy of the U.N. and others, I noted that even the U.N. accuser based that assessment on the weird conclusion that Manning was “never convicted of a crime.”

Translation: military courts martial don’t count. Thanks for that opinion, U.N. guy! Why don’t you start your own country?

The other part of the phony torture accusation is the assertion that being held in solitary confinement is torture. Under international law, it is considered “cruel and unusual punishment,” not torture, but… surprise! The U.S. is not governed by international law, much as the globalists wish it were!

Solitary confinement has (rarely) been found by U.S. courts to violate the 8th Amendment when it is of indeterminate duration and without good cause, but that has nothing to do with Manning, who was considered in danger as a traitor in a military prison, and was in solitary for her own protection. The Supreme Court determines what is cruel and unusual punishment in this country, not the U.N., and not international law.

2. I also (I admit it: I knew I would) triggered a freak-out here, and some unfair insults that I will gracefully ignore, by stating that I would have supported execution for Manning, who was and is a traitor. (President Obama commuted her sentence, making the anti-war Left happy but oddly triggering a fraction of the condemnation in the news media that has followed President Trump’s pardoning an 85-year old man facing a minimal jail term. ) The U.S. has been historically reluctant to execute traitors, and in the era where a cyber-leaks can give more aid and comfort to the enemy than Julius and Ethel Rosenberg could have managed in a hundred years, a re-evaluation of that kind, merciful but dangerous policy is over-due for reconsideration. Manning avoided conviction on the worst of the charges against her (then, him) because prosecutors didn’t prove intent sufficiently. Manning claimed that she was just trying to start a “conversation’ about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and was willing to put classified information into the hands of terrorists in order to do it. If she knew she would be facing the death penalty with some certainty, it is likely that Manning would have thought twice, at least. It’s called deterrence, and in an age where self-righteous low-level types like Manning and Edward Snowden can get U.S. intelligence personnel exposed and killed with a few keystrokes, serious deterrence is called for.

3. Remember when I asked readers to alert Ethics Alarms when the first talking head suggested that out first major hurricane in 12 years was the result of climate change? It took longer than I expected, but the first reported fool was CNN anchor John Berman. He  was interviewing  Bill Read, the former director of the National Hurricane Center, and asked,

“Is there a why to this? Why there is so much water associated with this storm? One thing we heard from scientists over the last 10 years is that climate change does impact the intensity of many of the storms that we see.”

To his credit, Read assured Berman that the heavy rains had nothing to do with climate change, and everything to do with the typical behavior of this kind of storm. The episode shows 1) how little many journalists (I won’t say all, but it is very close to all) understand the science of climate change, but promote it anyway because it aligns with their partisan politics, and 2) how they will try to generate fake news, which is what “Hurricane Harvey Deadly Rainfall Possibly Caused By Climate Change, Expert Tells CNN” would have been. If Berman was interested in promoting public understanding of the climate change controversy, he would have asked, “Climate change models and Al Gore’s documentaries predicted more and more violent storms as a result of global warming, yet this is the first major hurricane we have seen in more than a decade. How do you account for this?”

4. In the teeth of this renewed attack on U.S. history and culture during the Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck, I asked how long it would be before “Gone With The Wind” was banished from the airwaves. The Orpheum Theatre Group in Memphis, Tennessee just withdrew its annual screening of the classic 1939 film  out of concern that some may find it ‘offensive’.

If no one has the courage to stand up for art, expression and history as “the offended” try to strangle cultural diversity out of existence, then Orwellian thought control will be the inevitable result. I don’t blame the “offended” for trying to suppress speech, thought and history as much as I blame the cowards who capitulate to it. Next in the line to oblivion: war movies, movies with guns, “Gettysburg” and John Wayne. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, The Internet, War and the Military

The Good, Bad Lucky, Unlucky, Legal Illegal Immigrant: Colorado Governor Pardons A Convicted Armed Robber

It is  misleading to describe this story as a Democratic governor letting an convicted armed robber escape punishment so he can stay in the US, though that is how it is being reported.

The world has gone mad, but the pardon issued to convicted bank robber Rene Lima-Marinby by Governor John Hickenlooper isn’t necessarily proof of that, though Lima-Marinby’s weird story is.

He came to the U.S. as a toddler in the 1980 Mariel boat lift from Cuba, and had obtained  legal residency. His 2000 criminal conviction for armed robbery when he was 19 caused that status to be revoked. Lima-Marin was sentenced to 98 years in prison for the robbery.

Let me pause. He was 19, and they sentenced him to 98 years in prison.

Then he was mistakenly paroled from Colorado state prison in 2008, 90 years early. I’ve written about these cases before. I hate them. Releasing a prisoner then coming back years later and saying, “Oopsie! Sorry! Our bad! Back you go!” turns a gaffe into cruel and unusual punishment. Unless a prisoner is a serial killer or a terrorist or breaks the law after he is released, the authorities should bear the burden of such incompetence, and any early release should stand.

Lima-Marin is a good example of why this should be the practice. he married, had a child and got a steady job installing glass. It took six years for the state authorities to discover their mistake, and in 2014 they sent him back to state prison for the remainder of his 98-year  sentence.

Yechh. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

Ethics Alarms Ringing: A Judge Orders Citizens to Undergo “De-Radicalization”

"You WILL feel differently about guns!"

In Minnesota, Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame, Abdullahi Mohamud Yusuf, and Hanad Mustafe Musse  pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS. The defendants  charged last April following an investigation into a network of young Somali-Americans  involved in  ISIS recruitment  in Minnesota. ordered the four to undergo an evaluation by a visiting German scholar, Daniel Koehler, director of the German Institute on Radicalization and Deradicalization Studies in Stuttgart. His  evaluation of the men will factor into Davis’ sentencing decisions, and will  form the basis of a “de-radicalization program” to rid the men of  their radical ideology.

The Star Tribune reports that the program will be the first of its kind in the United States. (Well that’s a relief.) Apparently such deprogramming treatments are used to “cure” radical recruits  in Europe, as hundreds of young people have left to join Middle Eastern militants.

Wait, are anyone else’s ethics alarms ringing like crazy? Mine just busted an ear drum. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

In Washington State, Not “Over-Incarceration,” Just Incompetent And Cruel Incarceration

African American in Prison

Since 2002, the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) has allowed a sentencing-calculation glitch in its computers to allow more than 3000 inmates to walk out of prison before their sentences were complete. Now the state is rounding-up  ex-prisoners, in many cases after they have built back their lives, settled down, found jobs, and done all of the things, difficult things, former felons are supposed to do once they have paid their debts to society.

Last month, Governor Jay Inslee and DOC Secretary Dan Pacholke  revealed that incorrectly programmed computer software  had been  miscalculating release dates Washington convicts sentenced to extra prison for violence related to their crimes. Although DOC employees have been aware of the problem since 2012,an assistant attorney general advised against an urgent review, allowing the error, and the early releases, to continue for three more years as a software fix was delayed repeatedly. (Yes, there is an investigation.) Finally, a fix is supposedly in the works.

None of this was the fault of the prisoners who were released early, but they are the ones being made to suffer for it. Most of those who have been out for long periods are being left alone, according to the standards for review, but for those deemed to need additional prison time, the trauma is significant. The Seattle Times interviewed Miranda Fontenot, whose fiancé, James Louis, was taken into custody last week when he checked in with his community corrections officer. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics

Unethical Judge Of The Month: Florida Circuit Judge Jack Schramm Cox; Runner Up: Wisconsin Judge Philip Kirk

JudgeFor a judge, you just can’t get any more incompetent than this.

In Florida, Circuit Judge Jack Schramm Cox ordered the Palm Beach Post to scrub a previously published story from its website. This is prior restraint, or the government preventing publication based on content. The order violates the First Amendment; it isn’t merely unconstitutional, it is incredibly unconstitutional. Concluded Constitutional Law professor and blogger Jonathan Turley in his usual restrained manner,  “The utter lack of legal judgment (and knowledge) shown by Cox in this order is deeply troubling.”

It’s not troubling. It’s ridiculous. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights

In Alabama, A Blood Sucking Judge

Judge: 'If you don't have money, you can pay your fine in BLOOD!' Wait...WHAT?

Judge: ‘If you don’t have money, you can pay your fine in BLOOD!’ Wait…WHAT?

Not to hold you in suspense, this is unethical. In fact, it’s incredibly unethical.

In Alabama,  Perry County Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins is prevented by Alabama law from jailing those who owe a debt to the state.t—debtors prison was abolished long ago. Wagner, however, has been recorded in his court telling indigent parties owing money  that they have the option of contributing their blood or paying up, and if they opt for neither, “he sheriff will have handcuffs waiting” for them.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a judicial ethics compliant, Explained the SPLC on its website.

“Defendants in more than 500 criminal cases, which can be as minor as hunting violations, were mailed notices to appear before Wiggins on Sept. 17. Dozens showed up to pack the courtroom for a hearing on the restitution, fines, court costs and fees they still owed. When Wiggins took the bench, he offered defendants with empty pockets and full veins an option.Wiggins said to consider the option of giving blood “a discount rather than putting you in jail.” However, no one who donated blood received any “discount” on their court debt; they simply received a reprieve from being thrown in jail. Most of the people in the courtroom still owed thousands of dollars to the court – even after years of making payments, according to the complaint. Virtually every case included fees that indigent defendants had been charged to recoup money for their court-appointed counsel, the complaint states. Without speaking to the judge about their financial situation, many indigent defendants gave blood out of fear of going to jail.”

The complaint outlines several ethics violations, SPLC says, including failure to demonstrate professional competence and failure to uphold the integrity of the law. It also describes how forced blood donations violate the U.S. and Alabama constitutions. I would think that most educated American could name several of these. Due Process? No law exists making forfeiture of blood a legal penalty for anything. Cruel and usual punishment, per the 8th Amendment?
Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights

Death Throes Of The Death Penalty: Dumb Expert, Dumb Advocates, Dumb Debate

“Next!”

As I recently concluded, the death penalty is beyond saving, not because it can’t be defended ethically and morally, but because the issues are tangled beyond repair.

The controversy over the legality of the so-called drug cocktails that somehow became our execution method of choice is a perfect example. The battles over capital punishment trapped policy-makers into this kinder, gentler, ridiculously complicated method of execution that has suffered snafus ranging from unavailable drugs to ugly extended deaths. The problem is the floating definition of “cruel and unusual punishment,” prohibited by the Constitution, but almost entirely subjective. Many judges think killing a killer is itself cruel by definition, and the more reluctant Western Europe becomes to execute the worst of the worst, the easier it is to make the argument that the death penalty is also unusual.

I don’t get it. I never have. India once executed condemned criminals by having the subject place his head on a stump under the raised foot of  trained elephant, which on a command would smash the head like a grape. Quick, painless–messy!—but virtually fool-proof. A pile-driver would be an acceptable equivalent.  Ah, but ick! In this stupid, stupid, intellectually dishonest debate, ick always equals “cruel and unusual,” because to opponents of the death penalty, killing people, even horrible, dangerous people, is inherently icky.

(Oddly, ripping unborn babies out of the womb is not, but I digress.)

I’ve admitted it, and I will again. (This lost Ethics Alarms Luke G., one of its best commenters the last time.*) It is obviously wrong to intentionally prolong an execution or deliberately cause pain, but if the occasional execution is botched and the condemned suffers, that should be cause for great rending of garments, nor should it be used to discredit capital punishment. As I wrote here about Clayton Lockett’s execution in Oklahoma

“There was no question of Lockett’s guilt, and his crime was inhuman. Such wanton cruelty and disregard for innocent life warrants society’s most emphatic rebuke, and the most emphatic rebuke is death. It is essential that any healthy society make it clear to all that some crimes forfeit the continued right to not just liberty, but also life. Anyone who weeps because this sadistic murderer experienced a few extra minutes of agony in the process of being sent to his just rewards has seriously misaligned values. No method of execution will work every time, and to make perfection the standard is a dishonest way to rig the debate. If the death penalty is justified, and it is, then we should expect and accept the rare “botch.” Meanwhile, if the concern really is efficiency, reliability, speed of death and minimal pain, there are literally dozens, maybe hundreds of methods of swift execution that would accomplish this. They just won’t pass the standards of death penalty opponents, because no method will.”

Today the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the question of whether Oklahoma’s use of the common surgical sedative midazolam did not reliably make prisoners unconscious during lethal injections, thus violating the Eighth Amendment’s protection against “cruel and unusual punishment.” It’s a ridiculous case, which arises out of the botched April 2014 execution of Lockett that sparked the post I just quoted. It is a ridiculous case because the method of execution isn’t worth arguing over. Elephant. Head. Problem solved. Why is Oklahoma fighting about which cocktail to use? This is the anti-capital punishment team’s game, and sooner or later, the result is preordained.  Continue reading

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Filed under Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology, U.S. Society