Tag Archives: cruel and unusual punishment

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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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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Comment of the Day: “Clayton Lockett Is Dead, Right? Then 1) Good! and 2) His Execution Wasn’t “Botched””

capital-punishmentThere are well-established group of ethics topics that will always cause spirited debates here, because they are issues that have always divided public opinion and always will: morality vs ethics, drug legalization, abortion, war, social justice, socialism, plus various controversies involving race, sexuality and gender. I try to wade into these only when a current even beckons, as to some extent the arguments are futile and familiar, and too many people refuse to think or listen anymore, retreating to slogans and reflex positions articulated by others.

I decided to wade into one of the most polarized, of these, capital punishment, when the Clayton Lockett execution in Oklahoma sparked a national debate that seemed strange to me, and indeed driven by the unwarranted assumption, uncritically accepted by the news media, that the painlessness of executions were a crucial feature of making them ethical as well as societally palatable. It also opened the question of whether one execution that doesn’t follow the script necessarily calls capital punishment itself into question. I confess: both in my post’s title and in the tone of my responses to anti-death penalty commentators, I intentionally sought to roil the waters of debate, and was determined not to allow the nice people who usually express compassion for the pain and suffering of humanity’s worst and deadliest escape with the usual pieties.

Sure enough, this annoyed the heck out of some readers. Responding to the emphatic objections of one, Isaac delivered a personal and powerful rebuttal. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post Clayton Lockett Is Dead, Right? Then 1) Good! and 2) His Execution Wasn’t “Botched:” Continue reading

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Clayton Lockett Is Dead, Right? Then 1) Good! and 2) His Execution Wasn’t “Botched”

This, for example, works just fine: quick, cheap, virtually painless.

This, for example, works just fine: quick, cheap, virtually painless.

Capital punishment foes have no shame, and (I know I am a broken record on this, and it cheers me no more than it pleases you), the knee-jerk journalists who have been squarely in their camp for decades refuse to illuminate their constant hypocrisy. In Connecticut, for example, holding that putting to death the monstrous perpetrators of the Petit home invasion was “immoral,” anti-death penalty advocates argued that the extended time it took to handle appeals made the death penalty more expensive than life imprisonment—an added expense for which the advocates themselves are accountable.

A similar dynamic is at work in the aftermath of the execution of convicted murderer and rapist Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma.Witnesses to his execution by lethal injection said Lockett convulsed and writhed on the gurney, sat up and started to speak before officials blocked the witnesses’ view by pulling a curtain. Apparently his vein “blew,” and instead of killing him efficiently,  the new, three-drug “cocktail” arrived at as the means of execution in Oklahoma after extensive study and litigation failed to work as advertised.  Why was there an excessively complex system involving multiple drugs used in this execution? It was the result of cumulative efforts by anti-death penalty zealots to make sure the process was above all, “humane.” Of course, the more complicated a process is, the more moving parts it has, the more likely it is to fail. Continue reading

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