Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What's Going On In Arizona?

So, this topic has been introduced to us a couple months ago and that's the new Arizona immigration law that would take effect July 29.

This new law, "directs officers to question people about their immigration status during the enforcement of any other laws such as traffic stops and if there's a reasonable suspicion they're in the U.S illegally." But it's the "suspicion" part of the equation people have the most problem with. How can you tell what an illegal immigrant is before you look at their papers? Well, because it's Arizona, the police will be looking for Hispanics...but not all Hispanics are illegal and not all Hispanics carry their Immigration Visas around with them or their birth certificates.

That's where the racial profiling comes in, because they're saying this race is illegal and therefore we have the right to pull them over, etc. But what really is racial profiling? This term has been popping up in the news fairly regularly, but I have an inkling many people don't really know what it is or why it's "wrong". Reason magazine states, "Although there is no single, universally accepted definition of 'racial profiling,' we're using the term to designate the practice of stopping and inspecting people who are passing through public places -- such as drivers on public highways or pedestrians in airports or urban areas -- where the reason for the stop is a statistical profile of the detainee's race or ethnicity." That is the definition of racial profiling and that's what the Arizona law wants the police to do.
As you can see, there isn't much doubt that the law is racial profiling but also that isn't unconstitutional or illegal (so far). However, there is a lawsuit going on to stop this law from taking effect.
So, if the fact that it utilizes "racial profiling" isn't enough to stop this new law, what can? Interestingly enough, the government's basis for a lawsuit against this law (and Arizona) is states' rights: basically, federalism. The Obama administration argued that immigration is something that the federal government legislates, not individual states. The Supremacy clause in Article VI of the Constitution states that the "Constitution and the laws of the United States...shall be the supreme law of the land...anything in the constitutions or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding." That is interpreted to mean that any law the Federal government makes is the "supreme law of the land" and it trumps any state laws. In connection with the Arizona case, the U.S. government wrote that the "provisions of S.B. 1070 [the Arizona law] are therefore preempted by federal law". They go on to write that, "While holding that the '[p]ower to regulate immigration is unquestionably exclusively a federal power,' the Supreme Court concluded that not every state enactment 'which in any way deals with aliens is a regulation of immigration and thus per se preempted by this constitutional power, whether latent or exercised.' De Canas v. Bica, 424 U.S. 351, 354-355 (1976)."

To put this all in layman's terms, the Supreme Court has ruled before that immigration falls under the category of something the federal government dictates. They go on to connect this with the supremacy clause to make the point that their laws go above what the state government does. After hearing the case and looking at the current laws Judge Bolton ruled on the case recently and issued an injunction to stop the law from taking effect. One of her reasons for issuing the injunction was because , "Preserving the status quo through a preliminary injunction is less harmful than allowing state laws that are likely preempted by federal law to be enforced."

In my personal opinion, I think she made the right decision.
Although this issue seems to be over now, there is a very good chance this case will end up in the U.S. Supreme Court because of the federalism issue and also the civil liberties issue. This issue is still important to us because it shows how much we want immigration control (well, at lest Arizonans). Immigration is a big issue right now because of the downturn of the economy. People are angry and think their jobs are being "stolen" from them. But I don't think this law is the way to handle immigration at all. We cannot strip liberties away from an essentially defenseless group. Instead, if the country decides we want to increase immigration control, we should strengthen our borders. Another thing to consider would be amnesty; let the people here have a chance at the real American dream. Whatever the government decides to do, racial profilin" cannot be a part of the equation.

Further reading:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Anna Nicole Smith Trial: Day One Recap

Last Wednesday we were able to watch the opening arguments for the defense in the case of The People vs. Khristine Eroshevich, Sandeep Kapoor, and Howard K. Stern, more colloquially known as the "Anna Nicole Smith case". The defendants are charged with, " unlawfully prescribing a controlled substance to an addict, obtaining a prescription by deceit, fraud, and conspiracy." Dr. Eroshevich was a psychiatrist and Ms. Smith's former neighbor, Dr, Kapoor prescribed medicine for Ms. Smith and was her doctor, and Howard K. Stern was Anna's lawyer as well as friend/partner. The lawyers for the defense are Ms. Garofalo representing Dr. Kapoor, Mr. Sadow representing Mr. Stern, and Mr. Braun representing Dr. Eroshevich.

I unfortunately didn't catch Mr. Sadow's argument on paper. But he basically attested to the fact that Mr. Stern loved Anna and wouldn't do anything to hurt her. He said she needed the drugs to be out of pain and that Howard K. Stern would do anything to soothe her pain.

Dr. Kapoor's attorney said that Anna and Dr. Kapoor had no "social relationship". Dr. Kapoor was not her primary doctor by any means, Dr. Kovner was the one in charge of managing her pain. She went on to chronicle how Ms. Smith had a history of "chronic" pain and for this pain she took opiates, benzo's, and other similar drugs. Dr. Kapoor never doubted that she was actually in pain. And when Ms. Smith followed Dr. Kapoor's pain management plan she felt okay. The lawyer reiterated many times that Anna had, "long term, chronic, unrelenting pain that must be treated". The lawyer stated that there was a legitimate medical purpose to prescribe her medication (and feed her addiction) because of this chronic pain. She also mentioned that the doctor's medical judgement wasn't criminal and that the doctor should be immune from prosecution because the doctor acted in good faith. During Smith's treatment Dr. Kapoor was super vigilant in managing her medication, but Ms. Smith neglected to tell him about her pregnancy. After he found out about her pregnancy he arranged for her to go to Cedars. Cedars used the same regimen of drugs that Dr. Kapoor put her on, lowering the dosages during the last few months of pregnancy to try to get her off her medications. Basically, the layer was arguing to the jury that Dr. Kapoor acted correctly in prescribing her medications while she was addicted to them (feeding her habit) because of her chronic pain and that was corroborated by other doctors and Cedars.

Mr. Braun came at the jury from a different angle, first talking about how the facts of the case changed. He mentioned many times that the people saying Dr. Eroshevich acted badly were "corrupted" by fame and fortune and therefore were changing the facts of the case. He then went a bit into Dr. E's background to make the point she was a "real" doctor, not a doctor seeking fame. In fact, she stumbled into this by accident. She was Anna's neighbor and met her at a party. So, when Ms. Smith hurt her back she called Dr. E to prescribe her some medication. Dr. E was criticized for not performing tests, but many doctors medicate first before they do tests because they see the symptoms and know what to prescribe. If the medication doesn't work, then they do tests. Then the attorney recounts how Ms. Smith called Dr. E in a "panic" after her son died. She needed medication so Dr. E brought her anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication in Bermuda. They bought different types of medications (her and doctor K) to see which one would work and help her. They were criticized for buying to many and that all of those drugs together was "pharma suicide", but it wasn't since all of the medications weren't taken together. The issue of pseudonyms was mentioned by her attorney and he said that they used different names for Smith to protect her privacy not to conceal improper activities. Also, some "proof" offered by her attorney was that if Dr. E was trying to hide something why would she willfully turn over Smith's various medications to the coroner? She wouldn't.

Then the court recessed for the afternoon.

All in all, the opening arguments were really interesting and a lot of good questions were posed to the jury.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Elevator Quotes

So, we have decided to chronicle some of the funniest things we've heard on the elevator going to court. Please enjoy:

Sheriff's Deputy 1: Man, I hope they didn't tow our car!
Deputy 2: Yeah, then we'd have to take the subway back to Long Beach for the rest of our work day.
Deputy 1 (to Anya and Ashley): Did you guys drive here? Do you have a car? Are you going to Long Beach?
Ashley: No, we took the subway.
Deputy 2 (The 6’5’’, 220 lb. man with a gun and awesome tattoos): Was it scary?


Random Press Guy 1: "These elevators are about the only thing slower than the criminal justice system."
Everyone Else In The Elevator: *General chuckles, snickers, and murmurs of agreement*
Random Press Guy 1: Speaking of, you know, the legal system is like a constipated elephant. Nothing happens for months, then suddenly there's a huge pile of crap that nobody wants to deal with.
Everyone Else In The Elevator: *Dies of laughter*
Random Press Guy 2: You . . . really have a way with words, man!

That's all for now, but we will be going into court this week too so hopefully we'll have some more quotes for ya'll.

"All arise for the Hon. Judge..."

We (as in Anya and I and our friend Julianne) have been quite busy this past week watching/following various and sundry cases at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Center (L.A.s criminal court) located on Temple street (in downtown). Look forward to some amusing elevator quotes, a summary of the Anna Nicole Smith trial's opening arguments made by the defense attorneys (yes, there were three people being tried and each one had two lawyers). Also, we will summarize another case involving a gang member in possession of a loaded firearm (however, we will not use real names...sorry). It has been a very amusing week which started off with seeing a pretty high profile case and getting asked if the subway was scary and ended with an interesting mistrial and brownies made by a judge.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Prop 8 Has Been Ruled Unconstitutional

To the surprise of no one who's actually read the Constitution, a federal judge found California's Proposition 8, limiting marriage to a union between a man and a woman, unconstitutional.  The 138 page opinion was the best court judgment I've ever read, and I read Supreme Court decisions for fun! This case has been dissected inside and out, both on this blog and on every other news site that exists, and I don't know that there's anything new I can say that hasn't been said by the incomparable Dahlia Lithwick (her article is here). So instead, I will show you a sample of tweets from my Twitter homepage on August 4.

@PauleyP: Prop 8 just overturned and ruled unconstitutional. For all my friends and their loved ones and those I don't know, Here's a hug. God Bless.
Actress Pauley Perrette, best known as Abby Sciuto on NCIS

@SpeakerPelosi: Very joyful court ruled against #prop8, it is a stain upon the CA Constitution. All families must be treated equally!
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

@GavinNewsom: The federal court has struck down Prop 8! A major victory for equal rights & for thousands of committed couples, families & friends in CA.
Mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom

@wilw: Congratulations to all my friends who can now get married again. It's disgraceful that there's even a question about your rights.
Actor Wil Wheton, best known as Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation

@marycmccormack: prop 8 overturned. It's about time California!
Actress Mary McCormack, best known as Mary Shannon on In Plain Sight

@JoseMolinaTV: Happy #GayDay, California! Way to fight H8 -- now let's keep fighting till the war is won.
Writer Jose Molina, who was worked on Firefly, Castle, Clone Wars, and Haven

@AllisonScag: RT @TheMichaelD1985:Equality has made a giant leap forward in the great state of California. Days when reason beats insanity are rare, soak it up people.
Actress Allison Scagliotti, best known as Claudia Donovan on Warehouse 13

I wonder if this says more about me and the people I follow than about the feelings of the population in general (most of these people are, after all, actors from rather liberal Hollywood, and the rest of the "people" are actually newspapers that wouldn't express an opinion). However, it was really nice to see such positive sentiments.

I'm also going to take this opportunity to beg you, no matter which side of the Prop 8 debate you fall on, to read the opinion. It takes 20 minutes and it's eloquent, moving, and above all, smart. Sooo well worth it!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Speak Up to Remain Silent: An Analysis of Berghuis v. Thompkins

Anyone who's seen even one episode of a cop show on TV knows the Miranda warnings: "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law."  And so on.  What most people don't realize is that those are simply the rights enumerated in the fifth and sixth amendments.  Police have been required to inform suspects of those rights since the Supreme Court's ruling in Miranda v. Arizona in 1966. After those warnings, a suspect can request a lawyer, or they can start talking to the police.

The ruling in Berghuis v. Thompkins, though decried by some as an abuse of suspects'/prisoners' rights, is actually a welcome clarification as to how these rights can we waived or claimed. It says that "If the accused makes an 'ambiguous or equivocal' statement or no statement, the police are not required to end the interrogation". In other words, if you want to remain silent, you must say so. Simply remaining silent is not enough to claim the right against self-incrimination, a statement something along the lines of "I'm not going to talk to the police" must be made. (Sotomayor's dissent criticized that decision, because she said police were not likely to inform suspects what words to use to invoke their right. I . . . don't think it's that hard to figure out.) This is not a decision that comes out of the blue: The Court already rules in Davis v. United States that a suspect's right to counsel must be unambiguously invoked; there is no reason to treat the right to remain to silent any differently.

The facts of the case are these: Van Chester Thompkins was arrested in 2000 for his role in a drive-by shooting in Michigan. As Lyle Denniston wrote for SCOTUSblog, "At the beginning, they warned him about his rights, and asked him to read part of the list out loud, to make sure he understood English. But he refused to sign the form, showing he understood his rights. There is a dispute about whether he ever was asked orally whether he understood the warnings." During his three hour interrogation, he was mostly silent, answering very few questions (when he did answer, it was in monosyllables). Near the end, the officers asked if Thompkins prayed to god for forgiveness for shooting the boy, and Thompkins answered "yes". That was used as his confession in court, and he was convicted. He later appealed, saying that he, by his general uncooperativeness, had invoked his right to silence. After all the state courts ruled against him, he finally won in the Sixth Circuit. Michigan appealed to the Supreme Court.

Although I don't agree that this is a sweeping re-writing or gutting of the Miranda ruling, warning, or rights, this case offered the opportunity for such re-interpretation. But the thing is, Thompkins really did himself no favors during his interrogation. As Justice Kennedy says, “If Thompkins wanted to remain silent, he could have said nothing in response to [the detective's] questions, or he could have unambiguously invoked his Miranda rights and ended the interrogation.” Thompkins had answered some questions earlier in the interrogation, and he had refused to answer others. He could easily have not said anything.

This ruling is a welcome clarification for suspects and police officers alike. As the American Thinker wrote, "In assessing the rights and requirements of both law enforcement and the accused, the Supreme Court has applied a reasonable standard to both parties while balancing the rights of the individual with the necessity of protecting lawful interrogations." Under this decision, it will be clear what statements are and aren't admissible in Court. Miranda requires that a suspect "knowingly and intelligently" waived his rights. Well, Thompkins answered questions posed to him by the police. I can't think of any situation in which that would not be considered a waiver of the right to remain silent. Thompkins follows established precedent (the Davis case) and places responsibility on both the police and the suspect, protecting both their rights, while making it easier for the police to gain admissible confessions legally an constitutionally.

As a side note, I find it rather amusing that I, the liberal, am siding with the conservatives in this case; and Ashley, the conservative, is siding with the liberals :).

Further Reading: