Star Trek Actor Lived At Internment Camp As A Child

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Some of Star Trek performer George Takei’s family was forced into a Japanese internment camp on the West Coast of the United States during World War II.

In the recent Supreme Court ruling over gay marriage, Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas, who is black, wrote that “human dignity cannot be taken away by the government…” He added, “Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them.”

After having spent time in a Japanese internment camp as a child, George Takei disagrees.

(Updated article)

Court Won’t Lift Ban On Obama Immigration Action

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court refused to lift a temporary hold on President Barack Obama’s executive action that would prevent as many as 5 million immigrants illegally living in the U.S. from being deported, according to the AP. The hold allows the deportations to continue.

The U.S. Justice Department had asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a Texas judge who agreed to temporarily block the president’s plan in February, after 26 states filed a lawsuit alleging Obama’s action was unconstitutional. However, on a two-one vote, a panel of the court denied it, writes the AP.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans made the decision that the executive action must be delayed until the lawsuit is resolved.

It wasn’t clear if the government would appeal, either to the full appeals court in New Orleans or to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The states suing to block the plan argue that Obama acted outside his authority and that the changes would force them to invest more in law enforcement, health care and education.

The White House has said the president acted within his powers to fix a “broken immigration system.”

U.S. Justice Department Will Investigate Baltimore Police Over Freddie Gray Treatment

The U.S. Justice Department will investigate whether the Baltimore Police Department engaged in a pattern of unconstitutional policing, said law enforcement officials on Thursday.

A request was made by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for the Justice Department to investigate.

This came soon after the Baltimore state’s attorney filed criminal charges against six officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray.

Gray died April 19 after being injured while in police custody. Gray’s death set off large demonstrations, arson and looting.

At a policing conference earlier on Thursday, the Baltimore police commissioner, Anthony W. Batts, said he did not object to an outside investigation, and said that he was committed to reforming the Police Department.

He said he recognized that Baltimore residents did not trust the city to make changes voluntarily, states the New York Times.

“I am willing to do anything it takes to win that trust back,” he said. “If it’s D.O.J., whatever it takes.”

The situation has dominated Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch’s first days in office, as the riots broke out in Baltimore on her first day on the job.

“The situation in Baltimore involves a core responsibility of the Department of Justice — not only to combat illegal conduct when it occurs, but to help prevent the circumstances that give rise to it in the first place,” said Ms. Lynch on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

If the Justice Department finds that there was a “pattern or practice” of discriminatory policing, it will ask that the police department make sweeping changes.

If the police department declines to do so, the matter could land in front of a federal judge, who could force changes within the department, writes ABC News.

Is Bill O’Reilly ‘Bending A Little?’

Bill O’Reilly played “Devil’s advocate” recently and said that based on the recent DOJ report on Ferguson police, they were very specifically “targeting blacks,” according to MediaITE.

St. Louis radio talk show host McGraw Milhaven disputed some of the statistics, but O’Reilly didn’t buy into it.

O’Reilly said, “You don’t have to give a ticket to somebody who’s not crossing the street properly. They’re targeting it. They’re doing it for money, they want the money, and it’s an easy play.”

When Milhaven said “they’re targeting blacks and whites,” that set off O’Reilly again.  O’Reilly said they were clearly targeting blacks and it’s flat-out wrong.

More on The U.S. Attorney General’s report:

Updated post

Koch Brother Wants To Reform Justice System After He Faced Charges

TYT video.

According to Politico, Charles Koch, known for his support of libertarian and Republican causes, is opening his wallet on an unexpected issue.

According to a story published Sunday by The Wichita Eagle, Koch plans to increase his efforts for criminal justice reform.

“Over the next year, we are going to be pushing the issues key to this, which need a lot of work in this country,” Koch said, according to the paper.

“And that would be freedom of speech, cronyism and how that relates to opportunities for the disadvantaged.”

Koch added that changes are needed, “especially for the disadvantaged,” whom he said feel the impact the most. He also cited the need to reform criminal sentences, which he said need to be “more appropriate to the crime that has been committed.”


Think Progress: 9 Travesties Of Justice In 2014 That Would Be Totally Unbelievable If They Weren’t True

1. An NYPD officer killed a man on video, and he won’t face charges.

On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner died in the Tompkinsville neighborhood of Staten Island, New York, after a police officer used a chokehold around Garner’s neck for about 19 seconds.  Some believe it was a “grappling hold” or a headlock.

2. Two judges ordered millions of Americans to lose their health insurance.

In July, two Republican members of a federal appeals court in Washington, DC voted to defund much of the Affordable Care Act by cutting off tax credits that enable millions of Americans to afford health insurance.

The Supreme Court is now preparing to hear a similar case that presents the same issue.

3. An Oklahoma death row inmate gasped for 43 minutes as state executioners stood by.

Clayton Lockett writhed in pain for 43 minutes as observers watched a botched execution in real-time.

Oklahoma used lethal injection drugs manufactured in secret, at small-batch “compounding pharmacies” that are not, like most pharmacies, regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.  Several states are turning to these compounding pharmacies because of a shortage of lethal injection drugs from European drug-makers, thanks to international opposition to the death penalty.

4. An inmate was ‘baked to death’ in an American jail.

Marine veteran Jerome Murdough had been dead for four hours when jail guards at Rikers Island (NY) discovered him in his cell, dehydrated and overheated, in a solitary mental observation unit.  An anonymous official said Murdough, who was being held after he couldn’t afford bail over a trespassing arrest, “baked to death.”

The individual suffered from mental illness, in a system of rampant incarceration that is increasingly serving as a de facto asylum for many.  A federal bill awaiting President Obama’s signature would require states to report not just deaths at law enforcement hands, but also those in jails and prisons.

5. Two mentally disabled North Carolina men spent 30 years in prison before DNA evidence exonerated them.

Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown had spent most of their adult lives in prison, McCullom on death row.  But it wasn’t until DNA was tested that they were released in September of this year.

In s similar case, Michelle Byrom was sentenced to death in Mississippi in an error-riddled trial.  She had been on death row since 2000 when a court overturned her conviction this year, and put her in jail while she awaits a new trial.

Also, In New York, David McCallum was exonerated after 30 years in prison based on a confession made under threats when he was 16 years old.

6. Over-sentencing and under-sentencing.

In a recent Texas case, a judge sentenced a defendant who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl to just 45 days in prison, followed by mandatory volunteer service at a rape crisis center.

Another man in Alabama received only probation for raping a teen.  Austin Smith Clem, 25, was convicted of raping Courtney Andrews, who is now 20, twice when she was 14 and once when she was 18.  As of yet, he still will not be serving jail time.

These sentences stand in stark contrast to drastically over-sentenced or punished sex offenses.  Hayes County, Texas, prosecutors sentenced a man who slept with a 14-year-old he met on eHarmony, where she lied about her age, to life in prison without the option for parole.

7. Georgia executed a man whose lawyer had a serious drinking problem.

When Robert Wayne Holsey was on trial for his life, his attorney was an alcoholic who admitted to drinking a quart of vodka every night. The lawyer eventually lost his law license and spent three years in prison over allegations that he took over $116,000 from a client.

Perhaps due to his own problems, the lawyer did not present significant evidence during Holsey’s trial indicating that Holsey was intellectually disabled. Moreover, Georgia law makes it extraordinarily difficult for an intellectually disabled individual who is facing a death sentence to prove that in court, even though the Supreme Court has held that “death is not a suitable punishment for a mentally retarded criminal.”

Holsey was executed earlier this month because he could not overcome the very high standard of proof the state’s law imposes on death row inmates with intellectual disabilities.

8. A mother is still facing jail time for giving her son medical marijuana.

The nation made some progress on medical marijuana reform this year, culminating in a move by Congress to halt federal prosecution in states where medical marijuana is legal.  That hasn’t helped Angela Brown or Robert Duncan. Brown’s son Trey suffers severe pain and spasms from a traumatic brain injury.

After Brown shared her story with the “wrong person,” officials seized the cannabis oil from her home and charged her with child endangerment and causing a child to need protection. Prosecutors are still pursuing her in a case that could send her to prison for two years, even as an already-passed medical marijuana law that goes into effect in 2015 would allow the use of cannabis oil in Minnesota.

9. Mississippi defendants have been jailed for a year without ever being charged.

There is an epidemic of individuals in the United States jailed for extended periods of time before they’ve been convicted of anything.

According to a class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union this year in Scott County, Mississippi, Octavious Burks had been in jail for ten months on an arrest of attempted robbery with bail set at $30,000.  He had never been charged with anything. He had never been appointed a lawyer. And, by the account of the ACLU, he had twice before been held in jail for periods of 18 months and 16 months, before being released without ever having been convicted of anything.

Joshua Bassett had been in a similar situation.  He’d been in jail for 9 months with bail set at $100,000, after an arrest for grand larceny and possession of methamphetamine.  He didn’t have a lawyer.  Scott County Senior Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon said he will not appoint Bassett a lawyer until he is formally indicted.

“This is indefinite detention, pure and simple,” said Brandon Buskey, Staff Attorney at the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project. “The county has tossed these people into a legal black hole.”

Top Prosecutor Leaves Military to Reform Military Justice System

The Air Force's chief prosecutor, Col. Don Christensen, is going to work for the sexual assault victim advocacy group Protect Our Defenders. (Courtesy Don Christensen)

One of the military’s most highly regarded prosecutors is leaving the justice system he’s served for more than two decades to work for a group devoted to reforming it.

Col. Don Christensen, formerly the chief prosecutor for the Air Force, is retiring from the service in December and will become the president of Protect Our Defenders, an influential nonprofit that advocates for and supports military sexual assault victims and lobbies for military justice reform.

Christensen says changes are due to a system that enables perpetrators and punishes victims.

“I’ve seen how people in units rally around the accused,” he said.  “These are the future convening authorities.”

“We need to professionalize the justice system. Make it similar to what the rest of the world does.”

Christensen became well-acquainted with the advocacy group, also known as POD, after he won a conviction two years ago against Lt. Col. James Wilkerson on charges that the F-16 pilot and 31st Fighter Wing inspector general at Aviano Air Base in Italy had sexually assaulted a sleeping house guest.

At the time, Third Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin subsequently dismissed the case and reinstated Wilkerson into the force.

Franklin’s action — reversing the verdict and sentence of a five-colonel jury — shocked and angered numerous victims’ groups and U.S. lawmakers, who said it illustrated the bias confronting military victims of sexual crimes.

The case led to a host of legislative changes to the military justice system, including the end of commanders’ unfettered ability to dismiss verdicts and reduce sentences.

“I feel like military justice has been hijacked by a number of female senators and congresswomen,” said defense lawyer Frank Spinner, who represented Wilkerson.

After more than two decades working inside the system — as a defense lawyer, judge and prosecutor — Christensen says it remains deeply flawed.

“We need to bring balance to the system,” he said. “We’ve shoveled all these rights onto the accused that don’t appear anywhere else.”

Under the military justice system, for instance, alleged victims can be ordered to give repeated interviews and depositions to the defense before trial. And unlike in the civilian court system, defendants can call supporters to provide “good character evidence” during the trial, which by itself can raise “reasonable doubt” for an acquittal.

Christensen said he’d decided to work for Protect Our Defenders because he considers the group focused and savvy. “When they advocate changes, they’ve actually thought through how the changes will affect the criminal justice system,” he said. “I also know they’re pro-military.”

Still, he said, he expected his new career choice would be controversial. “I’ll lose friends,” he said. “There are some people who are so hostile to anything anti-military-justice, they’ll think I’m selling out.”

Nancy Parrish, POD founder and former president, said she was “honored and humbled” that Christensen was coming on board.

“Col. Christensen knows the ins and outs of our military justice system,” she said. “He has seen, up close and personal, the lack of justice victims too often receive in the military justice system, which puts a victim’s fate in the hands of the rapists’ boss rather than professional, legally trained experts.”

At POD, Christensen will “fight to improve the military that he loves,” Parrish said.

Five Pieces of Evidence Ferguson Grand Jury Saw

PHOTO: Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilsons firearm
Police officer Darren Wilson’s Sig Sauer .40 caliber firearm

Here are 5 pieces of evidence that the Ferguson grand jury saw, according to ABC News:

1) Police Car Damage

The police car’s driver-side window was shattered, and the driver-side mirror was bent towards the car, possibly indicating evidence of a fierce struggle between Wilson and Brown while the officer was still seated in his patrol car.

2) A Witness’ Journal Entry

A journal entry by someone police only identified as “Witness 44” said that Brown charged at Wilson, even after Wilson fired his gun. “The cop just stood there,” the entry read. “Dang if that kid didn’t start running right at the cop like a football player. Head down. I heard three bangs, but the big kid wouldn’t stop.”

3) Wilson’s Medical Examination

Wilson sustained bruising in the face, neck, and scalp areas after “he was hit in the face a couple of times,” according to a police report. Wilson also reported jaw pain, according to a medical examination report.

4) A DNA Analysis Report

A DNA analysis report revealed that Brown’s DNA was found inside Wilson’s car, on the officer’s shirt and pants, and the interior left front door handle.

PHOTO: Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson is pictured in evidence photos released by the St. Louis County Prosecutors Office on Nov. 24, 2014.
Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson

Brown’s blood was also found on Wilson’s gun, according to the police investigation. That evidence appeared to support Wilson’s claim that Brown punched the officer while Wilson was seated in his car and reached in and struggled over Wilson’s gun. Wilson said he fired twice while in the car.

5) Wilson’s Interview

Wilson testified before the grand jury that he perceived Brown as a direct threat. “He looked up at me and had the most intense aggressive face, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked,” Wilson told the panel.