Top 5 Global Criminal Justice News Oct. 23-30, 2016

black Image of scales on white background with the words, "calibrate the scales" overlaid. As with any set of scales, the scales of justice must, from time to time, be recalibrated. Total balance is never achieved, but all in the criminal justice and legal systems must strive for it as much as possible.

Wow. What a busy week it has been for crime and legal news. In the United States, it seems that the Presidential election is bringing out the worst in people. Yet, around the world, strange and unique criminal events have been taking place. So much so that although we have narrowed what we believe to be the top five global criminal justice news events for the week of October 23rd through October 30th 2016, we will include a list of honorable mentions with this post. So here goes…

5 Drunken Sexting While Driving…Student Crashes into Police Car

By now nearly everyone in the civilized world knows that texting while driving is a bad idea. And too, many know that sexting, the sending of nude images of oneself, is also a bad idea…no telling where the photos will end up. And most know that drunk driving is a bad idea. Now mix the three and add in a police patrol car and we have the makings of a REALLY bad night. Miranda Kay Rader, a student at Texas A&M University north of Houston, TX has had just such a night. All we can say is, “Wow.” Read more here.

4 Cash Bail Entering Death Throes?

As reported by NBC News, Cash Bail, a long-standing tool for ensuring defendants show up for court, may go away. Cash bail has been used for centuries, primarily for defendants without property. The U.S. Constitution specifically details how bail should not be ‘excessive.’ Yet, exactly what constitutes ‘excessive’ is not specified. NBC reported how Maurice Walker was arrested in Calhoun, Georgia for public DUI. However, Walker has a mental illness which caused the appearance of being drunk. Indigent, he could not afford the paltry $160 cash bail and as a result, spent a week in jail. Although the charges were dropped, clearly his civil rights to liberty were violated. The case is now making its way through the courts and should the U.S. Supreme Court hear the case, it could change the unfair treatment of poor defendants. Read Cash Bail, a Centerpiece of the Justice System, Is Facing Its Undoing here.

 

3 Yancy Escobar Balderas Inspired by Texas Death-Row Husband to Pursue Law

Fusion related how Juan Balderas was sentenced to death in Texas for a crime which he may or may not have committed. He and Yancy, both U.S. citizens who had immigrated from El Salvadore as children had planned to get married. His sentence sped the process and the two were married in the prison. More importantly however, Mrs. Balderas had attended the entire trial and noted how terrible a job was done by his public defender. This inspired her to go to law school. She is now a paralegal and though she will likely be prevented from taking her husbands case once she gets her law degree, she plans on helping others in similar situations. Read the complete article here.

2 End Official Corruption. More News Like This Needed.

Our number two story this week comes from the state of Pennsylvania. We often hear of corrupt law enforcement, though seldom hear of convictions. We also often hear of corrupt prison officials taking the fall. All rightfully so. At Criminal Justice Law, we have zero tolerance for official corruption. It is vile and should be prosecuted.

However, stories of Prosecutors, Judges, and AGs, who are statistically just as corrupt as any others in the system, are rare. So this week, we are happy to denounce Attorney General Kathleen Kane of PA. She was convicted in August for

  • perjury
  • false swearing
  • obstruction of justice
  • official oppression
  • conspiracy

Kudos to the investigators and prosecutors who worked this case. These persons were, in effect, investigating their boss. That couldn’t have been easy and certainly they faced enormous pressure at some point to drop the investigation. We can never have enough folks with such integrity in the criminal justice system.

Kane was facing up to 24 years in a state penitentiary, but somehow managed to get it reduced to 10-23 months in state jail. Two days after the verdict, she resigned her AG position, though plans to appeal. We wish her luck…bad luck, of course. Read more here.

1 Arrested for Wanting to Stay Alive

In 1984, Steve McCurry was a photographer for National Geographic magazine. He was on assignment in Afghanistan covering the war against the Soviets. It was during this coverage that he took a photo ofa girl which would energize the world against the war. Many years later, he would discover the name of the ‘Afghan girl’…Sharbat Gula.

Gula had been in a refugee camp after her parents were killed by the Soviets. She later married and had children of her own. Then after the American’s attacked the region post 9-11, she and her family again relocated into neighboring Pakistan, where they had been living ever since.

Steve McCurry's "Afghan Girl"
Steve McCurry’s “Afghan Girl” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Makes sense. If conditions become too dangerous here, move there. It is a plight of hundreds of millions each year. It requires an agonizing choice. Stay in the place we call home or go elsewhere to safety. It is a choice which should not criminalize a person.

Yet, that is what happened. Sharbat Gula was arrested by Pakistani authorities seeking to stem the tide of refugees from Afghanistan. These refugees have been displaced because of the war started in 2001 by the United States. Many, in an effort to live some semblance of normal lives obtain identification documents where they live.

Increasingly, such refugees/immigrants are being treated as criminals and now Sharbat Gula is facing 14 years in a Pakistani prison because she just sought to live a normal life after nearly three decades of war in her home. Wars, it should be noted, which have been largely fought between the two major superpowers.

Read more about the plight of Sharbat Gula here, but bear in mind that her story is the same story shared by thousands of immigrants & refugees to America and allied nations.

Now our honorable mentions…

Texas Police Officer Honored for Using CPR to Save 3-Year-Old Boy

Mississippi woman jailed 96 days without seeing a judge or lawyer

As Reported Attacks Increase, Some Cops Will Police Online Transactions in Person

Does the First Amendment End at the Prison Gate?

Poll: Respect for police near all-time high

South Africa: HATE CRIMES BILL TO HOLD PERPETRATORS ACCOUNTABLE – MASUTHA

United Arab Emirates: No more jail for minor offences in UAE

Prison Food Contractors Funded Efforts To Combat Marijuana Legalization

Somali pirates free 26 Asian sailors held hostage since 2012

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