Ask the general public if they think our justice system is too weak and has too many loop holes for criminals to get off and I would bet my life savings that the overwhelming answer to that would be  “yes, of course”. Our legal system is set up to protect the guilty there’s just too many ways to beat the system. We know that in a democracy you’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty but this is ridiculous, right. I mean we’ve all seen the movie where the villain gets off because of some loop hole in our legal system. If only there wasn’t so many ways for these lowlifes to beat the system.

Well then I think you will be glad to know that this couldn’t be more farther from the truth. This might be one of the biggest myths in the American culture today. The fact is the US has one of the highest rates of conviction when someone is arrested then anywhere in the world. “Between 2000 and 2005, 99% of the 435,000 federal criminal defendants prosecuted nationwide were convicted” That’s right a 99% conviction rate! No other democratic country comes even close.  Our only competition is communist China.  What happened to innocent until proven guilty? The truth is that in this country you are guilty until you are able to prove yourself innocent.

Not only do we have one of the highest conviction rates in the world we also have more people in prison per capita than any other country in the world. The US has 23.6% of the world’s prison population and 748 per 100 000 behinds bars. That’s right more the any of the communist countries, more than any of the countries that are run by corrupt dictators, war lords, and insane maniacs.  How in the world is that possible the US is the single greatest, best, freest country God ever gave man right? The fact is that it’s not. It’s just not possible to be the freest country in the world while putting more of your citizens behind bars than anyone else.

So rest assured America, there’s no need to worry when that evil villain gets arrested, the hero can take the day off cause there’s a 99% chance that the villain is going to jail. There are no legal loop holes for criminals to exploit, only a thin vale of protection for our rights in our pretend democracy.  The truth is more innocent people our convicted of crimes that they did not commit then there are guilty people beating the system and getting off scot free.


Iowa Laws

by on May 10, 2010

Iowa is one of the states the still uses the Felony Murder Rule. Iowa laws are a bit confusing , on one hand they can be extremely open minded by legalizing gay marriage and showing the rest of the world that we’re not just a bunch of country folk who are behind in the times; than on the other hand we hold on to the felony murder rule even though it is an unjust and archaic law that can be used to send someone away for life for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In some cases you don’t even have to be present you just need to be friends with the wrong person at the wrong time.

So why is the felony murder rule unjust? First let look at the law as it is in a normal murder case. In order for there to be a first degree murder conviction there must be a willful, deliberate, premeditated or planned attempt to kill someone. In other words you must have the intent to murder someone before the actual crime takes place. For second degree murder to take place it simply has to be in the act of an assault or malicious act where any prudent person would realize that someone could get hurt.  This is the way the law was written and the way the law was indented to be implemented.

The felony murder rule completely does away with this distinction. Say you go into a gas station to rob it with someone, should a prudent person realize that someone could get hurt or even killed even if they don’t know that the other person has a weapon on them, of course; and that is why it is second degree murder and not first degree. Most felony murder cases strictly meat the definitions of second degree murder not first. If we have a problem with what should qualify as first and second degree murder then we should rewrite the definitions not just make up a rule that let us bypass the law at the whim of a prosecutor.  In order for us to have a just legal system we must treat everyone the same with disregard to race, sex, or geographical location.


Iowa Inmates

by on May 10, 2010

A new study just came out stating that more and more people are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. In 1984 there were 34,000 people serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. Today that number has more than quadrupled to over 140,000 people out of the total 2.3 million people incarcerated in this country. Two thirds of the people service life sentences are either Latino or Black.

There are five other states besides Iowa along with the federal prison system that do not allow people serving life sentences the possibility of any type of parole or early release. The other five states are Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota. Most of these states are facing financial problems due to that lack of revenue coming in because of the current economic recession, and the ever growing prison population is straining state budgets.

The majority of Iowa inmates that are serving life sentences committed violent crimes resulting in someone’s death, but there are others who are serving life sentences because of the felony murder rule that did not commit a violent crime or at least were not the ones how actually murdered someone. It’s obvious that a number of states including Iowa are going to be unable to house the growing prison population over the coming years and will have to start looking for ways to decrease the number of people serving life sentences. Some states and a number of countries have already banned the use of the felony murder rule because of the fact that it is an unconstitutional law that has been unjustly used by prosecutors to imprison non violent criminals for life. It not only makes sense to stop using this law because it is the right thing but because it will help decrease the number of Iowa inmates doing life sentences and decrease the overall population.


Is the Felony Murder Rule Fair?

by on May 10, 2010

The felony murder rule is a law that can be used to charge someone with first degree murder if a murder occurs during a forcible felony no matter if there is premeditation or not. A forcible felony includes felonious child endangerment, assault, murder, sexual abuse, kidnapping, robbery, arson in the first degree, and burglary in the first degree. Basically any murder can become a charge of first degree murder no matter what the circumstances. There is a reason we have multiple levels of punishment for murder including first degree murder, second degree murder, and voluntary manslaughter. Not every murder deserves the same punishment and the felony murder rule does away with these distinctions and makes pretty much all murder a possible first degree murder charge.

Don’t believe me, well look closely at what constitutes a forcible felony. Assault is one of them. Tell me, how is it possible to committee murder without first assaulting them? If you hit someone with any kind of weapon or object isn’t that considered assault, if you point a gun at someone and then shoot them isn’t pointing a gun at someone considered assault? Is there anyway to committee murder without first assaulting them, I can’t think of one.

What is worse is that this law can be used on anyone who had any knowledge or was with the person who actually committed a murder. How can one person be responsible for the actions of another human being? Yes there are instances where this rule should apply. For example if you go into a gas station armed with the intent to rob it with someone else who ends up shooting and killing clerk you should be responsible for that persons death, but if you had no intention of committing a crime why should you be responsible for someone else’s actions. For example in Florida a young man lent his car to a couple of friends who took his car committed a robbery and murder without his knowledge and now this young man sits in prison without possibility of parole. How is this fair? How is this justice?


Life In Prison: Felony Murder

by on May 10, 2010

Here’s an interesting article on CBS news

In California, three young men are serving life in prison. They were all found guilty of murder even though only one them actually did the killing and the other two swear they didn’t even know he had a weapon let alone that he would kill somebody.

How does that happen? It’s the law. The felony murder rule law – but this old law is under new attack – as well as vigorous defense – because of cases like Brandon Hein – a teenager who went looking for marijuana and ended up in prison for life.

The felony murder law, which goes all the way back to old English law, treats people who are guilty of lesser crimes as murderers if they are with murderers when the murder occurs, reports Dan Rather.

Hein was 17 in 1995 when he and some teen-age friends got into in a fistfight. One of those friends pulled out a knife…and ended up killing another teenager. All four are now serving life sentences.

It began on the kind of day dreaded by parents of troubled teen-agers. Five of the boys were drinking alcohol and driving around their mostly safe suburbs near Los Angeles.

In the afternoon, they stopped in a parking lot. One of them grabbed a wallet, which turned out to be empty, from inside a car. The owner, a mother playing nearby with her two kids, cornered them and demanded her wallet returned. Another boy cursed at her and allegedly hit her car.

The five drove off – this time to find some marijuana. They went to the home of the neighborhood drug dealer – another high school teenager named Mike McLoren, who sold marijuana from a one-room structure in his mother’s backyard. McLoren’s friend and neighbor, 15-year old Jimmy Farris, was with him that day.

One of the teens stayed with the pickup trick; the others, including Hein, Jason Holland, 18, and his 15-year-old brother Micah, approached Mike McLoren’s shed, which was called “the fort.”

Jason Holland says he was drunk and lagging behind the others and he did not see how the argument between McLoren and his brother started.

“By the time I get in there,” he says “step into the door, he and Mike McLoren are standing, like, face to face, you know, and, you know, there was clearly a problem there.

“They were already in a argument, you know. But there was no words being exchanged by the time I got in there. Immediately when I got in there, I stepped in there, they just dropped their heads and started fighting.”

Brandon Hein jumped into the fray; so did Jason, who says he was trying to protect his brother Micah from the bigger and stronger McLoren.

“Mike McLoren was on top of my brother,” Jason says, “he’s hammering him in the back of the neck, and I’m telling him to get off him, get off him. You know, I’m trying to pull him off of him. I’m hitting him, I’m yelling at him. He’s not listening, so I pulled a knife and I stabbed him.

“After two times of pricking him in the back and he wasn’t getting off my brother, I stabbed him in the chest.” After stabbing McLoren, Jason stabbed McLoren’s friend Jimmy Farris. McLoren survived; Farris did not.

Mike Latin and Jeff Semow, the two Los Angeles deputy district attorneys who prosecuted the case, charged each teen under the felony murder rule under the theory that they went to the place where the murder occurred with the intention of robbing the victims.

“I guarantee you this,” says Latin. “That stabber would not have been there if he didn’t have the bravado that the accompaniment of the other four young boys gave him. He wouldn’t have been there.”

Semow says the rule is designed as a warning to those who would participate in gang robberies. “They are not going to be able to hide behind the defense of saying, ‘But the other guy actually pulled the trigger,’ if, in fact, the victim is killed,” he says.

For the felony murder rule to apply, prosecutors had to prove that a felony occurred. Without that, the felony murder rule could not apply.

All the defendants deny intending to rob the marijuana: “Going there to buy some weed,” says Jason Holland. “We were just partying, having a good time.”

But the jury did not believe him. Instead, jurors were convinced the snatching of the mother’s wallet earlier in the day indicated they also plotted to rob drug dealer Mike McLoren.

The teen-agers’ families were stunned when they heard the verdicts and the sentences: Jason Holland and Brandon Hein were convicted of murder and got life without the possibility of parole. Micah was convicted of murder and got 29 years to life.

The fourth defendant, Anthony Miliotti, 17, got life without the possibility of parole even though he stood at the door and never got into the fight. The fifth teen, who stayed with the truck, pled guilty and was sentenced to nine years.

Brandon’s parents, Gene Hein and Pat Kraetch say their son is being punished for something he did not do. “I don’t know over the years how many people have come up to me now, adults, who have gotten past that scary 18- to 25-year-old age and said, ‘But for the grace of God, it could have been me,’” says his mother.

Jeff Laden speaks for the group when he charges that their boys were punished not for what they did but for who was killed: the son of a 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department.

“It’s about a police officer’s son who died. And the only way they could convict all these kids was use the Felony Murder Rule,” Laden says.

Don’t tell that to Jimmy Farris’s parents. Jim Farris, his father, says, “The fact that I’m a policeman has nothing to do with anything. I just happen to be a policeman whose son was murdered. That’s it.”

Jimmy’s mother, Judy, asks, ”How much is too much time for killing someone? For taking away and changing our lives completely, forever?”
As for Jimmy Ferris’s friend, Mike McLoren, he was never prosecuted for selling drugs. He still lives at home. When 60 Minutes II visited, he refused to speak with correspondents or crew.

No one feels worse about the punishment of the others than Jason Holland. “I didn’t try to kill him, I didn’t mean to kill him,” he says. ”But he died. I can’t give it back, but I took responsibility for it. I thought that was the right thing to do, and I thought that they would do the right thing, but they didn’t. They came after us. And they got my brother and my two buddies. And we’re all doing life now. And they’re doing life for something they didn’t do.”

England, where the felony rule began, took it off the books in 1957, believing it is wrong to punish someone who intends to rob as severely as someone who intends to kill. Many states have followed suit; California is not one of them.


Here’s a little article about the Iowa Justice System

By Lee Rood

The Des Moines Register July 18, 2007

A national study released today ranks Iowa No. 1in the nation in the ratio of blacks to whites in prison, a statistic that many advocates say underscores a failure to address one of the state’s most serious problems.

The study by the Washington D.C. based Project found Iowa incarcerates blacks at a rate 13.6 times that of whites more than double the national average. Across the country, blacks are imprisoned at nearly six times the rate for whites. Latinos are imprisoned at nearly double the rate for whites nationally.

The study by the criminal justice advocacy research group recommended several remedies for all states, including drug sentencing reform, more judicial discretion in sentencing and better standards for indigent defense.

But black leaders say Iowa which has been among the nations leaders in the incarceration of black men for years needs to make much more comprehensive changes. Reps Ako Abdul-Samad and Wayne Ford, two of the state’s four black lawmakers, called for all Iowans to work together on the issue and for the Legislature to make the disproportion a top priority in 2008.

“What really makes this challenging is that I know we can do something about it,” said Abdul-Samad, who heads Creative Visions, a Des Moines nonprofit organization that tries to steer black youth away from crime. “We have such an opportunity on several levels… to go over this problem aggressively.”

Ford said if community, corporate, religious and academic leaders focused with legislators on the problem as they have on other issues. “I would bet my career” the statistics would change. The Des Moines Democrat said he would like to see existing agencies work together to help convicts transition out of the corrections system, get jobs and build more productive lives.

A 1999 Des Moines Register investigation found the proportion of Iowa’s blacks in prison, on parole or probation had reached 1 in 12 – a ratio that far surpassed those of most other states. At the time, one-quarter of all prison beds in the state were filled by blacks, a figure that has scarcely budged since.
Later in 1999, then Gov. Tom Vilsack established a committee to examine factors in the education, employment and justice systems leading to the disproportion.

Some strides, particularly in education, have een made since then. Shrinking class sizes and expanding early childhood education both approved in recent years by the Legislature were two of the 2001 recommendations of the task force.
But many of the group’s other suggestions sat largely idle until this May, when Gov. Chet Culver appointed a new committee to put the plans into action and make new recommendations.

The group is expected to present its proposal to Culver in August for consideration in his 2008 legislative agenda.
The governor has also convened a task force to look specifically at the detention of minority youth, because research shows it is a leading predictor of future incarceration.

Abdul-Samad, who serves on the incarceration disproportion committee with Ford, said he thought the biggest areas to be addressed were the lack of availability of drug treatment through the courts, lack of job opportunities for minority youth, and racist sentencing practices in the state justice system. Past studies have shown, for example, that minority youth are detained far longer than whites.

“Whats dangerous is that we don’t think we as a state have an issue with that.” Abdul-Samad said of racism. “I believe that exists, and until we face some of that, we will continue to have this high incarceration rate.”

{ 1 comment }