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Interesting Links: July 30, 2015

July 30, 2015 3 comments

Here are links to a few interesting news articles I came across today. They all show that problems with the “law and order” system in the USA are too deep-rooted and systemic to fix via any sort of reform.

Link 1: The Drug War Is Creating Problems Too Big To Fix

David Colarusso, a public defender turned data scientist, has a fascinating post at Law Technology Today describing the many issues arising from the abusive activities of a single chemist at the Massachusetts state drug lab. The starting point of his post — and his problems — trace back a few years.In 2012, it was discovered that a chemist working at the Massachusetts state drug lab in Jamaica Plain had been falsifying drug tests (e.g., claiming that samples contained narcotics without testing them and even adding cocaine to samples to get a positive result when prior testing came back negative). She had worked at the lab for nearly a decade, and these revelations called into question the outcomes in tens of thousands of cases.

Obviously, this sort of tampering means there are convictions waiting to be overturned. But two years later, little progress has been made. It isn’t that the state is obstructing efforts to make the falsely-convicted whole again (there may be some of that, but Colarusso’s post doesn’t indicate there is), but that nearly a decade’s-worth of bogus lab work potentially infects thousands of convictions. Narrowing down this list to those directly affected is an enormous task, one that Colarusso was tasked with making more manageable. Narrowing down “The List” to a single link in the evidence chain — the drug receipt — still returned far too many potential matches to be of use. Additional restrictions trimmed the possible matches a bit more, but still left far too many potential victims of the chemist’s work.

Link 2: Number of people killed by police hits 664 in U.S. this year

The number of police-related fatalities in the U.S reached 664 in 2015, making the country’s police force one of the deadliest in the developed world, according to data from The Guardian, a British newspaper. In the first five months of this year, 19 unarmed black men were shot and killed by the police in the U.S. The Guardian compares that with Germany, where 15 citizens of any race were fatally shot in the two years from 2010 to 2011. California led the nation in the number of victims. So far this year, 107 people died in police-involved incidents in the state, significantly more than Texas, which came in second with 67 deaths. Florida was the third most deadly with 46. Per capita, Oklahoma tops the list with 29 deaths.

Link 3: Officers at Sam DuBose scene involved in death of another unarmed black man

Two police officers who corroborated a seemingly false account of the fatal shooting of Samuel DuBose in Cincinnati were previously implicated in the death of an unarmed, hospitalised and mentally ill black man who died after he was “rushed” by a group of seven University of Cincinnati police officers. Kelly Brinson, a 45-year-old mental health patient at Cincinnati’s University hospital, suffered a psychotic episode on 20 January 2010 and was placed inside a seclusion room at the hospital by UC officers. He was then shocked with a Taser three times by an officer and placed in restraints. The father of one – son Kelly Jr – then suffered a respiratory cardiac arrest and died three days later. In court documents obtained by the Guardian and filed by Brinson’s family in a civil suit against UC police and the hospital, all seven officers are accused of using excessive force and “acted with deliberate indifference to the serious medical and security needs of Mr Brinson”.

The officers involved in his brother’s death were “supposed to be fired”, Brinson said. “But what happened was because we had an out-of-court settlement, they had immunity and they couldn’t be prosecuted. “Everybody … associated with this case was supposed to be terminated,” he said. “And they didn’t – they didn’t terminate them.” Brinson’s family settled a federal civil court case with the hospital and the police department for $638,000. All University of Cincinnati campus police officers were also removed from patrolling the psychiatric wards at the hospital after Brinson’s death.

What do you think? Comments?