Friday, November 16, 2007

Justice Gone Awry, vol. 1:

Report: Court sentences rape victim Fri Nov 16, 12:27 AM ET

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - A Saudi court sentenced a woman who had been gang raped to six months in jail and 200 lashes — more than doubling her initial penalty for being in the car of a man who was not a relative, a newspaper reported Thursday.

The decision by the Qatif General Court came in a case that had sparked rare debate about the kingdom's justice system when it surfaced more than a year ago.

In its decision Wednesday, the court also roughly doubled prison sentences for the seven men convicted of raping the 19-year-old woman, the Arab News reported on its English-language Web site.

According to Arab News, the court said the woman's punishment was increased because of "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media."
She had initially been sentenced to 90 lashes after being convicting her of violating Saudi's rigid laws on segregation of the sexes.

Under Saudi Arabia's interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, women are not allowed in public in the company of men other than their male relatives.

The initial sentences for the men convicted of the gang rape ranged from 10 months to five years in prison. Their new sentences range from two to nine years, the paper said.

The attack took place in 2006. The woman has said that it occurred as she tried to retrieve her picture from a male high school student she used to know. While in the car with the student, two men got into the vehicle and drove them to a secluded area. She said she was raped there by seven men, three of whom also attacked her friend.

Reports of the story triggered debate about Saudi Arabia's legal system, in which judges have wide discretion in punishing a criminal, rules of evidence are shaky and sometimes no defense lawyers are present. The result, critics say, are sentences left to the whim of judges.

The judges, appointed by the king, have a wide discretion in handing down sentences, often said to depend on their whim. A rapist, for instance, could receive anywhere from a light or no sentence, to death.

The woman was identified in the media only as the Girl from Qatif. The case was referred back to the General Court by an appeals court last summer, after the woman's attorney argued the verdict was too lenient for the rapists and unjust for the victim.

The court also banned the lawyer from defending her, confiscated his license to practice law and summoned him to a disciplinary hearing later this month.

"I explained to them that it was my job to do everything legal in order to serve my client. But they did not listen," the lawyer, Abdul Rahman al-Lahem, was quoted by the paper as saying.

and lest we here in the US think we've cornered the market on judicial wisdom, check out Justice Gone Awry, Vol. 2:

Rare robbery case brings cries of racism By JULIANA BARBASSA, Associated Press Writer
Fri Nov 16, 1:53 AM ET

LAKEPORT, Calif. - Three young black men break into a white man's home in rural Northern California. The homeowner shoots two of them to death — but it's the surviving black man who is charged with murder.

In a case that has brought cries of racism from civil rights groups, Renato Hughes Jr., 22, was charged by prosecutors in this overwhelmingly white county under a rarely invoked legal doctrine that could make him responsible for the bloodshed.

"It was pandemonium" inside the house that night, District Attorney Jon Hopkins said. Hughes was responsible for "setting the whole thing in motion by his actions and the actions of his accomplices."

Prosecutors said homeowner Shannon Edmonds opened fire Dec. 7 after three young men rampaged through the Clearlake house demanding marijuana and brutally beat his stepson. Rashad Williams, 21, and Christian Foster, 22, were shot in the back. Hughes fled.

Hughes was charged with first-degree murder under California's Provocative Act doctrine, versions of which have been on the books in many states for generations but are rarely used.

The Provocative Act doctrine does not require prosecutors to prove the accused intended to kill. Instead, "they have to show that it was reasonably foreseeable that the criminal enterprise could trigger a fatal response from the homeowner," said Brian Getz, a San Francisco defense attorney unconnected to the case.

The NAACP complained that prosecutors came down too hard on Hughes, who also faces robbery, burglary and assault charges. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.

The Rev. Amos Brown, head of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP and pastor at Hughes' church, said the case demonstrates the legal system is racist in remote Lake County, aspiring wine country 100 miles north of San Francisco. The sparsely populated county of 13,000 people is 91 percent white and 2 percent black.

Brown and other NAACP officials are asking why the homeowner is walking free. Tests showed Edmonds had marijuana and prescription medication in his system the night of the shooting. Edmonds had a prescription for both the pot and the medication to treat depression.

"This man had no business killing these boys," Brown said. "They were shot in the back. They had fled."

On Thursday, a judge granted a defense motion for a change of venue. The defense had argued that he would not be able to get a fair trial because of extensive local media coverage and the unlikelihood that Hughes could get a jury of his peers in the county. A new location for the trial will be selected Dec. 14.

The district attorney said that race played no part in the charges against Hughes and that the homeowner was spared prosecution because of evidence he was defending himself and his family, who were asleep when the assailants barged in at 4 a.m.

Edmonds' stepson, Dale Lafferty, suffered brain damage from the baseball bat beating he took during the melee. The 19-year-old lives in a rehabilitation center and can no longer feed himself.

"I didn't do anything wrong. All I did was defend my family and my children's lives," said Edmonds, 33. "I'm sad the kids are dead, I didn't mean to kill them."

He added: "Race has nothing to do with it other than this was a gang of black people who thought they were going to beat up this white family."

California's Provocative Act doctrine has primarily been used to charge people whose actions led to shooting deaths.

However, in one notable case in Southern California in 1999, a man who robbed a family at gunpoint in their home was convicted of murder because a police officer pursuing him in a car chase slammed into another driver in an intersection, killing her.

Hughes' mother, San Francisco schoolteacher Judy Hughes, said she believes the group didn't intend to rob the family, just buy marijuana. She called the case against her son a "legal lynching."

"Only God knows what happened in that house," she said. "But this I know: My son did not murder his childhood friends."

These moments of sagacity brought to you by Yahoo News.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

anyone else see this?

Government seeks to redefine privacy

By PAMELA HESS, Associated Press Writer 2 hours, 5 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - A top intelligence official says it is time people in the United States changed their definition of privacy.

Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, a deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguards people's private communications and financial information.

Kerr's comments come as Congress is taking a second look at the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act.

Lawmakers hastily changed the 1978 law last summer to allow the government to eavesdrop inside the United States without court permission, so long as one end of the conversation was reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S.

The original law required a court order for any surveillance conducted on U.S. soil, to protect Americans' privacy. The White House argued that the law was obstructing intelligence gathering.

The most contentious issue in the new legislation is whether to shield telecommunications companies from civil lawsuits for allegedly giving the government access to people's private e-mails and phone calls without a court order between 2001 and 2007.

Some lawmakers, including members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, appear reluctant to grant immunity. Suits might be the only way to determine how far the government has burrowed into people's privacy without court permission.

The committee is expected to decide this week whether its version of the bill will protect telecommunications companies.

The central witness in a California lawsuit against AT&T says the government is vacuuming up billions of e-mails and phone calls as they pass through an AT&T switching station in San Francisco.

Mark Klein, a retired AT&T technician, helped connect a device in 2003 that he says diverted and copied onto a government supercomputer every call, e-mail, and Internet site access on AT&T lines.

does this make anyone else's blood run cold, or just me?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

in case you weren't paying attention:

Crazy Judge Gets It Wrong

From Ren:

See, if I take my car to get repaired and I drive off without paying the mechanic, THAT is theft of services. If I pull a gun on the mechanic, beat him, force him to repair my friend’s cars, then it becomes robbery with a deadly weapon, assault and battery, and assault with a deadly weapon. Oh yeah, and if I force him to have sex with me, its RAPE…even if he was hittin’ on me earlier.

or, if you like, more here:

Supporting sex worker rights is essential to fighting rape. As long as there is a class of women considered “bad” and somehow deserving of rape, all women, sex workers and non sex workers suffer. NO ONE chooses to be raped. The need for society to respect a woman’s right to choose, to consent, or not to as it comes to sex, regardless of how she dresses, what time she is outside, where she is walking, who she is with, and what she does for work, is a social necessity that we all must stand together for. Ending social views that deem some women as bad and deserving of rape is essential.

don't know what else to say - seems pretty obvious to me, really. but I suppose to some folks, speaking up for the victim in this case, and against the judge, is too close to speaking up for prostitutes in general.


Friday, November 02, 2007

anyone paying attention to the weather in Mexico,
besides Mexicans?

if you're the sort who opens hir wallet to the suffering multitudes, this seems like a good time to do that. like, 900,000 times.

further south - anyone paying attention to Venezuela, besides Venezuelans?

I don't know how to feel about Chavez, and his whole "Fatherland, socialism or death" thing, and the changes made to the Venezuelan constitution that will allow him to be President-for-Life (am I reading that properly? do I have that right?) but I'm not Venezuelan. I'm a big fat spoiled american, and maybe there are delicate nuanced subtleties that make Chavez just the thing to cure what ails Venezuela.

any musings on the subject are absolutely welcome. comments wide open. if anyone has some good recommended reading so I can do my homework and not be an uninformed big fat spoiled american, that would be great.

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