My 87 Year Old Father Fears the Police

My father is for the first time in his life,  afraid of the police!

My father was born in 1928, is 87 years old, a voracious reader, and one of the brightest and wisest people I know. Ok, so I'm a little biased. However, many people including medical doctors, lawyers, engineers, and PhDs have expressed a similar sentiment about my father.

Dad was the youngest of twelve children and is now the sole survivor. Six of his brothers served during World War II, he served during the Korean War and is retired from the U.S. Postal Service.

In 1993, my father suffered an aneurysm. At that time, 95% of people with that type of aneurysm died, fortunately, my father survived. In fact, he may have actively participated in saving his own life. While recovering from surgery, the hospital served my father grapefruit with most of his meals. Dad read a magazine article about how grapefruit can cause a fatal reaction to certain medications. The hospital was providing two of the medicines listed in the article. On his own, my father immediately stopped eating the grapefruit. Evidently, this information was not widely known, even his cardiologist wasn't aware of the grapefruit reaction.

Last night my father revealed that he is now afraid of the police.  We were talking about Yvette Smith, a black 47-year-old mother who was shot twice without warning by a white police officer as she opened the front door of her home. The officer was found not guilty.

My father's aneurysm affected his mobility and he now uses two canes when he walks.

My father expressed that until recently, he was at ease whenever he encountered police officers.  But after hearing about so many incidents of police shootings of unarmed people, he now fears those encounters. He wonders if one day, a fearful police officer will mistake one of his two canes for a rifle. I immediately looked at his canes and realized that in the dark, a police officer could claim my father pointed his cane at him and that he thought it was a rifle.

Stock photo of a cane similar to my father's

Additionally, my father wonders because he moves so slowly if a police officer might think he's trying to sneak up on them.

I never knew my father felt like that. It was discouraging to realize that my 17-year-old son and 87-year-old father both have an anxiety of the police. The sad reality is that unless a video exists, the officer actions would be ruled justified.

I understand that police officers have a stressful and dangerous job. My friend, Lorenzo Rodgers, a St. Louis City Police Officer, was killed.  However, according to the bureau of labor statistics, there are fourteen jobs including roofers, garbage collectors, drivers, farmers and grounds maintenance workers whose jobs are more dangerous. In fact, last year, there were more unarmed people killed than the combined total of all law enforcement officers.

The fact that your job is dangerous should not give you license to kill when no real or reasonable imagined danger exists.

Obama Isn’t Following Through on Pardons Promise, Says His Former Pardons Attorney

Last July, President Obama visited a federal prison to put a spotlight on mass incarceration and excessive drug sentencing laws. We applaud Obama's acknowledgment and efforts.

However, as we have mentioned before, it seems as if it took white kids becoming addicted to drugs, especially heroin, in epidemic proportions before any real policy change began to happen.

The following is republished with permission from ProPublica.

Two years ago, President Obama unveiled an initiative to give early release to potentially thousands of federal prisoners serving long sentences for low-level drug crimes. The initiative has barely made a dent, and a resignation letter from the president’s recently departed Pardon Attorney lays out, at least, one reason why.

“The position in which my office has been placed, asking us to address the petitions of nearly 10,000 individuals with so few attorneys and support staff, means that the requests of thousands of petitioners seeking justice will lie unheard,” wrote Deborah Leff, who resigned in January.Leff also wrote that her office was denied “all access to the Office of White House Counsel,” which reviews prisoners’ applications before the president gets them.

Leff also wrote that her office was denied “all access to the Office of White House Counsel,” which reviews prisoners’ applications before the president gets them.

Since his announcement two years ago, the president has granted early release to just 187 prisoners.

Leff’s resignation letter was obtained by USA Today.

Dysfunction in the Office of the Pardon Attorney is nothing new: ProPublica reported on problems in the office that stretch back to 2001. Take the case of Clarence Aaron, a black man sentenced to three life terms for a cocaine deal, even though he wasn’t the buyer, seller, or supplier.

Aaron’s appeal for clemency was denied by then-President George W. Bush, even though the prosecutor’s office and sentencing judge supported clemency. Why? Here’s ProPublica's  original story:

Records show that Ronald Rodgers, the current pardon attorney, left out critical information in recommending that the White House deny Aaron’s application. In a confidential note to a White House lawyer, Rodgers failed to accurately convey the views of the prosecutor and judge and did not disclose that they had advocated for Aaron’s immediate commutation.

Rodgers was removed in 2014 and replaced by Leff. Obama ultimately ordered Aaron’s release in April 2014.

The pardon office’s problems go far beyond just one case or one attorney. White criminals are four times as likely to get a presidential pardon as minorities, a ProPublica analysis found. They also found that it’s helpful to know somebody important:

A statistical analysis of nearly 500 pardon applicants during the Bush administration suggests that advocacy makes a difference. Applicants with a member of Congress in their corner were three times as likely to win a pardon as those without such backing. Interviews and documents show a lawmaker’s support can speed up a stalled application, counter negative information and ratchet up pressure for an approval.

Reacting to stories published by ProPublica, the Department of Justice announced in August 2012 that it would commission a study testing racial disparities in presidential pardons. Nothing further has been publicly disclosed about that effort and it’s unclear whether the study was ever completed. ProPublica has contacted the department to ask them the status of both that and for further comment on Leff’s resignation. They’ll update as soon as they hear back.

10 ways to identify if your lawyer is right for you

Even though the primary purpose of is to help people represent themselves in court, self-representation isn’t for everyone. If you have the option to hire an attorney, that may be your best option. Most people have no idea how to select a lawyer.

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An ideal lawyer will not just have a string of impressive credentials or gold lettering on his door. He or she will be caring, concerned, and devoted to their work. You need to think carefully before laying your trust in a lawyer after all in some cases your life, future, money or property will be in his hands.

Apart from doing extensive research to shortlist possible lawyers, you must ensure that there is not a conflict of interest, that you understand everything the retainer agreement states, and that you have checked the references and details regarding the practice.

You will know the lawyer you have chosen is the perfect one if:

1. He makes an effort to spend the time to understand your case himself. He will not assign a legal assistant to take facts of the case down.

2. From experience and knowledge, he will know what is relevant and what is not. He will set aside and ignore irrelevant facts, opinions, and personal emotions that cloud the case on hand.

3. She will insist that the footwork for the case be done thoroughly. All facts must be checked for accuracy and solid arguments jotted down with the backing of earlier rulings.

4. He will not just focus on the problem at hand but examine the problem from all sides. This will create a complete picture highlighting all factors of relevance and the different ways one can approach the case.

5. Shee will use her foresight and anticipate moves by the opposition or opinions of the jury or judge and plan way ahead. Like a master chess player, she will plan the case not by the day but by many hearings ahead.

6. He will not waste time beating around the bush or create verbose statements—many words strung together which look impressive but mean nothing. He will insist that the case and its arguments be clearly stated.

7. She will be self-disciplined, thorough, and self-confident. Courteous at all times she will respect you as well as all the staff who work for her.

8. He is recommended by not just his friends and relatives but by other professionals of good standing and from his field.

9. She will not just present to you her victories but be happy to tell you why and how she lost certain cases.

10. She will lay the cards on the table and tell you clearly whether your case stands to win or loose. She will not claim that winning is guaranteed. She will be honest and upfront about her opinions and advice.

The bottom line is that the lawyer must be worthy of your trust. Use your inborn instincts and don’t go by the lawyer’s good looks or a fancy car or office. After all, it is competence in law and in court that is of the essence to you.

Other lawyer related articles:

Prosecutors Rarely Pay Price for Mistakes and Misconduct

by Joaquin Sapien

The Innocence Project released a report Tuesday alleging that prosecutors across the country are almost never punished when they withhold evidence or commit other forms of misconduct that land innocent people in prison.

The Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal group that represents people seeking exonerations, examined records in Arizona, California, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania, and interviewed a wide assortment of defense lawyers, prosecutors, and legal experts.

In each state, researchers examined court rulings from 2004 through 2008 in which judges found that prosecutors had committed violations such as mischaracterizing evidence or suborning perjury. All told, the researchers discovered 660 findings of prosecutorial error or misconduct. In the overwhelming majority of cases, 527, judges upheld the convictions, finding that the prosecutorial lapse did not impact the fairness of the defendant’s original trial. In 133 cases, convictions were thrown out.

Only one prosecutor was disciplined by any oversight authorities, the report asserts.

The report was issued on the anniversary of a controversial Supreme Court ruling for those trying to achieve justice in the wake of wrongful convictions. In a 5–4 decision in the case known as Connick v. Thompson, the court tossed out a $14-million dollar award by a Louisiana jury to John Thompson, a New Orleans man who served 18 years in prison for a murder and robbery he did not commit.

The majority ruled that while the trial prosecutors had withheld critical evidence of Thompson’s likely innocence – blood samples from the crime scene – the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office could not be found civilly liable for what the justices essentially determined was the mistake of a handful of employees. The decision hinged on a critical finding: that the District Attorney’s office, and the legal profession in general, provides sufficient training and oversight for all prosecutors.

The Innocence Project study echoes a 2013 ProPublica examination focused on New York City prosecutors. In 2013, ProPublica used a similar methodology to analyze more than a decade’s worth of state and federal court rulings. We found more than two dozen instances in which judges explicitly concluded that city prosecutors had committed harmful misconduct.

Several of the wrongfully convicted people in these cases successfully sued New York City. In recent years, New York City and state have doled out tens of million dollars in settlements stemming from such lawsuits. Former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes was voted out of office, in part because of wrongful convictions gained through misconduct on the part of his prosecutors or police detectives working with them.

But only one New York City prosecutor, ProPublica’s analysis found, was formally disciplined: Claude Stuart, a former low-level Queens Assistant District Attorney, lost his license. He was involved in three separate conviction reversals.

Just as we found in New York, the Innocence Project’s report found that appellate judges and others almost never report findings of misconduct to state panels and bar associations that are authorized to investigate them.

“In the handful of situations where an investigation is launched,” the report found, “The committees generally failed to properly discipline the prosecutor who committed the misconduct.”

The report concludes with several recommendations on how to improve accountability for prosecutors. It suggests, among other things, that judges ought to mandatorily report all findings of misconduct or error and that state legislatures pass laws requiring prosecutors to turn over all law enforcement material well before trial.

But perhaps most powerful is the report’s introduction, a 2011 letter to then-Attorney General Eric Holder and two national prosecutor associations. It was written in response to the Connick ruling and signed by 19 people whose wrongful convictions were secured in part by prosecutorial misconduct.

“We, the undersigned and our families, have suffered profound harm at the hands of careless, overzealous and unethical prosecutors,” the letter said. “Now that the wrongfully convicted have virtually no meaningful access to the courts to hold prosecutors liable for their misdeeds, we demand to know what you intend to do to put a check on the otherwise unchecked and enormous power that prosecutors wield over the justice system.”

According to the Innocence Project, the Justice Department never responded to the letter.“This story was originally published by ProPublica.

“This story was originally published by ProPublica and is reprinted with permission.