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10 Travesties of Justice in 2013

10 Travesties of Justice in 2013
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Written by Nicole Flatow

Every year, stories emerge that serve as a reminder that the American system of justice means injustice for too many, with some receiving little or no punishment for egregious offenses, while others receive harsh or faulty punishment for much less. Here are some of the worst injustices of 2013:

1. An Alabama blogger is still sitting in a jail cell for exercising his First Amendment rights

Blogger Roger Shuler drew the ire of the powers that be when he continued to write about the alleged extramarital affair of a prominent lawyer rumored to be running for Congress. The lawyer and son of former Alabama governor Bob Riley, Robert Riley, Jr., won a temporary restraining order that prohibited Shuler from writing anything about Riley’s alleged extramarital affair and other related stories. The order itself was almost certainly a violation of First Amendment law. But Alabama officials took the dispute a step further when they pursued him for a traffic stop and arrested him for contempt. In spite of advocacy from the ACLU and others, Shuler has now been in a jail cell for two months for his journalism.

2. A teen spent three years in jail without a conviction or trial

Kalief Browder was a 16-year-old sophomore in high school walking home from a party in the Bronx when he was arrested on a tip that he robbed someone three weeks earlier. He was hauled off to Rikers Island, a prison known for punishing conditions and overuse of force, and was held because he couldn’t pay the $10,000 bail. Browder went to court on several occasions, but he was never scheduled for trial. After 33 months in jail, Browder said a judge offered freedom in exchange for a guilty plea, threatening that he could face 15 years in jail if convicted. He refused. Then one day, he was released with no explanation. While Browder was behind bars, he missed years of his childhood, and is now aiming to attain his GED. Browder spent a particularly long time behind bars before his trial, but the practice of holding those charged but not convicted who cannot afford bail for months is all-too-common. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the appeal last term of a Louisiana man who waited seven years behind bars without a trial because the state stalled in appointing him a lawyer.

3. A man who killed an escort for refusing sex was acquitted by a jury

On Christmas Eve, Ezekiel Gilbert hired escort Lenora Ivie Frago and gave her $150 as what he believed was a payment for sex. But when she didn’t deliver that, Gilbert shot her in the neck and she died several months later from critical injuries. A jury acquitted Gilbert after his lawyer argued that he was authorized to use deadly force under a Texas provision that goes even farther than Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in authorizing the use of deadly force to “retrieve stolen property at night.” As in any jury trial, we’ll never know if that’s the reasoning the jury accepted when it acquitted Gilbert. Regardless, he will not face any criminal penalty for the shooting.

4. A wealthy teen used the Affluenza defense to skirt jail time for four deaths

After 16-year-old Ethan Couch took an intoxicated ride around town with his friends that ended with four deaths and several others critically injured, Couch pleaded guilty to intoxication homicide. But when his lawyer argued at trial that he was not capable of taking responsible for his own actions because of a condition known as “affluenza” that afflicts the very wealthy, the judge sentenced him to ten years’ probation in a plush Southern California rehabilitation facility, for which his parents would cover the $450,000 per year bill.

The travesty here is not that Couch was sentenced so lightly. He was a juvenile who, there is reason to believe, did not have good parental supervision and may be receptive to rehabilitation. What is alarming is that Couch was able to use his wealth to secure a lighter punishment for a crime that would have seen other Texas juveniles go to jail. Other juveniles sentenced by the same judge who presided over Couch’s case saw sentences of ten years for a single punch that killed a stranger and robberies at a Halloween party that led to one injury. And around the state, others sentenced for intoxicated manslaughter have seen sentences of 15 years and five years in prison.

5. A man whose testimony was beaten out of him spent 30 years in prison before he was released last month

More than a decade ago, a special prosecutor undertook an investigation that revealed a longtime Chicago Police Department detective and commander had routinely tortured black men to coerce them into confessions or false testimony. Some of the convictions were reversed. A few others were pardoned by then-Governor Ryan. And Jon Graham Burge was convicted on related perjury charges and sent to jail.

But Burge’s misconduct is still taking its toll on many of the 148 people who claimed abuse. Just last month, a man who spent more than 30 years in jail was released after Judge Richard Walsh found that officers had lied about beating Stanley Wrice with a flashlight and a 20-inch piece of rubber, and about imposing similar treatment on a witness in Wrice’s case to elicit false testimony against him. Even as the emergence of DNA evidence has exposed the frequency of wrongful convictions, justice comes slowly or not at all for those who have already been convicted, including those who sat on death row.

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3:09PM PST on Jan 4, 2014

#4 and #9 are especially disturbing!

2:05AM PST on Jan 3, 2014


8:21PM PST on Jan 2, 2014

I have come to believe that we do not have a justice system in the US of A. We have a legal system. When someone can be held for years without a trial or have a confession beaten out of them or acquitted for killing four because they are a spoiled child who was never punished or taught right from wrong or killing someone because they did not want to have sex with you how can it be called justice. It is not justice but travesty.

5:26AM PST on Jan 2, 2014

11. Leonard Peltier, Native American activist is still in prison after more than thirty years even though Amnesty International, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama have called for his release. He is an old man and ill. The whole sentencing procedure was suspect. I believe this is a major miscarriage of justice.

1:08AM PST on Jan 2, 2014

Many of these so called examples are bogus. Someone coming onto your property to beat you up is supposed to be a good thing? The violent person got exactly what they deserved.
9. Zimmerman was acquitted. Trayvon did not need to start a fight nor the prejudicial pictures of a much younger Trayvon posted rather then the surveillance tapes of him a much older and bigger person which he was.
7. So we are to hate every athlete. No evidence = no prosecution.

8:02AM PST on Jan 1, 2014


5:48AM PST on Jan 1, 2014

10:25PM PST on Dec 31, 2013

Thought provoking miscarrages of Justice and deserving of a second look UNTIL numbers 9 and 10- Then the author couldn't resist going south and into the dream world of law abiding citizen disarmament! Typical leftist clap trap!
I suggest no. 9 should have been:
Despite the strictest gun control laws in the nation, Chicago gangland killings and murder continue robbing young men and their families of their loved ones- Of course Chicago is Democrat Party controlled- Without law abiding gun owners armed, the lawless control the streets!
Law abiding gun owners blamed instead-Their rights must be curtailed!
That is a travesty of justice!
10. Should have been:
The promotion of killing through public tax funding for abortions against the will and religious beliefs of those that pay those taxes!
A nation that thinks so little of life in the womb can't be expected to value any life at all and in fact cheapens it and deadens ones soul to it!
That is a travesty of justice!

9:15PM PST on Dec 31, 2013

WTF is Wrong with this picture ? So many people being Murdered,Locked Up,and then there are the ones who get away with CRIMES ! Our so called JUSTICE SYSTEM is NOT Just for All ! It's for those who have $$$ and Lawyers with Power ! Everyone else is expendable ! The Normal person who works their butt off,to provide for a family,and live a decent life is treated like a piece of SCUM ,because he/she don't have lots of $$$. So they Suffer ! But a person with lots of $$$ can and will get away with MURDER ! It's a Fact ! The Haves,and Have Not's! SAD but TRUE ! Our Country is nothing but a GREEDY,MONEY GRUBBING Society ! The Rich get Richer ,off the backs of the immigrants and poor people,who do all the Real Work ! Just makes me SICK how people are treated! Your either the Wrong Color,don't have enough $$$ ,or are in the part of the country ! Scary to think about it,but to live it is even worse ! We Need CHANGE ! :(

2:28AM PST on Dec 31, 2013


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