Oklahoma Judge sentences youth in drunk driving to 10 years church attendance #wtfnews


 

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Published: November 21, 2012

Initially there was little outcry in Muskogee, Oklahoma., last week when a judge, as a condition of a youth’s probation for a driving-related manslaughter conviction, sentenced him to attend church regularly for 10 years.

James Gibbard for The New York Times

Judge Mike Norman, in his Muskogee courtroom, seemed surprised by the scrutiny. “I sentenced him to go to church for 10 years because I thought I could do that,” he said.

The judge, Mike Norman, 67, had sentenced people to church before, though never for such a serious crime.

But as word of the ruling spread in state and national legal circles, constitutional experts condemned it as a flagrant violation of the separation of church and state.

This week, the American Civil Liberties Union said it would file a complaint against Judge Norman with the Oklahoma Council on Judicial Complaints, an agency that investigates judicial misconduct, seeking an official reprimand or other sanctions.

“We see a judge who has shown disregard for the First Amendment of the Constitution in his rulings,” said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the civil liberties union branch in Oklahoma.

The 17-year-old defendant, Tyler Alred, was prosecuted as a youthful offender, giving the judge more discretion than in an adult case. Mr. Alred pleaded guilty to manslaughter for an accident last year, when he ran his car into a tree and a 16-year-old passenger was killed.

Although his alcohol level tested below the legal limit, because he was under age he was legally considered to be under the influence of alcohol. Mr. Alred told the court that he was happy to agree to church attendance and other mandates — including that he finish high school and train as a welder, and shun alcohol, drugs and tobacco for a year. By doing so, he is avoiding a 10-year prison sentence and has a chance to make a fresh start.

But his acquiescence does not change the law, Mr. Kiesel and others pointed out. “Alternative sentencing is something that should be encouraged, but there are many options that don’t violate the Constitution,” Mr. Kiesel said. “A choice of going to prison or to church — that is precisely the type of coercion that the First Amendment seeks to prevent.”

Mr. Alred and his family already attend a church, although Judge Norman said in an interview that he had not known that when he ruled.

The judge said he was surprised at the criticism. “I feel like church is important,” he said. “I sentenced him to go to church for 10 years because I thought I could do that.”

He added, “I am satisfied that both the families in this case think we’ve made the right decision,” and noted that the dead boy’s father had tearfully hugged Mr. Alred in the courtroom. If Mr. Alred stops attending church or violates any other terms of his probation, Judge Norman said, he will send him to prison.

As for the constitutionality of his ruling, Judge Norman said, “I think it would hold up, but I don’t know one way or another.”

Judge Norman did not specify which religious denomination Mr. Alred must follow. But he also said: “I think Jesus can help anybody. I know I need help from him every day.”

Randall T. Coyne, a professor of criminal law at the University of Oklahoma, agreed that the judge’s church requirement was unconstitutional. But unless the defendant fights the ruling, he said, civil liberties advocates have no way to challenge it in court, leaving the complaint to the judicial review agency as their only option.

Over the years, several judges around the country have mandated church attendance as part of sentences, sometimes stirring criticism. In the early 1990s in Louisiana, Judge Thomas P. Quirk ordered hundreds of defendants in traffic and misdemeanor cases to attend church once a week for a year. The judge said that he had imposed the condition only on people who agreed to it, and that it provided a good alternative to sending defendants to overcrowded jails or imposing fines they could not afford.

The Judiciary Commission of Louisiana found that Judge Quirk had engaged in knowing violations of the Constitution and recommended that he be suspended without pay for 12 months. But the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that while the judge might have erred, he did not engage in “judicial misconduct,” and it rescinded the sanctions.

In 2011, the city of Bay Minette, Ala., required first-time misdemeanor offenders to choose between doing jail time and attending church weekly for a year. The city dropped the program after the American Civil Liberties Union called it unconstitutional.

Appeal Bahraini health workers: nine back to prison, nine cleared of all charges .


Bahrain (Political) 2003

Bahrain (Political) 2003 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Friday, 22 June 2012 07:17

 

Last week, nine medical professionals in Bahrain were sentenced to up to five years in prison for ‘crimes against the state’. Nine were cleared of any charges by the Bahrain High Criminal Court of Appeal.

A further two healthcare workers did not appeal against their sentences; they are thought to have left Bahrain or gone into hiding. The twenty Shia doctors and nurses were arrested and convicted after civil unrest broke out in Bahrain in February 2011. Earlier, a military judge awarded them much harsher sentences, which led to a huge international outcry condemning the poliically motivated charges. The new sentences range from one month to five years for offences including ‘attempting to occupy a public hospital using force’. The original sentences were from five to fifteen years.

Medical neutrality

The British Medical Association (BMA), as well as numerous human rights organisations have expressed  their profound disappointment with the outcome of the appeal procedure. The BMA has repeatedly lobbied the Bahraini authorities over the case amid concerns that medical neutrality was being jeopardised. The BMA director of professional activities, Vivienne Nathanson, said: ‘We have seen no evidence presented against these doctors and it therefore appears to be wholly contrary to natural justice for them to be found guilty.’

Torture and ill-treatment

Dr Nathanson’s letter to Bahrain’s king states that Bahrain ‘risks appearing to persecute healthcare workers, under the guise of criminal charges, solely because they have fulfilled their fundamental ethical duty to treat patients injured in anti-government protests according to medical need.’ The BMA also calls for an independent investigation into claims by the healthcare workers that they were tortured and ill-treated during their time in custody.

 

Source: BMA website news, 14 June 2012

When High Court Judges usurp land meant for the homeless, where do the homeless seek justice?


Faiza Khan, Khar East Andolan

Posted on May 6, 2012

When you ask about the court cases in Golibar now, the residents will wrly reply with the famous Hindi film dailogue. “Tareek pe tareek! Tareek pe tareek! “. The hearing on this Monday, the 7th of May, will be 20 months since the Golibar criminal case has been in the Mumbai High Court. In 2009, builder Shivalik Ventures had faked signatures of residents of Ganesh Krupa Society (GKS) in Golibar to claim the 70% consent it needed to redevelop the Golibar slum. On that list of signatories was Sulochana Pawar who had died four years before she allegedly gave her consent. Going by the rules of the SRA, this should have, at the very least, led to the ouster of Shivalik Ventures from this redevelopment project.

Instead, the then Slum Rehabilitation Authority(SRA) chief, Mr. S. Zende (remember this name, it’ll come up again later!) asks the residents of GKS to settle for a compromise. The police had been even more nonchalant and refused to investigate the case until the Court directed them to do so. Once on it, they were so baffled by this seemingly obvious case of fraud that for 20 months, they’ve been seeking extension after extension to complete their investigation. The Court has been very obliging. Meanwhile MHADA’s demolition squads, with police protection continue to break people’s homes.

So the government is clearly not on their side, specially after it backtracked on the GRs last year. The police never was. Their only hope of any justice was in the Courts. Until the Nyay Sagar scam came to light.

Akankhsha tai and other women from Ganesh Krupa are huddled around a copy of Janta ka Aaina, a community newspaper. They burst into cackling laughter. “Yeh toh apna Chandrachud hai!“(This is our Chandrachud!). Apna Chandrachud is Justice Chandrachud of the Mumbai High Court who has been hearing the matter of the Golibar GR case in the High Court. Now he’s on the frontpage, accused in a major land scam, along with Justice Khanvilkar who is hearing the Golibar criminal case (of the forged signatures). There are 13 other Judges and ex-Judges accused.
Nyay Sagar and Siddhant are two multi-storeyed buildings built on a plot of government land that was reserved for the homeless. The judges of the High Court led by then Justice Rebello (now Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court) formed Nyay Sagar Co-operative Housing Society in 2001 and in collusion with Vilasrao Deshmukh  de-reserved all but 10% of this land and appropriated it for themselves. This change in the Development Plan of this plot, Survey No 341 (Part) CTS No 629 from being reserved for the homless to Residential was facilitated by some very senior bureaucrats, including Mr. Zende (the SRA chief who asked residents of GKS to settle for a compromise). What is shocking though is that the land was handed over to Nyay Sagar CHS much before it was de-reserved.

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Even the de-reserving was a sham. Once it is decided that the reservation of a piece of land is to be changed, there is a notification which is open to the public for 30 days in case they have objections. This notification was made public on 16.6.2004 but just six days later, on 22.6.2004 ,the status of the land was modified. The Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan has filed a complaint with the Anti Corruption Bureau asking them to file an FIR.

Akanksha tai laughs when she reads the buildings are called Nyay Sagar (meaning Ocean of Justice) and Siddhanth (Principles). But then she asks soberly, “Now where are we to seek justice?”

THE WALL OF SHAME

THE ACCUSED IN THE CASE
1. Shri Vilas Rao Deshmukh, the then Chief Minister,
2. Shri Sangeetrao, the then Collector Mumbai Suburb,
3. Shri SS Zende, the then later Collector Mumbai Suburb,
4. Shri RC Joshi, Principal Secretary, Department of Revenue,
5. Shri Ramanand Tiwari, the then P. Secretary UDD,
6. Other Unknown Govt. Official/s.
7. Justice V C Daga,
8. Justice A M Khanwilkar,
9. Justice B R Gavai,
10. Justice S M Ghodeshwar,
11. Justice S Radhakrishnan,
12. Justice S A Bobde,
13. Justice P V Kakade,
14. Justice R Lodha,
15. Justice G D Patil,
16. Justice F I Rebello,
17. Justice D K Deshmukh,
18. Justice D B Bhosale,
19. Justice D G Karnik,
20. Justice J P Devdhar,
21. Justice DY Chandrachud


A letter from Justice Rebello to ex-CM Vilasrao Deshmukh misusing his official letterhead for a non-official matter
More documents will be made public soon.

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