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Monday, August 4, 2014

Debate on Child Pornography’s Link to Molesting By JULIAN SHER and BENEDICT CAREY


Debate on Child Pornography’s Link to Molesting By JULIAN SHER and BENEDICT CAREY

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/19/us/19sex.html#whats-next




The 13 most controversial Victim Industry Advocates

The 13 most controversial Victim Industry Advocates
The 13 most controversial Victim Industry Advocates


Image hash database could filter child porn

Government could block all child porn if they choose to but they do not in favor of creating Gothic Melodramas, monster stories of child molesting playing them out on TV news and in newsprint every day. The people are provided these Gothic melodramas with not just titillation but assurances by them they are our righteousness protectors. They demonize child porn to connect you to their pedophile drama while pretending to shut it down. Here is some proof of this ability in the article below.
Image hash database could filter child porn

by Nate Anderson - July 24 2007, 1:11pm EDT

Imagine a database of image hashes that could be accessed by ISPs and search engines, then used to make sure that specific images never appear in search results and are never transferred to customers. It's not a fantasy: the head of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children told Congress today that his organization is currently working with companies like Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo to create such a database for images of child pornography. According to Ernie Allen, CEO of the NCMEC, child pornography can float around the Internet for years, the same images popping up again and again in the course of investigations. A centralized database of specific images could make this material far more difficult to access.


The discussion about child pornography was only one part of a larger Senate Commerce Committee hearing this morning on "Protecting Children on the Internet." In what should be reassuring news to every parent in America, Dr. David Finkelhor of the Crimes Against Children Research Center told the senators that reported sex crimes against children have actually declined over the last 10 years, even as Internet usage has skyrocketed. It would be a mistake, he said, to think that the Internet has made kids wildly vulnerable to sex crimes.

But the Internet has made certain forms of predatory behavior easier, and that poses a challenge both to law enforcement and to domain registrars and web hosts. Go Daddy, which is the largest domain name registrar in the world and also runs a sizable hosting business, faces such issues every day. Christine Jones, the company's general counsel, told the committee that Go Daddy had only a single employee working on such issues when she joined the company six years ago. Today, Go Daddy runs two full departments with dozens of employees who respond to concerns about child pornography, online harassment, inappropriate content, and sexual predators. "Not one single day happens when we don't have something nefarious happen," said Jones.

To illustrate her point, she recounted a call that the company received from MySpace several months ago. MySpace officials were concerned about a web site that was displaying 60,000 MySpace usernames and passwords, and they wanted it taken down. Go Daddy was willing to do so and did take the site off line until the owner removed the material. That decision prompted a "tremendous backlash," said Jones, who noted that several web sites remain devoted to criticizing the move.

All the panelists agreed that "education" would be an essential part of any solution, but several also stressed the need for more tools for law enforcement. Lan Neugent, the assistant superintendent for Technology and Human Resources at the Virginia Department of Education, praised the work of specialized groups like the Operation Blue Ridge Thunder task force (though Nuegent didn't explain that NBA athletes sometimes tag along on botched raids). Ernie Allen argued that one of the most important things law enforcement officials needed was better data retention, but he was careful to say that only basic connectivity information needs to be retained, not content. Preferably, such information would be kept for least a year, though "longer is better" seems to be the motto.

More money might also be needed to help clean up Internet-based crimes, but Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also pointed out that rural police lack the specialized knowledge needed to conduct proper forensic investigations. In her years as a Minnesota prosecutor, she said that local police had come across several computers containing special triggers that wiped the offending information from the hard drive if the computer was improperly accessed, and local police were at a disadvantage when dealing with high-tech issues.



Federal workers admit watching porn at work out of boredom


Federal workers admit watching porn at work out of boredom
Some federal workers have been caught surfing office computers for X-rated websites and then told investigators they did so because they were bored and did not have enough work to do.


The Washington Times says it learned of several porn-craving government employees after requesting investigative records under the Freedom of Information Act.

According to the records, one Federal Communications Commission worker was spending up to eight hours each week viewing online porn in the office. He admitted to investigators that he perused the smut “out of boredom.”

An FCC spokesman declined to tell the Times what action the agency took after the FCC inspector general conducted an investigation. The spokesman said only that the agency disciplines employees based on Office of Personnel Management guidelines.
“This is apparently something that’s a pervasive problem throughout several federal agencies.”

- Pete Seep, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union

The records also show that a Treasury Department worker viewed more than 13,000 pornographic images at work during a six-week span.

“He stated he is aware it is against government rules and regulations, but he often does not have enough work do and has free time,” investigators said, referring to the Treasury worker.

The Times said investigative memos turned up similar cases at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Commerce Department and the General Services Administration. The memos show the cases rarely lead to criminal prosecutions for time and attendance fraud.

At the GSA, investigators nabbed an employee who surfed the web two hours a day looking at pornography and dating sites. The agency's inspector general reported that the employee “sometimes became bored during these long hours at the computer and would often use the computer for personal uses to pass the time.”

“This is apparently something that’s a pervasive problem throughout several federal agencies,” Pete Seep, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union, told MyFox DC, adding that it could “mean millions of dollars of wasted money.”

Underage sexting isn’t ruining lives, draconian laws are (and we need to change them)

Underage sexting isn’t ruining lives, draconian laws are (and we need to change them)
Underage sexting isn’t ruining lives, draconian laws are (and we need to change them)


The Absurd Bureaucratic Hell That Is the American Police State



The Absurd, Bureaucratic Hell That Is the American Police State
By John W. Whitehead

July 28, 2014


“The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.”—C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters


Whether it’s the working mother arrested for letting her 9-year-old play unsupervised at a playground, the teenager forced to have his genitals photographed by police, the underage burglar sentenced to 23 years for shooting a retired police dog, or the 43-year-old man who died of a heart attack after being put in a chokehold by NYPD officers allegedly over the sale of untaxed cigarettes, the theater of the absurd that passes for life in the American police state grows more tragic and incomprehensible by the day.

Debra Harrell, a 46-year-old South Carolina working mother, was arrested, charged with abandonment and had her child placed in state custody after allowing the 9-year-old to spend unsupervised time at a neighborhood playground while the mom worked a shift at McDonald’s. Mind you, the child asked to play outside, was given a cell phone in case she needed to reach someone, and the park—a stone’s throw from the mom’s place of work—was overrun with kids enjoying its swings, splash pad, and shade.

A Connecticut mother was charged with leaving her 11-year-old daughter in the car unsupervised while she ran inside a store—despite the fact that the child asked to stay in the car and was not overheated or in distress. A few states away, a New Jersey man was arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of his children after leaving them in a car parked in a police station parking lot, windows rolled down, while he ran inside to pay a ticket.

A Virginia teenager was charged with violating the state’s sexting law after exchanging sexually provocative videos with his girlfriend. Instead of insisting that the matter be dealt with as a matter of parental concern, police charged the boy with manufacturing and distributing child pornography and issued a search warrant to “medically induce an erection” in the 17-year-old boy in order to photograph his erect penis and compare it to the images sent in the sexting exchange. The police had already taken an initial photograph of the boy’s penis against his will, upon his arrest.

In Georgia, a toddler had his face severely burned when a flash bang grenade, launched by a SWAT team during the course of a no-knock warrant, landed in his portable crib, detonating on his pillow. Also in Georgia, a police officer shot and killed a 17-year-old boy who answered the door, reportedly with a Nintendo Wii controller in his hands. The cop claimed the teenager pointed a gun at her, thereby justifying the use of deadly force. Then there was the incident wherein a police officer, responding to a complaint that some children were “chopping off tree limbs” creating “tripping hazards,”pulled a gun on a group of 11-year-old boys who were playing in a wooded area, attempting to build a tree fort.

While the growing phenomenon of cops shooting family pets only adds to the insanity (it is estimated that a family pet is killed by law enforcement every 98 minutes in America), it’s worse for those who dare to shoot a police dog. Ivins Rosier was 16 when he broke into the home of a Florida highway patrol officer and shot (although he didn’t kill) the man’s retired police dog. For his crime, the teenager was sentenced to 23 years in prison, all the while police officers who shoot family pets are rarely reprimanded.

Meanwhile if you’re one of those hoping to live off the grid, independent of city resources, you might want to think again. Florida resident Robin Speronis was threatened with eviction for living without utilities. Speronis was accused of violating the International Property Maintenance Code by relying on rain water instead of the city water system and solar panels instead of the electric grid.

Now we can shrug these incidents off as isolated injustices happening to “other” people. We can rationalize them away by suggesting that these people “must” have done something to warrant such treatment. Or we can acknowledge that this slide into totalitarianism—helped along by overcriminalization, government surveillance, militarized police, neighbors turning in neighbors, privatized prisons, and forced labor camps, to name just a few similarities—is tracking very closely with what we saw happening in Germany in the years leading up to Hitler’s rise to power.

When all is said and done, what these incidents reflect is a society that has become so bureaucratic, so legalistic, so politically correct, so militaristic, so locked down, so self righteous, and so willing to march in lockstep with the corporate-minded police state that any deviations from the norm—especially those that offend the sensibilities of the “government-knows-best” nanny state or challenge the powers that be—become grist for prosecution, persecution and endless tribulations for the poor souls who are caught in the crosshairs.

Then there are the incidents, less colorful perhaps but no less offensive to the sensibilities of any freedom-loving individual, which should arouse outrage among the populace but often slip under the radar of a sleeping nation.

For instance, not only is the NSA spying on and collecting the content of your communications, but it’s also going to extreme lengths to label as “extremists” anyone who attempts to protect their emails from the government’s prying eyes. Adding insult to injury, those same government employees and contractors spying on Americans’ private electronic communications are also ogling their private photos. Recent revelations indicate that NSA employees routinely pass around intercepted nude photos, considered a “fringe benefit” of surveillance positions.

A trove of leaked documents reveals the government’s unmitigated gall in labeling Americans as terrorists for little more than being suspected of committing “any act that is ‘dangerous’ to property and intended to influence government policy through intimidation.” As The Intercept reports: “This combination—a broad definition of what constitutes terrorism and a low threshold for designating someone a terrorist—opens the way to ensnaring innocent people in secret government dragnets.” All the while, the TSA, despite the billions of dollars we spend on the agency annually and the liberties to which its agents subject travelers, has yet to catch a single terrorist.

No less disconcerting are the rash of incidents in which undercover government agents encourage individuals to commit crimes they might not have engaged in otherwise. This “make work” entrapment scheme runs the gamut from terrorism to drugs. In fact, a recent report released by Human Rights Watch reveals that “nearly all of the highest-profile domestic terrorism plots in the United States since 9/11 featured the ‘direct involvement’ of government agents or informants.”

Most outrageous of all are the asset forfeiture laws that empower law enforcement to rake in huge sums of money by confiscating cash, cars, and even homes based on little more than a suspicion of wrongdoing. In this way, Americans who haven’t been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of wrongdoing, are literally being subjected to highway robbery by government agents offering profit-driven, cash-for-freedom deals.

So who or what is to blame for this bureaucratic nightmare delivered by way of the police state? Is it the White House? Is it Congress? Is it the Department of Homeland Security, with its mobster mindset? Is it some shadowy, power-hungry entity operating off a nefarious plan?

Or is it, as Holocaust survivor Hannah Arendt suggests, the sheepish masses who mindlessly march in lockstep with the government’s dictates—expressing no outrage, demanding no reform, and issuing no challenge to the status quo—who are to blame for the prison walls being erected around us? The author of The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt warned that “the greatest evil perpetrated is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons.”

This is where democracy falls to ruin, and bureaucracy and tyranny prevail.

As I make clear in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, we have only ourselves to blame for this bureaucratic hell that has grown up around us. Too many of us willingly, knowingly and deliberately comprise what Arendt refers to as “cogs in the mass-murder machine.”

These cogs are none other than those of us who have turned a blind eye to the government corruption, or shrugged dismissively at the ongoing injustices, or tuned out the mayhem in favor of entertainment distractions. Just as guilty are those who have traded in their freedoms for a phantom promise of security, not to mention those who feed the machine unquestioningly with their tax dollars and partisan politics.

And then there are those who work for the government, federal, state, local or contractor. These government employees—the soldiers, the cops, the technicians, the social workers, etc.—are neither evil nor sadistic. They’re simply minions being paid to do a job, whether that job is to arrest you, spy on you, investigate you, crash through your door, etc. However, we would do well to remember that those who worked at the concentration camps and ferried the victims to the gas chambers were also just “doing their jobs.”

Then again, if we must blame anyone, blame the faceless, nameless, bureaucratic government machine—which having been erected and set into motion is nearly impossible to shut down—for the relentless erosion of our freedoms through a million laws, statutes, and prohibitions.

If there is any glimmer of hope to be found, it will be at the local level, but we cannot wait for things to get completely out of control. If you wait to act until the SWAT team is crashing through your door, until your name is placed on a terror watch list, until you are reported for such outlawed activities as collecting rainwater or letting your children play outside unsupervised, then it will be too late.

Obedience is the precondition to totalitarianism, and the precondition to obedience is fear. Regimes of the past and present understand this. “The very first essential for success,” Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, “is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence.” Is this not what we are seeing now with the SWAT teams and the security checkpoints and the endless wars?

This much I know: we are not faceless numbers. We are not cogs in the machine. We are not slaves. We are people, and free people at that. As the Founders understood, our freedoms do not flow from the government. They were not given to us, to be taken away at the will of the State; they are inherently ours. In the same way, the government’s appointed purpose is not to threaten or undermine our freedoms, but to safeguard them.

Until we can get back to this way of thinking, until we can remind Americans what it really means to be a free American, and learn to stand our ground in the face of threats to those freedoms, and encourage our fellow citizens to stop being cogs in the machine, we will continue as slaves in thrall to the bureaucratic police state.


About The Rutherford Institute

"The Rutherford Institute is one of the nation's premier civil liberties organizations."—Nat Hentoff, nationally syndicated columnist

The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization based in Charlottesville, Va., is deeply committed to protecting the constitutional freedoms of every American and the integral human rights of all people through its extensive legal and educational programs. The Institute provides its legal services at no charge to those whose constitutional and human rights have been threatened or violated.

Founded in 1982 by constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead, The Rutherford Institute is a civil liberties organization that provides free legal services to people whose constitutional and human rights have been threatened or violated.

The Rutherford Institute has emerged as one of the nation's leading advocates of civil liberties and human rights, litigating in the courts and educating the public on a wide spectrum of issues affecting individual freedom in the United States and around the world.

The Institute’s mission is twofold: to provide legal services in the defense of religious and civil liberties and to educate the public on important issues affecting their constitutional freedoms.

Whether our attorneys are protecting the rights of parents whose children are strip-searched at school, standing up for a teacher fired for speaking about religion or defending the rights of individuals against illegal search and seizure, The Rutherford Institute offers assistance—and hope—to thousands.

The Rutherford Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization, gifts to which are deductible as charitable contributions for Federal income tax purposes.




Category Archives: fifth amendment


Category Archives: fifth amendment

For a short session of the legislature, there sure have been a large number of criminal justice bills already raised and considered by some committees. Today is no different, with a large number of “groundbreaking” bills being considered by the Judiciary committee. The public defender’s office and the CT Criminal Defense Lawyers Association have submitted written testimony on some or all of these bills1. What follows is what my testimony would be if they’d let me into the Capitol after that one time with the monkey and the backscratcher.


The Investigative Subpoena One Person Grand Jury Reform Bill

S.B. No. 488 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING GRAND JURY REFORM. (JUD)

A perennial favorite of prosecutors, this bill has made its way back to the legislature. Year after year they bring up this bill, seeking to give themselves the power to just subpoena whoever and whatever to their office to conduct their investigations. Year after year this bill is defeated. But you gotta hand it to them, they keep trying.

And this iteration is slightly different. Instead of seeking to give themselves the power, they vest it in a “one person grand jury” – the presiding judge of the judicial district courthouse.

The rest of the shit is the same. As I wrote extensively last year, their standard for issuing subpeonas is the lowest, most nebulous, undefined piece of nonsense I’ve ever seen: the interests of justice.

What does that mean? Nothing. It’s not a real thing. It’s a free pass. The bill explicitly removes a requirement of probable cause and replaces it with this interest of justice nonsense.

What’s worse is that there’s no limitation on when the investigative grand jury can be used. Under the law as it existed, the State’s Attorney had to make a showing that they’d made an effort using normal investigative tools. They have to show that their regular methods weren’t working and they needed this invasive tool to make one last ditch effort at cracking a case. If they hadn’t tried their normal methods, they had to include a statement saying why. In other words, accountability.

This proposal does away with that and replaces it with the sort of investigative subpoenas that are coercive and dangerous.

But go ahead, keep trusting the State to do its business in secret. That’s never backfired on us.





The “revenge porn” bill

S.B. No. 489 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING UNLAWFUL DISSEMINATION OF AN INTIMATE IMAGE OF ANOTHER PERSON. (JUD)

This is the bill that seeks to specifically criminalize the act of taking a nude photograph of a person who you were once intimate with and distributing that photograph on the internet without their permission.

Let’s be clear: it’s a totally douchey thing to do. It’s violative of someone’s trust and makes you out to be a complete asshole.

But is it a crime? Should it be a crime? Can it be a crime? These are the important questions.

As I understand it (and you really should read this post by Mark Bennett for a complete deconstruction of its unconstitutionality), a picture is speech. So when a picture is made public and the government seeks to put restrictions on it, it becomes a question of the Freedom of Speech which implicates the First Amendment.

As Mark explains, the bills don’t seek to criminalize all pictures posted, only pictures posted that meet certain criteria: nudity, non-consensual.

That’s a content-based restriction: you’re restricting speech based on the content of it. For example, in 2010 in U.S. v. Stevens, the Supreme Court refused to find that “crush videos”2 were illegal.

But let us assume, for the purposes of this post, that “revenge porn” should and can be criminalized.3What would a bill look like? CT’s proposal is:


(a) A person is guilty of unlawful dissemination of an intimate image when, with the intent to harass, annoy, alarm or terrorize another person, such person electronically disseminates, without the consent of such other person, a photograph, film, videotape or other recorded image of (1) the genitals, pubic area or buttocks of such other person, or the breast of such other person who is female with less than a fully opaque covering of any portion of such breast below the top of the nipple, or (2) such other person engaged in sexual intercourse, as defined in section 53a-193 of the general statutes.

I’m just going to list the problems with this in bullet format, because it’ll be easier:
The “Intent to annoy” language. That’s exceedingly vague and a terribly low standard that’s so variable dependent on the person being so “annoyed”. Your face is annoying to me. Are you a criminal now?
“Electronically disseminates”. The bill seeks to criminalize electronic dissemination but nowhere defines that. What if I show the picture to my dying brother in the hospital room? What if I post it on a flyer on a lamppost outside my house?
“The genitals, pubic area or buttocks” apparently don’t need to be naked. So I can take a picture of your fat ass as you bend over to pick up a McFry and put it on the internet and now I have to go to jail because you have low self-esteem.
This might already exist. Here’s “Breach of Peace in the 2nd Degree“, which states, in relevant part: (a) A person is guilty of breach of the peace in the second degree when, with intent to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, such person: (4) publicly exhibits, distributes, posts up or advertises any offensive, indecent or abusive matter concerning any person. Doesn’t that hit every note on the revenge porn bill? Why do we need a separate one again?4

The Search Warrant That Tracks Your Movement and Gets Your Email and Social Media

H.B. No. 5587 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING SEARCH WARRANTS. (JUD)

It’s innocuously named, but it covers a wide swathe and is important also for what it doesn’t cover. Primarily, the bill purports to bring into line our statutes to comply with two cases: U.S. v. Jones (the GPS case) and State v. Esarey (a case about out of state warrants for email). Also, this bill has nothing to do with the scope of search warrants for the search of your cell phone. That’s the subject of an upcoming column.

As for the GPS. the bill states that police can seek a warrant if they believe that “probable cause to believe that a criminal offense has been, is being, or will be committed and that the use of a tracking device will yield evidence of the commission of that offense”.

So almost immediately we hit upon the first problem: how will a tracking device provide evidence of a crime that has already been committed? Because the warrant seeks to authorize the attachment of a device that tracks the movement of a person or object. So unless that movement in the future (for up to 30 days – another problem with the length of time) corroborates a crime in the past, I see that portion as problematic.

Next, the scope. As it currently stands, there is no limitation on the scope of the data collected and what it can be used for. For example, if the warrant states that the data is being sought to prosecute a high-level drug trafficker and the data shows that the suspect was at the residence of his girlfriend, who has a protective order against him, can the information be used to prosecute him for that? Just like warrants for the searches of homes are very specific as to what can be sought and seized, so should any warrant for this “tracking data”.

If not, doesn’t it become closer to those general warrants the founding fathers of our country so hated?

Speaking of general warrants, the other part of the bill that seeks to address State v. Esarey also succumbs to the same problem. The section incorporates the warrant requirement discussed above and applies it to out of state providers of data “or business entity that provides electronic communication services or remote computing services to the public”. In other words, your email providers and Facebook and Twitter.

Now imagine that: the police believe that you are about to commit a crime, so they get a judge to issue a warrant for your emails. As we’ve already discussed above, with a lack of particularity requirement in the statute, they get everything. EVERYTHING. All your emails.


Worse, notice isn’t immediate, so you can’t move to quash the subpoena in time or file a motion seeking to limit its scope. The statute says that they have to let you know within 48 hours, but the company has only 5 days to provide all that data. There’s no provision that says they have to turn over the data unless there’s a motion to quash filed.

The Wiretapping/Eavesdropping Bills

S.B. No. 487 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING THE RECORDING OF TELEPHONIC COMMUNICATIONS. (JUD)

This is one strange bill. Not by itself. By itself it’s a “revision” to the eavesdropping statute. It states that no one shall record a private telephonic conversation without alerting the other party in various ways and obtaining that party’s consent. It then lays out various exceptions, including ones for law enforcement and:

(4) Any party who records a telephonic communication, provided the intent of the recording is to memorialize evidence of a crime before, during or after the fact and the unaltered and undisclosed recording must have been submitted to law enforcement within a reasonable amount of time;

One of the exceptions is also the corporation that provides these telephone services as defined in C.G.S. 53a-187(a)(1). This is important when you combine this bill with the next; it becomes a little confusing as to its purpose.

H.B. No. 5585 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING SURVEILLANCE OF CELL PHONE COMMUNICATION BY LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS. (JUD)

Remember that 53a-187 I just cited above? This one makes changes to that bill. And the change is good, but it’s still a bit confusing in context. The change essentially is that the exception to unlawful wiretapping doesn’t apply to law enforcement acting in the scope of their duties. “Scope of their duties” is amended to now include:

when such official (1) has probable cause to believe that the cellular radio telephone has been used in furtherance of the commission of a crime and has obtained a search warrant that authorizes wiretapping of the cellular radio telephone, or (2) is otherwise authorized by state or federal law to engage in wiretapping of the cellular radio telephone.

There is, of course, already a whole set of wiretapping statutes (54-41a-41u) which aren’t mentioned anywhere.

So I’m confused. Why did we need the previous bill? What does this do? What do any of them do to the actual wiretapping statute?

More importantly, why was this necessary? What are we trying to fix? Is there a problem of law enforcement listening to conversations without warrants and/or PC and if so, why haven’t we heard about it?

Now you know. Call your legislator.

Hang on a minute, I need to indict someone


Hang on a minute, I need to indict someone



Would you like due process violations as your side or just some plain old cocaine?You know, when people usually say “hang on a minute”, you know that it’s going to take longer than a minute. It never takes a minute. Unless you’re a grand jury in North Carolina, that is. From the Charlotte Observer, via Andrew Cohen:


During a single four-hour workday last week, a Mecklenburg County grand jury heard 276 cases and handed down 276 indictments.

That means the 18 jurors heard evidence, asked questions, weighed whether the charges merit a trial, then voted on the indictments – all at the average rate of one case every 52 seconds.

You read something like that and you just have to laugh. You have to laugh because it’s so improbable and so absurd that it must be true and that it can only happen here, in these United States of America, the best country in the world with the best justice system in the world, because by God, we hate criminals.

In the time that it’s taken you to read this post so far, 3 people have gotten indicted by that careful, deliberative North Carolina grand jury. And another one. And another one. Mayhem!

There is no greater example of grand juries outliving their utility. It is inescapable that this grand jury did not perform its time honored-function of, as Andrew Cohen puts it:

preventing prosecutorial overreach. Long gone are the days (harkening back even before 1215 to Henry II and before him to William the Conqueror) where the honest, earnest, fair-minded citizens of a town would take the time to stand up and block an unjust prosecution against one of their own.

This is the fast-food grand jury, getting your burger and fries ready in the time that it takes you to drive from the ordering station around that infuriating tight bend to the window to pay for your unhealthy meal that you will gorge on and eventually die because of. A surprisingly apt metaphor for the American justice system.

There is no way that any of those people on that grand jury looked at any evidence presented to it with even a minuscule amount of skepticism. There simply wasn’t enough time. Keep in mind that the evidence presented to the grand jury is simply in the form of prosecution allegations. The accused aren’t allowed to be present and there are no lawyers to counter any of the allegations.

Do you trust such a body to decide whether there is enough evidence to prosecute you? And if the answer is that there’s no difference between that and a prosecutor who decides whether to file charges, then I ask you what the utility of the grand jury is?

The pushback against the abolition of grand juries is the same. As evidenced by this quote from this AP article:

But grand juries are important not because of all the times they indict defendants, but for the few times they don’t. That check forces prosecutors to show restraint, said former federal prosecutor and University of North Carolina law professor Richard Myers. “So if you ask me, I do believe in the institution of grand juries. Just as I believe in the value of a fire extinguisher,” he said.

Because grand juries, the argument goes, once in a while don’t side with the prosecution and reject a case, they have continuing utility.

This would be a good time to point out that in that 4 hour span, the Charlotte grand jury voted to indict all 276 defendants it was asked to. Each and every one.

The appeal of the grand jury to the government is obvious: you get to present your allegations to a group of civilians who aren’t in any way equipped to determine the veracity of the charges and who are most likely to side with you.

While it may not seem troublesome to them, every American citizen should be horrified at the ingredients on the label of this ham sandwich.