November 22, 2017

Get cops off the streets (unless serving a warrant or responding to a 911 call)

police-role1BUFFALO, December 5, 2014 – Protests erupted in New York City yesterday following a second grand jury decision not to indict a white cop who killed an unarmed black suspect. Unfortunately, all of the attention is focused on the racial aspect of the two tragedies and not on a question that really needs to be asked.

Do we really need armed government agents patrolling the streets, looking for people to cite or arrest for mostly victimless crimes?

Few people propose to abolish police forces entirely, although some small communities have done so. Most believe that police forces are necessary to protect life and property. Whether that’s true or not, many honest police officers will tell you they spend very little of their time actually doing so.

Read the rest of the article…

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Why Civil Libertarians Should Oppose Federal Civil Rights Charges in Kelly Thomas Case

r-KELLY-THOMAS-TRIAL-large570On Monday, a jury acquitted Officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli of charges related to the death of Kelly Thomas. Immediately afterwards, the FBI field office in Los Angeles announced that it would review the case to determine if federal charges would be brought against the officers.

The verdict was unpopular with civil libertarians, who cited the case as evidence of increasing police brutality, the result of a militarization trend in state and local police departments. They had hoped a guilty verdict would establish some accountability for officers who abuse their power.

They were correct to call attention to the case, but they should oppose federal charges against Ramos and Cicinelli. Affirming the authority of multiple governments to charge defendants with crimes for the same behavior loses the forest for the trees. While a conviction in federal court may feel good in this case, it further empowers the federal government to encroach upon state jurisdiction and weakens due process rights for defendants in general.

Read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post…

Zimmerman trial could further damage the Bill of Rights

TAMPA, July 16, 2013 – For over a year, we’ve heard that the George Zimmerman case is significant as a barometer of equal protection under the law for blacks. Some argued that the delay in charging George Zimmerman with murder was due to racial bias in the justice system. A “white man” is less likely to be prosecuted for killing a black man than if the races of the killer or victim were different.

The problem is that there is zero proof in this case of any of that. Prosecutors initially decided not to press charges because they didn’t have a case. The only account of the confrontation that led to Trayvon Martin’s death is Zimmerman’s. There are no witnesses to refute it. The call to the non-emergency police dispatcher does not provide any proof that Zimmerman “pursued or confronted” Martin after being told by the dispatcher “we don’t need you to do that,” despite widespread media misinformation to that effect.

Setting aside credibility issues with Rachel Jeantel’s testimony, even her account provides no evidence refuting Zimmerman’s account of how he and Martin ended up face to face.

This case does not represent racial bias in the system. The real danger inherent in this case is the danger to all of us, of all races, if due process protections in the Bill of Rights are eroded further.

The War on Terror has already gutted the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments. The requirements that the government have probable cause before searching us or our communications, that its warrants are specific to the places to be searched and items to be seized, that no one be imprisoned unless indicted by a Grand Jury are part of what defines the United States as “a free country.”

However well-intentioned, the Patriot Act, 2012 NDAA, and the NSA surveillance programs have virtually nullified those basic protections of individual freedom.

Now, good intentions on ensuring equal protection under the law for all races could lead to further attacks on the right to trial by jury, the prohibition on double jeopardy and the presumption of innocence, the first two explicit and the last implicit in the Bill of Rights.

Zimmerman might be lying through his teeth, but there is no proof to refute his claim that he shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense. Juries don’t find people innocent. They find an absence of proof of guilt. If media reactions to this case are any indication, popular understanding of that principle is nil. Reporting on the verdict, the USA Today said,

“The not guilty verdict means the jury of six women, after deliberating for more than 15 hours over two days, found that Zimmerman justifiably used deadly force. They determined that he reasonably believed that such force was “necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm” to himself — Florida’s definition of self-defense.”

No, the verdict doesn’t mean that. It means that the jury found an absence of proof that Zimmerman did not justifiably use deadly force or reasonably believe that such force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself.

That’s a crucial distinction that we forget at our peril. If defendants are required to prove their innocence, this nation’s unprecedented prison population of 2.4 million could double or triple.

Already, it has become routine for multiple jurisdictions to prosecute an individual for the same crime. The US DOJ says that it is investigating Zimmerman for a possible hate crime or civil rights violation case. CNN reports,

“Even if the federal charges were identical to the state charges, it would not be double jeopardy for Zimmerman because the federal government is a separate and sovereign entity.”

Really? Where in the 5th Amendment does it say “except by a separate legal entity?” Since it is long established (correctly or not) that the 14th Amendment means the Bill of Rights applies to the states and the federal government, why is this case an exception?

Certainly, the intention of the double jeopardy protection is to prevent governments with virtually unlimited resources from repeatedly prosecuting someone for the same crime until they get lucky with a jury or the defendant runs out of money. But that’s just what the government is doing when they charge a defendant with murder and then charge him with a civil rights violation for the same incident after an acquittal.

It is even conceivable that the right to trial by jury could come under attack. While we haven’t heard calls yet for replacing jury trials with something else, it’s not hard to imagine support for the idea after an unpopular verdict. Trial by jury is the most fundamental protection in the entire Bill of Rights. It means that only the people can authorize the government to punish someone. A jury can nullify any law without consequences, despite misleading instructions by judges.

The only thing that makes the United States a “free country” is its Constitution. It’s not requiring congressman to be 25 years old that makes us free. It is the restrictions on government power over us, especially in the Bill of Rights. When those restrictions are gone, we’re no longer free, regardless of how many songs we sing or speeches we make.

We’ve already dangerously eroded those protections. Don’t let outrage over the Zimmerman verdict make it worse.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Thank God the 4th of July is over

TAMPA, July 5, 2013 – Thank goodness the 4th of July is over. For those who believe in freedom, it has become unbearable.

On July 4th, 1776, a written document codifying the resolution passed two days earlier was approved by Congress. It declared to the whole world that thirteen of Great Britain’s colonies were seceding from the union. The document stated the Lockean principles upon which the decision was based and then listed the reasons why secession was necessary.

The modern U.S. government is far worse than George III’s. Today’s Americans not only fail to object, but celebrate its depravity.

Unqualified worship of the military is the most obvious example. Throughout human history, standing armies in times of peace have been the most recognizable characteristic of tyranny.

The 21st-century U.S. government and media invites Americans to thank the military for what little freedom they have left. Despite the complete absence of any cause-effect relationship between U.S. military adventures and the smattering of freedom Americans retain, they enthusiastically comply.

And where is this freedom the government supposedly secured by invading Korea or Afghanistan?

The “irony of the flag-waving masses slouching along in airport lines toward their inevitable date with the total state so that they could celebrate their liberty and freedom” was not lost on Daniel McAdams, but likely is on most Americans. Just watch them laugh and joke with government agents who literally bark orders at them before searching them without probable cause or a warrant.

It’s not just the airport. Any clear-thinking person recognizes the various domestic police forces as an army of occupation, complete with body armor, assault weapons and tanks. Yet, most Americans believe there are not enough of these “swarms of officers to harass our people and eat their substance.” This despite the U.S. having the largest prison population in human history, twice the size of present-day China’s, China’s population being five times as large.

The Constitution assumes law enforcement officers cannot even be trusted to arrest the right person after he has committed a crime. It requires them to get written permission from a judge to do anything. That concept is completely lost on most Americans, who teach their children police officers are their friends and their orders should be obeyed, whether they have been directed by a judge to issue them or not.

The entire paradigm of police officers patrolling the streets and supposedly “preventing crime” is completely antithetical to the principles of 1776. As Anthony Gregory observes, “Although there was plenty to object to in colonial law and law in the early republic, police as we now know them didn’t exist back then.” Nevertheless, conservatives are this institution’s biggest proponents. These are the “small government” people.

The colonists complained that George III’s army was insulated “from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States.” William Grigg’s blog has documented thousands of examples of the very same tyranny in 21st-century America.

The Declaration cited “transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences” and “depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury.” That referred to trying American colonists in public courts in England, sometimes by a judge instead of a jury. Today, the U.S. government transports its subjects to secret prisons all over the world without even bothering to charge them with a crime.

Or, they might just decide to summarily execute you and save the time and trouble.

Modern Americans hold up as heroes the presidents who have helped build this Orwellian nightmare. They revere those who have presided over massive expansions of government power and took their country into hugely destructive and largely unnecessary wars, while dismissing those who presided over relatively free and peaceful periods as “postage stamps.”

Worse yet, they dutifully join the government’s propaganda machine in engaging in the “two minute hate” against Edward Snowden, uncritically parroting the government’s charges of treason, even though no reasonable person could believe what he did constituted “levying War against them [the United States – plural], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

Charged with the same crime George III charged Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Franklin with, for resisting substantively the same tyranny, 21st-century Americans side with the government that spies on them, routinely lies to them, plunders their wealth, controls every aspect of their lives and kills hundreds of thousands of civilians in undeclared wars.

As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe observed, “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

This has never been truer than in 21st-century America on the 4th of July. Thank God it’s over.

Libertarianism, anyone?

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.