Equality under the law is one of the foundation stones of the bourgeois concept of democracy. The law is presented as a neutral force, affecting everyone equally, regardless of her/his place in society and moreover as originating ultimately in the will of the people because it is legislated by their chosen representatives. What has already been shown in the latest US elections clearly refutes that notion. The reality is that the laws reflect and serve the underlying economic relations and the interests of the class dominant in them. Otherwise, the laws would conflict with the fundamental property relations completely disrupting the economic basis of society. In addition, there are the various ways in which the written law is actually interpreted by the authorities. The state, which is in the hands of the class that dominates the economic relations of society is not and cannot be neutral. Nor is the state the instrument of particular private interests of specific powerful individuals. In a society based on bourgeois production relations with the fundamental class antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat, it is impossible for the superstructure not to uphold and enforce such production relations. This means exploitation and oppression for the masses of people and the massive violence that is required to defend and perpetuate a system that serves the interests of its ruling class.
The US ruling class has established the largest forced labour sweatshop system in the world. There are now approximately 2 million inmates in US prisons compared to 1 million in 1994. These prisoners have become a source of billions of dollars in profits. In fact, the US has imprisoned a half million more people than in China which has 5 times the population. California alone has the biggest prison system in the Western industrialized world. It has more prisoners than France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan and Hollandcombined while these countries have 11 times the population of California. According to official figures, Iran incarcerates 220 citizens per 100,000, compared to US figures of 727. Overall, the total “criminal justice” system in the US, including those in prison, on parole and on probation, is approaching 6,000,000. In the last 20 years, 1000 new prisons have been built; yet they hold double their capacity.
Prisoners, 75% of who are either Black or Hispanic, are forced to work for 20 cents an hour, some even as low as 75 cents a day. They produce everything from eyewear and furniture to vehicle parts and computer software. This has lead to thousands of layoffs and the lowering of the overall wage scale of the entire working class. At Soledad Prison in California, prisoners produce work-shirts exported to Asia as well as El Salvadoran license plates more cheaply than in El Salvador, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. A May/99 report in the Wall Street Journal summarized that while “more expensive private-sector workers may lose their jobs to prison labour, assigning work to the most cost-efficient producer is good for the economy.” The February/00 Wall Street Journal reported “Prisoners are excluded from employment calculation. And since most inmates are economically disadvantaged and unskilled, jailing so many people has effectively taken a big block of the nation’s least-employable citizens out of the equation.” In other words, this is reported as a workable solution against the threat of potential rebellions of the masses of the unemployed. Many Fortune 500 corporations use prison labour to extract super-profits while these victims suffer from extreme racism, beatings, torture, sexual exploitation and death by their guards. One example is at California’s Corcoran State Prison where officials staged gladiator days in which rival gang members were encouraged to fight while staff members placed bets on the outcome which, often ended with inmates being shot. The multi-billion dollar prison-industrial complex has everything from its own trade shows, conventions and web sites to mail-order catalogues and outfits selling shackles for juveniles, body orifice scanners, etc. This industry even has its own Yellow Pages-and all of this is based mostly on non-violent offenders who, by European capitalist standards, should not be in prison at all.
Federal Prison Industries (FPI) whose trade name is UNICOR exports prisoner-made products as well as selling them to all federal agencies as required by federal law. FPI manufactures over 150 different products in 99 factories in 64 prisons (with 19 new ones on the way) in 30 states. It is the federal government’s 35th largest contractor, just behind IBM and is exempt from any federal workplace regulations. When prisoners refused, for health reasons, to rip up asbestos tiles when renovating an Army medical center, they were given the choice of either following orders or being put in solitary confinement. In January/00, 4,000 inmates at New York State’s Sing Sing and Green Haven prisons were placed in “lock-down” for 2 weeks when 85 prisoners were accused of “plotting a strike”. The 85 were dispersed to other prisons and those found with leaflets calling for a strike were put in solitary. FPI’s prison workforce produces 98% of the entire US market for equipment assembly services, 93% of paint and artist brushes, 92% of all kitchen assembly services, 46% of all personal armour, 36% of all household furnishings and 30% of all headset/microphone/speakers, etc. RW. Feb/00 FPI consistently advertises for companies “interested in leasing a ready-to-run prison industry” especially following congressional testimony in 1996 that reported a “pent-up demand for prison labour.” Meanwhile, shareholders profiting from prison labour consistently lobby for the legislation of longer prison sentences in order to expand their workforce. At least 37 states have legalized the contracting out of prison labour to private corporations that have already set up operations inside state prisons. Prisons’ business clients include: IBM, Boeing, Motorola Microsoft, AT&T Wireless, Texas Instruments, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom, Revlon, Macys, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, etc.
The 700% increase of prisoners in the US over the last 25 years coincides with the framing of tens of thousands of Black youth by corrupt racist police and a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (William Rehnquist) who believes that segregated schools are constitutional. The new Attorney General, John Ashcroft under the ‘elected’ Bush Administration, possesses the same white supremacist leaning. The inherent racism of the justice system is apparent from the following statistics: both violent crimes and the use of illegal drugs are the same among Blacks as among Whites, nevertheless, Black men are 5 times more likely to be arrested for drug offences. Presently 1 out of every 4 Black men in the US is likely to be imprisoned at some time during his life. They are imprisoned at more than 4 times the rate of Black men in South Africa where there they constitute 75% of the male population. Hispanics are jailed for drug offences at 81 times the rate of Whites convicted of the same offences. In California since 1993, the Latino population has risen by 2% but the State’s Latino male prison population rose by 100%.
The US ruling class’s re-energized brutal war against its working class is encompassed within the 1996 Federal Personal Responsibility And Work Opportunity Act, which ensures that children of single moms are no longer guaranteed any social safety net. Their mothers are kicked off welfare after two years and are permanently denied social assistance if they have received a lifetime maximum of five years. On the one hand, in the absence of affordable day care, women workers are forced to leave their children alone and on the other, they then face imprisonment for child neglect while welfare mothers who refuse workfare assignments risk losing any means of support. One report by The Urban Institute reported that 35%-50% of the women forced off welfare experienced serious difficulties simply feeding their children. It is therefore not surprising that the number of women in prison nation-wide has increased more than 400% since 1996 and that, for example, in Arizona alone, a state report documented that the number of hungry people there doubled to 900, 000.
The 1996 reform cut $56 billion from the federal welfare program and was used to pay off ‘federal debts’ to the finance capitalists. States no longer receive a set percentage from the federal government of the money they must spend on welfare, meaning they can spend it on anything else. By Sept/99, 45 states had already stockpiled $7 billion in federal funds according to a study by The National Campaign For Jobs and Income. Altogether, over the last 25 years, welfare benefits have been slashed by 50% and since 1996, the number of people receiving welfare has decreased by 50%, from 12.2 million in 1996 to 6.6 million in 1999. In NY City where 25% of the people live in poverty, over 6,000 people in are cut off welfare every month on the basis of technicalities. The practices of welfare officials are so extreme that in Jan/99 a federal court found that NY City was illegally deterring people from applying for food stamps. Hundreds of thousands have been forced into workfare, which has replaced unionised municipal jobs. According to the NY Times, “a former Giuliani aide has valued the labour contributed by workfare at more than $500 million a year.” Another NY Times study found that since Wisconsin’s welfare to work program, “…the infant mortality rate rose by 17.6%.” It is interesting to note that the former Governor of Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson, blueprinted and pioneered the /96welfare reform and is now the Secretary of Health and Human Services under the new Bush administration. In Mississippi, a recent study projected 1 available job for every 254 families thrown off welfare. Workers Vanguard. May/98 Yet another study, this time by researchers at UCLA, showed that since the cutbacks, homelessness nation-wide has soared by 150%. Accordingly, The NY Parks Enforcement officers have been instructed to file data on homeless people with a form modelled after the one used by the NYPD for those charged with a crime. The first two sections of the form are headed “Offender’s Identification” and “Offence of Conviction.” NY Mayor Guiliani defended this by stating, “City parks aren’t bedrooms…” Homeless people will soon be required to participate in workfare in exchange for using the city’s shelters. Daily News. Oct/00
It is under this onslaught that millions of Black and other minority proletarians are trapped in decaying inner cities with no services, little work and no way out. Things are even more desperate than when the stage was set in the early 70’s for the crack epidemic. Federal law now mandates 5 years without parole for 5 grams of crack cocaine while the same prison term requires possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine. The overwhelming majority of powder users are middle and upper class Whites while crack cocaine is used primarily by working class Blacks and Hispanics. This more than exemplifies the civil rights of American citizenship for the masses.
Relating to the US’s potential future citizens, Human Rights Watch released a report in Sept/00 sharply criticising the US government’s treatment of immigrants. The report revealed that thousands of immigrants and political refugees are being held in regular jails, treated as criminals while they await the determination of their immigration status and suffer abuse by guards (including electric shocks), insufficient food and court delays. As of Feb/98, the INS had contracts with 1,041 local jails to hold immigrant detainees. There are now about 15,000 people under INS detention, which is a 70% increase in just two years. The INS estimates that by the end of 2001, they will have more than 23,000 men, women, and children under detention. Abusive treatment, however, is not limited to immigrants: a Dec/99 LA Times article reported how inmates in youth camps are punished by being forced to kneel on hardwood floors for hours, sometimes in their own excrement. Suicidal inmates in Youth Authority are locked down in cells 23 hours a day and at a youth prison in Stockton, youths have been locked in solitary for months at a time. The minimum age at which a child can be tried as an adult is 15 in Louisiana; in 18 states the age limit is 14; in 2 states 13, in Colorado it’s 12; Vermont 10; NY 7 years of age and the other 27 states have no age minimum at all. Time. Apr/98
Meanwhile the adult male inmates at Tamms Correctional Center reside in a high-tech prison, scientifically designed to break them down through extreme isolation, deprivation of human contact, constant surveillance, and rigid controls. Anger at the brutal conditions turned into action on May 1/00 with the start of a prison-wide hunger strike. The hunger strikers, 70% of the prisoners, raised 27 demands covering issues like horrible health and sanitation conditions, extreme restrictions, and arbitrary punishments. It is not surprising that the first demand of the hunger strikers was for the relocation of the mentally ill inmates to a facility where they could receive proper medical treatment. A suit filed by the MacArthur Justice Center documents that mentally ill prisoners at Tamms suffer misdiagnosis, deliberate indifference, dangerous amounts of medication, and harsh punishment. The suit charges that such abuses have inflicted severe pain and contributed to driving mentally ill prisoners further into paranoia or continual delusions. According to the TreatmentAdvocacy Center, 3.5 million Americans suffer from severe forms of mental illness. Since 1969, 93% of all psychiatric beds have been emptied nation-wide, and many of the mentally ill have ended up in the prison system. Of the 38 states that allow the death penalty, only 13 bar the execution of the mentally ill/retarded. In 1989, the US Supreme Court ruled that executing those with diminished mental capabilities does not violate the law.
Details have also emerged about the murderous medical care of prisoners in the NY City jail system. In Jan/98, St. Barnabas Hospital (private) was contracted to provide healthcare at the Rikers Island prison complex and the Manhattan Detention complex, under an affiliation with the Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs the city’s public hospitals. The less St. Barnabas spends on the sick, the more profit it makes and so far, St. Barnabas has been averaging $1 million a month in profits while the number of prisoners sent from those prison complexes to city hospitals has decreased by 57%. Meanwhile, complaints from the prisoners about their healthcare has increased by more than 404%. Despite these facts, the Health and Hospitals Corporation released a report in Nov/00 praising the new-managed care system. This report was challenged by Dr. Audrey Compton, Medical Director of the Health and Hospitals Corporation’s Office of Correctional Health Services who subsequently quit her post “because the medical care for prisoners has eroded under the new managed care contract.” NY Times. Nov/00
California, with the third largest penal system in the world after China and the US as a whole, spends more on prisons than on the entire educational system. In recent years, California’s university and college system cut back 8,000 employees while its Department of Corrections added 26,000. CA has built 19 prisons vs. 1 university in the past 10 years. The state spends up to $60,000 per year to incarcerate a young person, while only spending $8,000 per year to educate the same youth. Politicians in the state debate whether the death penalty should be applied to 13-year-olds or whether it should be applied “only” to those 14 and up. And new proposals to construct mega-prisons that would hold up to 20,000 inmates each is ‘justified’ by David Myers, West Coast regional president of the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison corporation in the US. He told a reporter that he is building 3 new prisons entirely on speculation because “If you build it in the right place, the prisoners will come.” RW. Dec/00 In 1994, California passed a “three strikes and you’re out” law. That law alone led to the need for 20 new prisons just to handle the increase in inmates. Over 30,000 people in CA have been sentenced to double the normal sentence under the “second-strike” provision of the law and the California Department of Corrections has published statistics documenting 62% of third-strike convictions are for non-violent offences. During the 17 years leading up to 1994 (when three strikes went into effect), the California legislature passed more than 1,000 bills lengthening sentences or defining new crimes. Not surprisingly, these same years showed a 600% increase in California’s prison population – from 19,000 to 159,000 where over 70% of the prisoners are Black, Latino or of other oppressed nationalities. The law rules that two prior felony convictions mandates 25 years to life for a third conviction no matter what the prescribed sentence for that third offence. Third offenders have been given that sentence for shoplifting a pair of pants, stealing a bicycle or merely a piece of pizza. Between 1994-95, 24 states and the federal government itself followed CA’s example by also legislating the new “three strikes” laws. Among the victims of this relatively new law are 80% of the women in California’s prisons who are there for non-violent offences including those at the prison complex at Chowchilla which according to California Prison Focus,is the largest women’s prison in the world. In Dec/96, Human Rights Watch released a 347-page report documenting the sexual abuse of women in state prisons. In the prisons at Chowchilla, for example, strip searches are often conducted in full view of male guards and women prisoners are prohibited from covering the windows to cells while they are changing, using showers or toilets while male guards routinely watch.
At this point, let us take a closer look at the police who make the arrests and participate in the convictions by providing testimony and evidence during the court process of all these woeful victims. The first example entails a LAPD policeman, Rafael Perez, part of an anti-gang unit called CRASH (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums), who was caught stealing cocaine out of the Rampart Division Station in order to sell it on the streets. Before Perez agreed to full disclosure of CRASH activities, this unit was hailed as a successful model in the war against gangs. Perez told how CRASH unit police would meet in a bar to hand out plaques (a grinning skull with a cowboy hat holding the cards of death) to celebrate each shooting of a suspect. When a new recruit would join, CRASH members would circle around and beat him as an initiation ritual. It is now known that there are almost 10,000 cases tainted by their link to the Rampart scandal involving falsified evidence and testimony during court proceedings. Perez also admitted to the 1996handcuffing and shooting of an unarmed 19-year-old, then planting a rifle on him. This youth will never walk again. Then, according to Perez, he and his partner planted a gun next to a 21-year-old whom they had just shot. They delayed calling an ambulance for him while they worked with a supervisor on a story, which resulted in this youth bleeding to death. Another CRASH officer shot a suspect repeatedly with a beanbag shotgun for the fun of it. In yet another case, police shot at New Year’s celebrators who were firing guns into the air at midnight. When it turned out that two men had been hit, the police concocted a story that the injured men had been aiming their guns at the police. One policeman was convicted of murdering a young mother of three because she filed a so-called confidential brutality complaint against him. Nine officers were arrested and convicted of selling protection to a cocaine warehouse. Two other policemen were charged with raping a 14-year-old-girl.
In 2,000 pages of testimony, Perez revealed how the police would routinely frame the innocent by planting drugs and guns, brutalize citizens on the street for entertainment, and consistently perjure themselves to get convictions. “90% of the officers who work CRASH, and not just the Rampart CRASH, falsify a lot of information.” Perez also told of how numerous crimes and acts of brutality were regularly and systematically approved and facilitated by supervisors within the LAPD. There were details about supervising officers helping to put together fake crime scenes and of captains and lieutenants who willingly signed police reports that totally contradicted the physical evidence. There immediately ensued a fast growing list of prisoners who were convicted and imprisoned with fabricated evidence and police lies within a systematic war waged by CRASH against the people, especially against the youth in poor neighbourhoods. The Rampart division also systematically targeted immigrants who were witnesses to police misconduct with deportation. Chief Parks admitted that four of the officers on official leave because of the scandal should never have been hired because of prior arrest records and/or bad debts because of their inability to handle financial problems. Of the thousands of cases of people wrongly convicted only a little more than 40 have so far been dismissed. RW. Nov/00
From LA to Philadelphia, crime and corruption among the police forces is accelerating. In 1995, two former FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) officials, an ex-president and an ex-treasurer, were convicted of bribery and racketeering during the early 1990’s. In the same year, a major scandal broke out accusing the police of falsifying evidence, making false arrests and stealing tens of thousands of dollars of drug and prostitution money. Officials were forced to review 1,400 cases of people whose arrests and convictions were based on police fabrication. Human Rights Watch reported in 1998, “Corruption and brutality scandals have earned the PPD (Philadelphia Police Department) one of the worst reputations in the country.” In a study conducted for the US Justice Department, the PPD were 37 times more likely than NY police to shoot unarmed people who were fleeing from suspected non-violent crimes. And back in NY City, Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s reaction to the latest of many police killings was one in defence of the officers. He didn’t even express sympathy to the victim’s mother, because it “might imply that the shooting was unjustified.” At the same time Giuliani praised the policeman as a “very, very distinguished undercover officer,” he failed to mention that this officer once shot a neighbour’s dog and pulled out his gun during a personal altercation at a bar. Republican Congressman Peter King said, “Rudy is a great wartime mayor. But once he got rid of murderers and squeegee men, he kept going… jaywalkers, vendors; he couldn’t stop himself. Obviously, the cop made a mistake here, but the mayor can’t acknowledge it.” Time. Apr/99 The NYPD force has bloated from 29,000 to 40,000 in recent years and in 1993, it upgraded to semi-automatic weapons that hold 16 rounds rather than the old six-shot pistols. They will soon also be outfitted with hollow-point bullets, which are more deadly than regular ones because they expand as they penetrate the body and cause more internal damage.
After Chicago police shot two young unarmed Black people in separate traffic stops within hours, Chicago Sun-Times staff reporters discovered an interesting fact; the statistics on police killings are not available to the public. Under pressure, the few statistics between 1990-98 released showed that Chicago police shot 505 people of which 90% were non-White. Chicago Sun-Times. Jun/99 The systematic targeting of Black and Latino people for routine traffic stops is prevalent nation-wide. In New Jersey, for example, a traffic survey submitted to a 1996 court case showed that 98% of all the cars on one highway over a 3 year period were going over the speed limit. However, according to a Newark Star-Ledger report, 75% of all those arrested on the NJ turnpike during the first two months of 1997 were either Black or Latino although they constitute only 13% of all drivers. Finally, in April /99, the State Attorney General issued a report acknowledging that the NJ State police systematically used racial profiling. The report documented that between 1994-99,over 77% of the people searched were either Black or Latino. Then NJ Governor Christine Whitman who has since been appointed as Secretary of the Environmental Agency under the new Bush administration, stated: “There is no ]such thing as racial profiling.” NY Daily News. May/98. On the other hand, Bernard Parks, LA Police Chief believes “It’s not the fault of the police when they stop minority males or put them in jail. It’s the fault of the minority males for committing the crimes.” The Black newspaper, Daily Challenge, has a different view: “The educational system has failed us, police are murdering, torturing and abusing us in record numbers; the prison industrial complex is becoming the fastest growing business in the US because of the record numbers of Black people warehoused in them; our children are disproportionately removed from their homes and placed in an abusive and negligent foster care system; Black elected officials blame us and/or our rhetoric; and our culture has been used consistently by the entertainment industry to promote decadence, misogyny and violence toward each other. We must act.” RW. Aug/99
The international human rights organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a new report on police brutality in the US titled Shielded from Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States. The 440-page report, released in July/00 states, “Police brutality is one of the most serious, enduring, and divisive human rights violation in the United States. The problem is nationwide and its nature is institutionalized.” The report also shows how this brutality is brushed aside or covered up by the courts and various agencies that are supposed to monitor the police. In addition, new report by Amnesty International, Rights for All, was released in Oct/00, and is part of its first worldwide campaign on the human rights situation in the US. The report covers several different subjects: brutality by police and other law enforcement agencies; abuse against prisoners; unjust and racist use of the death penalty and the incarceration of people seeking political asylum among others. “There is a persistent and widespread pattern of human rights violations in the USA… people have been beaten, kicked, punched, choked and shot by police officers, even when they posed no threat. The majority of victims have been members of racial or ethnic minorities. Many people have died, many people have been seriously injured, and many have been deeply traumatised…Victims include not only criminal suspects but also bystanders and people who questioned police actions…Black people who are arrested for minor offences appear particularly liable to suffer police brutality.” Other particular targets of police brutality identified by Amnesty International include the mentally ill. According to a recent analysis of cases involving police misconduct referred to the DA’s office, prosecutors declined to prosecute the accused officers 92% of the time and in cases where there were allegations of excessive force, the DA declined to prosecute the police nearly 99% of the time. RW. Nov/00
Police corruption and abuse aside, a closer look at the ‘upholders of justice’ within the courts themselves sheds indeed more light on the injustice system. In April/00, the US Supreme Court handed down the first significant rulings on the Effective Death Penalty Act (EDPA). The EDPA puts important restrictions on the rights of prisoners to appeal their cases to the federal court level. Since 1998, laws for capital punishment exist in 38 states and in the past six years, an average of one condemned prisoner a week has been put to death. There are now about 3,500 people on death row and the number continues to grow. According to Amnesty International, “The USA has the highest known death row population on the earth.” Furthermore, although nearly 50% all murder victims in the US were Black, 83% of all the people executed nationwide were convicted and executed for killing someone who was White. Amnesty International also reported that the three known official executions of juveniles worldwide in 1998 were all carried out in the US and at least 30 mentally retarded prisoners were among the 500 put to death since the resumption of executions in the US in 1973. Amnesty International is also calling for a ban on stun belts, which deliver 50,000-volt electric shocks. Its use was highlighted in June/00 when a California judge ordered it be used against a defendant just for interrupting her during a court proceeding.
Now, a study released in June/00 adds new and detailed evidence about the sinister nature of the death penalty in the US. The study, entitled A Broken System: Error Rates in Capital Cases conducted by a team of lawyers and criminologists at Columbia Law School is the first statistical study of the appeals process in capital punishment cases since 1973. The study arose from a 1991 request by the Senate Judiciary Committee to calculate the rate of death penalty reversals on federal appeal; in 1995 the study was expanded to include state appeals. The report which examined all death penalty cases in the 23-year period from 1973 to 1996 found that almost 7 out of 10 death sentences handed down by state courts were overturned when appeals courts found that the sentences were obtained through grossly unfair trials. However, despite the evidence of government executions of the innocent and the critical importance of the appeals process, more than 30 states have followed the Supreme Court’s ruling, which imposes unrealistic time limits on the admissibility of new exonerating evidence following a conviction. In more than 12 states, the time allowed for an appeal is 30 days or less. In addition, The NY Times reported that the number of errors which go undetected have risen since the Columbia study because since the mid-1990s, several states and Congress have curbed appeals and sped the execution process. Accordingly, many states have shut down Special Public Defender units that formerly helped poor death row inmates with their appeals.
The Columbia report also detailed two type of errors that had led to the majority of death penalty reversals: “(1) egregiously incompetent defence lawyers who didn’t even look for or demonstrably missed important evidence that proved the defendant was innocent or did not deserve to die. (2) police or prosecutors who did discover that kind of evidence but suppressed it, again keeping it from the jury.” Other ‘errors’ include: judges talking to the media about the trial or giving faulty instructions to the jury, police coercing “confessions” from defendants, prosecutors keeping Blacks from the jury when a Black person was on trial, or police planting informers in jails to eavesdrop on conversations between defendants and their lawyers. The report documents hundreds of such ‘errors’ in death penalty trials all the while the trend throughout the US is to make it more difficult for people on death row to appeal. The Amnesty International report; Killing with Prejudice: Race and the Death Penalty May/99 analysed a central factor in the unjust nature of US death penalties: racism. “Racial discrimination pervades the U.S. death penalty at every stage of the process…” Of all the people executed between 1976 and 1997, 37% were Black even through they make up only 12% of the population. In June /98, the Death Penalty Information Center concluded, “Race is more likely to affect death sentencing than smoking affects the likelihood of dying from heart disease.”
An investigation by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “found hundreds of cases in which federal agents and prosecutors violated rules and laws in death penalty court cases, however, since1976 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors have immunity from lawsuits for misconduct. According to research by the Chicago Tribune, not a single prosecutor in any kind of criminal case has received any official sanction for falsifying evidence or for other misconduct. In fact, many of the prosecutors involved in such misconduct went on to be promoted as DAs and other higher positions within the law enforcement system. The Tribune’s study also found that Texas has executed dozens of death row inmates who clearly did not receive fair trials. Time. Jun/00 Defence attorneys in 40 death penalty cases presented either no evidence or only one witness during the trial’s sentencing phase. One defence attorney who put on no case whatsoever later testified that he didn’t know he was allowed to present witnesses. A psychiatrist, known as Dr. Death, gave testimony in 166 cases after having already been condemned as unethical and untrustworthy by the American Psychiatric Association. Another psychologist testified that a defendant was more likely to commit future acts of violence because he is Hispanic. In at least 23 cases, the prosecution’s evidence at trial or sentencing included a jailhouse informant (testimony that is exchanged for special treatment and therefore highly unreliable). In 43 cases, defendants were represented at trial by an attorney who had been or was later disbarred, suspended or sanctioned. Most of these 43 attorneys were appointed by local judges to represent poor defendants. One of the most notorious criminal attorneys in Texas was Joe Cannon who was infamous for sleeping during trials and speeding through cases to please judges with heavy backlogs. In one case last year, a federal judge said, “sleepingcounsel is equivalent to no counsel at all.” Although the State of Texas admitted the attorney slept during the trial, it concluded that the defendent received sufficient representation and should be executed. Another attorney was imprisoned for sexually assaulting two teenage girls and a third, who later became a prosecutor, was convicted in connection with an extortion plot.
A recent national study of 62 capital convictions found that prosecutors had used hair analysis to win the conviction where such evidence has been proven to be very unreliable. One expert used in Texas to give such testimony was Charles Linch. According to the Dallas Morning News, Linch was committed in 1994 to a psychiatric ward because of depression and drinking yet he was temporarily released to provide incriminating hair analysis testimony against a defendant who was not told about his situation. The defendant was executed in 1998. Dr. Erdmann was another expert frequently used by Texas prosecutors to testify in death penalty cases. Erdmann, who testified in the cases of six people who were executed under Bush alone, pleaded guilty to 7 felonies relating to falsified evidence and botched autopsies. Texas, having the second-largest death row population in the country, 457, (second to California with 568) has condemned more than 200 people since 1995 when Bush became governor. Almost all of these people were poor and represented by court-appointed lawyer who routinely underspend prosecutors in death penalty cases by 1 to 20. Bush also opposed a bill last year that would have forbidden executing mentally retarded people. There are 25 juveniles on Texas death row and 70 juveniles nationwide. Moving onto Pennsylvania where 63% of death row prisoners are Black, nearly 90% are from oppressed nationalities and 90% are too poor to hire a lawyer. The Governor of Pennsylvania has signed 205 death warrants since 1995; six times more than the number signed by the two pervious governors over a 25-year period. RW. Apr/00
The US ruling class has, in the past, reaped from ‘liberal democracy’ because it makes a sharp separation between the economy and the political system, in which the formal equality promised within “one citizen, one vote” actually sustains a rampant inequality within the economy. In short, the working class accepts political rights in return for a general sacrifice of economic ones. ‘Liberal democracy’ seemed to offer a hint of fairness seen as legitimate by the majority, yet left the capitalists in control to serve their interests. It was by no coincidence that in 1973, the Trilateral Commission, a closed door elite planning and management team, was founded and chaired by David Rockefeller who like others of his class became most wary of the US and Western Europe masses’ growing confidence in its civil rights. The Report of the Trilateral Task Force on the “Governability of Democracies” in 1973, concluded that if the system is to correct itself, this “excess of democracy” must be reduced and that “…areas where democratic procedures are appropriate, are limited.” Furthermore, “A value system which is normally good in itself is not necessarily optimized when it is maximized. We have come to recognize that there are potentially desirable limits to economic growth. There are also potentially desirable limits to the extension of political democracy. Democracy will have a longer life if it has a more balanced existence.” Among the proposals made was a call for more power to political leadership to withhold information from the public and cutbacks to education because its democratization has raised expectations too high and rather than citizenship training, colleges should become vast job-training programs. “The vulnerability of a democratic government in the United States comes not primarily from external threats…but rather from the internal dynamics of democracy itself in a highly educated, mobilized, and participant society.” In short, the trilateralists proposed the reassertion of stricter elite rule and the increase of public apathy by reducing the expectations of the poor and middle class, increasing presidential authority, strengthening business-government cooperation in economic planning, stricter press regulation and the pacification of rank and file labour. “Truman had been able to govern the country with the cooperation of a relatively small number of Wall Street lawyers and bankers…The effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and non-involvement on the part of some individuals and groups.” NY University Press/75 And so, despite their self-congratulatory thunder of a ‘democratic’ society second to none, the US ruling class has, since 1973 with an accelerated intensification since 1989, fortified its iron heel both in speed and scope in order to implement its new and improved version of ‘democracy’.
The following actions taken since those first proposals in the Trilateral Commission of which Jimmy Carter was an active member before his presidency and to this day, Rockefeller remains as the permanent honorary chairman, are self-evident throughout this report. During this present stage of class warfare whether we define it as neo-liberalism, globalization or the privatization of the entire planet, it is apparent that the contradiction between the classes as well as the antagonism within the ruling class itself, both nationally and internationally, has intensified. The US ruling class, in order to strengthen their profit position in their long-range worldwide fight for markets, resources, exploitation of cheap labour and control over oil supplies, must be ever the more prepared to go to war. Increasingly, this means exercising more rigid control over its own working class by the militarization of society and the grinding down of workers’ living standards. Civil rights, vigorously won through fierce battles and sacrifice on the part of the working class, were tolerated by the ruling class when and only when it served their strategic interests. However, in their ‘new world order’, the order of the day has a different odour. Capitalism’s survival was never dependent upon civil society and more rapidly than slowly we witness the core’s working class being thrust into the abyss of no man’s land concerning civil rights; a fate suffered for over a century by their fellow human beings in the periphery.