Dolus Eventualis and Dumbass Eventualis Made Easy

Fact based reporting

by Rob Roman

Legal Research by Amanda Chen

 

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Understanding the verdict and “Dolus Eventualis”.

This here will be a “twofer”, explaining both

of these terms.

 

The heck you talk?

Let’s put it in terms we all can understand (with examples).

 

“Dumbass Eventualis” – If you are a gun owner, and you have read up on firearms and have had

classes and possibly tests, you are an educated gun owner. You know what a gun can do and you

know what can happen if you fire a weapon at a human being. Especially, you know what a hollow point bullet can do to a human being. This bullet is made to expand, fragment, and mushroom out so it will not exit the body, but will bounce inside the body and tear through vital organs, causing much more damage and bloodshed.

 

If you own a lethal weapon and you are foolish, hot-headed, careless and reckless, if you are just another idiot with a gun, then you are a dumbass and eventually you are going to kill an unarmed, innocent person. You are a bad accident waiting to happen. You are, for all intents and purposes, a “Dumbass Eventualis”.

 

Recent examples are:

 

-Florida’s Michael Dunn, a guy who fired 10 shots into a car full of teenagers because he

didn’t like their loud music.

Victim Jordan Davis
Victim Jordan Davis

 

-Florida’s Adele Bing who heard a loud knock on her door and open-fired through the door, killing her own

daughter carrying Adele’s grandaughter in her arms (Well, she thought it was someone else!)

Victim Ruby Bing
Victim Ruby Bing

 

 

– Tennessee bar owner Chris Ferrell, who shot a Country Music singer to death for smoking in a non-smoking area, giving ‘rules strictly enforced’ a whole new meaning.

 

Victim Wayne Mills
Victim Wayne Mills

 

– Georgia’s Philip Sailors, who shot a man to death while backing out of Sailor’s driveway that he turned into by mistake. It was a GPS mistake. Also, some news and radio talk shows had been going on and on at the time talking about how ya betta watch out,  the ‘govmint is coming to grab all yall’s gunz’.

Victim Rodrigo Ortiz
Victim Rodrigo Ortiz

 

-Maine’s James Pak, who shot and killed his tenants, a 19 year-old man and his 18 year-old girlfriend for

parking in the wrong spot during a snow storm. Where were the police, you ask? They had just left the property.

Victims Derrick Thompson and Alivia Welch
Victims Derrick Thompson and Alivia Welch

 

 

And,

 

-South Africa’s very own Oscar Pistorius, who heard a noise in the toilet room and fired four

Times through the closed door, killing his model girlfriend.

Victim Reeva Steenkamp
Victim Reeva Steenkamp

 

Yes, my friends, these are all prime examples of “Dumbass Eventualis”.

 

These people are all innocent, unarmed people shot to death by armed aggressors.

 

Now, let’s talk about “Dolus Eventualis”.

One of the very first words a criminal law student will hear is the Latin “Mens Rea”. Mens Rea – means having a guilty mind. Many crimes will consist of the Actus Reus, or the criminal act and the Mens Rea, or criminal mind. Both must be in play for a defendant to be culpable or responsible for the crime.

 

Criminal Act + Criminal Mind = Crime

 

Why? I could be sky diving and my parachute doesn’t open. I fall right into you and kill you.

The Actus Reas , or the criminal act is that I have caused your death. But there is no Mens

Rea, since I did not intend to kill you, it was an accident, I had no guilty mind.

 

So, very quickly in the law, people needed to distinguish between the crime committed, and the

intent and the state of mind of the person committing the crime, to decide guilt or the degree

of guilt of that person. So law is making a distinction between the criminal act and the intent. The intent of the defendant must often be proven and this often goes to the state of mind of the defendant at the time of the crime.

 

Criminal Mind = Actual Intent + State of Mind

 

Was the defendant:

-impaired by a substance?

-insane or unable distinguish between right and wrong at the time of the crime?

-under duress (forced to do the crime or under extreme emotional disturbance)?

-Sleepwalking?

 

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South African law comes from a mixture of Roman and English common law, German common law, and general European or what is called “mainland” common law. So the criminal act and the criminal mind must be proven. This is where pre-planning (premeditation), sudden heat of passion, self-defense, under duress, and temporary insanity come into play. The state of mind of the defendant must be proven and the true intent discovered, before a court can determine guilt or the degree of guilt.

 

South African law then divides the intent of the defendant into 3 main categories. These are called:

 

Dolus Directus- means a direct intention. The defendant is proven to have had a direct

intention to commit a murder, even if the opportunity or chance of committing the murder is very small. (Example: OJ Simpson brings a very sharp knife, a pair of Arliss extra large gloves given to him by his ex-wife, and a dark knit cap to his ex-wife’s house just after sunset. Seems like he had a direct intent to kill said ex-wife)

 

This is our equivalent of Premeditation.

 

Dolus Indirectus – means an indirect intent. The defendant may not have set out to commit a murder, but the defendant participated in a felony where it was

foreseeable that a participant, an innocent, or a police officer, etc. could be murdered. (Example: “Doug”and his friend, Eric, go to rob a store, they just want the money, but hey, nobody better get in their way. During the robbery, Eric shoots and kills a woman who witnessed the robbery, and the store owner shoots and kills Eric. Now, Doug will be charged with the robbery, the killing of the store owner, and the killing of Eric.)

 

This is our equivalent of Felony murder.

 

Dolus Eventualis –  forseeable intent. Here the defendant does not mean to commit

a murder, but is proven to know that it was foreseeable that his or her acts could result in a

death and the defendant recklessly continues anyways.

 

(Example: Doug enjoys driving his vehicle through large glass greenhouses. He knows people work inside these greenhouses and that if he doesn’t stop, he may kill somebody. Doug keeps driving into greenhouses. This time he has killed Bumptious Q., Bangwhistle III, who was working inside the greenhouse. Doug is now under arrest for murder via Dolus Eventualis.

 

This is our equivalent of 2nd degree murder.

 

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So it’s generally agreed upon that Oscar Pistorius in no way pre-planned or premeditated the

killing of Reeva Steenkamp. No Dolus Directus.

 

Pistorius lawfully owned a firearm and was lawfully protecting himself and others in his home. There was no felony that could foreseeably cause a murder. Pistorius did not commit Felony murder. No Dolus Indirectus.

 

Which leaves us with Dolus Evantualis. Did Pistorius know that his actions could foreseeably

lead to a death? If so, did he recklessly go ahead and do these actions anyways? The prosecution says yes, the defense says no.

 

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Judge Masipa, if I am reading her decision correctly, is saying that she does not believe Oscar

Pistorius could forsee that his actions could lead to a death. He did not foresee that his

actions could lead to the death of Reeva Steenkamp, because his story that he folllowed the

sound of a home invader and neglected to check that Reeva was still in the bedroom could

possibly reasonably be true.

 

Judge Marsipa does not believe Oscar could foresee that his actions could lead to the death of

the intruder, because his disability and inability to flee combined with his heightened sense

of fear of attack caused him to react suddenly and impulsively, firing on reflex without

realizing he could cause a death.

 

This is understandable and this is what we hear in many cases of civilians as well as police,

however well trained in the use of firearms, will fire multiple times under fear and many times

will not remember firing so many times.

 

We saw this in the case of Florida’s Michael Dunn, who fired 10 shots but remembered just firing only 4. Also in the case of Missouri Police Officer, Darren Wilson, who fired 10 times at Big Mike Brown. Most likely, he does not remember firing so many shots and will report some tunnel vision and some blurring of events.

 

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Oscar said he did not realize he had fired four times. He did not think Reeva was in the

bathroom. He heard a noise in the toilet room, but he was sure that an intruder was inside.

This is not self-defense by South African gun laws (You must know who or what your target is.

You must identify your target prior to firing) and by South African law (It’s not enough for an

intruder to be present in your home, the person must be an imminent threat to your life in

order to justify the use of deadly force.) A person hiding or cowering in a tiny, enclosed

toilet room is not yet an imminent threat.

 

An unjustifiable, but accidental killing is called culpable homicide – the defendant, without

intent, recklessly caused the death of another human being. This is our equivalent of

Manslaughter.

 

The killing is definitely not justified by mistake or by self-defense. At the very least it is

certainly manslaughter or culpable homicide.

 

1st Degree Murder – Pre-planning, premeditation – Dolus Directus

1st Degree Murder – felony murder, foreseeable consequence of another crime – Dolus Indirectus

 

2nd degree Murder – Not pre-planned, foreseeable, reckless intent – Dolus Eventualius

 

Manslaughter – Reckless, negligent, no intent – Culpable homicide

 

Self-Defense – Justified, must be imminent danger – Non Culpable homicide

 

The prosecution does not see it this way. This is letting Oscar Pistorius off the hook too

easily, like has always happened before. According to Gerrie Nel, Oscar should have foreseen

that he could cause Reeva’s death because he should have known for sure that she was not the

one in the bathroom, either by some way making sure she was present in the bedroom or making

sure of who was in the toilet room before firing.

Gerrie Nel sees Oscar’s story as impossible and unbelievable, indicating 2nd degree murder.

Further, even admitting Oscar’s story that he thought it was an intruder, it’s still Dolus

Eventualis or 2nd degree murder because Oscar should have forseen that firing 4 hollow-point

rounds into a tiny toilet room, believing there was someone inside, with no place to hide,

could lead to the death of  an individual.

 

Some people are saying that the Judge’s decision is based entirely on Oscar’s belief that Reeva

was not in the toilet room. Therefore, he could have never forseen he would cause Reeva’s

death. I believe the judge is smarter than that and that she reasoned on both the possibility it was

Reeva and the possibility it was an intruder.

 

Having been defenders of Jodi Arias in the Arizona, USA case, Amanda and I are both very

sensitive to what the public opinion against Pistorius has been. We know that the media and public opinion has been heavily anti-Oscar and pro-prosecution. We also are aware that the police were very agressive in this case and that the prosecutor was very zealous and relentless in his pursuit of Mr. Pistorius on the stand and in the trial generally. We still feel this was a Valentine’s

Day argument leading to violence and death, not a home-defense accident.

 

Now, let’s look at what Oscar’s story really looks like, something we haven’t really seen

before. This is oscar’s story as testified to and as it must be.

 

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1) Oscar wakes up around 3:00 AM

2) Reeva is either up or wakes up

3) She asks him if he can’t sleep

4) This is the last time he sees, hears, touches Reeva

5) Oscar gets up and brings in two fans from the balcony

(See “Your heart vs the Verdict” for why we feel this is a lie.)

Also, the idea that Oscar gets into this fan project without Reeva asking if she could help him

in any way, is definitely not like Reeva.

 

6) He’s distracted by the noise of the fans, etc.

7) Oscar brings the fans inside, closes the blinds

and the curtains and throws Reeva’s jeans over the

blue light of the stereo. Now the room is pitch black.

8) At the same time, Reeva gets up, goes to the bathroom

with her cell phone. She does not turn on the lights, does not contact Oscar, and loudly slides open the large

window.

9) This must have happened if we accept Oscar’s story as true.

10) Upon hearing the window loudly slide open, Oscar does not check to see Reeva in the

bedroom or call out to her. She was awake less than a minute before, according to Oscar,

but he does not try to establish contact with her. He hears that noise and he has tunnel

vision from then on. This is the giant error that Judge Masipa sees as being possibly

reasonably true.

 

11) Now Reeva is in the toilet or on her way to the toilet. Oscar is on his stumps softly

telling ‘bedroom Reeva’ to get down and call the police.

Although, in another version, he screams back for Reeva to call the police right before he

fires. In the first version, he softly tells Reeva to get down and call the police. Here, only

‘bedroom Reeva’ can hear him, and not ‘bathroom Reeva’, explaining why she did not call the

police. In the other version, both a potential ‘bedroom Reeva’ and a ‘bathroom Reeva’ can hear

him yell out for her to call the police, but neither of them call the police because ‘bathroom

Reeva’ is immediately shot to death.

12) Oscar walks down the hallway on his stumps, I presume making a distinct sound. Reeva hears

this and does not try and contact him?

13) She goes in the toilet room and closes the door and Oscar hears the door close. He calls

out for the intruder to “get the f*ck out of my house”. He yells this twice.

14) Maybe at this stage Reeva realizes that something is wrong, so she locks the door and

listens at the door. But she also pulls the key out of the door lock!

14.5) Oscar, in one version, now yells out for Reeva to call the police, and still Reeva does

nothing to alert Oscar that she is in the toilet and she does not call anyone.

15) Oscar hears a noise inside the toilet room, panics, and the gun fires four times.

 

16) For Oscar’s account to be true, Reeva never makes a sound as a bullet crashes into her hip

(fatal injury), her shoulder, her finger and her skull (fatal injury). She can make no

identifying sound because, according to Oscar’s story, he does not realize it was Reeva until

he gets back to the bedroom. Yet he must know he shot someone, because the person fell over and

against the toilet.

17) So having just fired four shots and hearing someone fall (granted, Oscar claims the shots

deafened him), he now notices the door is locked. Oscar turns his back on the danger to go back

to the bedroom. He then realizes that Reeva is not there and it could be Reeva in the toilet

room.

This is when all the agonized crying for help and screaming happen, according to Oscar.

18) Oscar goes back to the toilet room with his prosthetics and tries to kick down the door

then gets the cricket bat.

19) All the screaming arguing crying, blood curdling screams, man and woman’s voices, and

Oscar’s cries for help were all only coming from Oscar and they all occurred at this time.

20) After breaking down the door, more cries and screams are heard and they are all Oscar until

he makes his first phone call at 3:19 AM.

 

I will leave it up to you if you believe that this story is possibly reasonably true. The

Defense and Judge Masipa feel that it is. Gunshots are extremely loud. To try to explain that no witnesses heard the gunshots but they all heard the door being broken with the cricket bat is hard to believe.

 

If you do not believe that this story can be possibly reasonably true, then the story is false

and Oscar knowingly fired through the door at Reeva Steenkamp, most likely in anger. This is

Dolus Eventualis or 2nd degree murder. Unlike the explanations of some people who don’t understand the law, the prosecution does not need to have a correct theory or a story that is exactly true.

 

If Oscar’s story, the Defense story, can not be seen to be possibly, reasonably true, then he’s

lying, and he’s guilty of knowingly causing Reeva Steenkamp’s death. This is what guilt beyond

a reasonable doubt means.

 

If you side with the judge on part one, we move on to part two. Taking Oscar’s story as

truthful, did he reasonably forsee that he could cause the death of whomever was inside the

toilet room and then recklessly proceed and go ahead with his actions anyways?

 

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The Judge is saying that Oscar did not attempt to make contact with the intruder. He heard a

sound inside the toilet room, he panicked, he responded to the noise, not to a person, and the

gun started firing. In this way, Oscar did not foresee that he would cause the death of

whomever, if anybody, was inside the toilet room.

 

This can be seen as a fair judgement if you overlook all of Oscar Pistorius’ past and consider

him not as a Paralympic Champion or Olympic Runner, but as the average double amputee in the

middle of the night.  If you agree, then that’s the end of the case.

 

I suppose the judge cited various facts in coming to this decision. Namely Oscar’s disability,

his inability to flee (though he claimed he could put on his prosthetics in 30 seconds), his

innate feelings of being attacked, treated unfairly, and preyed uopn, his startle response and

extreme fear, his previous experiences with crime and fearful situations in the past when he

thought an intruder was present, his tunnel vision when responding to noises at night, and his

impulsivity, and foolish recklessness with firearms in the past, confirmed by the prosecution.

 

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The Prosecution would cite that Oscar seemed to shoot in an arc across the toilet door, moving

the gun as ther target moved, rather than just random firing, his experience with handling and

using firearms and his practice on the range, the mandatory training in South Africa for a gun

owner which states you should never fire on a target or person without positively identifying

that target.

 

South African law states that you should not use deadly force unless faced with an

imminent threat of serious injury or death, that a person possibly inside the house is not yet

an imminent threat, that Oscar’s past responses have been responses of aggression and heading

towards the danger, not fear and panic, that his past recklessness with guns should have taught

him to be more careful, that Oscar had faced his disability and overcame his difficulties, that

he did have the opportunity to flee or avoid conflict.

 

Oscar also was Not alone. Especially since he was handicapped, you would expect him to enlist

the help of his partner, by contacting Reeva, or at least making sure she was safe in the

bedroom. He is afraid of the danger but makes no effort to make contact with whoever is in the

toilet room or to give them a warning. He doesn’t call security in the beginning, he claims he

didn’t set his home alarm. If he was so paranoid and fearful of intruders, you think he would

set the alarm, yet, if he did set it, then he’s lying and is guilty anyways because the alarm

would have gone off if Reeva went downstairs for a snack or if an intruder opened the window. Of

course, Oscar has explanations or excuses for all these things.

 

If you side with the prosecution, then this case is not over for you.

 

Is South Africa prepared to dismantle the legendary myth of Oscar Pistorius? I think they would

prefer to avoid this. It seems like Oscar would have a difficult time coming back in sports

after not only this shooting incident, but other really bad behaviors that were covered up for

him in a seemingly organized manner.

 

Hopefully Judge Masipa will have the fortitude to make Oscar have to pay for his crimes

with a little prison time. Then it’s up to South Africans whether they want to rejuvenate their

legend. We will see whether they are willing to forgive, and how much they are willing to

forget.

 

Opposing viewpoints are welcome. Please comment.

You can also comment on Facebook at “Spotlight on law”

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Spotlight-On-Law/189870931203328

Do you think the verdict was correct / fair?

 

Sources:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/12/pistorius-verdict-questioned-as-state-prepares-appeal

http://zeenews.india.com/sports/others/oscar-pistorius-trial-dolus-eventualis-the-legal-latin-on-south-africas-lips_1469112.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/12/pistorius-verdict-questioned-by-south-african-lawyers

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/dolus-eventualis-what-is-it-and-how-has-it-affected-the-oscar-pistorius-trial-9726275.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/wp/2014/09/11/heres-why-oscar-pistorius-wasnt-be-found-guilty-of-murder/

The Best Way to Help Jodi Arias? Don’t!

The Best way to help Jodi Arias?  Don’t!

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Fact based reporting

by Amanda Chen & Rob Roman

Now, why would a blog in support of Jodi Arias say something like this?

We are saying it for one little, insignificant reason, because it’s true.

Support-JodiThere are many people helping Jodi Arias as we speak. They send her supportive cards and letters, they go to visit her at Estrella Jail, they communicate with each other and share important news about the case. These Jodi-helpers write letters and sign petitions, write blogs and comment on websites, purchase her art and raise money for her appeal, organize gift-packs, and keep in communication with her family members.
Still others may feel that Jodi Arias may be guilty but they do not believe it was a fair trial or they do not believe in the death penalty. All these people support Jodi in some way. They yearn to be able to do something more to help. They might not believe that best way to do this is to join in objectives that are not about Jodi Arias.

Help to End Executions in the USA

Help to End State Executions

in Arizona and the other states that use it.
images (8)There are two basic categories of the death penalty in America. The first category is the death penalty statutes in the individual States. These can be repealed by acts of the individual state legislatures. This can depend on who is in power in the legislature and who the Governor is at the moment. There will be an election in Arizona in 2014, and Jan Brewer cannot be re-elected. Governor Brewer has already tried to get the legislature to change the rules so that she can serve an extra four years. Here is a good place to start.
This is the new abolition movement in America. Most of us will never be accused of murder and most of us will not be imprisoned on death row. But we know that many people on death row have been wrongly convicted and some have been executed. We know that the death penalty creates numerous injustices, even for the victims of violent crimes as well as the free citizens of death penalty states,
Clodagh+Joyce+Death+Penalty+Protesters+Hold+Xlqx4bY6faZlSome states such as Texas, Ohio, and Arizona have the death penalty and use it frequently. It’s a hot political issue and many people in these states think it is the right thing to do and it’s the will of God. These states may one day decide that the amount of money spent on capital cases could be put to better use. The victim’s family and friends are not satisfied with a guilty verdict, but suffer through decades of appeals and wait 20 years to finally “get closure”. Most of the time, the execution is of little solace to the family and friends.

Each State is Different

Some states have repealed the death penalty and no longer execute convicted criminals or sentence them to death. Many states have found that the death penalty violates their individual state constitutions. In these states it’s significantly more difficult to return to executing convicted murderers.
Still other states put moratoriums on the use of executions, but the moratoriums can be lifted. The states that do not use the death penalty but have not found it unconstitutional may bring it back into use. There has been talk of this in several states. Other states still have the death penalty, but use it rarely. These states are the most likely to one day create a moratorium or repeal the death penalty statutes.
0350a5f0-19c4-4813-9847-059cebcacc13People living in the states that have a moratorium can argue against bringing the death penalty back. They can get involved in efforts to end the death penalty in states that still use it. People in other states and outside the U.S. can also write letters and articles supporting the abolition of the death penalty in the states that use it regularly.
If you want to help Jodi Arias, or even if you don’t, you can make an effort to end the death penalty in the state of Arizona. You will have done everyone residing in Arizona and humanity a favor, and indirectly, you will be helping Jodi Arias. Then, we would not have to see similar spectacles from Arizona, such as more exonerations of death row prisoners like Debra Milke, and the Jodi Arias trial, embarrassing Arizona and the U.S. in the eyes of the world.

Help end federal executions by the United States Government

The second category is executions practiced by the U.S. Federal Government. The federal government reinstituted the death penalty in 1998. There are 59 people currently on Federal death row.  Fifty people have been sentenced to death from 2000 to 2012.
137458348592614114000701197_104_mcveigh_pastSince 1998, three people have been executed by the United States government. Timothy McVeigh was executed in 2001 for the bombing of a U.S. Federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1995. This act was primarily why the Federal government brought back the death penalty in 1998.
Also in 2001, the U.S. executed luis jones jrJuan Raul Garza, a drug dealer and murderer from Texas. In 2003, Luis Jones Jr. was executed for the 1995 kidnapping, rape and murder of a young Army recruit in Texas. Both McVeigh and Jones were military veterans who fought in foreign wars.
Should mass murderers and terrorists such as Timothy McVeigh and the Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, be executed? Timothy McVeigh is long gone. Wouldn’t it be better if he was still in prison having to face the consequences of his act?
dpcountiesIf you want to talk about injustice, how just is it to make the innocent children, siblings, and parents of Condemned prisoners face the death of their loved ones by the government? How just is it that many other countries will refuse to extradite criminals to the U.S. Government or to states that use the death penalty?
As long as the Federal Government executes people, the states will also want to have that right for themselves. If the Federal Government ends the use of executions, this could set the stage for abolition of the death penalty in individual states. This can also indirectly help Jodi Arias.
 

Help restore the “presumption of innocence”

for suspects and defendants.

bad dogThe power of public opinion is so pervasive it infuses court proceedings and can influence juries, judges, people in high places, and even governments.

hauptmannThere are many reasons to believe that Bruno Richard Hauptman was guilty of the kidnapping and murder of the Linbergh baby (Charles Lindbergh was famous for making the world’s first trans-Atlantic flight in 1927).
imagesThe prosecutor in his trial exhorted the jury to look at Hauptmann’s “predatory eyes” as proof of the certainty of his guilt. We should all be outraged by such tactics, as they are entirely subjective, appeal to the emotions rather than logic, and obscure the facts. Yet, in the case of Jodi Arias, there was much talk on the media about Jodi’s “dead shark eyes”.
Yet even today, emotional persuasion, speculation, and a presumption of guilt have been utilized in the place of or to supplement facts and evidence that should be the sole determinant of guilt or innocence in a trial.
Here are some quotes about the presumption of innocence for suspects and defendants:
hesiod-sm smSo the people will pay the penalty for their King’s presumption, who, by devising evil, turn justice from her path with tortuous speech –Hesiod, 700 BC
images (2) smIt is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer. William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1767
benjamin-franklin-520 smInnocence is its own defense. Benjamin Franklin, 1733
download (2) smTo vice, innocence must always seem only a superior kind of chicanery.-Ouida, Two Little Wooden Shoes, 1874
download (3) sm“Always the innocent are the first victims…. So it has been for ages past, so it is now.” -J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 2001
leonard peltier sm Innocence is the weakest defense. Innocence has a single voice that can only say over and over again, “I didn’t do it.” Guilt has a thousand voices, all of them lies–Leonard F. Peltier, Prison Writings, 1999
 
sc00210 sm“Anybody who understands the justice system knows innocent people are convicted every day.” Florida Supreme Court Justice, Gerald Kogun (Ret.)
078skayfqa6870sa sm“The presumption of innocence only means you don’t go right to jail”. –Ann Coulter, Hannity & Colmes (Fox News), Aug. 24, 2001
download (4) sm“In this country the presumption of innocence is dead, dead, dead.” –John Grisham

Which of these quotes does not seem to go with the others? Which of these quotes just doesn’t belong?

 
22597_002_0036.JPG“What was the quesion…..?” –Vinnie Poitan, Headline News, 2013
The media is a major culprit in the erosion of the presumption of innocence for the accused and defendants in a trial.
“The presumption of innocence, sometimes referred to by the Latin expression Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (the burden of proof is on he who declares, not on he who denies), is the principle that one is considered innocent until proven guilty.”
“Application of this principle is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, recognized in many nations. The burden of proof is thus on the prosecution, which has to collect and present enough compelling evidence to convince the trier of fact, who is restrained and ordered by law to consider only actual evidence and testimony that is legally admissible, and in most cases lawfully obtained, that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubtIf reasonable doubt remains, the accused is to be acquitted.”
“The proof lies upon him who affirms, not upon him who denies; since, by the nature of things, he who denies a fact cannot produce any proof.”
“This right is so important in modern democracies, constitutional monarchies, and republics many have explicitly included it in their legal codes and constitutions.”
http://www.wikipedia.org/
trial by media“Trial by Media” and the huge public interest in murder trials has been an ever-growing factor in the erosion of the presumption of innocence. The public is exposed to speculation and selective facts as well as evidence not allowed in at trial. Murders and murder trials, crime and punishment have a huge entertainment value, which is exploited by media outlets for profit.
Most trials are over 90% boring and there is a constant temptation for the media to spice things up with speculation, unsupported evidence, and outright lies. This creates an assault on the presumption of innocence because once people make up their minds, they will ignore or reject facts which challenge their opinion.
According to Wikipedia, “Trial by media is a phrase used to describe the impact of television and newspaper coverage on a person’s reputation by creating a widespread perception of guilt before, or even after, a verdict in a court of law.”
201002010_lynch“During high-publicity court cases, the media are often accused of provoking an atmosphere of public hysteria akin to a lynch mob which not only makes a fair trial nearly impossible but means that regardless of the result of the trial the accused will not be able to live the rest of their life without intense public scrutiny.
The counter-argument is that the mob mentality exists independently of the media which merely voices the opinions which the public already has.”
http://www.wikipedia.org/
injusticeFor the accused and defendants of less means, who have public defenders, the negative impact of trial-by-media is far greater. They often have no representative or proxy to give their side of the story and to counter untruths. This is why HLN and other media handled the recent Brett Seacat murder trial (A police officer with a private attorney) and the Dr. Martin MacNeil murder trial (An M.D. with a private attorney) with kid gloves compared to the way they absolutely crucified Jodi Arias.
safe_imageThis is especially true of CNN’s HLN, who took a public interest and right to know concept of televising trials, and twisted it to the point where they seem to believe they actually own these trials and can control public opinion.
Yes, HLN was voicing the opinions of the public in the Jodi Arias trial, but they super-charged it and raised the hatred to epic proportions. They told documented untruths, rumors reported as facts, and they told pure lies every week during the Jodi Arias trial. In addition we have instant communication to the masses by means of the social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram which allow facts, rumors and falsities alike to travel at light speed.
trial by social mediaThis has also added the challenging dimension of creating the ability to harass and intimidate participants in the trial as well as people holding unpopular, minority opinions. This phenomenon has outraced common legislation to control such harmful new capabilities.

Help reduce trial by media and restore the presumption of innocence

before and during trials

622539We should call HLN on its lies and incomplete facts and make them prove their allegations. Jodi killed her childhood dog, Jodi wore fake glasses, Jodi attacked another prisoner at the Estrella jail, Jodi has a bad jail record, Jodi flipped the bird at Nancy Grace, Jodi deliberately made “throat slashing” gestures, Jodi lied about wanting the death penalty rather than life in an Arizona jail – all lies told by HLN.
The camera feeds from these high profile trials are available publicly and some websites have offered links to these feeds to shut out players like HLN who try to co-opt and exploit the defendants and their trials for their own ratings and profit purposes. We need to see more of this. Let’s make the feed available to everyone publicly, so that there is less trial by media. It’s too late for Jodi Arias as far as a presumption of innocence and trial by media, but we can help the next person to get a fair trial.
Help reduce wrongful convictions
by advocating for extra funding for forensic testing and more adequate investigations.
exoneratedOf course, there are always limits in manpower and materials to completely investigate each and every factor and lead in a murder investigation.
Still, grossly under-investigated crimes combine with political agendas and this leads to the pressure to indict, arrest, and convict on scant evidence. This is especially true of states like Arizona that are constantly seeking to cut spending to the bare bone. This approach is short sighted and counter productive because it ends up costing more in the long run.
images (3)States should put more money into complete and competent investigations and scientific testing in order to save money from wrongful convictions, reversals, appeals, re-trials, and lawsuits.
Incomplete and incompetent investigations and inadequate testing are two huge factors in wrongful convictions. More thorough investigation and more testing of evidence may change the tide of the Jodi Arias case in appeal and will help to prevent countless wrongful prosecutions.
Help to promote humane prison conditions.
mqh6kxw33e_amnesty_international_logo smInhumane prison conditions cause embarrassment to us all as a nation and reduce our ability to promote improvements in other countries. Arizona is a proven culprit in creating inhumane prison conditions. There should be strict standards for the treatment and conditions of people in custody in the U.S.
images (11)This would help Jodi Arias in the short run and would benefit every citizen in the long run.
Help end the “Incarceration Nation”
and reduce extremely long prison terms for non-violent offenders
 
Fareed Zakaria wrote in Time magazine that the number of jailed prisoners in the United States is one of the great scandals of American life. “Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today,” writes the New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik.”
images (10)Over all, there are now more people under ‘correctional supervision’ in America – more than 6 million – than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height.”
Is this hyperbole? Here are the facts. The U.S. has 760 prisoners per 100,000 citizens. That’s not just many more than in most other developed countries but seven to 10 times as many. Japan has 63 per 100,000, Germany has 90, France has 96, South Korea has 97, and Britain – with a rate among the highest – has 153.
 
170342714_640Even developing countries that are well known for their crime problems have a third of U.S. numbers. Mexico has 208 prisoners per 100,000 citizens, and Brazil has 242. We here in America make up 5% of the world’s population but we make up 25% of the world’s jailed prisoners.
http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2109777,00.html#ixzz2kRNJQip1
The prison system has become a major for-profit industry in the United Sates.
This is mostly due to the “war on drugs”, but has expanded to include other non-violent crimes.
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In two recent cases in Florida, a 19 year-old was sentenced to 162 years in prison with no possibility of parole for a series of unsuccessful armed robberies where no one was hurt. He shot only at a dog, but he missed. A woman who was threatened by her estranged husband in her own home was sentenced to 20 years in prison for discharging a firearm into a wall as a warning to her ex-husband.
These laws are unfairly applied to people of less means and to minorities. There are alternatives to incarceration which include GPS monitoring, rehabilitative counseling, mandatory drug and alcohol treatment, and training and education which can help turn lives around as opposed to throwing lives away.
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Such concepts as mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines should be restricted because they remove the discretion of judges in individual cases and give too much power to District Attorneys.
Shining a spotlight on our embarrassing prison system will help the U.S. to look at the value of rehabilitation as opposed to warehousing people in prisons. We can try to reduce the growth industry of  private prisons and replace this with more constructive and beneficial enterprises.

Help keep local and state governments honest

 
curr-26541When government corruption, especially in law enforcement is observed it should be reported and acted upon. The Jodi Arias trial has helped to shine a spotlight on a variety of highly questionable practices in Arizona. You can get active and speak out on these practices and advocate for investigations and reforms. You do not have to be from a particular state or even from the United States to speak out on these matters.

Help to reduce bullying and domestic violence.

download (7)Domestic violence is not really growing in America, but it’s becoming more deadly, due to the proliferation of firearms and an inability to communicate and deal effectively with conflicts. Bullying in America has increased due to our competitive and aggressive culture.
High-tech has served to make one-time incidents permanent by photo or video. These incidents, accusations, and rumors can spread with lightning speed throughout an entire community. This high-tech dimension makes fleeting incidents into long lasting attacks that few people are equipped to withstand.
images (14)Worse than this, like the current epidemic of the “knockout game”, where young people go out and sneak up on an unsuspecting person and punch them in the head as hard as they can while a friend records it on video, bullying has become a dangerous and potentially deadly “game”. Some young people get a thrill out of using technology to try to destroy the life of another young person, hoping they will cause them emotional distress, or even run them out of a school or the town. They are excited at the idea of using their computers and cell phones to cause a person to take their own life.
images (12)We see this same tactic employed by adults in society at large and especially in the social media, where people can hide behind a computer or cell phone and lash out at opponents protected by anonymity and multiple profiles. Here, we are setting a dangerous and potentially deadly example for children and young adults. This leads to the next item:
Help fight for Jodi by not fighting for Jodi
 
incarceration-nation3There are political courses and classes that teach people to attack the opinions of others by means of personal attacks. These attacks are meant to silence people with an opposing opinion by short circuiting the issues and changing the subject. The usual response to this is to counter-attack with insults and personal attacks.
If we hold an unpopular or minority opinion, fighting with others will not change their opinion or help our cause. It’s better to present factual reasons why we believe the way we do and to respect the holders of opposing opinions. This way we can take the high road and show that our reasoning is based on facts and that we have considered our position carefully.
images (6)We can give our opponents some facts to ponder and some things to think about. This helps our cause by reducing the criticisms that the holder of a minority opinion is ignorant, unreasonable, or crazy. It also makes the attacker look bad when the holder of an unpopular opinion refuses to counterattack or ignores the attack completely.
Another thing we can do is to see if we can find common ground in any of the above issues. People who don’t hold the same opinion you do most likely agree with you on at least one of these other issues.
Helping to put an end to federal and state executions, restoring the presumption of innocence for the accused and defendants, and limiting trial by media is something we can all do to improve the criminal justice system in America.
Pakistan-domestic-violence-via-AFPAdvocating for the Reduction of wrongful convictions through more complete testing and investigations, and improving prison conditions will help to make our system more just and will save money in the long run.
Helping to reduce our prison population, investigating and reporting corruption in government, and helping to reduce bullying and domestic violence incidents and deaths are all things we can work on to improve our society.
images (15)Setting a good example for our kids by not allowing ourselves to be reduced to the level of personal attacks on social media is another positive step we can take. Taking the high road when communicating with “Travis supporters” may get more people to rethink their ideas and opinions about the Jodi Arias trial.  We can show we have a more complete knowledge of the case and we can improve our debating and communicating skills.
Each of these issues directly helps to improve our society and positively impact our culture. They make us a better country in the eyes of the world.
These are not liberal or conservative issues, but are a matter of evolution.
As a bonus, all of these issues indirectly benefit Jodi Arias. That’s one of the reasons why Jodi wants to help domestic violence victims by making sure they seek help and document their abuse. It’s to prevent many others from the same tragic circumstances Jodi is facing now.
We can help improve the system and conditions which may have failed Jodi Arias, and will certainly fail countless others if nothing is done to change the conditions .

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Sometimes, the best way to help Jodi Arias is to not help Jodi Arias. I think even Jodi would agree.

worldFor more insight into why the death penalty is unjust to crime victims and the public please see:

http://americancultureshock.wordpress.com/dp-needs-a-lethal-injection/

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