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EDITORIAL - A Broken System

The verdict is in.

The criminal justice system is broken.

There is a total breakdown in the honor and integrity of government.

It's hard to have respect, confidence and faith in a system in which its players and supposed leaders are more corrupt than the people who have been criminally charged. Lies and false prosecutions permeate the system. The system is built on the credo of one lies and the other swears to it. No, not the defendants. The judges, lawyers and police officers are focused not on seeking truth and justice but rather the almighty conviction and case closure.

And they think they're above the law.

Judges are being found guilty of masturbating on the bench during murder trials. A judge who has been guilty of using his court computer to surf porn sites instead of researching the law and faced charges of sexual harassment of attorneys is not only allowed to remain on the bench until the end of his term but has actually been promoted by the chief administrative judge to review civil appeals.

There's something grossly wrong with this picture. The public perception is that Pinellas' Chief Judge David Demers, infamous for his role in the Terri Schiavo case, has rewarded Florida's Sixth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Brandt Downey by giving him a new appointment to an appeals panel after the Florida Supreme Court has sanctioned him.

The Sixth Judicial Circuit is the home of Schiavo death judge George W. Greer who assisted in covering up abuse and neglect of an innocent disabled woman, refusing to consider medical advances and instead adopting the conflicted, self-serving hearsay of Michael Schiavo as gospel. If ever there was a need for a criminal investigation of a court system, it's the Sixth Judicial Court of Pinellas County.

Greer, Downey, Demers, Douglas Baird, Crockett Farnell and John Lenderman have done more to instill gross distrust in the judiciary than virtually any other jurisdiction in the country.

No, it's not judicial independence. It's full scale judicial tyranny. Don't you know who they are?

The problem is, what level of government would be trustworthy enough to conduct a fair, honest and independent investigation---certainly not the Sixth Circuit state attorney's office of Bernie McCabe or the Florida's attorney general Charlie Crist.

Prosecutors are found guilty of stealing money from the escrow and trust funds of their clients in private practice while others are found guilty of using defendants to traffic drugs. Law enforcement officers are totally ignoring constitutional rights and conducting custodial interrogations without affording a suspect the right to counsel. Judges are denying defendants their right to counsel and then jailing them in contempt when they try to represent themselves. Lawyers refuse to file the proper motions for their clients because "it'll make the judge mad".

A sheriff, motivated by a long standing vendetta against his chief nemesis actually falsifies records and files false statements with the court trying to cause a wrongful incarceration.

Prisons and jails across the United States are full of wrongfully convicted persons, innocent people convicted by a corrupt system. The courts are pillaging estates, guardianships have become a license to steal, the family court system is an absolute horror and the bankruptcy system is totally amok.

Too many people are being coerced into admitting to crimes they didn't commit because prosecutors are threatening to increase the charges if they don't plead guilty. That's extortion. That's a criminal act. If you made such a threat to a business partner or neighbor, you'd be criminally charged. So how can prosecutors and law enforcement officers do it and get away with it? Because you're letting them do it. You're too complacent.

Too many defendants are being convicted by false testimony by criminals bribed by prosecutors, promised special treatment if they will help get them the conviction they want. Court transcripts are being altered and falsified.

More rotten than the corrupt justice system is the public's apathy. Until an injustice happens to them or a member of their family, Americans are content to turn their head and shut their eyes to the corrupt and broken system.

Some have been so brainwashed that they actually believe that there is no such thing as a corrupt cop. Too many police officers and sheriffs are more concerned about their arrest rate and trying to justify their multi-million budgets than they are about the truth.

Most prosecutors are concerned only with their conviction rates and judges are intent on cleaning up their dockets. Defendants are processed like cattle in a stockyard, forget guilt or innocence, just close the case file, mark it solved and get a conviction.

America is heading down that slippery slope to another American Revolution, fueled this time not by oppressive taxation without representation, but by judicial tyranny and the corrupt justice system.

The Sedition Act was also a major cause of America's revolt, the law that said that citizens could be fined or imprisoned for criticizing public officials.

Some 230 years later, government has imposed yet another Sedition Act, albeit this one is unwritten and it's trying to silence such whistleblowers as Ohio's Elsebeth Baumgartner, Elsebeth Baumgartner, disbarred New York attorney Israel Weinstock and others who dare to speak out against the system that they know so well but who abandoned them and disbarred them because they have a conscience.

Individuals who blow the whistle on government wrongdoing and corruption are banished to the gulags of the county jails, charged with contempt or targeted with false contrived charges that the police, prosecutors and judge all rubber stamp in order to get the person "out of their hair" and to stop them from having access to the public, rallying others in their discontent with the system to band together to do something to effect the needed reforms.

Common Sense was written by Thomas Paine and published in 1776. It advocated complete independence of Britain and followed the natural rights philosophy of John Locke, justifying independence as the will of the people and revolution as a device for happiness. From Common Sense, sprang the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Paine's Common Sense traced the origin of government to a human desire to restrain lawlessness. Such exists today in the 21st Century. Government can be diverted to corrupt purposes by the people who created it and such has happened. It's hard to single out any one event that led to the American Revolution. Americans believed they were entitled to the full democratic rights of the English while Britain thought that the American colonies were just colonies to be used and exploited in whatever way best suited Great Britain---somewhat like how judges, prosecutors and the police are acting today towards the populace. With that mindset in 1775, war was inevitable, just as it is today with judicial tyranny increasing virtually unchecked. The runaway judiciary is causing a tremendous unrest in this country.

"Don't you know you I am", a Batavia town justice repeatedly asked a defendant who had received a traffic ticket, an equipment failure for having no windshield. This individual claimed to be an impartial town justice instead engaged in an egregious abuse of judicial power.

How can the public have respect for the judiciary when the people wearing the black robes believe they are above the law and act as total tyrants, in this case suspending the man's driver's license for over three years totally in the absence of authority to do so and then threatening to jail him and assess "thousands of dollars" in bail" in order for the man to retain his liberty?

In the high profile murder trial of Christopher Porco, on trial for the ax murder of his father and attempted murder of his mother, trial judge Jeffrey Berry has excluded from evidence a videotape of 6 Ż hour custodial interrogation by the Bethlehem Police Department. Peter Porco, 52, was the principal clerk to Presiding Justice Anthony V. Cardona of the Appellate Division, 3rd Department and the defense maintains that police were so convinced that their son had committed the ax assaults that they botched the investigation and considered no other suspects.

The police kept Christopher Porco from conferring with legal counsel even though a family friend and attorney sat in the waiting room, asking to confer with him and give him legal advice. The police failed to read Porco his Miranda rights and later claimed they could do so because it was an interview, not an interrogation. What good are the constitutionally guaranteed rights of remaining silent and conferring with an attorney if the police trample those rights?

The nation was virtually stunned with the two week trial in Creek County, Oklahoma of former district court judge Donald Thompson, ultimately convicted of four felony counts of indecent exposure for using a penis pump to engage in masturbation while presiding over murder trials.

And now, his attorney has come under scrutiny for his phone call to a witness the night before she was scheduled to testify. Great fodder for the tabloids, disgraceful in a court of law.

A former Bronx prosecutor, Joseph Milano, unbelievably totally escaped jail time, receiving only five years of probation after being caught stealing over $80,000 he held in a trust for a client. This individual represented the People of the State of New York while he pillaged and violated the public trust.

The injustice was even further exacerbated by allowing this individual to escape jail time for felony grand larceny. It's doubtful that he allowed many of the defendants that he prosecuted for second degree grand larceny to walk with probation. That's abhorrent by itself.

Some would argue that the system works when people like Alan Newton are released from prison. Not so. The unjust rape conviction of Newton denied everyone justice in the case. Newton spent more than 20 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of a brutal rape before being cleared by DNA evidence.

He says his wrongful conviction denied justice to not only him but to the rape victim because his innocence "opens up old wounds and denies her closure". He unjustly lost 20 years of his life that he can never recover for a crime he didn't commit. Such an unjust act by the system leaves tremendous emotional scars.

When he first filed a motion in 1994 asked that new DNA testing be conducted, police said the evidence was unavailable. A second request in 1998 failed and then again last year, the Innocence Project asked the Bronx district attorney's office (hopefully Milano wasn't involved in this case) to have the property clerk division of the New York Police Department search for the rape kit at an evidence warehouse.

The police and prosecutors had earlier claimed that the rape kit had been lost or destroyed but the kit was found and tested for DNA by two separate labs with the results indicating that Newton was "conclusively excluded" as the assailant, giving indication that the police and prosecutors had been lying for 20 years in order to first obtain a conviction and then protect the wrongful outcome. Meanwhile, the real criminal avoided penalty, maybe even victimizing more individuals.

Law and order? The system has become so corrupt and so stacked against defendants that only a very few dare risk a trial and police and prosecutors insure that by threatening that if the defendants dares to assert his right and go to trial, if he loses, that the sentence will be more severe.

The Constitution guarantees that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Not so in America, and in particular, New York State.

The accused are guilty the second they are charged and the system works not to determine innocence or guilt but to secure convictions and process the guilty. Only the na´ve believe that there is truth and justice for all in America's court system. Instead, for the majority, it has become a ticket to hell.

In developing nations, corruption is one of the largest problems, nations where there is no democracy, no Republic. Generally speaking, corruption exists in all countries, but is most prevalent in poor countries with weak governments. Justice is also attainable for the haves rather than the have nots. Defendants who have the money can buy the proper legal representation, they can pay the demanded bribes to make the charges go away.

The tentacles of corruption reach all the way into the White House and State houses across the nation. A federal jury found former White House aide David Safavian guilty of lying and obstructing justice, so far the highest-ranking government official convicted in the growing scandal involving former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

President Bush is engaged in surveillance and eavesdropping of citizens and reporters. The checks and balances are being ignored or maybe it's just because the corruption is so rampant it can't be reined in.

The system is undeniably broken at all levels from the police station to the court and all stops in between. The fix lies in the hands of the people. The apathy must stop. As with the American Revolution, the fix is at the grassroots level of America. Don't say it doesn't affect you, that this is not your fight. If you continue to let complacency rule, you could well become one of the system's casualties. Maybe when the system tolls enough casualties, then the apathy will become people power.

As long as the public remains docile and inactive, the corruption will grow, just like an untreated cancer.

It is your fight and if you don't get involved, what our forefathers fought for in 1776 will have been diminished to irrelevancy. June Maxam 7-08-06