The view from inside

Reading about former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik's reflection on his experiences in federal prison — "the system doesn't work" — reminded me of a revealing episode during the Nixon White House years.


Fixing false convictions

To mark the historic anniversary of the signing of our Constitution, the Washington, D.C.-based Constitution Project invited documentarian Ken Burns to receive an award and lead a panel on the lessons of his film "The Central Park Five." Joining Burns were experts on cases involving innocents convicted of crimes and the question of coerced confessions.

Behind the specifics of the notorious rape of a jogger in New York City’s Central Park years ago that led to a wrongful conviction is the question of the constitutional right to a fair trial, as well as the related question about why people would confess to crimes they didn’t commit, as these defendants did.


Legal fictions

The historic legal fiction that corporations are entities that are distinct from the parties running them might work and make sense for some purposes — but when it comes to criminal responsibility for criminal misconduct by corporate officials, it is bad public policy.

I think of this point as I read about Halliburton’s admitting that it destroyed BP oil spill evidence, and that it's paying a $200,000 fine and enduring a three-year probation for these crimes.


IRS is wrong: No email intercepts without court order

It is hard to believe, but if the Internal Revenue Service is claiming the right to intercept emails without court order because citizens have no expectation of privacy with email, nothing could be more outrageous and wrong and unacceptable.


5-year-olds victims of identity theft

Identity thieves will stop at nothing to pawn others' identities for their own personal gain. But you know the newest trend in identity theft has reached an ultimate low when identity thieves start to target innocent children for their own personal gain.


Gun manufacturers are scapegoats

Imagine a city where the citizens have come to feel so victimized by gun violence that they give up trying to stop criminals. Instead, they choose the most easily identifiable symbol of their problem — gun manufacturers — and start yelling at them.

To these frightened souls, it feels good to yell at gun manufacturers. It feels good to vent their fears. A mainstream media, both TV and in print, are now telling sad and compelling stories about how innocent citizens are gunned down across our nation, to convince we the people that the solution is more gun control legislation.


The paradox of bail reform

The Chief Judge of the New York court system, Jonathan Lippman, was correct in his State of the Judiciary speech last week that the bail system is both unfair to the poor and unsafe for the public. That paradox is not new; there was a pass at bail reform in the 1960s, pushed by then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Time has not cured the problem.

The paradox then and now is that poor defendants are jailed because they cannot afford bail, and dangerous defendants are freed because they can.


If we don’t listen to Gabby Giffords, who should we listen to?

I have to confess I watched not only former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s short, moving testimony Wednesday but also watched her making her way into the hearing room and leaving after she spoke.  

Accompanied by her husband, Capt. Mike Kelly, she walked carefully and deliberately, step by step, working her way past senators and staff who watched as she smiled at them, gave some hugs, gave others a kiss on the cheek. Silence does not begin to describe that room.


Gun issue could decide midterm elections

Only six votes truly matter in the fight over gun control. Five are vulnerable Senate Democrats from deeply red states.
The five senators (with Obama 2012 vote percentages) are Mark Begich of Alaska (40.8 percent), Max Baucus of Montana (41.7 percent), Tim Johnson of South Dakota (39.9 percent), Mark Pryor of Arkansas (36.9 percent) and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana (40.6 percent).


NRA brags about money from mass murder of children; Piers Morgan stands tall with Alex Jones

In my last column I suggested New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie could be the GOP Winston Churchill for warning Republicans about the direction of their party. Now, in one of the most crass, craven, ghoulish and insensitive acts in lobbying history, the National Rifle Association is gloating with glee about how much dues money it is raking in from the mass murder of the children in Newtown.

Meanwhile, Piers Morgan should be given a presidential medal of freedom for his leadership on guns while the nut wing of the right calls for him to be deported. The weird and bizarre performance by Alex Jones on Morgan's show is a great advertisement for banning military-style assault weapons, and a great example of attitudes that Republicans and conservatives should denounce and deplore.