Archive for June 5th, 2012

Torture Awareness Month

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 8:23 pm by

June is Torture Awareness Month. This month of education and remembrance includes a multitude of issues that are already making headlines. The fight to repeal indefinite detention authorities that Congress approved and President Obama signed into law through the National Defense Authorization Act last year is just beginning. Also, the ongoing efforts to end solitary confinement and Islamophobia, and to demand accountability from the United States government are continuing to strengthen every day.

However, there is still a lot of work to be done, even though these issues are in the news and on the minds of legislators. Unfortunately, none of the individuals involved in Bush administration torture have been investigated for their involvement. In fact, such individuals as Jay Bybee  have been rewarded for their participation. Bybee now has a lifetime seat on the federal bench. In comparison, millions of Americans have been imprisoned for undeniably less abhorrent crimes because of institutional racism and economic disparities that are so pervasive in the United States criminal justice system.torture_always_wrong-03255

Many events will take place throughout the United States this month to remind the world that torture is unacceptable in any form. These events will include a march in Washington, DC, on June 24 and local vigils  on June 26. You can organize a local vigil or to find out if a vigil has already been planed for your area. If you are looking to get involved with local initiatives in other ways, check out BORDC’s local campaigns on executive accountability for torture.

News Digest 6/5/12

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

Whatever happened to justice? Supreme Court OKs police tasering pregnant women

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 10:05 am by

The following commentary was written by John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute. It was originally published in longer form on June 4, 2012.

Once again, the United States Supreme Court has proven Clarence Darrow, a civil liberties attorney and long-time advocate for the Constitution, correct in his assertion that “there is no such thing as justice—in or out of court.” In meting out this particular miscarriage of justice, the Supreme Court recently refused to hear the case of a pregnant woman who was repeatedly tasered by Seattle police during a routine traffic stop simply because she refused to sign a speeding ticket.

Malaika Brooks, 33 years old and seven months pregnant, was driving her 11-year-old son to school on a November morning in 2004, when she was pulled over for driving 32 mph in a 20 mph school zone. Instructing her son to walk the rest of the way to school, Malaika handed over her driver’s license to Officer Juan Ornelas for processing. However, when instructed to sign the speeding ticket—which the state inexplicably requires, Malaika declared that she wished to contest the charge, insisting that she had not done anything wrong and fearing that signing the ticket would signify an admission of guilt.

Taser GunWhat happened next is a cautionary tale for anyone who still thinks that they can defy a police officer, even if it’s simply to disagree about a speeding ticket. Rather than issuing a verbal warning to the clearly pregnant (and understandably emotional) woman, Officer Ornelas called for backup. Officer Donald Jones subsequently arrived and told Brooks to sign the ticket. Again she refused. The conversation became heated. The cops called in more backup. The next to arrive was Sergeant Steven Daman, who directed Brooks to sign the ticket, pointing out that if she failed to do so, she would be arrested and taken to jail. Again, Malaika refused.

On orders from Sgt. Daman, Ornelas ordered a distraught Brooks to get out of the car, telling her she was “going to jail.” Malaika refused, and the second cop, Jones, responded by pulling out his taser electro-shock weapon, asking her if she knew what it was and warning her it would be used on her if she continued to resist. Brooks told him “No,” and then said, “I have to go to the bathroom, I am pregnant, I’m less than 60 days from having my baby.”

Jones and Ornelas then proceeded to discuss how best to taser the pregnant woman and forcibly remove her from the car. One officer said, “Well, don’t do it in her stomach; do it in her thigh.” Opening the car door, Ornelas twisted Malaika’s arm behind her back. Desperate, Brooks held on tightly to the steering wheel, while Jones cycled the taser as a demonstration of its capacity to cause pain.