Law and Disorder Radio – American Law Institute Renounces the Death Penalty – Lawyers You’ll Like: Jim Lafferty (Part II) – Hosts: Dalia Hashad, Heidi Boghosian, Michael Steven Smith & Michael Ratner – Produced by Geoff Brady

Law and Disorder Radio

Heidi Boghosian Speaks At Emergency Rally for Mumia Abu-Jamal




ali2electric chairThe Death Penalty Loses Support of the American Law Institute

In late 2009, the American Law Institute, which created the intellectual structure for the current capital justice system for nearly 50 years, essentially announced that its project has failed. The American Law Institute or A.L.I. is made up of around 4,000 judges, lawyers and law professors. It streamlines law and model codes to provide coherence in a federal legal system that is usually taking a varied approach. In a 1962 Model Code, the best legal minds of the institute framed a way for the death penalty to be carried out fairly; it then was re-instated in 1976. Now, the same people disavow the structure saying there is no fair system of capital punishment. The New York Times wrote “the institute’s move represents a tectonic shift in legal theory.” The article also points out that capital punishment was plagued by problems including racial disparities.

David Seth Michaels:

  • American Law Institute, the intellectual group that tries to cobble together federal law in the United States including capital punishment. The capital punishment rules that they invented fifty years ago have been the groundwork on which everything has happened since.
  • So, it comes as a bit of a shock that fifty years later, they say “oh, oh.” It doesn’t work. It won’t work, we can’t make it work, so we’re going to fold up our tents. We won’t have anything else to do with it.
  • Unworkable elements in the system: they’re troubled by the racial disparity on who gets executed, there’s tremendous disparity that is regional across the U.S. The project of capital punishment is ridiculously expensive. There’s risk of executing innocent people and politics of appointed judges who wantonly convict.
  • It’s one of these circumstances that it is irreparably falling apart, broken. Everywhere you turn you find horrendous errors, egregious discrimination.
  • The murder rate is higher in places where they have the death penalty than places where they don’t have the death penalty. Public support for the death penalty has been slowly and gradually decreasing.
  • In the early ’70s I became concerned about conditions in the prisons and mental hospitals in Tennessee and Mississippi. This is after the restoration of the death penalty in 1976.
  • I can’t wait for the day that capital punishment is abolished. This system can’t die soon enough. You got nobody supporting the death penalty on an intellectual basis.
  • National Coalition Against the Death Penalty

Guest – Attorney David Seth Michaels. David has represented clients for 30 years, including prison inmates in Mississippi and Tennessee. He’s worked with Brooklyn Legal Services and with the Federal Defenders Service Appeals. He is also a novelist and has his own practice in New York.


Lawyers You’ll Like: Jim Lafferty Part II

We’re delighted to have back with us attorney Jim Lafferty for the second half of our Lawyers You’ll Like series. He is the Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild in Los Angeles and host of The Lawyers Guild Show, a weekly public affairs program on Pacifica Radio sister station KPFK, 90.7 FM in L.A.

He has served as a chief officer of, and spokesperson for, various national anti-war coalitions, including the National Peace Action Coalition, the anti-Vietnam War coalition that organized the largest protests during that war; the National Coalition for Peace in the Middle East, and the National Campaign to End U.S. Intervention in the Philippines. In the 60s and 70s, his law firm, Lafferty, Reosti, Jabara, Papakian & Smith, represented virtually all of the left political movements in and around Detroit, Michigan, during which time he became one of this nation’s leading experts on Selective Service law and military law.

In the early 80’s, Mr. Lafferty founded and chaired the largest A.C.L.U. chapter in the state of Michigan. In New York City, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, he traveled the world organizing on behalf of the labor rights of merchant seafarers. During this time he also taught a course at the New School for Social Research entitled “Vietnam: The War at Home and Abroad.” More recently, Jim Lafferty was the Coordinator of the L.A. Coalition to Stop the Execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, as well as a member of the national steering committee of the Campaign to Stop the Execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Jim Lafferty:

  • The man who was presented to me as my uncle, when I was sixteen he died, and my mother acknowledged that he was my father. A friend of mine, she was a white nurse and she was married to a white school teacher and had a 3 year old daughter.
  • She divorced that man and married a black surgeon. Her mother and former husband wanted custody feeling it was inappropriate for child to be raised in biracial home. George Crockett was one of the lawyers in the National Lawyers Guild in Michigan, took the case only if I clerked and read every opinion on domestic relations given down by the Michigan Supreme Court.
  • We lost that case, and I continued working with that firm. They made a movie about that called “One Potato, Two Potato”
  • The firm had been lawyers for UAW.  I had gone down South to work with the Lawyers Guild in 1963, I was taking depositions for the Freedom Democratic Party. That’s where I met Mary Robinson.
  • Bill Kunstler and Arthur Kinoy / Bill Kunstler’s book (1966) Deep In My Heart
  • Michael Smith: Jeff Haas says Fred Hampton had Bill’s book Deep In My Heart on his bed.
  • When you finally take a stand, even though it leads to your incarceration and apparent lack of freedom, you’re finally free. Anti-war movements: some friends of mine ran as peace candidates just to bring up the question of the war. We ran the entire campaign for $3300, including 10 small billboards. Later we put together the Detroit Coalition to End the War in Vietnam Now.
  • I wasn’t representing people anymore, but as the head of this coalition, you were doing public speaking, and getting an appreciation for what the power of people could do. To the credit of those lawyers who were winning those victories, even then they were saying to younger lawyers like me, but the real important thing is what goes on in the streets.
  • Los Angeles chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. Labor movement is vital. The anti-war movement is vibrant. You can’t blame the young activists for not knowing history, because nobody’s bothered to teach them. I’d like to see the movement coalesce around a meaningful left socialist third party.
  • On the issue of the war, we’re worse off than we were with Bush.
  • Healthcare plan: boondoggle for insurance companies, if you insure people who haven’t been insured, the profits of insurance companies aren’t gonna go down, you and I will pay more, whereas the government should be paying more. NY Times article: putting aside the public option, you get past it by not dealing with it.

Guest – Attorney Jim Lafferty, Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild in Los Angeles and host of The Lawyers Guild Show, a weekly public affairs program onPacifica radio sister station KPFK, 90.7 FM in L.A.