CCR Lawsuit – Aref, et al. v. Holder, et al.
The remarkable and heroic progressive lawyer Len Weinglass died on March 23. Among his cases were the Chicago 8, the Ellsberg case and the Cuban 5. Listen to the 4 interviews Law and Disorder did with him over the last 4 years. He was our close comrade and will be missed by his friends and all those seeking a better world. – Michael Ratner
Last week, Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois signed into law SB3539, which repeals the death penalty in that state. This development is yet another in what appears to signal a trend of moving away from capital punishment. Early last year we covered the American Law Institute’s declaration that the death penalty in this country has been a failure. Listeners may recall that the ALI created the intellectual framework and justification for the current capital justice system. The movement away from this most final form of punishment seems to be due in large part to the public’s increased awareness about its inherent flaws such as great racial disparity in who gets executed and for what reason. Publicity around exonerations stemming from DNA evidence has also added to general awareness of procedural errors in the system.
Attorney Charles Hoffman:
- In 2003, Governor Ryan cleared out death row, he commuted the sentences of the 167 men and women on death row and pardoned four.
- That prompted the legislature to pass a modicum of reform. The governor afterward assembled a commission that recommended 85 reforms.
- The legislature passed five or six. The legislature also created a death penalty reform study commission.
- One of the reforms was that all confessions in police custody had to be videotaped in murder cases.
- No matter what safeguards you implement, there’s no system that can prevent the conviction and condemning of an innocent person.
- Prosecutors around the state were asking for the death penalty in cases that weren’t death penalty prosecutions just so the state would bear the costs rather than the county.
- The legislature is cash-strapped and we were wasting millions and millions of dollars prosecuting capital cases when here in Illinois we have the very strict alternative of life without parole.
- Final Report: Death Penalty Legislative Study Committee. Illinois Death Penalty Reform Study Commission PDF
- After Governor Ryan cleared out death row in 2003, Illinois put 17 men on death row. 2 had committed suicide, which left 15 on death row when Governor Quinn signed the abolition bill and also granted sentence commutation to all 15. He commuted their death sentences to life without parole.
- As the problems with the death penalty have been exposed, the arbitrariness, the racism, as mistakes have gone into public consciousness, juries have been rejecting the death penalty.
- Illinois has become the 16th state to abolish the death penalty, following on the heels of New Mexico, New Jersey and New York. The federal government and the military do have it.
- The “death belt” in this country is in the South and Texas, and is just a legacy of slavery in this country.
- Most executions occur in former slave states. One obvious flaw of the death penalty, studies have shown the death penalty is most likely to be inflicted in a case when the victim is white and the odds go up even further if the defendant is black or Hispanic.
- It’s very gratifying to get rid of this barbaric practice. I represented 35 men and women who were sentenced to death. I do the direct appeals. I’ve had one client executed, I’ve had one client go home.
- Some states have made illegal purchases of the drug. (lethal injection drug shortage)
- Some states are using just one drug, a massive overdose of a barbiturate.
- Life without parole is very draconian, it means there’s no prospect for rehabilitation.
Guest – Attorney Charles Hoffman, Assistant Defender in the Supreme Court Unit at the Office of the State Appellate Defender, and member of the board of directors of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Communities Battle Against Gas Drilling to Protect Water, Way of Life
Environmental community groups from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania continue to band together and try to protect the Marcellus Shale watershed from natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The EPA has stated it will investigate how hydraulic fracturing impacts water supplies and water quality in New York State, yet the drilling moratorium ends this June. The shale is believed to hold some of the world’s largest deposits of natural gas, and those that want to mine this resource say it will reduce dependence on foreign oil and boost the economy. However, many have shown this statement to be false as the natural gas from the United States is being sold to foreign countries such as Norway and France.
Ninety percent of the New York City’s drinking water comes from ground zero of where various oil companies want to drill into the Marcellus Shale for natural gas. Environmental and public health costs are enormous for each well. Every time a well is drilled, the companies use an estimate of 5 to 9 million gallons of water. Each time a well is fractured, it’s another 5-9 million gallons of water; a well can be fractured multiple times. Up to 275 different toxic chemicals are used in the process and after the well is drilled, there are millions of gallons of industrial waste; it’s essentially radioactive water. 40-70% of this water stays underground. The hydro-fracturing process has no federal regulating body. Some of the companies involved are Halliburton, Chesapeake Energy, Fortuna, and Talisman Hess.
- My organization has been working on the issue for a few years to try to keep gas drilling from moving ahead.
- Right now there is a moratorium in place on the Delaware River Watershed. It took a year and a half to get that into place. Regulatory measures that are in place now for gas drilling are not doing their job.
- The bottom line is we’re facing an industry that wants to move ahead.
- The industry is very strong. There are international concerns.
- They’re backed by the government in many ways, they enjoy subsidies.
- This industry is going to move like heck to drill everyplace gas can be gotten.
- The Delaware River Watershed has its origins in the Catskill region of New York State.
- The east and west branches come together in Hancock, New York.
- 330 miles from Hancock to the Atlantic Ocean.
- The watershed is 13,000 square miles and includes four states. It’s overseen by an agency that was born out of water wars.
- Back in the 1950s, all the states were suing each other about who would get water for development.
- In 1961, there was a Supreme Court decree and compact and President Kennedy signed a document that began the Delaware River Basin Commission. As a result of this compact, a large part of the Delaware River goes to New York City.
- There have been regulations federally (by the Army Corps of Engineers) and regionally laid out by the Delaware River Basin Commission.
- New York moratorium on gas drilling is tied to late June when there is supposed to be a new draft of the Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on high volume hydraulic fracturing.
- In order to crack the rock to get at the gas is intrinsically polluting and there’s no way out of that.
- The question of how to stop it is tied to the scientific analysis free from bias.
- Without that bottom-up movement, without that cry for government regulators, the industry would be moving ahead exactly as planned.
Guest – Tracy Carluccio, deputy director with Delaware Riverkeeper Network, a watershed-wide advocacy program. Delaware Riverkeeper Network takes a strong stance on regional and local issues that threaten water quality and the ecosystems of the Delaware River and its watershed. Delaware Riverkeeper Network is the only advocacy organization working throughout the entire Delaware River Watershed.
Late last month, a busload of farm workers from Florida joined members of the NYC Community Farmworker Alliance at Trader Joe’s Upper West Side store. Men and women who pick tomatoes under very harsh conditions demand to be treated more humanely and with improved farm labor wages. Our own Michael Ratner was at the demonstration, we hear some of his interviews.