Friday, September 9, 2011

Jurors need to have guts and insight....

As we approach the now iconic date of “9/11,” it is important to take stock of who and where we are and how enduring we are going to invite and allow our values to be.  The real danger of talking of dangers, real and imagined, is that liberties become eclipsed by cries of “security,” and when cries of security trump liberties, the marvelous experiment in Philadelphia becomes for naught: we become no better than the banana republics that we pretend our self-decreed “exceptionalism” has allowed us to rise above.

Exploiting the hysteria associated with 9/11, the Bush administration purposefully engineered and presided over the most sustained period of constitutional decay in our history, and we have to reverse that before constitutional gangrene consumes the body politic.  Terrorism and alarmism by our own government against our own people is far worse than any attacks on our buildings by outsiders.  

Two of the many original and founding notions that we must restore with vigor are the presumption of innocence and the necessary doctrine that prevents one from having his liberty taken by government by criminal conviction unless a civilian jury, embracing that presumed innocence, is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt about the truth of the government’s claims. And even when there is sufficient evidence, a jury is not required to find a person guilty, in contrast with the inverse standard that when there is insufficient evidence, a jury is mandated to vote not guilty.

What seems too often lost in such discussions is the fact that government has enormous incentives for convictions, and no true devotion to objective, neutral justice.  The yearning for justice is just that, a yearning.  And the claim that such is the goal of government is a civics book nostrum increasingly divorced from truth.  Government is to justice what cancer cells are to health, and that is why the Framers announced that government is evil, sometimes a necessary one, sometimes an intolerable one, but always evil, if liberty and justice be the goal.

Time and again, in the courts in this and other areas, one hears prospective jurors voice various police state sentiments such as “if he weren’t guilty, he wouldn’t be here,” or “where there is smoke, there is fire,” or “I would always tend to believe what a policeman says,” or “if the case has been around this long, there must be validity to the charges,” or other similar Sieg Heil!-type idiocies that reveal only that we fought our Revolution in vain, and that people are increasingly ignorant of our own history and of the news all around about government and police corruption.

We will lose it all if the citizenry does not wake up to the fact that liberty, not power, is the necessary foundation of this Republic, and that the citizenry, speaking robustly through jury pools, is the ultimate protector of that liberty.
Every time a juror presumes their government is telling them the truth, we inch ever closer to the abyss.  Jurors need to have guts and insight, or all will be lost.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Red Light Camera Traffic Court Scam

A cherished friend [who shall remain anonymous unless he speaks up] reminded me of the immortal epigram of the American sage Will Rogers, who said "We are all ignorant, only on different subjects." That was in the context of my distress expressed to him that people want me to help them with appeals of their patently unlawful traffic court outcomes, but about which they did not voice an objection in the trial court. And the particularly outrageous stuff going on in a generally corrupt traffic court system is the red light photo enforcement scam that, if such a money-making scam were practiced by a private individual instead of government, it would land them in the cell next door to Bernie Madoff.

Let's begin at the unfortunate beginnings. At the dawn of recent time, the voters, fed up with run-away government and nanny state programs that kept raising our taxes while diminishing our individual responsibilities, passed Prop. 13, which limited the government's ability to pass taxes. The thinking was that if government had a hard time passing taxes, and that came about because of popular finger-wagging at government about its ovrereaching nature, government would heed the voters' call and cut back programs. The voters were naive about the voarcious appetite of rapacious government.

Instead of cutting back programs, government hacks started looking for ways other than "taxes" to fund their bloat. From that search evolved assessments, fees, and other euphemisms for taxes, but which could get passed by simple majority votes of state and local deceivers. And the greatest opportunity for bypassing the electorate's message in Prop. 13 has become the penalty assessments associated with traffic infractions and DUI offenses: DUI and traffic offenses are the golden goose for corrupt and out of control government.

So, the Vehicle Code exponentially exploaded with nattering offenses of all sorts, which exist in no other state, because a statutory fine of, say, $100, now translates to around $500 going into governmental coffers from hapless motorists. And the politics of traffic court are that if the shiny badged cop says you did something and you say you didn't, the cop always wins, even though the fiction is created that the factual proof [including the cop's credibility] to be carried by government is beyond a reasonable doubt. But our traffic court judges never seem to have any doubt about their cop friends' credibility, and no wonder: part of the penalty assessment from the conviction goes to the courthouse construction fund! The judges get a piece of the illicit action!

Now, the thought is "why should we inconvenience the poor, overworked[!] cops by having them come to court; let's just take a picture of a car, assert that it is the motorist's, and most motorists will pay the mailed fine without contesting the matter." Heinrich Himmler would approve.

And the overwhelming majority do simply pay the mailed fine, it being too time-consuming for most working stiffs to play the traffic court arraignment and trial game. And there has grown up a little, perverse, and unconstitutional twist to the game if you want to contest such things: the judges in many courts, at least in Riverside County [most other counties do not], will demand you pay the fine in advance, labeled "bail," if you plead not guilty and want a trial. Of course, you have a statutory and constitutional right to court trial on such things, and you can never be required to post "bail" in this Republic if you are not a flight risk [and if you showed up for arraignment, you are not!], and you can never constitutionally be required to pay a fine in advance of conviction, but that does not deter traffic court judges in this county from extorting pre-payment of the "fine," labeled "bail," to "let" you enjoy your constititional right to trial. All convictions from such trials are illegal!

Then the Red Light camera scam comes trotting in. I have argued on the radio and elsewhere that those are generally illegal, as processed, and that they should be fought. But by "fighting" them, I mean you have to make objections to the evidence that the self-interested cop tries to introduce: "hearsay," "multiple hearsay," "confrontation," "foundation." You cannot let the stuff come in without voicing objections and then expect to win on appeal, because the appeals panel must look at what came in without objection, not whether it should or should not have come in had there been the proper objection. It is most telling that the judge will ask of you [grill you!] the government's questions [even though courts are supposed to be neutral], but he will not voice the objections for you against the government position that should be made if you knew the law. And your not knowing the law and its complexities is not your fault; there are all sorts of things all of us are ignorant of in others' realms: "We are all ignorant, only on different subjects."

So, to stop this corruption, first, demand a traffic trial and refuse to pay any "bail" to get that trial, and do not waive time for trial. If they have not given you a trial, due to this illegal "bail" garbage, within 45 days of your arraignment, the case must be dismissed. Then, if it is a Red Light Camera case, object to all stuff coming in other than by a percipient [on scene, visually observing, human] witness on the grounds I listed above.

We must stop running around the globe to self-righteously fight governmental corruption, because in this supposedly "exceptional" country we have quite enough of such to deal with and to try to cure ourselves.