Something Feral

Digging up the flower-beds.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Don't turn around...

Der Kommissar's in town:
One of the areas still under discussion, according to a senior Justice Department official, is the standard for the FBI's rare involvement in responding to civil disorder. Under the current standards, FBI involvement requires the approval of the attorney general and can last for only 30 days.

The new approach would relax some of those requirements and would expand the investigative techniques that agents could use to include deploying informants. FBI agents monitoring large-scale demonstrations that they believe could turn dangerous also would have new power to use those techniques.

Policy guidance for FBI agents and informants who work as "undisclosed participants" in organizations is still being written, the officials said yesterday.

This country is rapidly developing uncanny similarities to Soviet Russia in more than a few ways. While things haven't quite declined to this level yet, I wouldn't discount the possibility in the name of fighting "domestic terrorism":
Former judges and lawyers say the system is also under threat from authorities angered because jurors render not-guilty verdicts far more often than judges do. About two out of 10 defendants tried by juries are acquitted, compared with fewer than one in 100 tried by judges. It takes seven votes on a 12-member jury to convict.

While the legal system in the United States is not required to inform the jury of its rights when assembled (Sparf v. United States, 1895), they currently must abide with any decision that incorporates the act of jury nullification (United States v. Moylan, 1969). However, in what could be construed as a false extension of voir dire, a policy like this could feasibly be enacted. The government has already making the case that it should be able to change the venue to secure a higher probability of conviction:
To support his effort to move the trial, Ebert produced affidavits from several Chesapeake residents who support a change of venue. He asked the judge to let the case be settled by an impartial body elsewhere.

"There's so much misinformation that has been put forth in this case," he said. "Much of that has been self-serving statements from the defendant."

He cited Frederick's jailhouse interviews, rallies in his support and a billboard erected in front of his home. Ebert said that blogs, some claiming to have audiences of up to 50,000, have added to the speculation.

"There has been criticism that the police should have never gone to this house to begin with," he told the judge.

Change of venue is utilized for securing a "fair and impartial" trial. As the Commonwealth itself is not on trial but trying to secure the conviction, it should not have the option available to change the venue for its own purposes. Under Virginia law the Commonwealth is supposedly equally entitled to a fair trial, however, a superseding law may cause the prosecution some headache:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

I should also mention the debacle surrounding said "informants" and "investigative techniques" previously mentioned at the beginning of the post; according to Radley Balko (senior editor of and an eminently adept reporter) on his site The Agitator, Ebert's involvement with the suppression of evidence on behalf of the officers at the Frederick residence and the protection of confidential informants with vested interest in the prosecution sets more than a few red-flags regarding both persecutory and police misconduct.

The bottom line: the criminal system functions on prosecutions, and the machinery is being established for easing a purposefully-difficult process of depriving a citizen of his or her liberty at the will and whim of the State. Not only is it done in a kangaroo-court style, but under the guise that a citizen of formerly-unsullied reputation may, in a heart-beat, become "one of them", a "domestic terrorist", or the subconciously-segregated subhuman "drug-user". In a Kafka-inspired nightmare, the State is now preying without remorse or hesitation on those that would, in fatal error, look to it for protection.

Our liberties were paid for in blood, and they will vanish if we do not stand and fight for them.


Elusive Wapiti said...

"As the Commonwealth itself is not on trial but trying to secure the conviction, it should not have the option available to change the venue for its own purposes."

Indeed, the fair trial language talks about the defendant, who faces the awesome and terrible power of the State.

I find the State's argument that *they* need a change to venue to be laughable

Something Feral said...

It is laughable in its audacity, but I'm not amused in the slightest by his motives.

I think a hearty belly-laugh by the judge followed by a dead-pan "NO" would fit the bill, perhaps with a lengthy and condescending speech about the Sixth Amendment.

I do dream.