Feds extend deadline for public comments on future draft

The feds initially provided only a few days for the public to submit comments regarding the future of the draft in the United States. This mirrored their process of announcing public hearings with only a few days notice. Due to pressure, they have extended the deadline for your online comments until September. 

They need to hear from us!

  • It's time to end draft registration once and for all.
  • Don't expand the draft to women. End it for everyone.
  • No national service linked to the military--including immigration enforcement.
  • Until the US is invaded by a foreign power, stop pretending that the draft is about anything other than empire.
  • Submit your own comments online here.

As we have been reporting to you, a federal commission has been formed to address the future of draft registration in the United States and whether the draft should end or be extended.

The press release states "The Commission wants to learn why people serve and why people don't; the barriers to participation; whether modifications to the selective service system are needed; ways to increase the number of Americans in service; and more."

Public hearings are currently scheduled for the following cities. We encourage folks to attend these hearings by checking the commission's website for the actual dates and locations of these hearings (usually annouced only days before).

  • June 26/27, 2018: Iowa City, IA
  • June 28/29, 2018: Chicago, IL
  • July 19/20, 2018: Waco, TX
  • August 16/17, 2018: Memphis, TN
  • September 19/21, 2018: Los Angeles, CA

For more background information, read our recent post "Why is the government soliciting feedback on the draft now?"

Courage to Resist Podcast: The Future of Draft Registration in the United States

We had draft registration resister Edward Hasbrouck on the Courage to Resistpodcast this week to explain what's going on. Edward talks about his own history of going to prison for refusing to register for the draft in 1983, the background on this new federal commission, and addresses liberal arguments in favor of involuntary service. Edward explains:

When you say, "I'm not willing to be drafted", you're saying, "I'm going to make my own choices about which wars we should be fighting", and when you say, "You should submit to the draft", you're saying, "You should let the politicians decide for you."

What's happening right now is that a National Commission … has been appointed to study the question of whether draft registration should be continued, whether it should be expanded to make women, as well as men register for the draft, whether a draft itself should be started, whether there should be some other kind of Compulsory National Service enacted.

The Pentagon would say, and it's true, they don't want a draft. It's not plan A, but it's always been plan B, and it's always been the assumption that if we can't get enough volunteers, if we get in over our head, if we pick a larger fight than we can pursue, we always have that option in our back pocket that, "If not enough people volunteer, we're just going to go go to the draft, go to the benches, and dragoon enough people to fight these wars."

The first real meaningful opportunity for a national debate 

about the draft in decades . . .

Courage to Resist -- Support the Troops Who Refuse to Fight!

484 Lake Park Ave. No. 41, Oakland, CA 94610







Why I Stand with Survivors of Empire

Dear Bonnie,

I'm Anya, Courage to Resist's Project Manager. I originally came to this work as a veteran of the fight to end the war against women, in which I have fought in both the trenches and bureaucratic offices for the past twenty years. What I know is that survivors who ask for advocacy, support services, and who speak up, will face public and familial humiliation and retaliation from naming their oppressors.

These women are among the most courageous people you will ever meet. And if I am going to learn anything at all about the courage needed to change our society, then I want to be by their side in struggle, determination and persistence.

This is also why I feel it is so vitally important to support war resisters, or survivors of empire. People with this same quality of courage and who choose to use it against the very assumptions of war itself.

In truth, many of us do not stand up and fight back against state-sponsored violence. We accept and bargain with situations of violence we've found ourselves in, because to directly oppose can bring even more push back, often with significant economic, social, physical and/or psychological harm.

Each person who stands up and says "No more will I keep my mouth shut or my eyes closed" impacts endless others through modeling and illuminating how near both resistance and resilience really are.

I joined Courage to Resist only one month before Chelsea Manning was released from jail, and attending the celebration parties I was blessed to witness what is possible. Oppression works when we believe the lies that are told to us, that 'they' have ultimate power over our lives. But that is not true.

Tactics of empire will not change until it is more than the ones being stomped on who take a stand. Solidarity moves mountains and softens cruelty's blow.

Draw a line in the sand. If you have not donated yet this month to our mission, now is the time to do so. In the words of Tamar Ze'evi, the young Israeli refuser with whom we just published a podcast interview:

"Where is the line at which one should stop cooperating, and was it already passed?"

In solidarity,

Anya de Marie

Project Manager, Courage to Resist

We cannot support the resisters without YOU! Please donate what you can today!


484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland, California 94610 ~ 510-488-3559

www.couragetoresist.org ~ facebook.com/couragetoresist



"There Was a Crooked Prez"

By Dr. Nayvin Gordon

There was a crooked Prez, and he walked a crooked mile,

He found a crooked lawyer upon a crooked isle,

They bought a crooked election which caught a crooked mission,

And they both lived together in a little crooked prison.

April 28, 2018

Dr. Gordon is a California Family Physician who has written many articles on health and politics.













It is so beautiful to see young people in this country rising up to demand an end to gun violence. But what is Donald Trump's response? Instead of banning assault weapons, he wants to give guns to teachers and militarize our schools. But one of the reasons for mass school shootings is precisely because our schools are already militarized. Florida shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was trained by U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) program while he was in high school.

Yesterday, Divest from the War Machine coalition member, Pat Elder, was featured on Democracy Now discussing his recent article about the JROTC in our schools. The JROTC teaches children how to shoot weapons. It is often taught by retired soldiers who have no background in teaching. They are allowed to teach classes that are given at least equal weight as classes taught by certified and trained teachers. We are pulling our children away from classes that expand their minds and putting them in classes that teach them how to be killing machines. The JROTC program costs our schools money. It sends equipment. But, the instructors and facilities must be constructed and paid for by the school.

The JROTC puts our children's futures at risk. Children who participate in JROTC shooting programs are exposed to lead bullets from guns. They are at an increased risk when the shooting ranges are inside. The JROTC program is designed to "put a jump start on your military career." Children are funneled into JROTC to make them compliant and to feed the military with young bodies which are prepared to be assimilated into the war machine. Instead of funneling children into the military, we should be channeling them into jobs that support peace and sustainable development. 

Tell Senator McCain and Representative Thornberry to take the war machine out of our schools! The JROTC program must end immediately. The money should be directed back into classrooms that educate our children.

The Divest from the War Machine campaign is working to remove our money from the hands of companies that make a killing on killing. We must take on the systems that keep fueling war, death, and destruction around the globe. AND, we must take on the systems that are creating an endless cycle of children who are being indoctrinated at vulnerable ages to become the next killing machine.  Don't forget to post this message on Facebook and Twitter.

Onward in divestment,

Ann, Ariel, Brienne, Jodie, Kelly, Kirsten, Mark, Medea, Nancy, Natasha, Paki, Sarah, Sophia and Tighe

P.S. Do you want to do more? Start a campaign to get the JROTC out of your school district or state. Email divest@codepink.org and we'll get you started!



October 20-21, 2018

Cindy Sheehan and the Women's March on the Pentagon

A movement not just a protest

By Whitney Webb

WASHINGTON—In the last few years, arguably the most visible and well-publicized march on the U.S. capital has been the "Women's March," a movement aimed at advocating for legislation and policies promoting women's rights as well as a protest against the misogynistic actions and statements of high-profile U.S. politicians. The second Women's March, which took place this past year, attracted over a million protesters nationwide, with 500,000 estimated to have participated in Los Angeles alone.

However, absent from this women's movement has been a public antiwar voice, as its stated goal of "ending violence" does not include violence produced by the state. The absence of this voice seemed both odd and troubling to legendary peace activist Cindy Sheehan, whose iconic protest against the invasion and occupation of Iraq made her a household name for many.

Sheehan was taken aback by how some prominent organizers of this year's Women's March were unwilling to express antiwar positions and argued for excluding the issue of peace entirely from the event and movement as a whole. In an interview with MintPress, Sheehan recounted how a prominent leader of the march had told her, "I appreciate that war is your issue Cindy, but the Women's March will never address the war issue as long as women aren't free."

War is indeed Sheehan's issue and she has been fighting against the U.S.' penchant for war for nearly 13 years. After her son Casey was killed in action while serving in Iraq in 2004, Sheehan drew international media attention for her extended protest in front of the Bush residence in Crawford, Texas, which later served as the launching point for many protests against U.S. military action in Iraq.

Sheehan rejected the notion that women could be "free" without addressing war and empire. She countered the dismissive comment of the march organizer by stating that divorcing peace activism from women's issues "ignored the voices of the women of the world who are being bombed and oppressed by U.S. military occupation."

Indeed, women are directly impacted by war—whether through displacement, the destruction of their homes, kidnapping, or torture. Women also suffer uniquely and differently from men in war as armed conflicts often result in an increase in sexual violence against women.

For example, of the estimated half-a-million civilians killed in the U.S. invasion of Iraq, many of them were women and children. In the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, the number of female casualties has been rising on average over 20 percent every year since 2015. In 2014 alone when Israel attacked Gaza in "Operation Protective Edge," Israeli forces, which receives $10 million in U.S. military aid every day, killed over two thousand Palestinians—half of them were women and children. Many of the casualties were pregnant women, who had been deliberately targeted.

Given the Women's March's apparent rejection of peace activism in its official platform, Sheehan was inspired to organize another Women's March that would address what many women's rights advocates, including Sheehan, believe to be an issue central to promoting women's rights.

Dubbed the "Women's March on the Pentagon," the event is scheduled to take place on October 21—the same date as an iconic antiwar march of the Vietnam era—with a mission aimed at countering the "bipartisan war machine." Though men, women and children are encouraged to attend, the march seeks to highlight women's issues as they relate to the disastrous consequences of war.

The effort of women in confronting the "war machine" will be highlighted at the event, as Sheehan remarked that "women have always tried to confront the war-makers," as the mothers, daughters, sisters and wives of the men and women in the military, as well as those innocent civilians killed in the U.S.' foreign wars. As a result, the push for change needs to come from women, according to Sheehan, because "we [women] are the only ones that can affect [the situation] in a positive way." All that's missing is an organized, antiwar women's movement.

Sheehan noted the march will seek to highlight the direct relationship between peace activism and women's rights, since "no woman is free until all women are free" and such "freedom also includes the freedom from U.S. imperial plunder, murder and aggression"that is part of the daily lives of women living both within and beyond the United States. Raising awareness of how the military-industrial complex negatively affects women everywhere is key, says Sheehan, as "unless there is a sense of international solidarity and a broader base for feminism, then there aren't going to be any solutions to any problems, [certainly not] if we don't stop giving trillions of dollars to the Pentagon."

Sheehan also urged that, even though U.S. military adventurism has long been an issue and the subject of protests, a march to confront the military-industrial complex is more important now than ever: "I'm not alarmist by nature but I feel like the threat of nuclear annihilation is much closer than it has been for a long time," adding that, despite the assertion of some in the current administration and U.S. military, "there is no such thing as 'limited' nuclear war." This makes "the need to get out in massive numbers" and march against this more imperative than ever.

Sheehan also noted that Trump's presidency has helped to make the Pentagon's influence on U.S. politics more obvious by bringing it to the forefront: "Even though militarism had been under wraps [under previous presidents], Trump has made very obvious the fact that he has given control of foreign policy to the 'generals.'"

Indeed, as MintPress has reported on several occasions, the Pentagon—beginning in March of last year—has been given the freedom to "engage the enemy" at will, without the oversight of the executive branch or Congress. As a result, the deaths of innocent civilians abroad as a consequence of U.S. military action has spiked. While opposing Trump is not the focus of the march, Sheehan opined that Trump's war-powers giveaway to the Pentagon, as well as his unpopularity, have helped to spark widespread interest in the event.

Different wings of the same warbird

Sheehan has rejected accusations that the march is partisan, as it is, by nature, focused on confronting the bipartisan nature of the military-industrial complex. She told MintPress that she has recently come under pressure owing to the march's proximity to the 2018 midterm elections—as some have ironically accused the march's bipartisan focus as "trying to harm the chances of the Democrats" in the ensuing electoral contest.

In response, Sheehan stated that: 

"Democrats and Republicans are different wings of the same warbird. We are protesting militarism and imperialism. The march is nonpartisan in nature because both parties are equally complicit. We have to end wars for the planet and for the future. I could really care less who wins in November."

She also noted that even when the Democrats were in power under Obama, nothing was done to change the government's militarism nor to address the host of issues that events like the Women's March have claimed to champion.

"We just got finished with eight years of a Democratic regime," Sheehan told MintPress. "For two of those years, they had complete control of Congress and the presidency and a [filibuster-proof] majority in the Senate and they did nothing" productive except to help "expand the war machine." She also emphasized that this march is in no way a "get out the vote" march for any political party.

Even though planning began less than a month ago, support has been pouring in for the march since it was first announced on Sheehan's website, Cindy Sheehan Soapbox. Encouraged by the amount of interest already received, Sheehan is busy working with activists to organize the events and will be taking her first organizing trip to the east coast in April of this year. 

In addition, those who are unable to travel to Washington are encouraged to participate in any number of solidarity protests that will be planned to take place around the world or to plan and attend rallies in front of U.S. embassies, military installations, and the corporate headquarters of war profiteers.

Early endorsers of the event include journalists Abby Martin, Mnar Muhawesh and Margaret Kimberley; Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly; FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley; and U.S. politicians like former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. Activist groups that have pledged their support include CodePink, United National Antiwar Coalition, Answer Coalition, Women's EcoPeace and World Beyond War.

Though October is eight months away, Sheehan has high hopes for the march. More than anything else, though, she hopes that the event will give birth to a "real revolutionary women's movement that recognizes the emancipation and liberation of all peoples—and that means [freeing] all people from war and empire, which is the biggest crime against humanity and against this planet." By building "a movement and not just a protest," the event's impact will not only be long-lasting, but grow into a force that could meaningfully challenge the U.S. military-industrial complex that threatens us all. God knows the world needs it.

For those eager to help the march, you can help spread the word through social media by joining the march's Facebook page or following the march'sTwitter account, as well as by word of mouth. In addition, supporting independent media outlets—such as MintPress, which will be reporting on the march—can help keep you and others informed as October approaches.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer forMintPress News who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, theAnti-Media, and21st Century Wire among others. She currently lives in Southern Chile.

MPN News, February 20, 2018






Herman Bell is FREE




After almost 14 years of tireless work, we are changing our name to About Face: Veterans Against the War! This has been a long time coming, and we want to celebrate this member-led decision to grow our identity and our work with you.

Member vote at Convention in favor of changing the name

Why change our name? It's a different world since our founding in 2004 by 8 veterans returning from the invasion of Iraq. The Bush Administration's decision to start two wars significantly altered the political landscape in the US, and even more so in the Middle East and Central Asia. For all of us, that decision changed our lives. Our membership has grown to reflect the diversity of experiences of service members and vets serving in the so-called "Global War on Terror," whether it be deploying to Afghanistan, special operations in Africa, or drone operations on US soil. We will continue to be a home for post-9/11 veterans, and we've seen more members join us since the name-change process began.

Over the past 15 years, our political understanding has also grown and changed. As a community, we have learned how militarism is not only the root cause of conflicts overseas, but how its technology, tactics, and values have landed directly on communities of color, indigenous people, and poor people here at home.

So why this name? About Face is a drill command all of us were taught in the military. It signifies an abrupt 180 degree turn. A turn away. That drill movement represents the transformation that has led us to where we find ourselves today: working to dismantle the militarism we took part in and building solidarity with people who bear the weight of militarism in its many forms.

We are keeping Veterans Against the War as our tag line because it describes our members, our continued cause, and because we are proud to be a part of the anti-war veteran legacy. Our name has changed and our work has deepened, but our vision -- building a world free of militarism -- is stronger than ever. 

As we make this shift, we deeply appreciate your commitment to us over the years and your ongoing support as we build this new phase together. We know that dismantling militarism is long haul work, and we are dedicated to being a part of it with you for as long as it takes.

Until we celebrate the last veteran,

Matt Howard
About Face: Veterans Against the War
(formerly IVAW)

P.O. Box 3565, New York, NY 10008. All Right Reserved. | Unsubscribe

To ensure delivery of About Face emails please add webmaster@ivaw.org to your address book.



Tell the Feds: End Draft Registration

Courage to Resist Podcast: The Future of Draft Registration in the United States

We had draft registration resister Edward Hasbrouck on the Courage to Resistpodcast this week to explain what's going on. Edward talks about his own history of going to prison for refusing to register for the draft in 1983, the background on this new federal commission, and he addresses liberal arguments in favor of involuntary service. Edward explains: 

When you say, "I'm not willing to be drafted", you're saying, "I'm going to make my own choices about which wars we should be fighting", and when you say, "You should submit to the draft", you're saying, "You should let the politicians decide for you."

What's happening right now is that a National Commission … has been appointed to study the question of whether draft registration should be continued, whether it should be expanded to make women, as well as men register for the draft, whether a draft itself should be started, whether there should be some other kind of Compulsory National Service enacted.

The Pentagon would say, and it's true, they don't want a draft. It's not plan A, but it's always been plan B, and it's always been the assumption that if we can't get enough volunteers, if we get in over our head, if we pick a larger fight than we can pursue, we always have that option in our back pocket that, "If not enough people volunteer, we're just going to go go to the draft, go to the benches, and dragoon enough people to fight these wars."

[This] is the first real meaningful opportunity for a national debate about the draft in decades.


484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland, California 94610 ~ 510-488-3559


















Major George Tillery




April 25, 2018-- The arrest of two young men in Starbucks for the crime of "sitting while black," and the four years prison sentence to rapper Meek Mill for a minor parole violation are racist outrages in Philadelphia, PA that made national news in the past weeks. Yesterday Meek Mills was released on bail after a high profile defense campaign and a Pa Supreme Court decision citing evidence his conviction was based solely on a cop's false testimony.

These events underscore the racism, frame-up, corruption and brutality at the core of the criminal injustice system. Pennsylvania "lifer" Major Tillery's fight for freedom puts a spotlight on the conviction of innocent men with no evidence except the lying testimony of jailhouse snitches who have been coerced and given favors by cops and prosecutors.

Sex for Lies and Manufactured Testimony

For thirty-five years Major Tillery has fought against his 1983 arrest, then conviction and sentence of life imprisonment without parole for an unsolved 1976 pool hall murder and assault. Major Tillery's defense has always been his innocence. The police and prosecution knew Tillery did not commit these crimes. Jailhouse informant Emanuel Claitt gave lying testimony that Tillery was one of the shooters.

Homicide detectives and prosecutors threatened Claitt with a false unrelated murder charge, and induced him to lie with promises of little or no jail time on over twenty pending felonies, and being released from jail despite a parole violation. In addition, homicide detectives arranged for Claitt, while in custody, to have private sexual liaisons with his girlfriends in police interview rooms.

In May and June 2016, Emanuel Claitt gave sworn statements that his testimony was a total lie, and that the homicide cops and the prosecutors told him what to say and coached him before trial. Not only was he coerced to lie that Major Tillery was a shooter, but to lie and claim there were no plea deals made in exchange for his testimony. He provided the information about the specific homicide detectives and prosecutors involved in manufacturing his testimony and details about being allowed "sex for lies". In August 2016, Claitt reaffirmed his sworn statements in a videotape, posted on YouTube and on JusticeforMajorTillery.org.

Without the coerced and false testimony of Claitt there was no evidence against Major Tillery. There were no ballistics or any other physical evidence linking him to the shootings. The surviving victim's statement naming others as the shooters was not allowed into evidence.

The trial took place in May 1985 during the last days of the siege and firebombing of the MOVE family Osage Avenue home in Philadelphia that killed 13 Black people, including 5 children. The prosecution claimed that Major Tillery was part of an organized crime group, and falsely described it as run by the Nation of Islam. This prejudiced and inflamed the majority white jury against Tillery, to make up for the absence of any evidence that Tillery was involved in the shootings.

This was a frame-up conviction from top to bottom. Claitt was the sole or primary witness in five other murder cases in the early 1980s. Coercing and inducing jailhouse informants to falsely testify is a standard routine in criminal prosecutions. It goes hand in hand with prosecutors suppressing favorable evidence from the defense.

Major Tillery has filed a petition based on his actual innocence to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Larry Krasner's Conviction Review Unit. A full review and investigation should lead to reversal of Major Tillery's conviction. He also asks that the DA's office to release the full police and prosecution files on his case under the new  "open files" policy. In the meantime, Major Tillery continues his own investigation. He needs your support.

Major Tillery has Fought his Conviction and Advocated for Other Prisoners for over 30 Years

The Pennsylvania courts have rejected three rounds of appeals challenging Major Tillery's conviction based on his innocence, the prosecution's intentional presentation of false evidence against him and his trial attorney's conflict of interest. On June 15, 2016 Major Tillery filed a new post-conviction petition based on the same evidence now in the petition to the District Attorney's Conviction Review Unit. Despite the written and video-taped statements from Emanuel Claitt that that his testimony against Major Tillery was a lie and the result of police and prosecutorial misconduct, Judge Leon Tucker dismissed Major Tillery's petition as "untimely" without even holding a hearing. Major Tillery appealed that dismissal and the appeal is pending in the Superior Court.

During the decades of imprisonment Tillery has advocated for other prisoners challenging solitary confinement, lack of medical and mental health care and the inhumane conditions of imprisonment. In 1990, he won the lawsuit, Tillery v. Owens, that forced the PA Department of Corrections (DOC) to end double celling (4 men to a small cell) at SCI Pittsburgh, which later resulted in the closing and then "renovation" of that prison.

Three years ago Major Tillery stood up for political prisoner and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal and demanded prison Superintendent John Kerestes get Mumia to a hospital because "Mumia is dying."  For defending Mumia and advocating for medical treatment for himself and others, prison officials retaliated. Tillery was shipped out of SCI Mahanoy, where Mumia was also held, to maximum security SCI Frackville and then set-up for a prison violation and a disciplinary penalty of months in solitary confinement. See, Messing with Major by Mumia Abu-Jamal. Major Tillery's federal lawsuit against the DOC for that retaliation is being litigated. Major Tillery continues as an advocate for all prisoners. He is fighting to get the DOC to establish a program for elderly prisoners.

Major Tillery Needs Your Help:

Well-known criminal defense attorney Stephen Patrizio represents Major pro bonoin challenging his conviction. More investigation is underway. We can't count on the district attorney's office to make the findings of misconduct against the police detectives and prosecutors who framed Major without continuing to dig up the evidence.

Major Tillery is now 67 years old. He's done hard time, imprisoned for almost 35 years, some 20 years in solitary confinement in max prisons for a crime he did not commit. He recently won hepatitis C treatment, denied to him for a decade by the DOC. He has severe liver problems as well as arthritis and rheumatism, back problems, and a continuing itchy skin rash. Within the past couple of weeks he was diagnosed with an extremely high heartbeat and is getting treatment.

Major Tillery does not want to die in prison. He and his family, daughters, sons and grandchildren are fighting to get him home. The newly filed petition for Conviction Review to the Philadelphia District Attorney's office lays out the evidence Major Tillery has uncovered, evidence suppressed by the prosecution through all these years he has been imprisoned and brought legal challenges into court. It is time for the District Attorney's to act on the fact that Major Tillery is innocent and was framed by police detectives and prosecutors who manufactured the evidence to convict him. Major Tillery's conviction should be vacated and he should be freed.

Major Tillery and family


    Financial Support—Tillery's investigation is ongoing. He badly needs funds to fight for his freedom.

    Go to JPay.com;

    code: Major Tillery AM9786 PADOC

    Tell Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner:

    The Conviction Review Unit should investigate Major Tillery's case. He is innocent. The only evidence at trial was from lying jail house informants who now admit it was false.

    Call: 215-686-8000 or

    Write to:

    Major Tillery AM 9786

    SCI Frackville

    1111 Altamont Blvd.

    Frackville, PA 17931

    For More Information, Go To: JusticeForMajorTillery.org


    Kamilah Iddeen (717) 379-9009, Kamilah29@yahoo.com

    Rachel Wolkenstein (917) 689-4009, RachelWolkenstein@gmail.com



    Free Leonard Peltier!

    On my 43rd year in prison I yearn to hug my grandchildren.

    By Leonard Peltier

    Art by Leonard Peltier

    I am overwhelmed that today, February 6, is the start of my 43rd year in prison. I have had such high hopes over the years that I might be getting out and returning to my family in North Dakota. And yet here I am in 2018 still struggling for my FREEDOM at 73.

    I don't want to sound ungrateful to all my supporters who have stood by me through all these years. I dearly love and respect you and thank you for the love and respect you have given me.

    But the truth is I am tired, and often my ailments cause me pain with little relief for days at a time. I just had heart surgery and I have other medical issues that need to be addressed: my aortic aneurysm that could burst at any time, my prostate, and arthritis in my hip and knees.

    I do not think I have another ten years, and what I do have I would like to spend with my family. Nothing would bring me more happiness than being able to hug my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

    I did not come to prison to become a political prisoner. I've been part of Native resistance since I was nine years of age. My sister, cousin and I were kidnapped and taken to boarding school. This incident and how it affected my cousin Pauline, had an enormous effect on me.

    This same feeling haunts me as I reflect upon my past 42 years of false imprisonment. This false imprisonment has the same feeling as when I heard the false affidavit the FBI manufactured about Myrtle Poor Bear being at Oglala on the day of the fire-fight—a fabricated document used to extradite me illegally from Canada in 1976.

    I know you know that the FBI files are full of information that proves my innocence. Yet many of those files are still withheld from my legal team. During my appeal before the 8th Circuit, former Prosecuting Attorney Lynn Crooks said to Judge Heaney: "Your honor, we do not know who killed those agents. Further, we don't know what participation, if any, Mr. Peltier had in it."

    That statement exonerates me, and I should have been released. But here I sit, 43 years later still struggling for my freedom. I have pleaded my innocence for so long now, in so many courts of law, in so many public statements issued through the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, that I will not argue it here. But I will say again, I DID NOT KILL THOSE AGENTS!

    Right now, I need my supporters here in the U.S. and throughout the world helping me. We need donations large or small to help pay my legal team to do the research that will get me back into court or get me moved closer to home or a compassionate release based on my poor health and age. Please help me to go home, help me win my freedom!

    There is a new petition my Canadian brothers and sisters are circulating internationally that will be attached to my letter. Please sign it and download it so you can take it to your work, school or place of worship. Get as many signatures as you can, a MILLION would be great!

    I have been a warrior since age nine. At 73, I remain a warrior. I have been here too long. The beginning of my 43rd year plus over 20 years of good time credit, that makes 60-plus years behind bars.

    I need your help. I need your help today! A day in prison for me is a lifetime for those outside because I am isolated from the world.

    I remain strong only because of your support, prayers, activism and your donations that keep my legal hope alive.

    In the Spirit of Crazy Horse


    Leonard Peltier

    If you would like a paper petition, please email contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info.

    —San Francisco Bay View, February 6, 2018

    Write to:

    Leonard Peltier 89637-132 

    USP Coleman I 

    P.O. Box 1033 

    Coleman, FL 33521

    Donations can be made on Leonard's behalf to the ILPD national office, 116 W. Osborne Ave, Tampa, FL 33603



    Artwork by Kevin Cooper



    Reality's trial
    is postponed 

    until October 15th.

    That's 500 Days in Jail,
    Without Bail!


    Whistleblower Reality Winner's trial has (again) been postponed.
    Her new trial date is October 15, 2018, based on the new official proceedings schedule (fifth version). She will have spent 500 days jailed without bail by then. Today is day #301.
    And her trial may likely be pushed back even further into the Spring of 2019.

    We urge you to remain informed and engaged with our campaign until she is free! 

    One supporter's excellent report

    on the details of Winner's imprisonment

    ~Check out these highlights & then go read the full article here~

    "*Guilty Until Proven Innocent*

    Winner is also not allowed to change from her orange jumpsuit for her court dates, even though she is "innocent until proven guilty."  Not only that, but during any court proceedings, only her wrists are unshackled, her ankles stay.  And a US Marshal sits in front of her, face to face, during the proceedings.  Winner is not allowed to turn around and look into the courtroom at all . . .

    Upon checking the inmate registry, it starts to become clear how hush hush the government wants this case against Winner to be.  Whether pre-whistleblowing, or in her orange jumpsuit, photos of Winner have surfaced on the web.  That's why it was so interesting that there's no photo of her next to her name on the inmate registry . . .

    For the past hundred years, the Espionage Act has been debated and amended, and used to charge whistleblowers that are seeking to help the country they love, not harm it.  Sometimes we have to learn when past amendments no longer do anything to justify the treatment of an American truth teller as a political prisoner. The act is outdated and amending it needs to be seriously looked at, or else we need to develop laws that protect our whistleblowers.

    The Espionage Act is widely agreed by many experts to be unconstitutionally vague and a violation of the First Amendment of Free Speech.  Even though a Supreme Court had ruled that the Espionage Act does not infringe upon the 1st Amendment back in 1919, it's constitutionality has been back and forth in court ever sense.

    Because of being charged under the Espionage Act, Winner's defense's hands are tied.  No one is allowed to mention the classified document, even though the public already knows that the information in it is true, that Russia hacked into our election support companies." 

     Want to take action in support of Reality?

    Step up to defend our whistleblower of conscience ► DONATE NOW

    c/o Courage to Resist, 484 Lake Park Ave #41, Oakland CA 94610 ~ 510-488-3559


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    From Clifford Conner

    Dear friends and relatives

    Every day the scoundrels who have latched onto Trump to push through their rightwing soak-the-poor agenda inflict a new indignity on the human race.  Today they are conspiring to steal the tips we give servers in restaurants.  The New York Times editorial appended below explains what they're trying to get away with now.

    People like you and me cannot compete with the Koch brothers' donors network when it comes to money power.  But at least we can try to avoid putting our pittance directly into their hands.  Here is a modest proposal:  Whenever you are in a restaurant where servers depend on tips for their livelihoods, let's try to make sure they get what we give them.

    Instead of doing the easy thing and adding the tip into your credit card payment, GIVE CASH TIPS and HAND THEM DIRECTLY TO YOUR SERVER. If you want to add a creative flourish such as including a preprinted note that explains why you are doing this, by all means do so.  You could reproduce the editorial below for their edification.

    If you want to do this, be sure to check your wallet before entering a restaurant to make sure you have cash in appropriate denominations.

    This is a small act of solidarity with some of the most exploited members of the workforce in America.  Perhaps its symbolic value could outweigh its material impact.  But to paraphrase the familiar song: What the world needs now is solidarity, sweet solidarity.

    If this idea should catch on, be prepared for news stories about restaurant owners demanding that servers empty their pockets before leaving the premises at the end of their shifts.  The fight never ends!

    Yours in struggle and solidarity,


    Most Americans assume that when they leave a tip for waiters and bartenders, those workers pocket the money. That could become wishful thinking under a Trump administration proposal that would give restaurants and other businesses complete control over the tips earned by their employees.

    The Department of Labor recently proposed allowing employers to pool tips and use them as they see fit as long as all of their workers are paid at least the minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour nationally and higher in some states and cities. Officials argue that this will free restaurants to use some of the tip money to reward lowly dishwashers, line cooks and other workers who toil in the less glamorous quarters and presumably make less than servers who get tips. Using tips to compensate all employees sounds like a worthy cause, but a simple reading of the government's proposal makes clear that business owners would have no obligation to use the money in this way. They would be free to pocket some or all of that cash, spend it to spiff up the dining room or use it to underwrite $2 margaritas at happy hour. And that's what makes this proposal so disturbing.

    The 3.2 million Americans who work as waiters, waitresses and bartenders include some of the lowest-compensated working people in the country. The median hourly wage for waiters and waitresses was $9.61 an hour last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Further, there is a sordid history of restaurant owners who steal tips, and of settlements in which they have agreed to repay workers millions of dollars.

    Not to worry, says the Labor Department, which argues, oddly and unconvincingly, that workers will be better off no matter how owners spend the money. Enlarging dining rooms, reducing menu prices or offering paid time off should be seen as "potential benefits to employees and the economy over all." The department also assures us that owners will funnel tip money to employees because workers would quit otherwise.

    t is hard to know how much time President Trump's appointees have spent with single mothers raising two children on a salary from a workaday restaurant in suburban America, seeing how hard it is to make ends meet without tips. What we do know is that the administration has produced no empirical cost-benefit analysis to support its proposal, which is customary when the government seeks to make an important change to federal regulations.

    The Trump administration appears to be rushing this rule through — it has offered the public just 30 days to comment on it — in part to pre-empt the Supreme Court from ruling on a 2011 Obama-era tipping rule. The department's new proposal would do away with the 2011 rule. The restaurant industry has filed several legal challenges to that regulation, which prohibits businesses from pooling tips and sharing them with dishwashers and other back-of-the-house workers. Different federal circuit appeals courts have issued contradictory rulings on those cases, so the industry has asked the Supreme Court to resolve those differences; the top court has not decided whether to take that case.

    Mr. Trump, of course, owns restaurants as part of his hospitality empire and stands to benefit from this rule change, as do many of his friends and campaign donors. But what the restaurant business might not fully appreciate is that their stealth attempt to gain control over tips could alienate and antagonize customers. Diners who are no longer certain that their tips will end up in the hands of the server they intended to reward might leave no tip whatsoever. Others might seek to covertly slip cash to their server. More high-minded restaurateurs would be tempted to follow the lead of the New York restaurateur Danny Meyer and get rid of tipping by raising prices and bumping up salaries.

    By changing the fundamental underpinnings of tipping, the government might well end up destroying this practice. But in doing so it would hurt many working-class Americans, including people who believed that Mr. Trump would fight for them.





    Working people are helping to feed the poor hungry corporations! 

    Charity for the Wealthy!

    GOP Tax Plan Would Give 15 of America's Largest Corporations a $236B Tax Cut: Report

    By Jake Johnson, December 18, 2017











    Puerto Rico Still Without Power

















    Addicted to War:

    And this does not include "…spending $1.25 trillion dollars to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and $566 billion to build the Navy a 308-ship fleet…"









    Kaepernick sports new T-shirt:

    Love this guy!








    1) Was Kevin Cooper Framed for Murder?

    By Nicholas Kristof, with Jessia Ma and Stuart A. Thompson, May 17, 2018


    San Bernardino County Sheriff Floyd Tidwell identifies the man sought for murder. (DOUG PIZAC/AP)

    The first sign that something was wrong was a continuous busy signal on the home phone of Doug and Peggy Ryen.

    Bill Hughes, who lived nearby, wasn't initially concerned. His 11-year-old son, Chris, had slept over at the Ryens' and he thought maybe they had all gone out for breakfast. But finally at noon Hughes drove over to pick Chris up and, when no one answered the Ryens' door, he peered through the sliding glass doors — and his brain couldn't process all the red. "This is paint, makeup," he thought wildly.

    Then reality sank in, and he kicked the kitchen door in. Blood from the five victims was splattered everywhere. Hughes rushed to his son, but the body was cold. Doug and Peggy Ryen, both nude, had also been stabbed to death, and the bloody corpse of their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, was in a doorway. But Josh Ryen, 8 years old, was moving feebly on the floor even though his throat had been slashed and his skull fractured.

    Soon sheriff's deputies were swarming all over the Ryen house in affluent, suburban Chino Hills, east of Los Angeles, that day in June 1983. Several signs, including Josh's personal account, pointed to three white attackers, and blond or brown hairs were found in the victims' hands, as if torn off in a struggle.

    Sheriff's deputies were also contacted by the woman whose boyfriend was a convicted murderer, recently released from prison, whom she suspected of involvement in the Ryen killings. She not only gave deputies his bloody coveralls but also told them that his hatchet was missing from his tool rack and resembled one of the weapons reportedly used in the attacks.

    But instead of testing the coveralls for the Ryens' blood, the deputies threw them away–and pursued Cooper. After a racially charged trial, he was convicted of murdering the Ryens and Chris Hughes and is now on death row at San Quentin Prison.

    Gov. Jerry Brown is refusing to allow advanced DNA testing that might finally resolve the question of who committed the murders, even though Cooper's defense would pay for it. Brown refuses to allow even advanced testing of the blond or brown hairs  that were found in the victims' hands.

    This is the story of a broken justice system. It appears that an innocent man was framed by sheriff's deputies and is on death row in part because of dishonest cops, sensational media coverage and flawed political leaders — including Democrats like Brown and Kamala Harris, the state attorney general before becoming a U.S. senator, who refused to allow newly available DNA testing for a black man convicted of hacking to death a beautiful white family and young neighbor. This was a failure at every level, and it should prompt reflection not just about one man on death row but also about profound inequities in our entire system of justice.

    I'm using strong language, I know. But I went to San Quentin to interview Cooper, reviewed trial transcripts and other documents, spoke to innumerable people on and off the record, and in 34 years at The New York Times, I've never come across a case in America as outrageous as Kevin Cooper's. So hear me out.

    Smarter people than me have come to the same conclusion. "This guy is innocent," said Thomas R. Parker, a 30-year law enforcement veteran who was deputy head of the F.B.I.'s office in Los Angeles. "The evidence was planted, he was framed, the cops lied on the stand."

    Parker said the case involved "abject racism," and he has volunteered his time investigating the case for the last seven years because he is horrified that a man he believes was framed is nearing execution.

    Or listen to Judge William A. Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. "He is on death row because the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department framed him," Fletcher declared in a searing 2013 lecture.

    This appears to be a replay of a tragedy we've seen before: The police are under great pressure to solve a sensational crime, they are sure they have the culprit, and when evidence is lacking they plant it and give false testimony. This is called "testilying," and it's more common than we'd like to think. In New York City alone, The New York Times found "an entrenched perjury problem," with more than 25 instances of probable testilying just since 2015.

    How did we get here?

    Initially, the authorities searched for three white men, which fit the evidence from the crime.

    That was Cooper, and deputies who examined his file and mug shot saw a black man with a huge Afro who fit their narrative of an incorrigible criminal. He had a long arrest record dating back to when he was 7 years old.

    The sheriff's deputies were sure they had their man: an escaped felon, one who they thought looked suitably evil. The authorities pivoted and focused on Cooper, ignoring other threads.

    Still, the authorities had a problem: Although they were sure Cooper was the killer, they couldn't find fingerprints, hairs or other evidence implicating him.

    So evidence began to turn up in mysterious ways.

    A thorough search of the station wagon found no evidence that Cooper had used the car. That problem was remedied when a second search of the vehicle turned up some of Cooper's cigarette butts; sheriff's deputies had found such cigarette butts in the empty house where he had stayed, but the butts had vanished.

    Another challenge for the prosecution was motive. After escaping from the prison, Cooper was desperate for money, yet some cash had been left on the counter  in the Ryens' house.

    The prosecution suggested that Cooper wanted to steal the station wagon. But the Ryens kept the keys in the car; there was no need to enter the house.

    Nevertheless, four days after the discovery of the murders, the sheriff announced the crime had been solved: Cooper was being sought for murder.

    While the police were desperately trying to connect Cooper to the crime, another man who should have been a prime suspect was not being investigated.

    That's a remarkable element of this case: Not only has the evidence against Cooper largely been discredited, but evidence has accumulated against another individual, who happens also to be a convicted murderer. Fletcher, the federal judge, wrote a long section in a judicial opinion implicating this man, whom I'll identify only by his first name, Lee.

    It was his girlfriend, Diana Roper, who had alerted deputies after the murders made the news to the reasons she believed that he had participated in the Ryen murders.

    Roper and her sister said that Lee came home late on the night of the killings in a station wagon like that of the Ryens, wearing blood-drenched coveralls, and that his hatchet was missing from his tool rack and resembled one of the murder weapons described by authorities. She said that on the day of the killing she had laid out for Lee a medium-size tan Fruit of the Loom T-shirt with a pocket; she remembered because she had just bought it for Lee at Kmart. It was exactly like a Fruit of the Loom T-shirt found by the bar with blood on it; testing showed it was the Ryens' blood.

    Roper said in an affidavit : "Lee was wearing long sleeve coveralls … splattered with blood. … He did not have the beige T-shirt. Lee took the coveralls off and left them on the floor of the closet. … A few days after, … Lee had changed his appearance by cutting most of his hair off and trimmed his sideburns and his 'Fu Manchu' moustache."

    Roper gave deputies the bloody coveralls. But instead of testing them to see if the blood was from the Ryens, the sheriff's office threw them out.

    A private investigator for Cooper's defense, Ron Forbush, interviewed Deputy Frederick Eckley about the bloody coveralls, which he collected from Diana Roper and later destroyed.

    Roper said she cannot be sure that Lee's missing hatchet is the same as the one used in the murders, but she added that "the curvature of the handle is the same" and it had a similar "American Indian pattern to it." Her sister, Karee Kellison, who was with Roper, confirmed much of her story.

    Then there was the peculiar matter of the recovery of the Ryens' station wagon.

    The sheriff's office claimed that Cooper took the Ryens' station wagon, but aside from the witnesses who reported seeing several white men driving it on the night of the murders, a new witness has emerged who saw the car the next day.

    The woman, who is scared of being identified as a witness for now but says she will testify under oath if necessary, said three white people in the Ryens' car were driving crazily and almost crashed into her vehicle.

    Her grandmother, who was with her that day, wrote down the license plate number. Hours later, after the murder was discovered, the authorities broadcast a description of the missing car with its license plate number.

    "I ran out to the car and got the slip of paper on which my grandmother had written the license number," the woman wrote in a formal declaration. "It was exactly the same." She said that she wrote to the police with her information, but the authorities did not follow up or share it with the defense.

    Shown an old photo of Lee, this woman said that it resembled the driver but that she couldn't be sure it was the same man.

    If there's no apparent motive for Cooper, there are only hints of one for Lee. His previous murder, of a 17-year-old girl, was at the behest of a gang leader, Clarence Ray Allen, who raised the same kind of Arabian horses as the Ryens. There's some — very squishy, unconfirmed — evidence that Allen may have previously threatened to kill Peggy Ryen, that they had a quarrel over a horse sale gone sour, and that she was terrified of him.

    All this said, let's be clear that if there's one lesson from the Cooper case, it's that we should be very wary of assuming guilt on the basis of fragmentary evidence. I tracked down Lee, now 68, and he strongly denied any involvement in the case. However, he did not want to discuss it and asked not to be contacted again.

    One point in Lee's favor: He has avoided serious tangles with the law in the decades since the Ryen killings.

    With all these uninvestigated threads, it's worth considering the motives of the San Bernardino sheriff's office, which handled the investigation.

    Sheriff Floyd Tidwell had recently been appointed to his position and was facing election that year, adding to the pressure to solve the most brutal crime in the county's memory.

    It's clear that the sheriff's office wasn't a stickler for rules. Tidwell was later convicted for stealing more than 500 guns from county evidence rooms. A lab technician who "found" shoe print evidence against Cooper was later fired for stealing heroin from the evidence room.

    The sheriff's office also bungled the forensics, so that 70 people trampled through the crime scene.

    Then, a day after the bodies were discovered, the district attorney closed the on-scene investigation for fear, he said, of gathering so much evidence that defense experts could spin complicated theories.

    Concerns with the San Bernardino sheriff's deputies have continued since then.

    Almost exactly 10 years after the Ryen murders, there was another terrible murder in San Bernardino County, and a man named William Richards was convicted in part based on evidence "discovered" by the same sheriff's office lab technician who earlier had "found" evidence against Cooper. Later, it turned out that this evidence was planted, and Richards was eventually exonerated. (The sheriff's office declined to comment for this article.)

    The only witness to the murders themselves, of course, was Josh Ryen, who endured a physical and emotional trauma that is unimaginable. By the time of the trial, he had no clear memory of what happened or of seeing an intruder.

    Yet his first memories were clearer. I tracked down Don Gamundoy, who at the time of the murders was a social worker at the hospital to which Josh was rushed. "He was awake and alert," Gamundoy recalled.

    Josh could hear but couldn't speak because of the wound to his throat, so Gamundoy wrote the alphabet, the numbers and the words "yes" and "no" on a piece of paper and asked Josh to point to the letters to spell his name, phone number and birth date. Josh did so correctly, showing that the method worked.

    Then Gamundoy asked Josh if the people who did this were black.

    "He pointed to 'no,'" Gamundoy told me. Communicating in the same way, Josh said that the attackers were white, and that there were three or four of them.

    This was a chaotic scene unfolding as doctors were struggling to treat the boy, but Gamundoy said he had asked each question twice to make sure the answers were not a mistake. Sheriff's deputies were present and observing, he said, and in interviews with deputies later, Josh referred to the attackers as "they," saying that "they" had chased him.

    With a good defense, Cooper might have prevailed. But his county public defender was overwhelmed and made a series of practical legal mistakes.

    "Kevin got convicted because they framed him and because he didn't have a half-decent defense," said Norman C. Hile, his current lawyer. Hile, now retired as a partner in the international law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, has volunteered on the case for the last 14 years because he fiercely believes in Cooper's innocence.

    This is a familiar pattern: Inmates have third-rate defenders at trial, but after they are sentenced to death they get the help of brilliant free counsel; by then it is often too late to undo the damage.

    Cooper's trial unfolded amid the ugliest racism. At a hearing, a crowd displayed signs reading "Hang the Nigger." One man displayed a noose around a stuffed gorilla.

    Newspapers carried inaccurate reports, apparently based on prosecution leaks, that tied Cooper to the murder scene and suggested falsely that he was gay (seizing upon 1980s homophobia as well as racism).

    Still, the trial outcome was close. The jury took a week to convict Cooper, and one juror told reporters that there would have been no conviction "if there had been one less piece of evidence."

    Cooper was scheduled to be executed at 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 10, 2004. On Feb. 9, he was offered a last meal (he turned it down), and led on the "dead man walking" path to a holding area beside the execution cell. He was strip-searched, given new clothes to die in, and guards searched his arms for veins that could be used to administer lethal injections. A pastor visited to pray with him.

    Yet on what was supposed to be his last day, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted a stay of execution, and a few hours before the end, the warden halted the machinery of death.

    Cooper was now permitted to conduct a new test on the tan T-shirt, and this time the labs found something extraordinary. Yes, that may have been Cooper's blood on it — but the blood had a chemical preservative called EDTA in it. That suggested that the blood came not from Cooper directly but from a test tube of his blood. Sure enough, the sheriff's deputies had taken a sample of Cooper's blood and had kept it in a test tube with EDTA.

    Now the lab checked a swatch of blood from that test tube. More wonders! The test tube miraculously contained the blood of two or more people .

    This indicated that the sheriff's office may have used the test tube of Cooper's blood to frame him, and then topped off the test tube with someone else's blood.

    "How could there be blood from two people? Well, I ask you to remember the teenager's trick. Drink liquor from mom and dad's bottle, and then you put some water back in to bring it back up to the line. How do we have blood from two people? Well how do you bring it back up to the line after you've taken blood from it?"


    A United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge, speaking about Kevin Cooper's case

    Cooper's case began to get traction. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals en banc refused to hear an appeal by Cooper, but Fletcher wrote a remarkable 100-page dissent, concluding, "The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man." Four judges joined in this extraordinary judicial opinion.

    Likewise, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found in 2015 that there had been profound flaws in the case and called for a review. The deans of four law schools and the president of the American Bar Association expressed concerns. At the end of his term in office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urged a "thorough and careful review" of the case.

    Five of the original jurors signed declarations expressing concerns about the case and calling for new DNA testing or for clemency. An award-winning book, "Scapegoat," concluded that Cooper had been framed. In February 2016, Hile and the Orrick law firm submitted to Governor Brown a 235-page clemency petition, pleading for advanced DNA testing of evidence from the case.

    Cooper's lawyers ask above all for new "touch DNA" testing — capable of detecting microscopic residues — of the tan T-shirt, the hatchet and the blond or brown hairs found in the victims' hands. This might determine who wore the tan T-shirt or handled the hatchet, and whom the hairs came from. Was it Kevin Cooper? Or was it Lee?

    As state attorney general, Kamala Harris refused to allow this advanced DNA testing and showed no interest in the case (she declined to comment for this column). As for Brown, he has not responded in the two years since the petition was filed, and he refused to be interviewed. His spokesman, Gareth Lacy, told me that the petition "remains under review." Brown leaves office in January, and I think he is running out the clock.

    One reason Brown may be hesitant to weigh in: For four years before becoming governor, he was attorney general, and during that time he suggested that no one on death row was innocent. I hope that this won't keep him from allowing advanced DNA testing.

    California voters in 2016 approved a ballot measure to hasten executions. So, depending on how litigation unfolds, Cooper could again be led to the execution chamber sometime in the next year or so — and even if he delays execution, he feels he is wasting away.

    Kevin Cooper at San Quentin

    "Look at how white my hair is," Cooper told me, bending over to show how his hair is graying. "I don't have as much time left. Every day is one I won't get back."

    I was speaking to him in San Quentin Prison, in a cage where inmates are allowed to meet outsiders. Cooper lives on death row in San Quentin, in a 4.5-foot-by-11-foot cell.

    Cooper told me about his abusive and troubled childhood in Pennsylvania, where he was adopted as a baby. When prosecutors said that Cooper had tangled with the law since the age of 7, they were right, but he says that the reason is that he was running away from home to escape beatings. His childhood involved shoplifting, marijuana smoking, juvenile detention and negligible education; he never graduated from high school.

    These days in prison, Cooper has remedied his lack of education with a G.E.D. diploma and comes across as smart, passionate and articulate. But he's not optimistic that the governor or courts will block his execution.

    "I don't have any confidence," he told me. "I don't believe in the system." He also spends his time writing a memoir, which now stands at more than 300 pages. "That's my motivating factor to get out of here, to tell my story and tell the truth about this rotten-ass system," he said.

    I asked Cooper whom he blamed. The sheriff? The jury? "I blame myself first and foremost, for walking out of Chino prison, for letting those people get their hands on me," he said. "I regret that every day of my life."

    Time and again, Cooper came back to a larger point: The criminal justice system is unfair to poor people and members of minorities.

    "I'm frameable, because I'm an uneducated black man in America," he said. "Sometimes it's race, and sometimes it's class."

    "The only people here on death row to my understanding are the poor," he added. "Even the white people on death row, they're poor. If they're white, racism goes away and classism jumps in and takes its place."

    Although Cooper's defenders note that before the murders he had never been convicted of a violent offense, or even charged with one, it's a bit more complicated: He has been accused of rape without being charged.

    I'm particularly troubled by one episode. Cooper admits forcing a 17-year-old girl into a vehicle in 1982. She says that he also hit her, threatened to kill her and raped her, and she went afterward to a hospital to seek treatment; he flatly denies hitting or raping her. Hile says that if the evidence had been strong, Cooper would have been charged with rape. For my part, I can't think why the girl would have lied, and although it's impossible to know after 36 years what happened, it bothers me.

    It's obvious to you by now that this is not a usual column — I'm not sure The Times has ever published a column of this length — so why am I exploring the case with such passion? I became interested primarily because Fletcher and other respected federal appeals judges had said he was framed. That just doesn't happen.

    I'm also haunted by something else. In 2000, I proposed reporting a lengthy piece about doubts about the conviction of Cameron Willingham, who was then on death row in Texas for the arson murder of his three children. An editor talked me out of it, and I never did write about Willingham, who was executed in 2004. Since then, growing evidence has emerged that he was innocent, and perhaps it's partly to atone for my earlier failure that I've taken up Cooper's case.

    If Cooper is innocent, he would have plenty of company. The Death Penalty Information Center says that since 1973, at least 162 people sentenced to death have been exonerated. One peer-reviewed study estimated that at least 4.1 percent of those sentenced to death in the United States are innocent; that would mean that on California's death row alone, where 746 people await execution, about 30 have been wrongfully convicted.

    Moreover, there's abundant evidence that executions in America are linked to race: One study in Washington Statefound that jurors were three times as likely to hand down a death sentence for a black defendant as for a white defendant in a similar case.

    Decades after Cooper's trial, many of the people involved have died or didn't want to talk to me. Some who were willing to talk insist that the trial was fair and Cooper was properly convicted.

    William Baird, the sheriff's office lab expert who in 1983 found suspicious shoe print evidence supposedly linking Cooper to the crime scene, told me that the evidence was real. He acknowledged having stolen heroin from the evidence room but said that had nothing to do with the evidence against Cooper.

    I also spoke to Bill Hughes, who discovered the bodies of the Ryens and of his son, Chris. He is certain that Cooper is responsible: "There is no doubt in my mind that he did that." His wife, Mary Ann, is equally passionate: She spoke of her family's suffering as the case drags on without closure, of her certainty that Cooper is simply trying to distract from overwhelming evidence against him, of her frustration at calls for further testing when there has already been forensic testing for 35 years.

    I told Bill and Mary Ann Hughes that my heart breaks for them. And of course, I can't be sure that Kevin Cooper is innocent. One lesson to absorb from the criminal justice system's past mistakes is that we need some humility about our own ability to ferret out truth.

    That's why the governor should allow advanced DNA testing, especially of the hairs and of the T-shirt and hatchet, and why Kamala Harris, Dianne Feinstein, Gavin Newsom and other California politicians should back the call.

    I know readers will ask me what they can do, and I don't have a good answer beyond contacting Brown's office or signing a petition calling for new DNA testing. Another takeaway is to regard our criminal justice system, especially in its interactions with the poor or racial minorities, with greater skepticism.

    Maybe in the grand scheme of things, the fate of one man on death row doesn't seem so important; innumerable people die tragically every day. Yet we aspire to be a nation where we are all equal before the law, and if we execute a man in so flawed a case without even bothering to test the evidence rigorously, then a piece of our justice system dies along with Kevin Cooper.

    Governor Brown, if you're reading this, I understand that you may believe that Cooper is guilty. But other smart people, including federal judges and law school deans, believe him innocent. So how can you possibly execute him without even allowing advanced DNA testing, at the defense's expense, to resolve the doubt? What's your argument for refusing to allow testing?

    The former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor once wrote that "the execution of a legally and factually innocent person would be a constitutionally intolerable event." She's right: It is not just Cooper's life that is at stake, but also the legitimacy of our system of laws. This is a test of Governor Brown, of our justice system, of our politicians, and of us.

    "This is bigger than me," Cooper told me in our prison meeting. "This is bigger than any one person."

    Or consider the Ryens' station wagon.

    It was found in Long Beach, 30 miles away, and inconveniently had blood on the driver's seat, the front passenger seat and the back seat — suggesting at least three killers.



    2)  Trump Administration to Tie Health Facilities' Funding to Abortion Restrictions

    By Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman, May 17, 2018


    A Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. A new Trump administration rule, expected to be announced today, would curb reproductive rights.CreditJerilee Bennett/The Gazette, via Associated Press

    WASHINGTON — Clinics that provide abortions or refer patients to places that do would lose federal funding under a new Trump administration rule that takes direct aim at Planned Parenthood, according to three administration officials.

    The rule, which is to be announced Friday, is a top priority of social conservatives and is the latest move by President Trump to impose curbs on abortion rights, in this case by withholding money from any facility or program that promotes abortion or refers patients to a caregiver that will provide one.

    The policy would be a return to one instituted in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan that required abortion services to have a "physical separation" and "separate personnel" from other family planning activities. That policy is often described as a domestic gag rule because it barred caregivers at facilities that received family planning funds from providing any information to patients about an abortion or where to receive one.

    Federal family planning laws already ban direct funding of organizations that use abortion as a family planning method. But conservative activists and Republican lawmakers have been pressing Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, to tighten the rules further so that abortions could not occur — or be performed by the same staff — at locations that receive Title X federal family planning money.

    Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called the new proposal "outrageous" and "dangerous."

    The policy, she said in a statement late Thursday, is "designed to make it impossible for millions of patients to get birth control or preventive care from reproductive health care providers like Planned Parenthood. This is designed to force doctors and nurses to lie to their patients. It would have devastating consequences across this country."

    Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that opposes abortion rights, thanked Mr. Trump on Thursday night in a statement in which she said the move would "energize" conservative voters heading into the midterm congressional elections this fall.

    "We thank President Trump for taking action to disentangle taxpayers from the abortion business," Ms. Dannenfelser said. She said that he "has shown decisive leadership, delivering on a key promise to pro-life voters who worked so hard to elect him."

    Two White House officials and two other people briefed on the plans said Thursday that the Trump administration would announce that it was adopting the policy on Friday, a move that they planned to outline for social conservative and religious activists during an early-morning telephone briefing. They all spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plans.

    One Trump official said the rule would give Planned Parenthood and other groups that receive federal family planning money a choice: Disentangle themselves from abortion or lose government funding.

    The official said the policy would require "a bright line of physical as well as financial separation" between programs that receive Title X funding and those that perform, support or make referrals for abortions.

    A Trump administration official who detailed the coming proposal said it would neither prohibit nor require counseling on abortion.

    The policy could prompt legal challenges, as it did soon after the Reagan administration adopted it. Planned Parenthood and other groups filed lawsuits that blocked the rules, and while the Supreme Court decided in 1991 that they could move forward, they were never fully carried out. President Bill Clinton rescinded the policy in 1994.

    Mr. Trump has shown ambivalence about Planned Parenthood, sometimes expressing support for its health-related services other than abortion. His daughter Ivanka Trump, a senior adviser, has urged him not to strip funding for the organization, as many Republicans have proposed, warning of the possible political repercussions.

    Mr. Trump is set next week to give the keynote speech at the "Campaign for Life" gala held by the Susan B. Anthony List. Ms. Dannenfelser has called Mr. Trump "the most pro-life president in our nation's history."

    The Trump administration has pressed repeatedly to impose abortion limits. Upon taking office, Mr. Trump signed a presidential memorandum reinstituting and expanding the so-called global gag rule, which bars federal funding for organizations around the world that provide abortion counseling or referrals.

    Mr. Trump has also taken particular aim at Planned Parenthood, which serves 41 percent of women who receive federally funded family planning services. He signed legislation last year aimed at cutting off government money from the group and others that perform abortions.

    The bill nullified a rule completed in the last days of the Obama administration that effectively banned state and local governments from withholding federal funding for family planning services related to contraception, sexually transmitted infections, fertility, pregnancy care and breast and cervical cancer screening from qualified health providers — regardless of whether they also performed abortions.

    Doctors have also expressed alarm at the prospect of such changes to federal family planning rules. In a conference call this month, officials from the American College of Physicians and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said the policy would harm women's health.

    Dr. Hal Lawrence, the executive vice president and chief executive of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said during that call, "We don't need the government interfering in the exam room, and the government should not be interfering in what women can know and what kind of options she should be given."

    Abortion rights advocates also argue that the new rules could result in women not receiving reproductive health care at all, leading to more unintended pregnancies and higher mortality rates. They note that Planned Parenthood and other groups that perform abortions are often the only federally funded health care providers in certain areas of the country, meaning that some women in those places may simply not receive medical care at all under the new policy.

    Cecile Richards, the former president of Planned Parenthood, wrote in her memoir published last month that during a meeting in January 2017 with Ms. Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, who is also a senior adviser to the president, the couple offered her a deal for her organization: Stop providing abortions in exchange for receiving an increase in federal money. Mr. Trump acknowledged a few weeks later that he had pushed for such an agreement.

    At the time, Planned Parenthood publicly rejected the proposal out of hand, saying it would never agree to a plan that would compel it to stop offering or advising women about abortions.

    Elizabeth Dias contributed reporting.



    3)  Why the Wealth Gap Hits Families the Hardest

    By Christina Gibson-Davis and Christine Percheski, May 18, 2018

    "Families with children fared worse as a group. Overall, their wealth declined by 56 percent in the same period. More important, they also faced a wide and growing divide: Wealth inequality for these households grew significantly from 1989 to 2013. The top 1 percent saw their wealth increase by 156 percent, while parents in the bottom half saw their wealth shrink by 260 percent. About a third of all families with children in 2013 had no wealth, only debt."


    What does economic inequality really look like?

    Income alone doesn't give a complete picture. Income inequality describes the gap between a six-figure salary and minimum wage. But the more alarming gap occurs in wealth — a household's total assets minus debts. To understand how inequality is playing out in the United States, we need to look more closely at the wealth gap.

    In a recent paper, we examined wealth among families with children and among the elderly. We focused on children and the elderly because they are considered the most vulnerable in our society and because so much social policy is geared to help them. According to our research, wealth inequality is much worse among families with children, and the gap has widened greatly over the past two decades, with consequences that may cascade through generations.

    The extreme wealth inequality we have identified is a result of years of policies that have eroded both public spending and private income for families with children.

    The demographer Samuel Preston warned in 1984 that the United States had made "a set of private and public choices that have dramatically altered the age profile of well-being," by devoting resources toward improving conditions for the elderly while neglecting to do the same for families with children. "The constituency for children in public decisions simply appears too feeble to fight back," he wrote.

    We are seeing the consequences of these policies now, and they will follow today's children throughout their lives.

    Unlike income, which can change quickly because of a booming economy or a rise in the minimum wage, changes in wealth usually happen slowly. The recently passed tax law, for example, may increase your take-home pay, but it's unlikely to increase the value of your house.

    Wealth also matters because it has profound long-term effects. Parental wealth, in addition to parental income, plays an important role in college attendance and graduation. Bachelor's degree holders earn 56 percent morethan high school graduates, the largest gap on record. So a parent's ability to, say, pay for college tuition may be crucial to enabling children to become economically self-sufficient.

    Parental wealth is also a critical determinant of where children live and the quality of the schools they attend. It can affect the kind of job they have, if and when they marry, and whether they own their homes.

    To understand how wealth and wealth inequality have changed among families with children and elderly households, we examined data from the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances, a large survey conducted approximately every three years that catalogs the total assets and debt of American households.

    The data we used comes from several thousand representative households in each of the nine survey years between 1989 and 2013. We examined the wealth of households headed by someone age 65 or older, and families headed by someone under age 65 and with children under age 18.

    Our research shows that in terms of wealth, those over 65 have weathered the past quarter-century much better than families with children, despite two major recessions. The net worth of older people's households increased by 45 percent from 1989 to 2013. And for the past 25 years, the distance between the rich elderly and the poor elderly remained stable. The very wealthiest elderly households grew richer, but so did those of working-class and middle-class older people.

    Families with children fared worse as a group. Overall, their wealth declined by 56 percent in the same period. More important, they also faced a wide and growing divide: Wealth inequality for these households grew significantly from 1989 to 2013. The top 1 percent saw their wealth increase by 156 percent, while parents in the bottom half saw their wealth shrink by 260 percent. About a third of all families with children in 2013 had no wealth, only debt.

    In 2013, the top 1 percent of these families had a median wealth of $5.1 million, thanks to skyrocketing incomes, increasing home values and strong returns on stocks and investments. They have millions in savings and generous trust funds for their children.

    Families on the bottom rungs live very differently. They may not even own a home, and if they face an unexpected expense, like a medical emergency, they don't have a cushion of savings or other assets to draw on. And when their children start college, some of these parents may still be paying off their own student loans.

    Why are so many parents with children faring so poorly? In part, it's a result of long-term changes in employment. Over the period we studied, employment became more unstable, as companies replaced full-time jobs with part-time work and short-term contracts. These employment changes affected families with children more than the elderly, who are mostly retired. That means not only less income but also less money to save or invest in homes or other wealth-producing assets.

    The other problem for families with children is debt: not credit card or car loan debt, which hasn't changed much since the late 1980s, but student loan and mortgage debt.

    Education debt has been rising throughout the period in our study, in part because federal Pell Grants failed to keep up with rising tuition costs. Pell Grants now cover only 29 percent of the cost of a four-year degree at a public college, the lowest percentage on record. Even earning a two-year degree at a community college usually means taking on debt.

    In the mid-2000s, housing debt also started to rise, especially as subprime lenders opened the housing market to more first-time buyers. After the collapse of the housing market, home prices were down one-third from their pre-recession peak. For many families, that wiped out the value of their main asset.

    Why did older households fare better? First, older Americans' incomes were largely stable. Their primary source of income, Social Security, is indexed to inflation. With stable income, fewer older people dipped into savings to pay their bills, and they had more money to invest. Second, most of them bought their homes before the housing bubble, and third, they graduated from college before the era of high student loan debt. Thanks to these three factors, the median net worth of poor and middle-class older people rose by 70 percent from 1989 to 2013.

    There are a few policy changes that may help. Increasing the purchasing power of Pell Grants and then indexing it to rising tuition costs would be a start. The government could also expand tax credits that benefit families, and compensate families who were victims of predatory lending practices.

    But the magnitude of the problem is so great that these measures are not enough. The United States needs a fundamental rethinking of public policy priorities to improve the lives of the next generation of children.

    Christina Gibson-Davis is an associate professor of public policy at Duke. Christine Percheski is an assistant professor of sociology at Northwestern.



    4) Mourning Our Daughter, While Ireland Votes

    By Aoife Walsh and Davin O'Dwyer, May 20, 2018


    DUBLIN — Walking around this city at the moment involves negotiating an unsettling array of campaign posters: Lampposts and billboards are covered in images of fetuses.

    The posters have been put up ahead of the referendum on Friday on whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which has enshrined the right to life of the unborn in the Irish Constitution since its introduction in 1983.

    These images are meant to provoke a strong response, of course, but the sight of so many fetuses on the streets is particularly distressing for us. A few months ago, our daughter, Cara, who suffered from a chromosomal abnormality, died at 20 weeks.

    The initial diagnosis came after the 12-week scan. Our consultant could see something wrong on the grainy image, and a test soon confirmed our worst fears. Cara's condition was, in that blunt medical phrase, "incompatible with life."

    In other countries, such a diagnosis would usually lead to a termination, hastening the inevitable end. But in Ireland, that's prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. If we wanted to take that route, we would have to follow in the footsteps of the 170,000 or so women who have made this traumatic journey across the Irish Sea to England and Wales over the years. The reality is that with or without the Eighth Amendment, women in Ireland already have access to abortion, just not on our soil.

    Heartbroken by our daughter's diagnosis, we contacted a hospital in England and began making arrangements. We felt an acute anger that we had to plan a surreptitious trip, that we had to leave behind our caring doctors and midwives. The sense of enforced furtiveness was degrading, a result of the shame that surrounds the journey. When we were at our most vulnerable, having to make these plans was an added torture.

    As the day of our departure approached, one of us, Aoife, suffered an intense panic. The prospect of the procedure was daunting enough; the prospect of checking onto a plane, booking accommodations, all of it, was just too much to bear. We didn't make the journey. We couldn't.

    Instead, we gave Cara her name — in the Irish language, it means "friend" — and decided to embrace the time we had with her. For nearly two months, between getting the diagnosis and her death, we got to see our daughter grow in weekly ultrasound scans, we got to hear her heartbeat, we got to see her move. We made memories. We became a family.

    And then, a scan just before Christmas showed there was no heartbeat, no movement. The sense of loss was overwhelming. That time together with Cara was precious, and the love we have for her and the grief we feel leaves us in no doubt — Cara was not born alive, she never got to take a breath of air, but she was most certainly a person in her own right.

    Emphasizing the personhood of the unborn is the point of all those posters and billboards showing pictures of fetuses. Whether you have been through an experience like ours or not, that's a legitimate perspective.

    But we have encountered a contradiction: Our Constitution and traditional culture champion the right to life of the unborn, but we have found that actually mourning the unborn is still taboo. Talking to other parents in the same situation, we find again and again a sense that our grief is not recognized as valid.

    People don't want to accept a baby's death or the attendant sadness; to have experienced both birth and death in the same moment feels like a transgression. Losing a child in pregnancy is a very lonely burden precisely because you are not supposed to talk about it. Not coincidentally, it is a silencing of a pain borne first and foremost by women.

    This sad reality is in keeping with the traditional Roman Catholic culture that still permeates society. The same Catholic ideology that campaigns to protect the unborn didn't believe that the unbaptized — never mind the unborn — were worthy of full burial rites (as grimly demonstrated by the story of Davin's hometown, Tuam, where 796 children were buried unrecorded). To this day, it is a culture in which the lives of the unborn are sacred in some respects and largely disregarded in others.

    This fundamental contradiction ultimately makes those posters and billboards so difficult to look at.

    On a superficial level, they resemble those precious ultrasound scans of Cara, but it doesn't feel as though she is being championed by this campaign. Instead, we can't escape the feeling that Cara and all those lives represented by the posters are being exploited. Far from coming from a place of love and compassion, the images are being used to provoke shock and, sometimes, disgust.

    We decided not to go to England, and it was the right choice for us. We are grateful for the time we had with Cara, and we are proud to be her parents. But it isn't the right choice for everyone in that situation — other parents, acting out of a sincere love and concern for their child, might make a very different decision.

    Our heartbreaking experience taught us that such a decision should never be shrouded in shame and stigma. This referendum is a chance for everyone in Ireland to leave such shame and stigma behind. We have, instead, the opportunity to replace them with trust and real empathy.

    Aoife Walsh and Davin O'Dwyer are editors and writers.



    5) The Mississippi Man Tried Six Times for the Same Crime

    By David Leonhardt, May 20, 2018


    Curtis Flowers, left, leaving the Montgomery County Courthouse in Winona, Miss., in 2004, after an unsuccessful motion for a retrial.CreditDale Gerstenslager/Winona Times, via Associated Press

    One morning nearly 22 years ago, four employees of a furniture store in a small Mississippi town were shot to death. For months afterward, local law-enforcement seemed stumped by the crime. Eventually, the top prosecutor — Doug Evans — charged a former store employee, Curtis Flowers, a black man who had no criminal record.

    The case since then has been unlike any other I've ever heard of. Evans has put Flowers on trial six separate times — even though no gun, fingerprints or other physical evidence ties Flowers to the crime and no witness even puts him at the store that day.

    At each of the first three trials, Flowers was convicted, but the Mississippi Supreme Court threw out all three convictions. The first two times, it cited misconduct by Evans during the trial, and the third time it found that Evans had kept African-Americans off the jury. The justices called it as bad a case of such racial discrimination "as we have ever seen."

    The fourth trial was the first to have more than one black juror, and it ended with a hung jury. The fifth also had multiple black jurors and likewise ended in a mistrial. The sixth trial had only one black juror, and Flowers was convicted, thanks largely to dubious circumstantial testimony that Evans had coached witnesses to give. I see no good reason to believe that Curtis Flowers is guilty.

    Yet today he sits in solitary confinement, on death row, in Mississippi's Parchman Prison. He is serving his 22nd straight year behind bars, having never been released between convictions. He will turn 48 years old next week. His parents continue to visit him as often as possible.

    His heartbreaking, enraging story is the subject of a new podcast — the second season of "In the Dark," led by Madeleine Baran of American Public Media — that's already been downloaded more than two million times. The reporting and storytelling are fantastic, and I can't capture all of it here. If you aren't already listening to the podcast, I recommend it.

    While the Flowers case is shocking in its details, it is all too typical in its broad strokes: The United States suffers from a crisis of unjust imprisonment. The crisis has been caused partly by powerful, unaccountable prosecutors, like Doug Evans. And the costs are borne overwhelmingly by black men, like Flowers.

    We now know that dozens of innocent people have been executed in recent decades. Many others languish behind bars. My colleague Nicholas Kristof, in his latest column, told the story of Kevin Cooper, who's on death row in California because of highly questionable evidence. Cases like these are the most extreme part of our mass-incarceration problem. As the legal scholar Michelle Alexander has noted, a larger share of black Americans are imprisoned than black South Africans were during apartheid. "A human rights nightmare is occurring on our watch," she has written.

    When Americans today look back on the past, many of us wonder how our ancestors could have tolerated blatant injustices — like child labor, Jim Crow or male-only voting — for so long. When future generations look back on our era, I expect they will ask a similar question. They will be outraged that we forcibly confined a couple million of our fellow human beings to cages, often for no good reason.

    President Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, are trying to make the problem even worse, by locking up ever more people. But Trump and Sessions can't squelch the burgeoning, bipartisan movement for criminal-justice reform. They can't, because as the recent Pulitzer-winning author James Forman Jr. points out, criminal justice happens mostly at the local and state levels. "We should always remember that the fight is going to be at the local level," Forman told NPR's Terry Gross, "and, there, we continue to win."

    To take one example, manufactured jailhouse confessions are a common part of wrongful prosecutions (and are central to the Flowers case). With a shocking frequency, prosecutors and police coax so-called snitches to lie outright about what other prisoners say. In response, Texas enacted a lawlast year requiring the tracking of snitches and the disclosure of any plea deals to defense attorneys, who can then call the testimony into question in front of a jury. Rebecca Brown of the Innocence Project told me that the Texas law was "excellent" — and that the Illinois legislature had passed an even better version, awaiting the governor's signature.

    Elsewhere, some district attorneys are trying to make the system fairer on their own. It's happening in Brooklyn, Chicago, Philadelphia and other cities. Most prosecutors, after all, are decent, ethical public servants. One change involves "open-file" policies, which give the defense attorney access to all of the evidence in a case. That may seem like an obvious step, and it's the norm in civil trials. Yet it remains rare in criminal trials.

    I don't want to exaggerate the recent progress. As you read this column, thousands upon thousands of American citizens sit behind bars, unjustly denied their freedom. "Ooooh, I miss Curtis," his devastated father, Archie Flowers, says on the podcast. "Yes. It is rough. Rough, rough, rough, rough."

    But the Flowers family refuses to give up hoping for justice. Curtis Flowers's sixth conviction is still being appealed, and new evidence — uncovered by the podcast — seems likely to help that appeal.

    If the Flowers family won't give in to despair, nobody else should, either.



    6) The Right Way to Fix the Prisons

    By The Editorial Board, May 20, 2018


    President Trump gave a rare display of empathy at a prison-reform meeting at the White House on Friday.

    "A friend of mine told me that when people get out of prison, they're all excited," Mr. Trump said. "And then they go and they have that stigma; they can't get a job. People don't want to hire them. They can't get that chance. When we talk about our national program to hire American, this must include helping millions of former inmates get back into the work force as gainfully employed citizens."

    Sounds good. Too bad his attorney general is Jeff Sessions, a man who has made a career of opposing meaningful justice reform.

    For more than a decade, states of every political hue — from Texas and Louisiana to Connecticut and California — have been overhauling their criminal justice systems, to reverse the effects of decades of harsh and counterproductive policies.

    But Congress has watched this revolution from the sidelines, thanks to reactionary lawmakers, including Mr. Sessions when he was in the Senate. Comprehensive federal legislation has been foiled again and again, as states forge ahead, reducing both prison populations and crime rates through bipartisan reforms.

    In the balance is a bloated federal prison system that locks up more than 180,000 people, a sevenfold increase since 1980. That population, which is disproportionately black and brown, began to decline under President Obama, but is now on track to grow again under the new, more punitive policies of Mr. Sessions's Justice Department.

    Now two big justice-reform bills are making their way through Congress, and they've scrambled the usual partisan lines.

    One bill backed by the White House, known as the First Step Act, would improve some prison conditions and help smooth the path to re-entry for people behind bars. It would, for example, require that inmates be housed within 500 miles of their families, prohibit the brutal but disturbingly common practice of shackling pregnant women and expand rehabilitative programs in which prisoners can participate to earn good-time credits. These are all important and long-overdue fixes to existing law.

    But the bill would leave it up to individual prison wardens to decide who gets to use their credits and when, which means inmates would be treated differently based on where they're locked up. The bill also restricts early release to halfway houses, even though as many as 40 percent of people behind bars pose no risk to public safety, according to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice, and would do fine with less intensive oversight, such as electronic monitoring. On top of that, federal halfway houses are so underfunded that even inmates who are eligible for immediate release can't go anywhere, because there aren't enough beds available.

    The biggest problem with the First Step Act, however, isn't what's in it; it's what's left out. Specifically, sentencing reform. Harsh sentencing laws passed in the 1980s and 1990s, like mandatory minimums of 10 or 20 years even for low-level drug crimes, have been among the main drivers of the nation's exploding prison population.

    If the states' experience has demonstrated anything, it's that effective justice reform can't happen without addressing both ends of the problem at once — not simply helping the people now behind bars, but limiting how many get locked up in the first place.

    Even once-skeptical lawmakers have come to appreciate this fact. Senator Charles Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wrote in an op-ed on Fox News that it was "naïve and unproductive" to focus only on so-called "back-end" reforms like good-time credits, and ignore the punitive sentencing laws that continue to fill the nation's prisons. "There will never be enough funding for back-end prison reform programs as long as there is a steady stream of new inmates with lengthy sentences disproportionate to their crimes," Mr. Grassley wrote.

    Mr. Grassley is sponsoring the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which would reduce the harshest sentences for nonviolent drug crimes and give judges more discretion to issue lighter sentences. The bill nearly passed Congress in 2016, only to be killed by then-Senator Jeff Sessions.

    Mr. Sessions has continued to badmouth sentencing reform as attorney general, leading Mr. Grassley to suggest that if he "wanted to be involved in marking up this legislation, maybe he should have quit his job and run for the Republican Senate seat in Alabama."

    Mr. Grassley's bill has the support of top senators of both parties, as well as law-enforcement leaders and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 civil-rights organizations. It's not perfect, but it's far preferable to the First Step Act, which could get a vote in the House as soon as this week.

    Meanwhile, liberal backers of the First Step Act, like Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the New York Democrat who is sponsoring the bill, argue that it's better than nothing, especially in the current political environment. "We have a Republican president. Republicans control the House of Representatives and the Senate," Mr. Jeffries wrote in letter to his colleagues on Friday. "Those are the facts."

    He's right. And yet a partial bill could end up being worse than nothing, especially if its benefits don't live up to expectations, and if Congress, which has many other pressing matters to attend to, decides it's had enough of the topic.

    "Get a bill to my desk," Mr. Trump said on Friday. "I will sign it." If he means this, and if he genuinely cares about reforming the federal justice system, he'll demand a bill that addresses the system's most pressing problems.



    7) California Today: Should the Case of the Death-Row Inmate Kevin Cooper Be Re-examined?

    By Nicholas Kristof and Charles McDermid, May 21, 2018


    Kevin Cooper, center, being transported to San Bernadino from Santa Barbara after he was arrested in 1983.CreditAssociated Press


    Good morning.

    (Want to get California Today by email? Here's the sign-up.)

    Last week, Nicholas Kristof, an Op-Ed columnist at The Times, published a piece on what he believes to be an injustice in California — a case in which a life hangs in the balance. We asked Mr. Kristof to discuss reaction to his column. 

    Pressure seems to be growing on Gov. Jerry Brown to allow advanced DNA testing in the case of Kevin Cooper, a black man on San Quentin's death row for the brutal 1983 murder of a white family.

    After my in-depth column in the opinion section on the case, Senator Kamala Harris has called on the governor to allow testing and so has John Chiang, the state treasurer and a candidate for governor.

    As my column notes, I believe Mr. Cooper is innocent and was framed for murder by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's office. What's striking about the case is not only that the evidence against Mr. Cooper has mostly been discredited, but also that there's growing evidence against a particular white man who also happens to be a convicted murderer (he wasn't happy to hear from me).

    Even federal judges have said that Mr. Cooper was framed. (That's what drew my attention to him: a cri de coeur from the Ninth Circuit appeals judge William Fletcher.)

    And the "ask" isn't a pardon or commutation. It's simply to allow advanced DNA testing of evidence, which the defense is willing to pay for. Yet Mr. Brown has so far resolutely refused to allow that testing.

    I had criticized Ms. Harris for failing to allow testing when she was attorney general. But she called me after the article appeared online to say that she felt terrible about the case, and then she issued a statement calling on California and the governor to allow the testing.

    The issue is getting more attention in the California press, and I hope Mr. Brown will similarly reconsider. Likewise, I'm hoping that Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Senator Dianne Feinstein and others will call for testing in the case.

    Here's more coverage of the column:

     NY Times Calls for DNA Test to Exonerate Death Row Inmate [The San Francisco Chronicle]

     Is California death row inmate Kevin Cooper innocent? What he's hoping Gov. Brown will do [San Diego Union-Tribune]

     U.S. Senator: California Should Test DNA of Condemned Inmate [US News and World Report]

    Tell us what you think at californiatoday@nytimes.com




    8) Is Capital or Labor Winning at Your Favorite

    Company? Introducing the Marx Ratio

     MAY 21, 2018




    Who benefits the most when a company is successful: its shareholders or its employees? Capital or labor?

    It is a question that speaks to some of the oldest debates in economics. But now, thanks to a minor provision in the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, we have a tool for measuring, in rough terms at least, how much any given publicly traded firm rewards its shareholders relative to its rank-and-file employees.

    Behold, the Marx Ratio.

    We named it for the 19th-century economist and philosopher Karl Marx, who argued that the interests of capital and labor are inherently in tension. His intellectual adversaries argued that those interests are in fact aligned, as successful companies inevitably reward both capital and labor.

    We take no stand in that debate. But we have come up with a simple way of calculating how the fruits of any given company's success are distributed.

    The Marx Ratio, as we're calling it, captures the relationship between a company's profits — the return to capital, on a per-employee basis — and how much its median employee is compensated, a rough proxy for the return to labor.

    Companies with high Marx Ratios offer particularly strong rewards to their shareholders relative to workers. For example, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer had a Marx Ratio of 2.64, meaning the per-employee earnings captured by shareholders were about 2.6 times as high as the compensation a typical employee received. Numbers below 1 signal the reverse: a more favorable return to labor. The Marx Ratio of 0.498 for the health insurer Aetna means that it earned only half as much per worker for its shareholders as it paid its median employee.

    Companies with high Marx Ratios also included the tobacco giants Altria and Philip Morris International; consumer products companies like Kraft-Heinz and Colgate-Palmolive; fast food giants McDonald's and Yum Brands (parent of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut); and almost all real estate investment trusts.

    Those that favored workers more tended to be in labor-intensive industries. They included the huge retailers Walmart and Amazon, hotel companies like Marriott and Hilton, and both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

    Companies that record a net loss consequently have a negative Marx Ratio. For those companies, which in 2017 included General Electric and Citigroup, shareholders lost money while workers still got paid.

    Of the 394 companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 that had reported their median compensation number by May 3, the median Marx Ratio was 0.82, meaning at a typical company the median pay was higher than the profit generated per worker.

    Beginning this year, the Dodd-Frank Act requires publicly traded companies in the United States to disclose their median employee compensation: how much pay the person in the middle of their distribution receives. The research firm MyLogIQ compiled the data; the remaining companies have more time because of the dates of their fiscal year. We spell out the math, and its limitations, below.

    Median compensation is an imprecise measurement of how much of a company's returns flow to labor. Among other things, it can be distorted by companies' use of contract and part-time labor, and a median pay number inherently fails to capture the full range of how a company's workers are paid.

    Given those flaws, the Marx Ratio isn't some definitive measure of how a company affects the economy and society. Rather, it is a tool for understanding the differences between companies and industries. In particular, the more a company's ability to generate profits is driven by things shareholders own — patents, a well-known brand or capital goods like machines and real estate — the higher its Marx Ratio will tend to be.

    To see how the Marx Ratio can help you understand the competitive dynamics and economic structure of an industry, consider how the numbers vary across well-known companies in some prominent industries.

    Labor vs. capital in banking

    Wall Street may be the ultimate bastion of capitalism. But some of the highest Marx Ratios in the financial industry aren't found at the companies stocked with cutthroat traders and deal makers. Rather, the business of commercial banking — accepting deposits and making loans from branches around the United States — features a higher return to capital relative to labor.

    So for example, Wells Fargo has a Marx Ratio of 1.4, and JPMorgan came in at 1.2. By contrast, Goldman Sachs's number was only 0.9 and Morgan Stanley's was 0.8.

    In effect, the profitability of those commercial banks is driven by things the company controls: their network of branches, their information technology systems, their brand reputation. Their employees, who include lots of bank tellers and loan officers, have little leverage with which to demand high pay; the median compensation at Wells Fargo was around $60,000.

    By contrast, the investment banks employ a lot more highly compensated, highly sought-after professionals, who in turn can demand premium salaries. The median compensation at Goldman was about $135,000. Those workers were more successful at claiming the value the organization created.

    Meanwhile, BlackRock, the giant asset management company, pays Goldman-esque salaries (median compensation: $141,987) but manages to have a higher Marx Ratio than either commercial or investment banks, as it is able to manage a huge $6.3 trillion with a lean 13,900 workers.

    Big tech: Amazon vs. Facebook

    You see similar divides among the most powerful giants of the technology industry.

    Facebook is wildly profitable, generating almost $635,000 in earnings per employee for shareholders. It also pays those employees extremely well, with median compensation of $240,340, for a Marx Ratio of 2.64.

    More of Facebook's success accrued to capital — to the company's owners — than to labor. Its profits are driven by the network effects that keep both users and advertisers wedded to it, which are owned by shareholders. Rank-and-file software developers and advertising sales workers have less ability to extract a big chunk of the value being created.

    By contrast, Amazon is not very profitable — it is plowing most of the earnings from its mature businesses into longer-term investments in emerging ones. And its core retail business has low profit margins and requires vast armies in distribution centers and, with the acquisition of Whole Foods, grocery stores.

    With earnings per employee of only $5,359 and median compensation of about $28,000, Amazon has a Marx Ratio that is a mere 0.19. So far, neither the median Amazon worker nor Amazon shareholders are being rewarded very handsomely.

    Other prominent tech companies are somewhere in between. Alphabet, the parent company of Google, generates a healthy $158,000 in profit per employee, but like Facebook has a high median pay of $197,000. That's good for a Marx Ratio of 0.8. Other notable tech companies like Apple and Microsoft have not yet reported a median compensation number, but are also likely to end up in that middle ground once they do — Apple had earnings per employee in the most recent fiscal year of $393,100, and Microsoft came in at $171,000.

    Marx Ratio extremes

    The highest Marx Ratios were found at real estate investment trusts: companies with a favorable tax structure devised to invest in real estate. Publicly traded REITs in the sample had a median Marx Ratio of 4.13, higher than any other category of companies.

    This makes sense, as these companies work more as vehicles through which to deploy capital toward real estate than as conventional operating businesses. The highest Marx Ratio, for example, at 38, was for Duke Realty, an Indianapolis-based company that manages $6.2 billion worth of industrial real estate with a mere 400 employees (who, we might add, are well compensated, with median pay of $109,695).

    Some of the highest Marx Ratios — as well as some of the lowest — are to be found at oil- and gas-related businesses. This also makes sense. Energy companies are making huge bets, often with borrowed money, the success of which depends on the future market price and on their ability to extract petroleum.

    That explains how EQT Corp., a Pittsburgh-based natural gas producer, had one of the highest Marx Ratios among non-REITS (7.1), while Houston-based oil giant Marathon Oil had the lowest in the sample (-18.9). Marathon's $5.7 billion loss was due mainly to the sale of a Canadian oil sands business.

    Low oil and gas prices were bad news for many energy shareholders. Over all, the energy sector accounted for four of the five lowest Marx Ratios, a list that also included Hess, Noble Energy and NRG Energy.

    It is a good business for shareholders to be in when things are going well, but the risk they are taking on is real.

    The math of the Marx Ratio, and its limitations

    Here are the calculations behind the Marx Ratio — and some of the limitations to the underlying data that make it an imperfect measure of how a company rewards capital versus labor.

    The numerator is the net income of the company in question per employee. Note that net income is subject to big year-to-year fluctuations, and doesn't necessarily reflect a company's continuing operating performance in any given year.

    Note what the numerator isn't — this isn't about the returns shareholders could earn through stock price appreciation, or dividends. This is focused on the underlying economics of the business; returns through the stock market can fluctuate for all kinds of reasons.

    The denominator is the compensation to the median employee, as disclosed in the company's proxy statement, which can create distortions in representing rank-and-file employees.

    Companies also have some degree of flexibility in how they calculate median pay, so comparisons are not necessarily apples-to-apples. For example, they may choose to use statistical sampling instead of actual payroll records, and may exclude non-U.S. employees depending on privacy rules in overseas markets.

    A better number for the idea we're really trying to get at would be average compensation for nonexecutive employees, but companies aren't required to report that publicly.

    We intentionally kept the math of the Marx Ratio simple. But if you want to make it a little more sophisticated, there are options.

    For one, you might adjust the calculation based on how much capital a company required to make its money. Shareholder's equity, for example, captures the book value of a company's assets minus its liabilities. If two companies generate similar profits but one requires much less equity to do it, it is essentially more efficient at generating returns for capital.

    You also might consider adjusting the measure of profitability to smooth out a company's returns to shareholders. After all, when a company records some enormous loss, it is frequently because the company is marking down the value of an earlier acquisition for which it paid too much, meaning it is capturing a past bad decision rather than providing information about future operating performance.

    Given all those limitations, the Marx Ratio should not be used as a definitive measure of how a company does or does not contribute to inequality. Rather, think of it as an important clue about how it is organized, how its economic structure works, and to whom its greatest rewards tend to flow.



    9) Supreme Court Deals a Blow to Workers

    By Terri Gerstein and Sharon Block, May 21, 2018


    The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that companies can use arbitration clauses in employment contracts to bar workers from going to court over back wages or other workplace problems.CreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

    The Supreme Court has just told the nation's workers: If you're underpaid at work, or if you face discrimination on the job, you're on your own.

    Federal labor law protects the right of workers to join together to improve their conditions, whether through a union or other means. But the court has now carved out a big exception to that longstanding principle. In a 5-4 decision on Monday, the court said that companies can use arbitration clauses in employment contracts to bar workers from joining forces in legal actions over problems in the workplace. In other words, workers who are underpaid, harassed or discriminated against will have to press their cases alone in arbitration, rather than with their colleagues in a class-action case, or even with their own lawsuit.

    This decision, Epic Systems Corporation v. Lewis, would be a blow at any moment, but it's especially harmful now. The rights of workers are under attack. Wage theft is rampant through violations of minimum-wage laws, refusal to pay overtime and forcing employees to work off the clock. Our crude national discourse encourages all types of discrimination. And we now know better than ever how pervasive sexual harassment is.

    In addition, the institutions that can stand up for workers who can't stand up for themselves are falling short. The proportion of American workers in a union is at an 80-year low. State and local government agencies that enforce laws to protect workers are chronically underfunded. And the federal government is doing everything it can to lend a hand to predatory employers.

    Class-action lawsuits are critical for workers to exercise their rights. The courts are supposed to be there to provide a forum for all people to demand fair enforcement of the law. But the courthouse doors are shut to those who are too scared or don't have the resources to walk through them alone.

    That's why class actions, which enable people with the same or similar injuries to sue as a group, are important. Taking collective action diminishes the fear of employer retaliation and allows workers to pool resources so they can afford to bring their cases and make them more attractive for lawyers to take on.

    Even an utterly routine case can cost a lot of money to litigate. Plaintiffs' lawyers we spoke with estimated that to represent just one worker who is denied minimum wage or overtime would take more than 40 hours of attorney time. In a case like that, a typical settlement for back wages for one underpaid low-wage worker might amount to $3,000 to $5,000, perhaps less. Few private lawyers would take that case. But if a lawyer can represent a group of workers harmed in the same way by the same employer, the economics of a case starts to make sense.

    Congress has the power to open the courthouse doors again for workers. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who wrote the majority opinion, said as much in rejecting the argument that the National Labor Relations Act, which encourages collective bargaining, prevents courts from enforcing arbitration agreements.

    "The policy may be debatable but the law is clear: Congress has instructed that arbitration agreements like those before us must be enforced as written," he wrote, adding that "Congress is of course always free to amend this judgment."

    That's exactly what Congress should do by prohibiting employers from barring workers from joining together in lawsuits. It should amend the National Labor Relations Act and the Federal Arbitration Act to make it clear that filing class-action lawsuits is explicitly protected under those statutes.

    Until there is change on the federal level, states and localities should increase funding for their enforcement agencies so they can step in to vindicate workers' rights. But government resources alone will never be sufficient, so states should pass laws allowing whistle-blowers to bring cases on behalf of the government in workplace-related cases.

    The rule of law is an essential element of our democracy. That means people need a real and enforceable right to demand that laws be fairly applied. The Supreme Court has undermined this principle by saying to the nation's workers that they get a chance at justice if only they have the means and power to pursue their cases alone. It is up to Congress to make access to justice for everyone real again by affirming the right of all workers to stand together at the courthouse door.

    Terri Gerstein is a fellow at the Open Society Foundations and at the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, where Sharon Block is the executive director.



    10)  Palestinians Ask Hague Court to Open Full Inquiry Into Israel

    By Marlise Simons and Alan Cowell, May 22, 2018




    At least 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire during protests last week at the Gaza border. Palestinian officials have asked the International Criminal Court to investigate.CreditHosam Salem for The New York Times

    The Palestinian Authority on Tuesday urged the International Criminal Court to immediately carry out a full investigation into what it described as the successive and continuing Israeli crimes against Palestinians.

    Israel immediately assailed the request, which came a week after at least 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in protests at the Gaza border, calling it "legally invalid."

    The Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Malki, arrived at the court's headquarters in The Hague on Tuesday to hand over a so-called referral to prosecutors that also calls for the court to investigate Israeli settlement policies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

    According to a Palestinian statement, the referral document reinforces the Palestinian view "that there is sufficient compelling evidence of the ongoing commission of grave crimes to warrant an immediate investigation."

    The court has been conducting preliminary inquiries since 2015 into issues including Israel's policy of settlement construction in the West Bank and the behavior of both sides in the fighting in Gaza in 2014.

    The Palestinian statement on Tuesday sought to accelerate the creation of a fuller investigation, potentially leading to indictments of Israeli officials.

    "The referral should cover all the Israeli crimes and violations committed/to be committed against the people of Palestine in the past, present and future," the Palestinian statement said. "The referral will cover crimes associated with the Israeli colonial settlement regime in the Occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem."

    The court "will be expected to accelerate the opening of a criminal investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel," the Palestinian statement said. "It is time to hold the Israeli war criminals accountable and to bring justice to the Palestinian People."

    The Israeli Foreign Ministry said the court had no jurisdiction over the Israel-Palestine issue because Israel "is not a member of the Court and because the Palestinian Authority is not a state."

    The Israeli response reflected Israel's strong opposition to the court's potential entanglement in the protracted Israeli-Palestinian dispute and the possibility that Israeli leaders could be indicted — even if by a court they do not recognize.

    The Palestinians used their status as a United Nations member state to join the court three years ago, subjecting the Palestinian territories to court jurisdiction. They authorized the court to investigate the 2014 conflict in Gaza.

    Under the court's rules, any member can request an investigation.

    The legal maneuver on Tuesday came at a moment of especially high tensions between Israelis and Palestinians after the United States formally relocated its embassy to Jerusalem and the fatal shooting of scores of Palestinians in Gaza whom Israel accused of trying to storm a border fence.

    Last week another international body, the United Nations Human Rights Council, considered a resolution to "urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry" to investigate "all alleged violations and abuses" of civilians since the latest Gaza protests began on March 30.

    The Palestinian case against Israel is by far the most high profile and politically sensitive issue to reach the court since it was established in 2002. According to its website, the court is currently investigating 11 "situations," the bulk of them in sub-Saharan Africa, involving allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    Should the court's chief prosecutor, currently Fatou Bensouda of Gambia, agree to take up an investigation of Israel, the case faces a series of time-consuming hurdles.

    Initially, the prosecutor may use open sources to build a case, and it is then up to the court's pretrial judges to decide whether the evidence is sufficient to approve a criminal investigation.

    Should a criminal investigation begin, the prosecution's investigators would look into possible violations by both sides. Israel has made clear that it will not cooperate with the court, making it unlikely that senior Israeli officials will easily come before the court.

    Lawyers appearing with the Palestinian delegation at the court on Tuesday, however, told reporters that the institution does have jurisdiction in the Palestinian territories, and can therefore immediately begin investigating charges relating to the construction of settlements.

    But some countries in Europe — the Palestinians' biggest financial donor — have long discouraged a referral to the international body, fearing that it will become inextricably entangled in a quagmire to the detriment of its other work.

    Isabel Kershner contributed reporting.



    11)  Calling Your Lawyer From Jail? What You Say Might Be Used Against You.

    By Richard A. Oppel Jr., May 22, 2018




    Orleans Parish Prison in New Orleans. The Orleans Parish Sheriff's office records calls made by inmates to their lawyer's cellphone and archives them in a system that law enforcement officials can access.CreditWilliam Widmer for The New York Times


    Most people assume that a conversation with their lawyer will remain confidential. But if the conversation takes place on the phone from the New Orleans jail, it might be used as evidence of a crime.

    One inmate awaiting trial on drug charges mentioned to his lawyer that he had just gone through detox.

    The call was recorded by the Orleans Parish Sheriff's office, and his statement was used to prove that a needle the inmate was carrying when he was arrested had been used for illegal drugs, according to the inmate's lawyer, Thomas Frampton. He was convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia.

    "It ended up being the critical evidence," said Mr. Frampton, who was then a public defender in New Orleans and is now a lecturer at Harvard Law School. Mr. Frampton objected to the inclusion of the evidence, but the judge disagreed.

    Conversations between criminal defendants and their lawyers about their cases are typically protected from disclosure, so long as there is no discussion of an continuing or future crime or fraudulent act. This privacy, known as attorney-client privilege, helps guarantee the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and the Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel.

    Yet in some places, those conversations, which are so crucial to an inmate's defense, can be difficult to have.

    That includes New Orleans, where all calls made by jail inmates to their lawyer's cellphone (and to anyone else's) are recorded and archived in a system that law enforcement officials can access. As a result, if a defendant speaks to his lawyer about evidence against him, or about the sort of plea-bargain offers he would be willing to accept, a prosecutor might be listening in.

    This practice is highlighted in a new report from Court Watch NOLA, a nonprofit group that is demanding the sheriff's office stop recording any calls between jail inmates and their lawyers in a city where the criminal justice system is already stretched. New Orleans public defenders rank as some of the most overworked in the country, in a state with the highest incarceration rate. The district attorney, Leon A. Cannizzaro Jr., has been sued on the grounds that he used fake subpoenas to coerce witnesses to talk.

    "Where the attorney-client privilege is subverted, so too is the truth-seeking function of the legal system," the report concludes.

    Aides to the local sheriff and district attorney defend the call surveillance. In calls made from jail a message is played warning that the call is subject to recording and monitoring, so they say those on the call know the conversation is not private or privileged. Last year the sheriff implemented a system allowing unrecorded inmate calls to a lawyer's landline, once the lawyer submits an affidavit listing that landline number.

    And, they say, lawyers can always go to the jail to speak to clients in person.

    But to criminal-defense lawyers in New Orleans, all of that is a fig leaf: Most of the lawyers who represent inmates are badly overworked public defenders carrying 150 felony cases or so at a time. The notion that they can routinely take an hour or two to go to the jail to see a client — or that they are likely to be at a landline when a client is able to call from the jail phone — is absurd, they say.

    Some criminal defense lawyers gave up landlines long ago, too, and only use cellphones.

    "I don't know a lawyer who still has a landline," said Nandi Campbell, a private criminal defense lawyer in New Orleans. A few years ago, Ms. Campbell approached the prosecutor in one of her cases with a lowball plea offer, though she and her client had talked about their willingness to accept a longer sentence.

    "He told me he knew the real number I and my client were discussing," Ms. Campbell recalled. "That's how I knew he was listening to my calls. I was startled."

    Jailed clients are already at a disadvantage when it comes to planning their defense. Inmates are less able to help attorneys find witnesses or gather other information. And since they are incarcerated and not working, they face more pressure to plead guilty, and they have less money to pay a private lawyer.

    Ken Daley, a spokesman for Mr. Cannizzaro, declined to specify how often prosecutors listen to clients calling their lawyers' cellphones, but he said: "Any call that is on that monitoring and recording system is basically fair game."

    Mr. Daley said the warning that plays at the beginning of these inmate calls constitutes "a voluntary waiver that vitiates privilege" for anyone on the call.

    "If public defenders are complaining that they find it inconvenient to visit their clients in jail (they have 24/7 access, by the way) or to utilize the sheriff's established protocol for unmonitored (and thus, privileged) calls, perhaps they are in the wrong business," Mr. Daley said in a subsequent email. He added that it is "extremely rare" for jail calls to lawyers to be used as evidence.

    Experts say the government is required to provide defendants reasonable access to private, privileged conversations with their lawyers — though what amounts to "reasonable" access is not precisely defined.

    Procedural hoops similar to those in New Orleans have been overturned by legal challenges in other places when courts have decided they unreasonably restrict clients' access to their lawyers, said Peter Joy, a Washington University law professor who has studied government monitoring of attorney-client communications.

    "Otherwise it puts a public defender with a heavy caseload in a corner," Mr. Joy said. "You can only discuss what's going on with your client over a phone, and most likely a cellphone. But then your client is going to be penalized for having open and frank discussions with you."

    Most jails do not record calls between lawyers and their clients, or have mechanisms in place to erase those calls without anyone listening to them, he added.

    Yet New Orleans is not alone: Court Watch NOLA surveyed 47 other city jails across the country and found eight that record calls between clients and lawyers: Salt Lake City; Minneapolis; Tulsa, Okla.; Boston; Frankfort, Ky.; Columbia, S.C.; Annapolis, Md.; and Concord, N.H.

    Blake Arcuri, the general counsel for the Orleans Parish Sheriff's office, said Orleans is one of the few parishes in Louisiana that allows some unrecorded calls between lawyers and clients in jail.

    Mr. Arcuri acknowledged that there are inconvenient waits for defense lawyers who meet clients at the jail.

    But he defended the monitoring policy, citing concerns about witnesses being intimidated or harmed. A lawyer could hand a cellphone to someone else who could be fed instructions from an inmate, he said.

    Dane Ciolino, who teaches legal ethics and criminal law at the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, said it was "ridiculous" that the jail requires lawyers to go through such hoops, though it was not clear that this amounted to a violation of the constitutional right to counsel.

    Given the huge workloads and limited time of public defenders, Mr. Ciolino said, a good case could be made that for inmates to have "reasonable access" to privileged conversations with their lawyers all such calls should be private.

    As things stand now, he said, when inmates call their lawyers' cellphones, rather than discussing evidence or defense strategy, the lawyers almost have to do the opposite.

    "It puts the defense lawyer in the very odd position of essentially reading a Miranda warning to their own clients," Mr. Ciolino said.























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