Grits for Breakfast: WELCOME TO TEXAS JUSTICE: YOU MIGHT BEAT THE RAP, BUT YOU WON’T BEAT THE RIDE.” — Learning from Sandra Bland: First thoughts (July 25, 2015):

“The protections guarding anyone from being pulled out of their car for no reason, taken downtown and booked into jail (for no demonstrated reason), and then quite possibly dying there, have eroded to the vanishing point. Sandra Bland, like most Texans, didn’t actually know that and received the harshest possible lesson when she tried to articulate what she thought were her rights…”

“The police officer should not have had grounds to arrest her in the first place; even if arrested, she should have been booked and released, not jailed, and once in jail, she should have been more closely monitored, assuming that her death was in fact, a suicide. While lots remains unknown about Bland’s death, she would probably be alive today if she had been booked and released on a personal bond with a date to return to court for her hearing.”

The Crime Report, The Death Penalty’s ‘Normal Accidents’, By James Doyle
July 16, 2015

“In the final days of this year’s Supreme Court term, Justice Stephen Breyer unexpectedly launched a new offensive against the American system of capital punishment. The offensive was announced in his dissenting opinion in a case upholding the legality of Oklahoma’s lethal injection protocol.

Some commentators believed that Breyer was training his artillery on one particular target: namely, Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Roberts Court’s perennial swing voter. Just days earlier, Kennedy had displayed his taste for making history in a grandiloquent opinion for the Court in the same-sex marriage case of Obergefell v. Hodges. He might be ripe for conversion.

Others argue that Breyer had a wider array of targets in mind. The Obama administration is waning. A presidential campaign is in its early stages. With four justices of the narrowly divided court over 75 years of age, the electorate might decide to make the death penalty an issue. Breyer, these onlookers contend, wants to shape that battlefield in advance.

Breyer’s immediate objective may be veiled, but his general strategic approach is perfectly clear. He will attack the death penalty simultaneously on four fronts, and for his ammunition he will use empirical research…

“Justice Antonin Scalia called it “Gobbledegook.”

James Doyle, a Boston defense lawyer and author, was a 2011-2014 Visiting Fellow at the National Institute of Justice, and the principal essayist in the National Institute of Justice Special Report, Mending Justice: Sentinel Event Reviews (2014). The opinions expressed here as his own. He welcomes comment from readers.

“The city of Vernon, California is little more than five square miles of flat industrial plain, where railway tracks and power lines run between the factories and warehouses. Its most prominent landmark is a water tower and its residents numbered 114 in 2013. Its history, however, is riddled with enough corruption to suit a far larger community.

If this all sounds familiar to viewers of a certain US television crime drama, that is no coincidence. The second series of HBO’s acclaimed True Detective stars Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn as a corrupt cop and the crook who turned him in in a rotten industrial city named Vinci, at the heart of South Los Angeles.

The show’s creator, Nic Pizzolatto, has said in interviews that Vinci was loosely based on Vernon – and some of the series was filmed there.

Though it may not look like one in the traditional sense, Vernon has been officially a city since 1905, when it was founded by John Baptiste Leonis. Vernon has since developed its own business-friendly tax code, its own water and power agency, and a police force of more than 40.

The city’s seal describes Vernon as “exclusively industrial” and it is home to approximately 1,800 businesses, including Tapatio Hot Sauce and a Whole Foods distribution centre, employing 50,000 people.

One of the biggest employers in Vernon is a Farmer John’s meat-packing facility. It is wrapped in a rustic mural of farm animals frolicking in fields. Inside is a vast slaughterhouse.

As mayor of Vernon, Mr Leonis was said to operate like a “feudal lord”. Worth millions by his death in 1953, he left his fortune to his grandson Leonis Malburg, who subsequently served as mayor of Vernon for several decades. Malburg was convicted of voter fraud in 2009 after it was found that he lived not in Vernon, but in a mansion in the Hancock Park neighbourhood, which he had inherited from his grandfather.

In 2010, The Los Angeles Times published an exposé citing critics of the city’s administration, who denounced Vernon as “a fiefdom run by a small cabal who controlled the population of about 100 people and used the city’s coffers to lavish themselves with huge salaries and expensive meals and trips”.

The newspaper found that the city enjoyed an annual budget of more than $300 million, greater than that of Beverly Hills.

The following year, Bruce Malkenhorst, a former Vernon city administrator, pleaded guilty to misusing public funds, after earning a salary of $911,000 (£593,000) and a pension worth more than $500,000 per year – the largest of any public official in California.

His successor, Eric Fresch, was paid a salary of $1.6m in 2008. In 2012, Mr Fresch’s body washed up on the Northern California coast, shortly after he was subpoenaed by the state to answer questions about Vernon’s finances…”

The Independent, “Reality TV? Vernon, a city with a tainted past, comes to life in crime drama True Detective,” TIM WALKER LOS ANGELES Wednesday 08 July 2015

City of Vernon Seal

Kondo MC, Keene D, Hohl BC, MacDonald JM, Branas CC (2015) A Difference-In-Differences Study of the Effects of a New Abandoned Building Remediation Strategy on Safety. PLoS ONE 10(7): e0129582. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0129582

“ABSTRACT: Vacant and abandoned buildings pose significant challenges to the health and safety of communities. In 2011 the City of Philadelphia began enforcing a Doors and Windows Ordinance that required property owners of abandoned buildings to install working doors and windows in all structural openings or face significant fines. We tested the effects of the new ordinance on the occurrence of crime surrounding abandoned buildings from January 2011 to April 2013 using a difference-in-differences approach. We used Poisson regression models to compare differences in pre- and post-treatment measures of crime for buildings that were remediated as a result of the ordinance (n = 676) or permitted for renovation (n = 241), and randomly-matched control buildings that were not remediated (n = 676) or permitted for renovation (n = 964), while also controlling for sociodemographic and other confounders measured around each building. Building remediations were significantly associated with citywide reductions in overall crimes, total assaults, gun assaults and nuisance crimes (p <0.001). Building remediations were also significantly associated with reductions in violent gun crimes in one city section (p <0.01). At the same time, some significant increases were seen in narcotics sales and possession and property crimes around remediated buildings (p <0.001). Building renovation permits were significantly associated with reductions in all crime classifications across multiple city sections (p <0.001). We found no significant spatial displacement effects. Doors and windows remediation offers a relatively low-cost method of reducing certain crimes in and around abandoned buildings. Cities with an abundance of decaying and abandoned housing stock might consider some form of this structural change to their built environments as one strategy to enhance public safety.”

The New York Times, Stunning Escape of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Fuels Mexicans’ Cynicism
By WILLIAM NEUMAN and AZAM AHMEDJULY 13, 2015

“Mexican authorities on Monday intensified their manhunt for Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the country’s most notorious drug kingpin, as many Mexicans expressed disbelief at his stunning escape and wondered how much of the government’s waning credibility may have slipped away through the tunnel that carried the trafficker to freedom.

“They’re all in it together, they’re all accomplices,” said José Manuel Gil, 61, a grocery shop owner, in Mexico City. “These all-mighty criminals are so powerful, I have an impression they have a direct line to the president, to let him know what they are doing and just wiring millions to buy off their free rein.”

The stunning escape of Mr. Guzmán, known as “El Chapo,” or “Shorty,” from what was supposed to be the country’s most secure prison was the latest blow to an already weakened President Enrique Peña Nieto. It fed a deep cynicism in Mexico about the country’s leadership and its corruption-riddled institutions…”

“Mr. Guzmán, who is believed to be in his late 50s, rose through the ranks of Mexico’s drug syndicates to lead what is known as the Sinaloa Cartel, the country’s most powerful and, according to American authorities, the source of the greatest amount of drugs flowing into the United States.”

Drug_Money_and_weapons_seized_by_the_Mexican_Police_and_the_DEA_2007

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