Archive for the ‘In my words – zenith’ Category

Eyewitness

Posted: 26/11/2013 in In my words - zenith

Eyewitness testimony is a legal term.  It refers to an account given by people of an event they have witnessed. Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in nearly 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing. Eyewitness identification typically involves selecting the alleged perpetrator from a police lineup, but it can also be based on police sketches and other methods. Soon after selecting a suspect, eyewitnesses are asked to make a formal statement confirming the ID and to try to recall any other details about events surrounding the crime. At the trial, which may be years later, eyewitnesses usually testify in court.

Although eyewitness reports are sometimes accurate, jurors should not accept them uncritically because of the many factors that can bias such reports.For example, jurors tend to give more weight to the testimony of eyewitnesses who report that they are very sure about their identifications even though most studies indicate that highly confident eyewitnesses are generally only slightly more accurate—and sometimes no more so—than those who are less confident. In addition to educating jurors about the uncertainties surrounding eyewitness testimony, adhering to specific rules for the process of identifying suspects can make that testimony more accurate.

One of the best heartening  example i could give would be the case of Ronald Cotton. You may view the case in full at the below link.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/eyewitness-how-accurate-is-visual-memory/

In 1984, Jennifer Thompson was raped. During the attack, she studied the attacker’s face, determined to identify him if she survived the attack. When presented with a photo lineup, she identified Cotton as her attacker. Twice, she testified against him, even after seeing Bobby Poole, the man who boasted to fellow inmates that he had committed the crimes for which Cotton was convicted.After Cotton’s serving 10.5 years of his sentence, DNA testing conclusively proved that Poole was indeed the rapist

Another famous case of mistaken identity in the United Kingdom is the case of Adolf Beck, who served several years in prison as a swindler, was released upon completion of his sentence, and then arrested again on the same charges before the actual swindler of similar appearance was apprehended.

Lastly the case of Timothy Cole who was convicted in 1986 of a rape he didn’t commit. Though the real perpetrator confessed to the crime in 1995 and maintained his confession for years after, Cole’s name wasn’t officially cleared. Unfortunately, Cole died in prison in 1999. His family says he couldn’t get proper treatment for his asthma while incarcerated

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/02/06/texas.exoneration/index.html

Eyewitness testimony is an important area of research in cognitive psychology and human memory.Jurys tend to pay close attention to eyewitness testimony and generally find it a reliable source of information.  However, research into this area has found that eyewitness testimony can be affected by many psychological factors:Anxiety / Stress, Reconstructive Memory, Weapon Focus, Leading Questions.

You may view this part of interesting video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wPvGadHulSE

Anxiety / Stress

Yerkes Dodson CurveAnxiety or stress is almost always associated with real life crimes of violence.  Deffenbacher (1983) reviewed 21 studies and found that the stress-performance relationship followed an inverted-U function proposed by the Yerkes Dodson Curve (1908).  This means that for tasks of moderate complexity (such as EWT), performances increases with stress up to an optimal point where it starts to decline.

Clifford and Scott (1978) found that people who saw a film of a violent attack remembered fewer of the 40 items of information about the event than a control group who saw a less stressful version.  As witnessing a real crime is probably more stressful than taking part in an experiment, memory accuracy may well be even more affected in real life.

However, a study by Yuille and Cutshall (1986) contradicts the importance of stress in influencing eyewitness memory.

They showed that witnesses of a real life incident (a gun shooting outside a gun shop in Canada) had remarkable accurate memories of a stressful event involving weapons.A thief stole guns and money, but was shot six times and died.

The police interviewed witnesses, and thirteen of them were re-interviewed five months later.  Recall was found to be accurate, even after a long time, and two misleading questions inserted by the research team had no effect on recall accuracy. One weakness of this study was that the witnesses who experienced the highest levels of stress where actually closer to the event, and this may have helped with the accuracy of their memory recall.

The Yuille and Cutshall study illustrates two important points:

1. There are cases of real-life recall where memory for an anxious / stressful event is accurate, even some months later.

2. Misleading questions need not have the same effect as has been found in laboratory studies (e.g. Loftus & Palmer).

Reconstructive Memory

Bartlett ’s theory of reconstructive memory is crucial to an understanding of the reliability of eyewitness testimony as he suggested that recall is subject to personal interpretation dependent on our learnt or cultural norms and values, and the way we make sense of our world.

Many people believe that memory works something like a videotape.  Storing information is like recording and remembering is like playing back what was recorded.  With information being retrieved in much the same form as it was encoded.  However, memory does not work in this way.  It is a feature of human memory that we do not store information exactly as it is presented to us.  Rather, people extract from information the gist, or underlying meaning.

In other words, people store information in the way that makes the most sense to them.  We make sense of information by trying to fit it into schemas, which are a way of organizing information.

Schemas are mental ‘units’ of knowledge that correspond to frequently encountered people, objects or situations.  They allow us to make sense of what we encounter in order that we can predict what is going to happen and what we should do in any given situation.  These schemas may, in part, be determined by social values and therefore prejudice.

Schemas are therefore capable of distorting unfamiliar or unconsciously ‘unacceptable’ information in order to ‘fit in’ with our existing knowledge or schemas.  This can, therefore, result in unreliable eyewitness testimony.

Bartlett tested this theory using a variety of stories to illustrate that memory is an active process and subject to individual interpretation or construction.

In his famous study ‘War of the Ghosts‘, Bartlett (1932) showed that memory is not just a factual recording of what has occurred, but that we make “effort after meaning”.  By this, Bartlett meant that we try to fit what we remember with what we really know and understand about the world.  As a result, we quite often change our memories so they become more sensible to us.

His participants heard a story and had to tell the story to another person and so on, like a game of “Chinese Whispers”.

The story was a North American folk tale called “The War of the Ghosts”.  When asked to recount the detail of the story, each person seemed to recall it in their own individual way.

With repeating telling, the passages became shorter, puzzling ideas were rationalized or omitted altogether and details changed to become more familiar or conventional.

For example, the information about the ghosts was omitted as it was difficult to explain, whilst participants frequently recalled the idea of “not going because he hadn’t told his parents where he was going” because that situation was more familiar to them. For this research Bartlett concluded that memory is not exact and is distorted by existing schema, or what we already know about the world.

It seems, therefore, that each of us ‘reconstructs’ our memories to conform to our personal beliefs about the world.

This clearly indicates that our memories are anything but reliable, ‘photographic’ records of events.  They are individual recollections which have been shaped & constructed according to our stereotypes, beliefs, expectations etc.

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The implications of this can be seen even more clearly in a study by Allport & Postman (1947).

When asked to recall details of the picture opposite, participants tended to report that it was the black man who was holding the razor.

Clearly this is not correct and shows that memory is an active process and can be changed to ‘fit in’ with what we expect to happen based on your knowledge and understanding of society (e.g. our schemas).

Weapon Focus

This refers to an eyewitness’s concentration on a weapon to the exclusion of other details of a crime.  In a crime where a weapon is involved, it is not unusual for a witness to be able to describe the weapon in much more detail than the person holding it.

Loftus et al. (1987) showed participants a series of slides of a customer in a restaurant.  In one version the customer was holding a gun, in the other the same customer held a checkbook. Participants who saw the gun version tended to focus on the gun.  As a result they were less likely to identify the customer in an identity parade those who had seen the checkbook version

However, a study by Yuille and Cutshall (1986) contradicts the importance of weapon focus in influencing eyewitness memory.

In deciding the trustworthiness of eyewitness testimony, the judiciary employs as one of five criteria the witness’ level of confidence demonstrated at the confrontation. A very recent laboratory study has shown that juror perceptions of witness confidence account for 50% of the variance in juror judgments as to witness accuracy. This strong faith in the adequacy of certainty as a predictor of accuracy is not at all supported by the present review of 43 separate assessments of the accuracy/confidence relation in eye- and ear witnesses. Statistical support is provided for the notion that the predictability of accuracy from overtly expressed confidence varies directly with the degree of optimality of information-processing conditions during encoding of the witnessed event, memory storage, and testing of the witness’ memory. Low optimal conditions, those mitigating against the likelihood of highly reliable testimony, typically result in a zero correlation of confidence and accuracy. Using the arbitrary criterion of 70% or greater accuracy to define high optimal conditions, seven forensically relevant laboratory studies are identified, with six of them exhibiting significant positive correlations of confidence and accuracy. It is concluded, however, that no really clear criteria currently exist for distinguishing post hoc high from low optimal witnessing conditions in any particular real-life situation. Hence the judiciary should cease their reliance on witness confidence as an index of witness accuracy

 

 

What is death penalty ? 

Capital punishment, also dubbed the “death penalty,” is the pre-meditated and planned taking of a human life by a government in response to a crime committed by that legally convicted person. (Taken from wikipedia and cross refer to various subject.)

What is the ultimate purpose of death penalty ? if only we can answer this questions correctly

Is it to take vengeance on behalf of the victim or to remove someone who causes harm to society or to remove someone who is not capable of rehabilitation or to punish criminals or to stop others from commiting murder. Clearly we don’t have an understanding on the purpose of the penalty.

Why it should be abolished ?

* Amnesty International(taken from one of the article) believes that “The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice. It violates the right to life…It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. There can never be any justification for torture or for cruel treatment.” On the other end Catholic Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, writes “…the death penalty diminishes all of us, increases disrespect for human life, and offers the tragic illusion that we can teach that killing is wrong by killing.”

*  The case of Stanley William “Tookie” illustrates nothing better on moral complexities of the death penalty . I think that he shouldn’t have been put to death. He did kill those people and for that he deserved his punishment. But what he did while in prison was to admit his folly and to reconcile his ways. The penalty is made for dangerous people who are a threat to society. He was a threat until he changed and was sorrowful for what he did. He was at no risk to re-offend and should have been pardoned as such. Granted he may have made some bad choices in his past, but he turned his life around and gave great contributions to prevent others from following his same footsteps. I think everyone makes mistakes and deserves a second chance. The decision to execute him may discourage others to change there lives around. They may feel like it’s pointless to change if they are going to keep being punished for their past mistakes. I personally feel no human should have that much control over someone’s life ie “Thou shall not kill.” Furthermore we don’t have the say so to determine whether or not he should of died. Rehabilitation is not served with death . Who are we to judge this man of his crimes? Put him in jail and let him do his time. Death is not rehabilitation.Not because of his Nobel Peace Prize nominations. Because putting anyone to death is just state sanctioned murder. It does not rehabilitate (he was already rehabilitated) anyone, nor deter others. People confuse vengeance and justice. You cannot bring back those that have been kllled, so why kill someone else?

* Death constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment,” which is against the 8th amendment to the US Constitution.

* The death penalty is used disproportionately against the poor, who cannot afford expensive legal counsel, as well as against racial, ethnic and religious minorities hence the death penalty is applied arbitrarily and inconsistently.

* Killing human life is morally wrong under all circumstances. Some faith groups, such as the Roman Catholic Church, oppose the death penalty as not being “pro-life.”

* A miscarriage of justice primarily is the conviction and punishment of a person for a crime they did not commit.

  • As the pace of DNA exonerations has grown across the country in recent years, wrongful convictions have revealed disturbing fissures and trends in our criminal justice system. Together, these cases show us how the criminal justice system is broken – and how urgently it needs to be fixed.We should learn from the system’s failures. In each case where DNA has proven innocence beyond doubt, an overlapping array of causes has emerged – from mistakes to misconduct to factors of race and class.Those exonerated by DNA testing aren’t the only people who have been wrongfully convicted in recent decades. For every case that involves DNA, there are hundreds that do not.Only a fraction of criminal cases involve biological evidence that can be subjected to DNA testing, and even when such evidence exists, it is often lost or destroyed after a conviction. Since they don’t have access to a definitive test like DNA, many wrongfully convicted people have a slim chance of ever proving their innocence.
  • Here you will find further information about seven of the most common causes of wrongful convictions:
  1. Eyewitness Misidentification
  2. Unvalidated or Improper Forensic Science
  3. False Confessions / Admissions
  4. Government Misconduct
  5. Informants or Snitches
  6. Bad Lawyering
  • These factors are not the only causes of wrongful conviction. Each case is unique and many include a combination of the above issues. Review our case profiles to learn how the common causes of wrongful convictions have affected real cases and how these injustices could have been prevented.To stop these wrongful convictions from continuing, we must fix the criminal justice system.

In my opinion, i suggest that perhaps the death penalty to be abolished while it can be subdued to life in prison, to safeguard the ultimate rule

“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer” (Sir William Blackstone 1765)

Hinduism in Indonesia is practised by 1.79% of the total population
(down from 1.81% in 1990), with 88.05% in Bali (down from 93.18% in 1990)
and 5.89% in Central Kalimantan (down from 15.75% in 1990) as of the 2000 census.
Every Indonesian citizen is required to be a registered member of one of the acknowledged religious communities
(Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism or Confucianism).

Hindu influences reached the Indonesian Archipelago as early as first century.
There are several theories as to how Hinduism reached Indonesia.
The Vaishya idea is that intermarriage occurred between Indian traders/merchants and Indonesian natives.
Another theory (Kshatriya) believes that defeated soldiers from India found solace in Indonesia.
Third, the Brahmana take a more traditional point of view that missionaries spread Hinduism to the islands.
Lastly, the nationalist (Bhumiputra) theory is that Indonesians chose the culture themselves after having traveled to India.
In 4th century, the kingdom of Kutai in East Kalimantan, Tarumanagara in West Java, and Holing (Kalingga) in Central Java,
were among the early Hindu states established in the region. Several notable ancient Indonesian Hindu kingdoms are Mataram,
famous for the construction of the majestic Prambanan temple, followed by Kediri and Singhasari.
Since then Hinduism along with Buddhism spread across the archipelago and reached the peak of its influence in the 14th century.
The last and largest among Hindu-Buddhist Javanese empires, Majapahit, influenced the Indonesian archipelago.

Practitioners of Agama Hindu Dharma share many common beliefs, which include:

A belief in one supreme being called ‘Ida Sanghyang Widi Wasa’, ‘Sang Hyang Tunggal’, or ‘Sang Hyang Acintya’. God Almighty in the Torajanese culture of Central Sulawesi is known as “Puang Matua” in Aluk to dolo belief.
A belief that all of the gods are manifestations of this supreme being. This belief is the same as the belief of Smartism, which also holds that the different forms of God, Vishnu, Siva are different aspects of the same Supreme Being. Lord Shiva is also worshipped in other forms such as “Batara Guru” and “Maharaja Dewa” (Mahadeva) are closely identified with the Sun in local forms of Hinduism or Kebatinan, and even in the genie lore of Muslims.
A belief in the Trimurti, consisting of:
1) Brahma, the creator
2) Wisnu or Vishnu, the preserver
3) Çiwa or Shiva, the destroyer
A belief in all of the other Hindu gods and goddesses (Hyang, Dewata and Batara-Batari)
The sacred texts found in Agama Hindu Dharma are the Vedas. They are the basis of Balinese Hinduism. Other sources of religious information include the Puranas and the Itihasa (mainly Ramayana and the Mahabharata).

One of Hinduism’s primary ethical concerns is the concept of ritual purity. Another important distinguishing feature, which traditionally helps maintain ritual purity, is the division of society into the traditional occupational groups, or varna of Hinduism: Brahmins (priests, brahmana in Indonesian), Kshatriya (ruler-warriors, satriya or “Deva” in Indonesian), Vaishya (merchants-farmers, waisya in Indonesian), and Shudra (commoners-servants, sudra in Indonesian). Like Islam and Buddhism, Hinduism was greatly modified when adapted to Indonesian society.

The caste system, although present in form, was never rigidly applied. The epics Mahabharata (Great Battle of the Descendants of Bharata) and Ramayana (The Travels of Rama), became enduring traditions among Indonesian believers, expressed in shadow puppet (wayang) and dance performances.

The Indonesian government has recognized Hinduism as one of the country’s six officially sanctioned monotheistic religions, along with Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism and Confucianism. However the government do not recognize indigenous tribal belief systems as official religion. As a result, followers of various native animistic religions such as Dayak Kaharingan have identified themselves as Hindu in order to avoid pressure to convert to Islam or Christianity. Several native tribal beliefs such as Sundanese Sunda Wiwitan, Torajan Aluk To Dolo, and Batak Malim — although different than Indian influenced Balinese Hinduism — might sought affiliations with Hinduism in order to survive, while in the same time also tried preserving their distinction to mainstream Indonesian Hinduism dominated by Balinese. Furthermore, Indonesian nationalists have laid great stress on the achievements of the Majapahit Empire – a Hindu state – which has helped attract certain Indonesians to Hinduism. These factors have led to a certain resurgence of Hinduism outside of its Balinese stronghold.

Balinese Hinduism is deeply interwoven with art and ritual, and is less closely preoccupied with scripture, law, and belief than Islam in Indonesia.
Balinese Hinduism lacks the traditional Hindu emphasis on cycles of rebirth and reincarnation, but instead is concerned with a myriad of hyangs,
the local and ancestral spirits. As with kebatinan, these deities are thought to be capable of good or harm.
Balinese place great emphasis on dramatic and aesthetically satisfying acts of ritual propitiation of these spirits at temple sites scattered throughout
villages and in the countryside.
The Balinese temple is called Pura, and unlike the common towering Indian Hindu Temple with interior space,
the Balinese temple is designed as an open air worship place within enclosed walls, connected with series of intricately decorated gates to reach its compounds.
Each of these temples has a more or less fixed membership; every Balinese belongs to a temple by virtue of descent, residence, or some mystical revelation of affiliation.
Some temples are associated with the family house compound (also called banjar in Bali), others are associated with rice fields, and still others with key geographic sites.
Ritualized states of self-control (or lack thereof) are a notable feature of religious expression among the people,
who for this reason have become famous for their graceful and decorous behavior. One key ceremony at a village temple, for instance, features a special performance of a dance-drama, a battle between the mythical characters Rangda the witch (representing adharma, something like disorder) and Barong the protective predator (mostly like a lion) (representing dharma), in which performers fall into a trance and attempt to stab themselves with sharp knives. The dramas regularly end apparently undecided, neither side winning, because the primary purpose is to restore balance.
Rituals of the life cycle are also important occasions for religious expression and artistic display.
Ceremonies at puberty, marriage, and, most notably, cremation at death provide opportunities for Balinese to communicate their ideas about community,
status, and the afterlife. (The tourist industry has not only supported spectacular cremation ceremonies among Balinese of modest means, but also has created a greater demand for them.)
A priest is not affiliated with any temple, but acts as a spiritual leader and adviser to individual families in various villages scattered over the island.
These priests are consulted when ceremonies requiring holy water are conducted.On other occasions, folk healers or curers may be hired.
Balinese Hinduism also includes the religious belief of Tabuh Rah, a religious cockfight where a rooster is used in religious custom by allowing him to fight against
another rooster in the religious cockfight of the Balinese Hinduism spiritual appeasement exercise of Tabuh Rah, a form of animal sacrifice.
The spilling of blood, Tabuh Rah is necessary as purification to appease the evil spirits bhuta and kala, and to insure a good harvest.
Ritual fights usually take place outside the temple and follow an ancient and complex ritual as set out in the sacred lontar manuscripts.

Officially identifying their religion as Hinduism was not a legal possibility for Indonesians until 1962, when it became the fifth state-recognized religion.
This recognition was initially sought by Balinese religious organizations and granted for the sake of Bali, where the majority were Hindu.
The largest of these organizations, Parisada Hindu Dharma Bali, changed its name to P.H.D. Indonesia (PHDI) in 1964,
reflecting subsequent efforts to define Hinduism as a national rather than just a Balinese concern (Ramstedt 1998).
Religious identity became a life and death issue for many Indonesians around the same time as Hinduism gained recognition,
in the wake of the violent anti-Communist purge of 1965-66 (Beatty 1999).
Persons lacking affiliation with a state recognized-religion tended to be classed as atheists and hence suspected as communists.
Despite the inherent disadvantages of joining a national religious minority,
a deep concern for the preservation of their traditional ancestor religions made Hinduism a more palatable option than Islam for several ethnic groups in the outer islands.
In the early seventies, the Toraja people of Sulawesi were the first to realize this opportunity by seeking shelter for their indigenous ancestor religion under the
broad umbrella of ‘Hinduism’, followed by the Karo Batak of Sumatra in 1977 (Bakker 1995).
In central and southern Kalimantan, a large Hindu movement has grown among the local indigenous Dayak population which lead to
a mass declaration of ‘Hinduism’ on this island in 1980. However, this was different to the Javanese case, in that conversions followed a clear ethnic division. Indigenous Dayak were confronted with a mostly Muslim population of government-sponsored (and predominantly Madurese) migrants and officials, and deeply resentful at the dispossession of their land and its natural resources.
Compared to their counterparts among Javanese Hindus, many Dayak leaders were also more deeply concerned about
Balinese efforts to standardize Hindu ritual practice nationally; fearing a decline of their own unique ‘Hindu Kaharingan’ traditions and renewed external domination.
By contrast, most Javanese were slow to consider Hinduism at the time, lacking a distinct organization along ethnic lines and
fearing retribution from locally powerful Islamic organizations like the Nahdatul Ulama (NU).
The youth wing of the NU had been active in the persecution not only of communists but of ‘Javanist’ or ‘anti-Islamic’ elements within Sukarno’s
Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI) during the early phase of the killings (Hefner 1987).
Practitioners of ‘Javanist’ mystical traditions thus felt compelled to declare themselves Muslims out of a growing concern for their safety.
[edit] Under Suharto’s Rule
The initial assessment of having to abandon ‘Javanist’ traditions in order to survive in an imminent Islamic state proved incorrect.
President Sukarno’s eventual successor, Suharto, adopted a distinctly nonsectarian approach in his so-called ‘new order’ (orde baru) regime.
Old fears resurfaced, however, with Suharto’s ‘Islamic turn’ in the 1990s. Initially a resolute defender of Javanist values,
Suharto began to make overtures to Islam at that time, in response to wavering public and military support for his government.
A powerful signal was his authorization and personal support of the new ‘Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals’ (ICMI),
an organization whose members openly promoted the Islamization of Indonesian state and society (Hefner 1997).
Concerns grew as ICMI became the dominant civilian faction in the national bureaucracy, and initiated massive programs of Islamic education and
mosque-building through the Ministry of Religion (departemen agama), once again targeting Javanist strongholds. Around the same time,
there were a series of mob killings by Muslim extremists of people they suspected to have been practising traditional Javanese methods of healing by magical means.
In terms of their political affiliation, many contemporary Javanists and recent converts to Hinduism had been members of the old PNI,
and have now joined the new nationalist party of Megawati Sukarnoputri. Informants from among this group portrayed their return to the ‘religion of Majapahit’
(Hinduism) as a matter of nationalist pride, and displayed a new sense political self-confidence

Rejoice and praise characterized the streets on the 4th day of November 2008, the day when Barack Obama was voted into office by the American people. It was a day of pride, jubilee, and hope; however this hope meant different things for different people. One man, Mumia Abu-Jamal, along with his supporters hoped for a miracle in the form of a Presidential pardon from Philadelphia’s Death Row. Mumia Abu-Jamal has been a resident of this peculiar institution since May 25, 1983 and a prisoner of the state since December 9, 1981 for the alleged first degree murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner. While it is not the focus of this paper to discuss the inhumanity of the US death sentence, it is however important to understand that in this case it was not justified. From the very beginning of the case, well before the two sides entered the court-room, there were a great deal of inconsistencies with the testimonies of the prosecution and the way in which the case was conducted. Racism plagued the trial from the judge’s chair to the witness stand, and to the jury box; the three pinnacle sources of the court decision. It is the interest of this article to discuss explicitly the racism found in the jury and jury selection process, which illegally placed Mumia on a straight path to the bars behind which he lives to this day. The court of Judge Albert Sabo in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas ignored a number of Supreme Court and Philadelphia Court decisions pertaining to racist jury selection and jury misleading. The trial of Mumia Abu-Jamal was a blatant violation of the precedent set in the case of Strauder v. West Virginia and affirmed in Batson v. Kentucky, which prohibited racist selection of jurors in the court. As a result of this violation of precedent along with deception of the jury by the prosecution, it is strongly supported that Mumia deserves a re-trial in which justice is finally served and “democracy” can finally be found in a country that claims to be rooted in it.
On the evening of December 9th 1981, Mumia Abu-Jamal was driving his taxi cab when he came upon Daniel Faulkner, a Philadelphia police officer, in an altercation with his brother. The events that followed his arrival are known only to Mumia, his brother, the late Faulkner, and the late Kenneth Freeman. It is the argument of the defense that Mumia ran to his brother’s aide when Faulkner shot him in the chest debilitating him (Francome). It is at this point that Faulkner was shot possibly by Kenneth Freeman, the passenger in the vehicle being stopped by the officer. Witnesses then say they saw two men running from the scene leaving the wounded Mumia and Faulkner in the street. It is the argument of the prosecution however, that there was no other passenger (even though Freeman’s driver’s license was found in the officer’s pocket) and that Mumia was the first shooter (Francome). The force from his bullet supposedly caused Faulkner to turn around and let off a shot hitting Mumia in the chest. Finally they say Mumia, although shot and incapacitated, straddled the dying officer and let off his five remaining 38 caliber charter arms revolver rounds, sending a fatal bullet between the eyes. There is a great deal of evidence against the prosecution’s argument ranging from crime scene neglect, bullet trajectory evidence, witness coercion by the police, and much more, however these things were never brought into the courtroom (Francome). Something else that wasn’t brought into the courtroom was a fair constituency of black jurors to interpret the evidence that made it past the prosecution’s review.

In a city where the black population was 40 percent of the total, the trial’s jury was composed of a mere 18 percent, not even half of that. The remaining members of the jury were none other than the typical white middle class individuals, perfect for the manipulation of the prosecution. Ultimately, the final count stood at two blacks and fourteen whites (including the four alternate jurors), however a racially representative jury of that city would have been thought to have at least five black jurors; this was of course far from the case in the trial of Mumia Abu-Jamal (“The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal”, 11). This process of what is known as “jury stacking” is unconstitutional, however is protected by the right of the attorney to strike potential jurors based strictly on peremptory challenges, which do not require any explanation. “The prosecution used 11 out of its 15 peremptory strikes to remove African Americans from the jury” (Amnesty Int’l, 13). However, when jurors are excluded strictly based on race alone, this is a violation of Constitutional law provided by the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Jennie Dawley, for example, was a black woman who was the only juror selected while Mumia was conducting his own defense. During this time before the trial even began, she asked the court to be excused in the evening in order to take her ill cat to the veterinarian. Judge Sabo quickly denied this request without first informing the defense (Ibid, 13). When she decided to go against this order, she was dismissed from the trial. Normally there would be no issue in making this decision since she defied the order, however a white juror requested an excusal to participate in a civil service exam during actual court time. This, according to the precedent previously set by Sabo, would be impermissible, however it was granted by Judge Sabo. Demonstrating an even greater deal of favoritism, Sabo even temporarily halted the trial and assigned a court official to accompany the white juror (Ibid, 13-14).
How can one justify the denial of a woman permission to care for her sick cat before the trial has even started, yet the approval of another person to take a civil service exam during the trial. Does this not support the belief that Judge Sabo in his treatment of the jurors was racially biased? If this doesn’t, then the fact that Dawley was replaced by a white alternate juror should. Not only would this alter the ratio of blacks to whites in the jury booth, but it exposed yet another issue in the jury selection. Robert Courchain, the replacement juror, said he may not be able to set aside his bias in the case, stating, “unconsciously I don’t think I could be fair to both sides” (Amnesty Int’l, 14). Similarly, two other jurors were allowed onto the jury who held prior prejudice to the situation. “… a jury was selected that included a man whose best friend was a former Philadelphia police officer on disability after being shot while on duty, as well as an alternate juror whose husband was a Philadelphia police officer” (Abu-Jamal, 171). While being questioned, one even admitted that he would be unable to be a fair juror due to the experience of his friend. To top it all off, only seven of the eighty prospective jurors prior to the case had not admitted to being familiar with media coverage of the case (Amnesty Int’l, 13). This is important because having prior negative experience with similar cases or premature opinions of the trial resulting from media coverage leads to an obviously biased jury. They are more likely to have prejudice against the defendant and more likely to convict. It is not uncommon of prosecution to attempt to pack the jury with individuals who would be most likely to convict, whether it be due to personal experience, racial bias, or any other reason. This was just the case in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Mumia Abu-Jamal and the reason why this man, who is believed to be innocent, deserves a re-trial. He deserves the chance to present all the evidence that has been developed over the years to a jury that abides by the Equal Rights Clause of the Constitution. This is further supported by the earlier mentioned case of Strauder v. West Virginia.

Dating all the way back to the year 1880, Taylor Strauder was a black man convicted of murder by an all-white jury as a result of West Virginia’s exclusionary policy. This, he argued, was a violation of his newly given Constitutional rights, causing him to file a petition with the state court. He was denied by the state court and Strauder then decided to bring his case to the US Supreme Court. The Court spoke through Justice William Strong in holding that this categorical exclusion of blacks from the jury based solely on their race was a blatant violation of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution (“Strauder v. West Virginia”). This amendment of course served to “to assure to the colored race the enjoyment of all the civil rights that, under the law, are enjoyed by white persons, and to give to that race the protection of the general government in that enjoyment whenever it should be denied by the States” (“Batson v. Kentucky). This being said, was it not the right of the potential black jurors in the state of West Virginia to participate in the trial convicting one of their peers? Was it also not the black defendant’s right to have his case reviewed by a jury of his racial peers? It was the opinion of the Court that the latter was indeed his right and conveying this point further, Strong concluded the Court’s strong opinion saying; “Concluding, therefore, that the statute of West Virginia, discriminating in the selection of jurors, as it does, against negroes because of their color, amounts to a denial of the equal protection of the laws to a colored man when he is put upon trial for an alleged offence against the State…” (“Strauder v. West Virginia”). An important point to note is that the court recognized the rights of the black criminal defendant in making its decision, not the rights of the potential jury members. The reasoning behind this was since the juries would be “drawn from a panel from which the state has expressly excluded every man of [a defendant’s] race” (Ibid). Nevertheless, Strauder was able to take victory and create the precedent against the exclusionary ways of the state court not only of West Virginia, but throughout the nation, including Philadelphia.
How then could it have been possible for Mumia Abu-Jamal to be put up against a Jury consisting of over 80% whites? The Philadelphia court completely ignored the precedent created in the Strauder case, ultimately leading to the unfair trying of the former Black Panther. This normally shouldn’t seem so extraordinarily biased against Mumia, however the city’s legal history seems to support a specific disposition for him. In 1986, 4 years after the Mumia trial, James Kirkland Batson was convicted of burglary by an all-white jury in Louisville, Kentucky. In the case Batson v. Kentucky, Batson argued to the Supreme Court much like Strauder that his 14th amendment rights under the Equal Protection Clause were violated by the exclusion of black jurors. Reaffirming the precedent set forth by the Strauder case, the Court stated that prosecutors may not use race as a deciding factor in executing preemptory challenges (“Batson v. Kentucky”). Batson’s victory and the Court’s opinion acted retroactively to Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case and highlighted the racist and illegitimate court system in Philadelphia. Indeed this is a very bold claim that is unfortunately further supported by the extensive, seemingly never ending case of Mumia. Now, with the jury that he desired, minus the two black jurors, the prosecuting attorney needed to unleash the next stage in his mission to condemn the life of the defendant.

Joseph McGill, lead prosecuting attorney, employed a number of tactics in order to play off the emotions of the already biased jury. On numerous occasions he attempted to make significant issue of Mumia’s membership in the Black Panther Party as a teen (Abu-Jamal, 177). This would become an act liable for argument using the 1992 case of Dawson v. Delaware in which the US Supreme Court ruled that the introduction of a defendant’s political views is unconstitutional and a violation of free speech. Further, McGill specifically and successfully gave the jury the false impression that ultimately their decision would not be final. “Prosecutors know that jurors are more likely to deliver a death sentence if they think it unlikely to be carried out” (“The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal,” 28). The prosecution continuously suggested that Mumia would have opportunity for a limitless series of appeals, saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, you are not asked to kill anybody. You are asked to follow the law… nobody at all has died in Pennsylvania since 1962 for an incident that occurred in 1959” (Ibid, 28). Statements like this aim to encourage the members of the jury to satisfy the desires of those who want to see this alleged cop killer in the hot seat so to speak. In giving them the impression that their decision wouldn’t be final, the jury is now made to be more likely to decide along with the majority, inside and outside the courtroom, because no one wants to be the one bad seed that went against the consensus. Here was yet another instance in which the jury was blatantly lied to and placed under the delusion that in the end, they wouldn’t hold much responsibility for taking this innocent man’s life. In 1986, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled this was an illegal procedure, however introduced another “Mumia Exception,” as they have come to be known. It was the case of Commonwealth v. Baker in which the same type of jury coercion was performed and as a result, Baker’s death sentence was overturned, giving rise to another court precedent providing hope to the wrongfully incarcerated Mumia Abu-Jamal. “The court then reversed this precedent in 1989 by upholding Abu-Jamal’s death sentence, only to reestablish it in 1990, in the case of Commonwealth v. Beasley…” (Ibid, 29). Clearly, a particular exception was made to keep Mumia on the path to an early demise.

An interesting exposé to bring into the picture comes from about a year following the Batson ruling. A training videotape made for Philadelphia city prosecutors was made public and incited outrage when its racist content could be seen by all. The video showed the Assistant District Attorney, Jack McMahon, instructing a group of young future prosecutors on how to pick and choose the best jury for their cases. He is quoted saying, “Let’s face it, the blacks from the low-income areas are less likely to convict. There’s a resentment to law enforcement…You don’t want those guys on your jury…If you get a white teacher in a black school who’s sick of these guys, that may be the one to accept” (“McMahon DA Training Video”). He then goes on to speak on how to avoid placing educated people on the jury in fear that they will take the concept of without a reasonable doubt “too seriously” (Ibid). This was the first time, with this indirect confession, that it was blatantly obvious that the Philadelphia judicial system was one of racist action and discriminatory practice. It is without a doubt that it can be inferred that these same tactics and beliefs were at play in the trial of Mumia Abu-Jamal, and only further support right to a trial de nuvo.

In December of 2001 the significance of the jury in the case was more than evident when Judge William H. Yohn Jr. voided Mumia’s death sentence while upholding the conviction. Judge Yohn’s Memorandum and Order states; “…the jury instructions and verdict sheet in this case involved an unreasonable application of federal law. The charge and verdict form created a reasonable likelihood that the jury believed it was precluded from considering any mitigating circumstance that had not been found unanimously to exist” (Yohn, 269). Not only was there a problem in picking the jury, but even after picking the jury, the prosecution mislead its members. They were made to believe a number of falsehoods, such as the one described above. The prosecuting attorney, Joseph McGill, led the men and women of the jury to believe that the decision had to be unanimous. This leads to a number of issues; firstly, those few who oppose the guilty verdict face a sort of peer pressure in which they do not want to be the “problem children” per-say and decide against the majority. In doing this, they would force the entire jury into a dead-lock in which they must re-discuss the entire case until either those in favor of a guilty verdict change their minds or vice-versa, and no one wants to be the rotten egg that adds an extra week or two onto the deliberation process. Now as a result of the exposure this falsification of the legal process, it seemed that a glimmer of hope was seen on the side of the defense, however it would not be enough to incite praise because Mumia was still behind bars serving a life sentence.
Taking this further, Mumia’s habeas corpus was riddled with judicial errors that were initially ignored by the Third Circuit Court. On December 6, 2005, the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit acknowledged four issues for appeal in the ruling passed down by the District Court in the case. These issues included; use of a flawed jury verdict form and confusing instructions to the jury given by the judge; whether racial bias in jury selection existed in a capacity enough to produce a biased jury and therefore, an unfair trial; the prosecutor may have improperly attempted to reduce the jury’s sense of responsibility by telling them a guilty verdict would be deferred and subject to a slew of appeals; Lastly, whether the presiding Judge, demonstrated unacceptable bias in his conduct. These acknowledgements support the claims made earlier and show that they were initially being ignored to keep the forward movement of Mumia’s defense at a standstill. Unfortunately, it was not enough to keep the Third Circuit Court from returning on May 17, 2007 to hear oral arguments of the appeals and the Pennsylvania Commonwealth’s desire to reinstate the voided death sentence. The Commonwealth’s argument was based on the belief that Yohn’s ruling was flawed and should have been referred to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. They attempted to discredit Mumia’s Batson claim by arguing that no complaints were made during the original jury selection, the fault of his assigned defense attorney, Anthony Jackson. On March 27, 2008, a three judge panel met to discuss the defense counsel’s argument that the trial was biased due to the fact that the judge was a racist and the jury was racially biased and misinformed. They upheld the conviction on this and another occasion in April 2009, shooting down yet another appeal. This leads us into the present day, almost thirty years following the initial conviction in 1982.

The case of Mumia Abu-Jamal is one that seems to carry a particular significance to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is very unclear however, what it is about this case in particular that has made the prosecution so unyielding in their wish to seem Mumia executed by the state. From the moment the gun-shots were heard on the day Officer Daniel Faulkner was murdered, Mumia Abu-Jamal was targeted as the suspect, the villain, the perfect victim of Philadelphia’s racist legal system. The most effective tool in assuring this highly likely innocent man found his way behind bars was the jury. This was well known to the prosecution who was a well-known friend to the judge presiding over the trial. Joseph McGill took advantage of preemptory challenges and the emotions of the members of the jury to make the conviction of Mumia Abu-Jamal inevitable. The Philadelphia legal system allowed this to occur despite a number of Supreme Court and State Court precedents, which were ignored in this case. It was very clear that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was not and is not going to rest until they see this man, who has become an international sensation, fry in a chair. No matter what though, the many supporters of Mumia from around the globe will not rest until he is in the comfort of his own home with the family he was never allowed to know.

Malaysian analysts had mixed views as to whether damage from the devastating earthquake in Sendai and the nuclear reactor blasts in Fukushima will drag the world economy and hit export-oriented Malaysia, which is already bracing for slower growth this year and next.

Nevertheless, they all expressed concern that the situation might worsen. It may also have been bad timing that just days ago, before the calamities, central Bank Negara Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz had raised lenders’ statutory reserve requirement to 2 per cent from 1 per cent in a bid to mop up excess money in the market.

CIMB chief economist Lee Heng Guie told Malaysia Chronicle that for now it was too early to quantify the full effect of the Japan crisis on the local economy. The government has forecast 2011 GDP gowth at 5 to 6 percent this year.

“We are coming up with reports and gathering input to assess the situation,” Lee said.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average plunged 6.0 per cent in early morning trade, extending Monday’s 6.2 per cent loss, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.3 per cent, South Korea’s Kospi Composite was up 0.6 per cent and New Zealand’s NZX-50 was flat.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were down 58 points in screen trade.

The Malaysian benchmark index KLC was down 0.6 per cent to 1,486.42, breaking below the pyschological 1,500 mark.

Worrisome for all

So far, the Yen has remained strong but further down the road it might weaken under the weight of new debt Japan must undertake to repair the damage from the twin calamities that struck last Friday. Some global banks have estimated the full costs to be in the region of US$171 billion.

According to Lee, the Kobe earthquake that struck the southern part of Hyōgo Prefecture on January 1995, has made the Japanese more resilient and better armed to handle the latest catastrophe.

“After the Kobe disaster, the Japanese have developed better business continuity plans that enable them to carry on,” said Lee.

Bank Islam Malaysia’s chief economist, Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajudin, fears Malaysia’s the flow of imports and exports to Japan will be disrupted.According to him, Japan was one of Malaysia’s major trading partners, behind US, Singapore and Europe.

“In view of the extent of damage in Japan, the economic situation in Malaysia is quite worrying, and growth performance will be affected,” Azwal told Malaysia Chronicle.

He said investors the world over would only be able to breathe easier once the degree of damage in Japan had been assessed and the rebuilding effort detailed and announced. Only with the return of investor confidence could the world economy continue to rebound, he added.

Last week, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, Japan’s largest recorded so far, caused a colossal tsunami to hit the east coast. It has been estimated that at least 10,000 people have been killed and many more still.

Early this morning, a third blast occured at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant where combustible hydrogen had been building up due to the venting of gas from inside the reactor.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has said it does not expect a new ‘Chernobyl-type’ nuclear-meltdown disaster at Fukushima

Anger

Posted: 09/02/2011 in In my words - zenith

There is an intense negative effect of anger on your body. Some of the physical signs that can be there when someone is angry include the grinding and clenching of teeth, muscle tension, flushing and sometimes there may also be ringing in the ears. During time of anger, the body reacts through shooting blood pressure. This can result in chest pains and also sweating and chills. In addition to this, there can also be severe headaches as well as migraines.

Some people who face the problems of chronic anger can also experience peptic ulcers, intestinal cramps, or indigestion and constipation during anger. Extreme effects of anger on the body include things like heart attack obesity and even kidney failure.

It has been found through medical research that anger affects the heart muscle directly, and a person who is angry more often is more likely to face a weak heart muscle. This means that the ability of heart to pump blood would be reduced, causing cardiac problems.

Whether it is suppressed anger or not, it tends to harm a person even if the ways are different. Prolonged anger can have a bad effect on the skin. Research has shown that the people who suppress their anger on different occasions are likely to have skin diseases like eczema, rashes as well as acne. When it comes to skin health, the resolution of anger is the better way as the skin disorders tend to improve when people resolve their anger.

Besides having the evident consequences, suppressed anger also has a psychological effect. When one suppresses anger, it may lead to depression, insomnia as well as nightmares. In addition, it can also cause eating disorders and can cause addiction to drugs or alcohol. In some cases, all these symptoms can lead to self-destructive behaviour. These things can adversely affect the way people interact and relate to each other.

When one gets angry, there occurs the release of chemicals and hormones in the body. These primarily include adrenaline and non-adrenaline. Due to this release, all the organs that use these chemicals and hormones are affected. The adrenaline hormones have an effect on organs that are related to the sympathetic nervous system. This can stimulate the heart and dilate the coronary vessels, which in turn constricts the blood vessels as well as the intestines and hence, may shut off digestion.

In order to promote a positive thinking as well as maintain good health, it is important for people facing extreme anger issues to get help with anger management and find some creative outlet for letting out the anger so that it does not harm their health in ways that can be dangerous