LAW ENFORCEMENT MALPRACTICE
By Julian Heicklen
Presented at the Penn State University Main Gate
July 14, 2000
Hello Folks. I am Julian Heicklen, the Libertarian Party Candidate for Attorney General of Pennsylvania. If I am elected Attorney General of Pennsylvania I will stop prosecution of consensual acts involving mentally-competent adults. Why are we arresting people for what they eat, drink, or smoke, for what medicine they use, for whom and how they make love, for gambling, or for fortune telling? That's right folks. In Pennsylvania, it is a crime to tell fortunes. Besides the immorality, injustice, and unconstitutionality of these arrests, they can only be prosecuted by abhorrent means. Often a criminal is offered a reduced sentence, if he will testify against someone else. In my religious tradition, that is called bribery and, in many cases, bearing false witness. The courts accept such testimony to send someone to prison. However if an inmate complains about being tortured or beaten in prison, for which he surely will be punished by the prison guards, he often is considered to be lying.
Here is what happens to some people:
A. Body Searches
The next time you go to an airport, your privacy may be invaded by "X-rated X-rays"new, high-tech scanners that reveal every curve of your naked body right through your clothes. The machines, called the BodySearch, are already in operation in every large airport in the USA.
You can be exposed like a Playboy playmate by these new voyeur-vision deviceseven when you are fully clothed," With the BodySearch device, airport officials can eyeball your intimate body parts as casually as they X-ray the contents of your suitcase. Since airport officials don't need a search warrant to use these X-rated X-rays, everyone from your teenage daughter to your grandmother can be technologically stripped stark nakedin stark violation of their right to privacy."
B. Louis E. Covar
Louis E. Covar has been in a wheelchair for 35 years, unable to do more than raise his shoulders. In 2000, he began a seven-year prison sentence. His crime: smoking marijuana. Cost to taxpayers to keep him behind bars: $258.33 a day and $660,000 during seven years.
C. Deborah Lynn Quinn
Born with no arms and only a partial left leg, Deborah Lynn Quinn, 39, was placed in a "secure" medical unit by the Arizona Corrections Department in 2000, because she could not be sent to a regular prison. Quinn was charged with selling $20 worth of marijuana to a police informant and with possessing a small amount of the drug in her home after she had been placed on probation.
D. Sherry Hearn
Sherry Hearn. was voted Teacher of the Year at Windsor Forest High School in Savannah, Georgia. She has taught social studies and constitutional law there for 27 years.
As at many schools in the nation, Windsor Forest students are occasionally subject without warning to dragnet raids by the police, who herd the students into the hallways and use dogs to sniff the students, their purses and their book bags. Metal detectors are used to scan students' bodies. The students are locked into the building for two to three hours while the police perform the search.
Contrary to the specific words of the Fourth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, the searches are conducted without any particular information that any student has used or is using drugs. All of them are presumed guilty of possessing drugs or weapons unless a police dog or metal detector exonerates them.
Sherry Hearn taught her students for years about how the Fourth Amendment came into being because of the privacy abuses suffered by American colonists due to the sweeping searches and seizures performed by British troops. During one of these police sweeps on her school, a student asked her why she was so angry at the raid. "Because I believe in the Constitution," she said.
A policeman overheard her, reported her to the principal and said she should be watched during the next lockdown. At the next dragnet search, the police also searched the teachers' cars in the parking lot in violation of a school policy that teachers' cars could not be searched without the consent of their owners. Hearn was not asked for her consent.
A police dog found that morning half of a hand-rolled marijuana cigarette in an ashtray in her car. It was still warm. Sherry Hearn had been in the school the entire morning. That night, a caller on the county's Silent Witness line said that the cigarette had been planted in the car. He did not give his identity. The cigarette was never produced as evidence because, a police officer said, it had "crumbled" during the search and no residue was kept.
According to school policy, Hearn was told she had to take a drug test within two hours of being informed that an illegal substance had been found in her car. She had no record at all of previous drug use, and the principal, Linda Herman, later testified that the teacher had not exhibited on the day of the search, or on any other day, the characteristic behavior that would have given rise to a "reasonable suspicion" that the marijuana cigarette was hers.
On that day, however, Hearn was given her Miranda warnings and was ordered to take a urine test in two hours. She wanted to contact her lawyer before taking the test, but he was unavailable that day. Not having legal advice, she refused. She also said, "How can I face my students after I've consistently told them that these mass drug searches violate their constitutional rights?"
The next day, having spoken to her attorney, she underwent a urinalysis, and it proved negative for marijuana or any other controlled substance. (The active ingredients in marijuana can be found in the body of a casual user for up to 30 days.)
No criminal charges were ever filed against Sherry Hearn, but she was fired in the spring of 1996 for not having taken the urine test within the two hours set forth in the school's policy. She has had great difficulty getting a teaching job since losing her job, and has lost her appeals to the Georgia State Board of Education and in the lower federal courts.
E. Angela Jenkins
Angela Jenkins gave birth to her second son on September 22, 1999. One week later both of her children were taken from her by the Children's Protective Service (CPS) without a court order. Jenkins and her newborn son had both tested positive for marijuana.
F. Noel Lujan
Noel Lujan, who was given a sedative during labor, lost custody of her newborn son and other children for three months when the baby failed a drug test. Child welfare officials say they only learned in January that the barbiturate found in Noel Lujan's son was prescribed by a doctor. In the meantime Lujan, 25, could not feed her child without supervision, and contends she lost her job because of absences to attend a required drug treatment program.
G. Cheryl Sanders
Cheryl Sanders of Long Beach, CA, was driving in Sulphur, LA, when she was stopped by police officers. They told her she had been speeding. Instead of giving Sanders a ticket, they handcuffed her and took her to a local jail, where she was made to disrobe and submit to a search. No drugs were found on her or in her car, nor did she have a criminal record. "You're free to go now," a policeman told Sanders. "But we're keeping your car."
F. George Gerhardt
In 1990 the U.S. Attorney's Office grabbed a house in Ft Lauderdale, FL, because, they claimed, cocaine had been offloaded from a boat onto the property by three men who were subsequently arrested for drug trafficking. The house's owner, George Gerhardt, who had already died of cancer, allegedly knew one of the three defendants.
During a one-day non-jury trial before a federal judge on October 26, 1992, the government's flimsy case evaporated. The cocaine defendant who had been acquainted with Gerhardt testified that Gerhardt had no knowledge that drugs were unloaded at his house; he was not even in the country at the time. Other witnesses testified that Gerhardt detested drugs and drug users.
The government brought two informants from prison to testify. One claimed to have once met someone he knew as George, whom he described as five feet, six inches tall, overweight, grey-haired and in his 60s. Gerhardt was five feet, ten inches tall, slender, blond-haired and 47 years old at the time of the alleged meeting. In a strongly worded judgment, U.S. District Judge James Paine ordered the government to relinquish the house for distribution to Gerhardt's heirs." Gerhardt was an innocent owner," wrote the judge. "No credible evidence" to suggest otherwise had been produced.
G. Billy Munnerlyn
Lack of credible evidence figured in another egregious asset-forfeiture case involving Billy Munnerlyn and his wife, Karen, who operated an air charter service. One day Billy flew a businessman from Little Rock, AK, to Ontario, CA. The passenger was a convicted drug trafficker Mr. Munnerlyn had never met. Nevertheless, Mr. Munnerlyn was arrested, as was his passenger. A search of the passenger's possessions turned up $2.8 million in cash. Mr. Munnerlyn was released a few days later, and criminal charges against him were dropped. But the government kept his $500,000 jet and his $8500 charter fee, based on suspicion that they were linked to a drug transaction.
Mr. Munnerlyn's home and office were searched, the DEA's application for a warrant stating that such a search could reveal evidence of his involvement in drug trafficking "in the form of personal and business records." Nevertheless, Munnerlyn was subject thereafter to no further criminal proceedings. But the government didn't return his plane.
Munnerlyn fought the seizure in court for two years, until a federal jury ruled in his favor. The judge set aside the verdict and ordered a new trial, so the government refused to release his plane. Broke and bitter, he eventually reached a settlement in which he paid $7000 for the jet's return and agreed to allow the government to keep the original $8500 charter fee.
H. Darrell Cannon
Darrell Cannon alleges that after his arrest, first the police officers suspended him by his arms, which were handcuffed behind his back. Then, he says, an officer named Peter Dignan pulled a shotgun from the car's trunk and showed Cannon the shell in its chamber, saying "Look at this, nigger." According to Cannon, the officers then forced the gun into his mouth, and pulled the triggerbut through a sleight of hand, the cops had slipped the shell out of the gun's barrel. The trigger clicked, Cannon's hair stood on end, and the officers started laughing, he says. "In my lifetime, I'd never experienced anything remotely close to this," Cannon recalls.
Three times, Cannon was mock-executed. Still he wouldn't confess. And so, Cannon says, the officers re-cuffed him with his hands stretched out above his head, laid him down on the backseat of the car, pulled his trousers and underwear down, and stuck a cattle-prod to his testicles.
"It was a burning sensation that seemed to go all through [my] body. After about the fourth time, I lost count. The pain got to the point where I couldn't handle it anymore and I told them that I'd say whatever they wanted me to say."
Cannon's lawyer brought up the torture charges during his trial, but the judge refused to hear him out. (That judge is now serving time for accepting bribes.) Cannon was sentenced to life without parole.
In the summer of 1999, arresting officers in Chicago managed to shoot three unarmed suspects to death in the space of a couple of weeks. In the autumn of 1999, a jury awarded $28 million to a man shot and paralyzed by police.
Cannon's story was echoed by numerous black men in Chicago over a period of two decades. In the 1980s, Chicago judges routinely dismissed these claims as fabrications concocted by desperate prisoners who were facing either the death penalty or life behind bars. Still, the city often paid out cash settlements to these prisonerswithout ever admitting the truth of their allegations. This held for Cannon: Although the police never admitted torturing Cannon, they did agree to a civil settlement of several thousand dollars.
I. Aaron Patterson
Over the years, allegations by several dozen other prisoners came to light, all claiming similar treatment at the hands of the Violent Crimes Unit of South Chicago's precinct Areas Two and Three. A cabal of white police officers under the command of Jon Burge were torturing a significant number of suspects into making confessions.
One of them is Aaron Patterson, a former gang member who had grown up near the old steel mills on the south side of Chicago. In 1986 he was arrested and charged with the particularly vicious stabbing murders of an old Hispanic couple who had served as neighborhood fences for stolen goods. It took a while, but eventually Patterson confessed. However, the young man waited until his interrogators were out of the room, and then used a paper clip to etch into a bench that he had only admitted to the crime after being suffocated with a typewriter bag, beaten, and told by Burge that he would be shot and killed unless he owned up. "I passively agreed to what they said," he told in a letter, "by repeating these words, 'whatever you say,' every time they kept saying things in reference to the case." As soon as he got to court, Patterson told the judge he had only confessed after being tortured.
The judge wanted none of it, and Patterson wound up on death row. Now, he is hoping that newly uncovered evidence pointing to another suspect's guilt for the Sanchez murder will free him, and hoping the courts will recognize that he was tortured in time to prevent his execution.
J. Jon Burge
Jon Burge is a Chicago police officer, who is Head of the Violent Crimes Squad. Burge's unit got results: They solved bloody homicides and got numerous dubious characters off the streets and into Illinois' prisons. There was only one problem. Scores of the poor, always African American men, who confessed their misdeeds to Burge's unit would tell their state-appointed defense lawyers, and often the judges hearing their cases, that they had been viciously brutalized by Burge or his underlings. They claimed that they had alligator clips attached to sensitive parts of their bodies and had electric shocks administered; sometimes cattle prods were used. They claimed that they had bags put over their heads for minutes at a time, a technique known as the "Dry Submarine."
Others stated they had been burned atop radiators or subjected to mock executions, like Cannon's. Several drew detailed diagrams of the instruments used to torment them. Others, including Cannon, directed investigators from the Office of Professional Standards to the locations where the violence allegedly occurred.
K. Joseph McNamara
During his 15 years as police chief of San Jose, Calif., Joseph McNamara felt the pressure firsthand. One day he saw a proposed budget that included no funds for police equipment. When McNamara questioned this, his boss, the city manager, replied half in jest, "You guys seized $4 million last year. I expect you to do better this year." With such perverse incentives in place, McNamara believes many of the nation's police agencies have become addicted to asset forfeiture, with serious consequences for our system of law. "When cops are put under pressure to produce revenue, bad things happen," he says.
And bad things do happen. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported this past summer (1999) that the sheriff in St. Francis County privately sold seized cars to himself and others at prices at or below appraised values. Such sales were legal at the time.
These are the times that try our souls. We have social agencies that take newborn babies away from their mothers. We have police that terrorize the citizens. People are arrested for suspicion of owning vegetables. We have courts that trample on the Bill of Rights daily. We have a government that pushes drugs on children by criminalizing drugs and promoting a black market. Law-abiding citizens become criminals if they use certain medicines. Children are told to inform on their parents. Teachers lie to our children about the dangers of drugs. Our prisons spread infectious disease and torture the inmates. The only thing that we donŐt do is engage in mass killings. But that will come unless we mend our ways.
These abuses have resulted from the war on drugs. We have been here every Thursday for 2-1/2 years smoking marijuana to protest the war on drugs. I have been arrested 15 times and incarcerated 5 times. Based on arrest rate, I am the number one criminal in the United States. Do you know why I am so dangerous? Because I own a vegetable. Well let me tell you something. I am the most dangerous man in the United states, because when I am elected Attorney General of PA in November, I intend to restore the Bill of Rights, stop prosecutions of consensual acts involving mentally-competent adults, reduce the prison population, and reform the prisons.
The lighted marijuana weed is the torch of freedom. Now I am going to light that torch. If you wish to join me, please do so. But no minors, please. We appreciate your support, but you would only be hurting our cause.