The Sad Facts People Forget, Because They Don’t Pay Attention To History

Sunday, 12 October 2014


Rebecca Harvey’s photo.

IRISH – ‘THE FORGOTTEN WHITE SLAVES’ claims expert The Irish slave trade began when the Proclamation of 1625 James II required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies. By the mid 1600s, Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70 percent of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.” “Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants and the majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white.”

“During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder. In 1656, [Oliver] Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.”

Martin goes on to explain that for some reason, the Irish slaves are often remembered as ‘indentured servants.’ However, in most cases during the 17th and 18th centuries, they were no more than “human cattle.”
“…the African slave trade was just beginning during this same period,” writes Martin. “It is well recorded that African slaves, not tainted with the stain of the hated Catholic theology and more expensive to purchase, were often treated far better than their Irish counterparts.”
During the late 1600s, writes Martin, African slaves were far more expensive than their Irish counterparts – Africans would sell for around 50 sterling while Irish were often no more than 5 sterling.

The Irish were further exploited when the British began to “breed” Irish women – or girls, sometimes as young as 12 – with African males.
“These new “mulatto” slaves brought a higher price than Irish livestock and, likewise, enabled the settlers to save money rather than purchase new African slaves. This practice of breeding Irish females with African men went on for several decades and was so widespread that, in 1681, legislation was passed “forbidding the practice of mating Irish slave women to African slave men for the purpose of producing slaves for sale.” In short, it was stopped only because it interfered with the profits of a large slave transport company.


The Ferguson, Missouri, Tragedy and the Future of Eyewitness Identification


Next to a DNA match, many people probably think that eyewitness identification is most persuasive. Yet, this persuasive evidence is often wrong. It is not wrong because witnesses lie, although some of them may. It is wrong because our memories play tricks with us. The recent tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri, illustrates the problem. We know that a police officer, Darren Wilson, killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year old black man. Wilson said it was self-defense but other witnesses contradicted him. Because the police officer is white and the deceased black, the tragedy was the occasion for many comments about racism. Yet, this episode also illustrates the problems with eyewitness identification.

Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis County Prosecutor, used the grand jury to investigate the incident to determine if the tragedy was a crime. Did Officer Wilson have the “reasonable belief” that he needed to use deadly force to defend himself? McCulloch released the grand jury testimony, and when he did so he warned us of the dangers of eyewitness identification.

Many witnesses to the shooting of Michael Brown made statements inconsistent with other statements they made and also conflicting with the physical evidence. Some were completely refuted by the physical evidence.

As an example, before the results of the private autopsy were released, witnesses on social media during interviews with the media and even during questioning by law enforcement claimed that they saw Officer Wilson stand over Michael Brown and fire many rounds into his back.

Others claim that Officer Wilson shot Mr. Brown in the back as Mr. Brown was running away. However once the autopsy findings were released showing that Michael Brown had not sustained any wound to the back of his body. No additional witnesses made such a claim. And several witnesses adjusted their stories in subsequent statements.

Some even admitted that they did not witness the event at all but merely repeated what they heard in the neighborhood or others or assumed had happened. Fortunately, for the integrity of our investigation, almost all initial witness interviews including those of Officer Wilson were reported.

Was Brown running away from Office Wilson, charging towards him, or staggering? For example, one witness said, “I thought he was trying to charge him at first because the only thing I kept saying was is he crazy?” In contrast, another witness testified, “I didn’t get the impression of a charge because it wasn’t fast enough to be a charge.”

While eyewitness accounts varied, that was not the case with the two two autopsy reports provided to jurors. St. Louis County performed one autopsy and Michael Baden, a nationally known forensic pathologist, performed the other, at the family’s request. Both concluded that Mr. Brown was shot in the head, face, chest area and arms; he was not shot in the back.

Empirical evidence supports the conclusion that eyewitness identification is often unreliable. One study examined eyewitnesses who were intoxicated. One group had a .04 blood alcohol concentration for one group; the second had .07-alcohol concentration; the third group, the control group, was alcohol-free. The typical blood alcohol-driving limit in the United States is .08, so the second group was barely able to drive legally. The experimenters showed each group a staged kidnapping. One week later, the study asked everyone to pick out the kidnappers out of a line-up. All three groups performed about the same, which was slightly better than chance. There were no significant effects of alcohol intoxication with respect to performance. I bet you did not see that coming. It gets worse.

In the more than 250 convictions overturned because of DNA evidence, 73 percent involved cases where the error was attributable to misidentifications by eyewitnesses. In criminal cases, 38 percent of the exonerations involving mistaken identify included multiple eyewitnesses. Exonerations show that misidentification is involved in 27 percent of homicides but in 80 percent of sexual assault cases. That should not be surprising, because experts tell us that memories that are emotionally negative have greater potentiality to be flawed.

The Report by the National Registry of Exonerations concluded that that there were 873 exonerations, entered in the Registry as of March 1, 2012. Of this group, DNA evidence helped exonerate 37 percent; 63 percent were exonerated without the use of DNA. Since 2000, exonerations have averaged 52 a year, or one a week, and 40 percent of them include DNA evidence. The most common causal factors that contributed to the exonerations are (1) perjury or false accusation (51 percent), (2) mistaken eyewitness identification (43 percent), (3) official misconduct (42 percent), (4) false or misleading forensic evidence (24 percent), and (5) false confession (16 percent). As of December 9, 2014, the National Registry reported 1,490 exonerations.

Some courts are starting to take notice. In 2012, the Oregon Supreme Court considered the case of a criminal defendant who seeks to exclude eyewitness identification evidence in a pretrial motion. If the defendant argues that the witness lacks personal knowledge, the opposing side “must offer evidence showing both that the witness had an adequate opportunity to observe or otherwise personally perceive the facts to which the witness will testify, and did, in fact, observe or perceive them, thereby gaining personal knowledge of the facts.”

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) [full disclosure, I have written and filed pro bono briefs for the NACDL] has encouraged the use of “double-blind” lineups. Double-blind tests are routine in the sciences but not in line-ups. With a double-blind sequential lineup procedure, the police show the suspects, one by one, to the witness. That reduces the possibility of a witness picking the person who looks most like the culprit even if that person is not the culprit. Moreover, the “double-blind” procedure means that the police officer who conducts the procedure does not know the identity of the suspect. That prevents the officer from (unconsciously or consciously) providing visual cues to the witness.

In October 2014, the National Research Council of the Academy of Sciences published a report evaluating eyewitness identification. The authors were—and this is a mouthful—the Committee on Scientific Approaches to Understanding and Maximizing the Validity and Reliability of Eyewitness Identification in Law Enforcement and the Courts; Committee on Science, Technology, and Law; Policy and Global Affairs; Committee on Law and Justice; Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; National Research Council. The Report warns us many factors compromise our memory, from the time we initially process the event to the time later when we retrieve it. “Unknown to the individual, memories are forgotten, reconstructed, updated, and distorted.” The Report also recommends adopting “blinded” eyewitness identification procedures.

Police, prosecutors, victims, and the public are all interested in apprehending the guilty. However, a wrongful conviction does nothing to deter wrongful conduct because the wrong person is found guilty. If anything, it can encourage wrongful conduct because the guilty person is still loose. That guilty person still on the loose is the only party with an interest in not improving eyewitness identification

by Ronald D. Rotunda

Supreme Court To Decide Whether Rap Lyric Threats Are Free Speech

from the not-in-front-of-the-children-or-judges dept.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in Elonis v. United States, in a case that could result in more attention paid to language in online postings. After a series of angry posts on Facebook in the form of explicit rap lyrics “about killing his estranged wife, shooting up a kindergarten class and attacking an FBI agent,” Anthony Elonis
“was convicted of making threats of violence and sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison. A federal appeals court rejected his claim that his comments were protected by the First Amendment. The Obama administration says requiring proof that a speaker intended to be threatening would undermine the law’s protective purpose. In its brief to the court, the Justice Department argued that no matter what someone believes about his comments, it does not lessen the fear and anxiety they might cause for other people.