Terrance Huff and The Good Wife

So last night’s season premiere of The Good Wife was almost a word-for-word adaptation of my piece on the Terrance Huff traffic stop for Huffington Post from earlier this year. Everything from the setting (Madison County, Illinois) to the falsely alerting drug dog, the bad cop, the illegal traffic stop, the illegal search, the forfeiture corridor, it was all in there. They even threw in a little twist about recording cops in Illinois. They also mentioned Huff’s video, “Breakfast in Collinsville.”

You can watch the entire episode here.  But here’s a clip of the scene with the stop:


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Scenes from a Militarized America

From the Facebook page of the Kennebec County, Maine Sheriff’s Office.

Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office and the Augusta Police Department have been working collaboratively by combining resources such as our Special Response Team. This pic was taken recently by staff at the Kennebec Journal as the two teams trained together for tactical approaches and tactical entries. Lookin’ sharp, guys!

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Lunch Links

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Five-Star Fridays

It’s a Joe Henry kind of morning.


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Morning Links

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Gonzalo Guizan

Over at Reason, Ed Krayewski has an update on the story of Gonzalo Guizan, an unarmed Connecticut man who was killed during a 2008 drug raid.

For background, here’s a post I wrote on Guizan last year.

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Watch Me on HuffPost Live

I just did my first segment on HuffPost, along with one-time Agitator guest blogger Alyona Minkovski and friend-of-the-Agitator Jack Cole, one of the co-founders of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

The topic was terrorism and the drug war.

You can watch here.

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The Militarization of Mayberry

Flemington, New Jersey has all of 4,500 people. It hasn’t seen a murder in well over a decade.

But it does have its own SWAT team. And now the town wants to buy assault rifles for its regular patrol cops, too.

Here’s a photo of the SWAT team, taken during a raid last June.


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Morning Links

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Saturday Links

Many thanks to all the folks who guest blogged these last six weeks or so: Eapen Thampy, Lenore Skenazy, Jason Kuznicki, William Anderson, and the folks at LEAP.

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Defend the Right to Carry Cash and Travel Unmolested

Eapen Thampy, Americans for Forfeiture Reform

Thanks to the hard work of Americans for Forfeiture Reform policy analyst Scott Meiner, AFR has been asked to submit an amicus brief in an asset forfeiture case that is being appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Below is a brief video I’ve made describing the case (yes, I know the video quality isn’t great; we haven’t had the money for a HD camera yet):

Meiner describes the Terrence Durr seizure and litigation in his post, “A Peculiar Idea of Proof“:

United States District Judge Clay D. Land has ordered the forfeiture of $21,175 seized from two ex-convicts by Deputy Drew Crane, of the Harris County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office.

Neither of the men were convicted, arrested, or charged. No drugs or drug paraphernalia were reported on the men from whom the currency was seized. The claimant of the currency, Terrance Durr, has a 1996 felony drug conviction and a subsequent parole violation. Durr also has documented gainful employment–including an 8 year work history as a draft technician with Adam’s Beverage, an Anheuser Busch distributor.

The government presented no specific cognizable evidence of any drug transaction (or intended drug transaction) linking the currency to any specific illicit behavior. Durr presented evidence of why he had a substantial amount of cash on his person. The court found Durr’s evidence, and reasoning, unpersuasive.

What the ruling appears to boil down to is

  1. Durr is an ex-con;
  2. Durr had a fairly large amount of currency;
  3. The police wanted his currency;
  4. The police found his currency;
  5. Police recorded a positive K9 alert on his currency and on his companion’s vehicle;
  6. The officer said that the vehicle smelled of alcohol and marijuana;
  7. Durr cannot prove that his money was not intended, or derived from, something to do with drugs to the satisfaction of the court; and
  8. Thus, the government has “proved” that Durr’s cash constitutes proceeds traceable to an exchange for a controlled substance.

This is utter nonsense.

Durr may have intended to use the money for narcotics. Or perhaps he was going to do something else. We do not know. Nobody else knows either–except maybe Terrance Durr.

Durr presented evidence that he intended to travel to Atlanta, GA to negotiate with a bank on the imminent foreclosure of a dilapidated rental property that he owned. Prosecutors easily poked holes in the sensibility of his plan. However, they failed to offer evidence that the money was drug related–unless we are to assume that the means, a criminal record, and unreliable evidence meet the burden. Following this standard of proof would add a lot of forfeiture victims.

There are infinite possibilities as to how he got the money and to what he intended to do with it–whether they be licit or illicit.   But reasonable jurisprudence ought to tether forfeiture to a showing of substantial connection between specific articulated criminal acts and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

AFR’s amicus brief will likely focus on the insufficiency of the nexus issue (that is to say, the complete government’s inability to establish a nexus between any crime and the seized cash and Judge Land’s breathtaking leaps of logic to justify the forfeiture).

Please donate to support AFR’s efforts on this front!

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Pwease vote Yes on Amendment 64

Via Mason Tvert, who is one of the organizers of the Colorado initiative “Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol”, and apparently is tired of all the marijuana-related SWAT dog shootings that are second nature to American law enforcement:

-More asset forfeiture posts later today. –Eapen Thampy

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Some Morning Links



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Where Does She Go to Regain Her Reputation? Will the Prosecution Be Punished?

American prosecutors hold enormous amounts of authority and the courts have deferred to them at every step. Even when there is prosecutorial misconduct or when prosecutors bring cases to trial while knowing they have no evidence, they almost never are punished. Only the innocent, who often have to spend themselves into financial oblivion to defend themselves, are made to pay a price.

Last week, a West Virginia jury acquitted former teacher Autumn Rae Faulkner of having sex three times with a 15-year-old student. What is remarkable is the jury was out only for an hour before returning the acquittal, and anyone who has served on a jury knows that when someone is acquitted that quickly, jurors knew almost from the start that the prosecution had a false case.

In a blog post elsewhere, I bring up the question of what should happen to prosecutors who do this sort of thing? A judge earlier in the case had dismissed the original charges because prosecutors had illegally withheld exculpatory evidence, and for spite, the prosecution got a second set of indictments. Why? As far as I can tell, Steven Jory, the special prosecutor hired by the State of West Virginia to oversee the case, did it because he could do it. After all, Jory did not have to spend a dime of his own money while Faulkner and her family had to spend nearly all they had.

Because the U.S. Supreme Court has given prosecutors absolute immunity from lawsuits from private citizens, it is up to government authorities to discipline their own, and the government’s record in that department is abysmal. Defenders of the high court’s rulings say that prosecutors must be free to perform their jobs, and they should be free to make honest errors of judgment, even if the results are tragic.

Such a viewpoint is far to rosy for me. As Lord Acton famously wrote, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In a just system, Faulkner should be free to sue Jory and his staff into oblivion, especially since there will be no disciplinary action from state officials. Jory’s recklessness and abuse of power in a case in which he not only had zero credible evidence, but also suborned perjury should have a better outcome than his going to the office the next day to see who next to prosecute.

In the meantime, Faulkner must pick up the pieces. She was accused of being a sexual predator, had her mug shot plastered throughout the media and the Internet, lost her teaching job, and was the subject of vile abuse from authorities, along with people who immediately assumed she was guilty. Even though the prosecution’s case was weak from the beginning, nonetheless she is the one who pays the price while the real lawbreakers are free to abuse both the law and innocent people again and again. If this is the best that the American system of “justice” can do, then it is a system that is not worth supporting and certainly not worth saving.

Update: The original prosecutor in the case, Richard T. Busch, was found to have engaged in misconduct that apparently was so bad that even West Virginia authorities no longer could cover for him. This website referred to Busch as a “congentital liar,” and The Record, West Virginia’s legal journal, reported last June that the “Lawyer Disciplinary Board, the prosecutorial arm of the state Supreme Court, filed a two-count statement of charges Feb. 13 against Richard T. Busch.”

The article is worth reading if only to see just how dishonest Busch really is. Randolph Circuit Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong finally acted against him after he lied to her in open court in the Faulkner case and in another one.

What is shocking to me, after reading this, is that the State of West Virginia continued to pursue criminal charges against Faulkner even though the state had no evidence other than the boy’s shifting claims of sex. Prosecutors should only bring charges when they themselves are absolutely convinced of the defendant’s guilt and the evidence is clear. Instead, West Virginia authorities continued to push the charges against Faulkner and ultimately ran into a brick wall, which jurors easily exposed.

Busch at the very least deserves to be disbarred and probably should be charged criminally. However, given the state of cronyism and corruption that infects West Virginia, I will be surprised if any real discipline is meted out to Busch at all.

William Anderson

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This Week in Government Incompetence That Likely Ruined Lives

In Arizona:

Arizona’s child-welfare agency has discovered a computer glitch that officials say kept public records from parents, lawyers and others for more than 15 years, a malfunction that could have led to children being wrongly removed and prevented caregivers from supporting civil claims against the state.

“If a case got to the wrong result because information wasn’t disclosed, that’s a big, big problem,” said Mark Kennedy, who has represented about 400 parents over the past three years. “To me, it’s pretty significant when CPS says we’re going to contact 21,000 lawyers. That’s like saying, ‘Start searching your case files because there may be some problems out there.’ “

In Massachusetts:

The top official at the state laboratory that mishandled drug samples has resigned, and another lab executive has been fired, state law enforcement and health authorities announced Thursday, the latest development in an unfolding scandal.f

The lab officials failed to ­detect obvious signs of problems with a chemist’s work ­involving drug samples from criminal cases, state executives said at a Beacon Hill press conference. They compounded that error by making the “poor decision” to wait six months to alert the state’s public health commissioner once problems were identified, said Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, secretary of health and human services in the Patrick administration . . .

The chemist, who worked at the Jamaica Plain lab from 2003 until she quit in March, handled 60,000 samples, poten­tially imperiling 34,000 criminal cases. Officials have not publicly named the chemist, but authorities familiar with the investigation identified her as Annie Dookhan.

Problems with the chemist were discovered in June 2011, according to state officials, but lab directors did not bring those issues to the attention of Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach until December.

Here’s how we can make this sort of thing less common.

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