Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

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Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Civil Liberties Threatened


Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote regarding a Fourth Amendment case, that the 5-3 majority's opinion"corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives."
A Utah man challenged his arrest based on a stop that was later found to be unlawful.  Edward Joseph Strieff Jr. was stopped by a police officer who was conducting surveillance on a house based on an anonymous tip about drug activity.  After Strieff left the house, the officer detained him and ran his identification, finding an outstanding arrest warrant for a traffic violation.

The officer then searched Strieff, finding methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, and arrested him.  Strieff challenged the conviction, saying the evidence came from an unlawful stop.

Justice Thomas wrote for the majority opinion: "There is no indication that this unlawful stop was part of any systemic or recurrent police misconduct.  To the contrary, all the evidence suggests that the stop was an isolated instance of negligence that occurred in connection with a bona fide investigation of a suspected drug house."

Justice Stephen Breyer joined the Supreme Court’s conservative panel of Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas.

Although the man arrested in this case was white, Sotomayor wrote: "The white defendant in this case shows that anyone's dignity can be violated in this manner.”

She insists: "Do not be soothed by the opinion's technical language.  This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants -- even if you are doing nothing wrong.

"The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer's violation of your Fourth Amendment rights.

"It is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny.  For generations, black and brown parents have given their children 'the talk' -- instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger -- all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them.”

Justice Elena Kagan wrote a similar legal argument.  And, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined Sotomayor in most of her dissent, and laid out an argument that the opinion allows law enforcement broad latitude to violate Americans' constitutional rights if they can find any small mark against them.

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