Results tagged “Terry v. Ohio” from PlanetGreen.org

Hillary Clinton, Criminal Justice Reformist? - Not So Fast

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In tonight's spirited, unpredictable presidential debate, criminal justice reform became a hotly contested issue due to Donald Trump's recent espousal of "stop-and-frisk" policies designed to reduce crime in high-risk inner cities. Clinton, with the help of debate moderator Lester Holt, assailed this proposal as discriminatory, citing the New York federal court decision Floyd v. City of New York (959 F. Supp. 2d 540 (2013)). She then went on to call for the abolition of mandatory minimum penalties for nonviolent offenses and the removal of the profit motivation from the penal system, an attempt to win over dubious former Sanders supporters. However, her efforts to paint herself as a reformist gloss over the legal and political reality of this controversy.

Trump in League with Earl Warren, Thurgood Marshall

Hillary's reliance on Floyd - a case which is actually still in negotiations after a dropped appeal - may appear to be concern for the Fourth Amendment rights of minorities and the underprivileged, but she failed to mention the Supreme Court's contrary holding in the landmark 1968 case Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1. That case involved a stop based on reasonable suspicion, but not probable cause to make an arrest. Petitioners Chilton and Terry were standing on a street corner when Detective McFadden noticed them walking repeatedly up and down the same stretch of sidewalk, pausing each time to look into the same store window at length. After one of them did this, he would return to the street corner to confer with the other, who would then repeat the process. This happened a total of two dozen times before McFadden, suspicious that the two could be planning a robbery, approached the two men and asked their names. Terry was unresponsive, and the detective quickly patted down the outside of his clothing, found a pistol in the left pocket, removed the coat and confiscated the gun. Terry was later convicted on weapons charges, and his case made its way to the Supreme Court.

In an authoritative 8-1 decision, the Court held that the search of Terry was constitutional. Earl Warren, writing for the majority, set forth that "When an officer is justified in believing that the individual whose suspicious behavior he is investigating at close range is armed and presently dangerous to the officer or to others, it would be clearly unreasonable to deny the officer the power to take necessary measures to determine whether the person is in fact carrying a weapon and to neutralize the threat of physical harm." See also Preston v. United States, 376 U.S. 364 (1964), Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143 (1973). This principle, not the inconclusive decision in Floyd, is still the law of the land.

Mandatory Minimums - Why They're Here to Begin With

On its official website, the Clinton campaign avows its opposition to mandatory minimum sentencing, stating that the practice "keep[s] nonviolent drug offenders in prison for too long -- and have increased racial inequality in our criminal justice system." However, her current stance belies her past support for the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the law which rendered the courts powerless to correct the excesses of state sentencing policy.

AEDPA was passed in 1996 with the full support of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and one of its most controversial provisions effectively cut off federal habeas corpus review of state convictions. Many of the challenges barred by AEDPA involved the Eighth Amendment and double-jeopardy questions raised by so-called "three strikes" laws. The damage done by this denial of due process was real. In 1995, human trafficking survivor Sara Kruzan was sentenced to life without parole after killing her abuser in self-defense. In 2003, Army veteran Leandro Andrade shoplifted nine children's videotapes worth about $150 and was sentenced to fifty years to life. Kruzan was freed in 2013, after spending eighteen years behind bars; Andrade is still incarcerated, and will become eligible for parole in 2046.

These injustices still occur regularly and these laws still stand because of Bill and Hillary Clinton's tough-on-crime stance, which apparently can be reversed far more quickly than the injury it caused.

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