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Ian Lind • Online daily from Kaaawa, Hawaii

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PBS Newshour explains what was wrong with the Ferguson grand jury process

November 26th, 2014 · 2 Comments

The PBS Newshour last night included a very enlightening discussion of the Ferguson grand jury that considered whether to charge police officer Darren Wilson (“What’s next for the city of Ferguson?“). The segment I found most interesting featured Christina Swarms, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, and Susan McGraugh of Saint Louis University.

Their main point was that the grand jury normally is asked to decide whether there is enough evidence to file charges when viewed from the perspective most favorable to the prosecution. It’s normally up to a trial jury to listen to conflicting evidence and make judgements about who is to be believed and who is not, and to determine the weight of the evidence. In this case, however, the prosecutor put the grand jury in the place of the trial court jury, and never put forward the case more favorable to the prosecution.

Using the link above, you can watch the segment, listen to it as a podcast, or read the transcript.

So here’s an excerpt.

CHRISTINA SWARNS, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund: Yes, this was a remarkably unusual grand jury process.

I’m a criminal defense attorney. I have been a criminal defense attorney my entire career. I have put clients of mine into the grand jury, and I will say, in each of those cases, which in all the cases I handled were significantly much more minor offenses, you know, my clients were subjected to very real, very thorough, very aggressive cross-examination.

What you see here when you look at the transcript of Darren Walker’s (sic) testimony in the grand jury, that there was virtually no challenge to the testimony that he offered here. This was just absolutely unheard of.

I mean, additionally, you know, this prosecutor allowed all of the evidence that was available to be presented to this grand jury. And we have to be clear that the point of a grand jury is simply to determine whether or not there is enough evidence to charge, to file a criminal charge. It’s not about whether someone is guilty or innocent.

But that seems to be the way that this grand jury proceeding was handled, and that is simply unheard of. Many of my colleagues have opined and we have discussed amongst ourselves. I would love to have prosecutors handle my clients’ cases in the way this prosecutor handled this defendant’s case.

GWEN IFILL: We’re still trying to get our audio connection to Saint Louis. So, I want to stick with you for a moment, Christina.

Why isn’t it a grand jury’s job not to indict if the evidence supports it not? Are they only there to bring an indictment?

CHRISTINA SWARNS: No, they’re absolutely supposed to make a determination of whether there is or is not enough evidence to charge.

But, as you know, there is anecdotes — the anecdotes are legion about how easy it is to get an indictment before a grand jury. Right? The old quotation is, you can indict a ham sandwich. It’s not hard. The evidence is, is there evidence to support a charge?

In this case, there’s unquestionably evidence to support a charge. There is no dispute about whether the officer shot and killed Michael Brown. He concedes that when he testifies.

GWEN IFILL: But there’s plenty of dispute about exactly who caused this to happen and who started the fight and what the physical evidence was and the conflicting testimony. These are all the things that Robert McCulloch was detailing last night.

CHRISTINA SWARNS: Yes. And conflicting testimony is something to be resolved by a jury who makes a determination of guilt and innocence. That is not something that should be resolved by a grand jury, who simply decides, as I said, whether or not there is evidence to charge.

The issues are very similar to those presented by a Honolulu grand jury which failed to recommend charges against HPD Sgt. Darren Cachola after a physical altercation with his wife was captured on video and went viral.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Court · Politics

Behind the health care headlines

November 26th, 2014 · 3 Comments

Former Neighbor Bob shared some troubling observations on the state of our health care system. I’m turning the stage over to him this morning.

six months ago
my dentist sold his practice rather than digitalize his records and other issues [ Affordable Care Act]
he had his practice 30 years

my pharmacist tells me CVS/Caremark (now CVS Health) is screwing him out of $150,000 with a bogus audit
he is going to have to give up HMSA – 80% of his business
and most likely go out of business

check this story from the angry pharmacist for a rough idea about this (“Antitrust, Chain/PBM’s, Independents and You“).

my doctor has to work some where else to keep his private practice going
owed 3 years of medicare

then I see this in the NYT today (“Private Oncologists Being Forced Out, Leaving Patients to Face Higher Bills“).

so it is not getting better

worst than that
it is tanking many decent operations
while insurance and ‘health care management companies’ are profiting enormously

with no recourse
see below

The McCarran–Ferguson Act, 15 U.S.C. .. known as Public Law 15
Health insurance companies exempt from anti-trust laws“.

so I can not see where this leads being on the outside and bottom of the issue

→ 3 CommentsTags: Business · Consumer issues · Health · Politics

Bits and pieces: From family history to a Duke Kahanamoku film contest

November 25th, 2014 · No Comments

A few odds and ends to share.

First, a follow-up to yesterday’s post about the journal of my great-great-grandmother (on my mom’s side), Eleanor Knowlton. I finally got a look at the first volume, which my sister has transcribed and is now annotating.

It begins:

JUNE 19, 1902

About three years ago, I was earnestly requested by my son-in-law, Theo Madsen to tell him something of my ancestors in my own biography. Owing to my age, sixty eight years, I deferred the task, as it seemed to me, it would be a tedious one, and furthermore I had never interrogated him on the subject of his family. My remarks may be brief but I will show by relating what I know of them that I am not ashamed of any of my ancestors or of my own life.

So it’s looking like what appears to be a diary is really a memoir written when she was around 70 years of age. But her references to specific dates and incidents that took place decades before suggest he must have been working from a diary or notes from those earlier journeys.

In any case, I’ll try to share more of her great storytelling.

Next–Sandy Hall, a friend of my dad’s and author of a biography of Duke Kahanamoku, asked for help in spreading the word about a short film contest to celebrate Duke’s Centenary of Surfing in Australia. It’s kind of a last minute thing, with a December 15 deadline, but there may be aspiring or accomplished filmmakers here who would want to submit an entry.

Here’s part of a writeup from The Australian (“Duke Kahanamoku short film contest aims to capture the spirit of aloha“).

NEVER mind Tropfest — the coolest short film contest this summer is much lower key.

It is the Duke’s Shorts contest, a part of the Duke’s Day celebrations, which will commemorate the centenary of Duke Kahanamoku’s famous surfing demonstration at Freshwater Beach, Sydney, in January 1915.

The film contest is open to all filmmakers around the world, amateur or professional. The entries must be no longer than five minutes and, in the words of judge Jack McCoy, himself one of the great living surf filmmakers, “something about the Duke”. This could be a moral, a story or “something you want to make up”.

The prize for the winner is a $3000 Panasonic GH4 camera. A selection of the best entries will be screened at the festival’s closing ceremony in front of a crowd of surfing luminaries, former world champions and former friends of the late Kahanamoku.

For more information, visit the Duke’s Day website.

It didn’t take Governor-elect David Ige and his people very long to get right back into the fundraising saddle. Email invites have gone out for the “GOVERNOR DAVID IGE INAUGURATION CELEBRATION 2014,” scheduled for December 5, 2014 at the Hawaii Convention Center. Just $2,500 to reserve a table for ten, or $75 per ticket for open seating.

The event is being put on by the David Ige Inauguration Organization, which filed its incorporation papers with the state last Friday, November 21. Serving as the incorporator was attorney Keith Hiraoka, chairman of Ige’s campaign committee, a named partner in the firm of Roeca Luria Hiraoka.

→ No CommentsTags: History · Politics · video

A handwritten journal bridges the centuries

November 24th, 2014 · 5 Comments

Elizabeth Howard Brittain KnowltonIt was raining last Thursday when I walked the block or so from the Marriott Marquis Hotel in San Francisco, where Meda was attending the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology, to a building down Mission Street that houses the California Historical Society and its North Baker Research Library. Luckily I remembered to bring a plastic bag to cover my wet umbrella so that I wouldn’t be drooling water across the polished floor from the front door, past the exhibits of Yosemite history, and into the library.

I wasn’t on a mission from God, but did have marching orders from my sister, Bonnie. When she heard I would be in San Francisco for several days with time on my hands while Meda worked through her busy conference schedule, Bonnie quickly gave me an assignment.

I was to proceed to the historical society’s library and scan the second handwritten volume of a journal kept by our great-great-grandmother covering a 50-year period. To be more specific, the author was the maternal grandmother of my mother’s father, Duke Yonge.

So, following her instructions, I entered the library, located next to the stairs in the back of the building, and filled out a request form for one of the manuscripts in their collection.

Elizabeth Fitzgerald B. Knowlton memoirs and diary: ms, 1857-1907.

Author: Knowlton, Elizabeth Fitzgerald Brittain, 1834-1907.

Call Number:MS Vault 128

The librarian disappeared, and returned shortly with two large ledger books containing a handwritten journal in two bound volumes on lined paper.

Here’s how one catalog describes the documents.

Describes the author’s 1858-1859 overland journey from Tuscumba, Missouri via the Kansas plains, across the Missouri River, along the Platt River to the Utah Territory, then across the desert to Carson Valley, Nevada, and over the Sierras to Sacramento, Calif. Also discusses events of subsequent years, which included raising four daughters, caring for a sick husband, and making a living after his death.

I asked to see the second volume, which was then placed on a plastic stand to minimize handling. I could carefully turn the pages, but apparently was not supposed to pick up the book. And my assignment was to make digital scans of the entire volume. Bonnie managed to do the first volume on an earlier visit to San Francisco, and has already completed an annotated transcription of the handwritten original. She’s anxious to continue on to volume two, and I was to be her connection.

The scanning took less than 90 minutes, and that included my taking breaks to read random pages. I scanned two pages at a time using the Cam Scanner Pro app. Surprisingly, the iPhone camera is good enough that it had no problem at all producing very legible scans from the original. Some pages were missing, having been torn out at some point in the document’s history. I think I scanned 70 images, all but a handful containing two pages.

I discovered one problem when I got to the last page. It was signed by the author, Eleanor H. Knowlton. Notice that this is not the name under which it appears in the library’s index. I queried Bonnie about the conflict. The answer turns out to be simple. When the journal was donated to the historical collection, the donors mis-identified the author. Elizabeth Fitzgerald Knowlton was Eleanor’s mother. Several generations later, the fine points of this family history were a bit vague and resulted in the misidentification.

Touching the pages where this woman had recorded her life’s story in a firm hand beginning more than 150 years ago gave me chicken skin whenever I stopped to think about the connection spanning this gulf of time and space. I haven’t really processed that completely, to be honest.

But here are a couple of fragments that I transcribed from the scanned pages. Even this simple task required some interpretation, because the handwritten journal lacks punctuation. No periods separate sentences, and there are no paragraphs to separate events or times. Capital letters are very sparsely used. Sentences just run together, sometimes requiring editorial judgement to wring the most sense out of the handwriting.

In any case, here’s a randomly selected section which begins back in August 1867. At this time, I think Eleanor was in her early 30’s. It gave me a taste of times.

…we are all ready to make another start will reach the top of Hulls mountain today. I am getting tired and the children and the sick men are about given out. I am anxious to make the stop of the mountain. I will be the first woman that was on the top of Hulls mountain that is white. We are now at our camp on the mountain. The hunters are all off with their guns on their shoulders. Looks like they might bring in some game. You cannot tell when to expect them back. As I have said it is the 3rd day of Aug. and the ground is white with snow and the sick are all unable to get their selves a drink of water so I will have to go and get a bucket of water. I have returned with the water and will get something to eat. It is now almost night and no one able to wait on their selves. They are suffering from lung disease the altitude is too high. Mr McTea is bleeding at his lungs. So I told Mr. Brittain we would not stay another night. We would have to go in the morning as early as we could. Next morning one of the hunters had brought in a large deer and hung it up so I told him to have the rest of the hunters come in as soon as he could. We would have to take these men off of this mountain today. if not we would not be able to get them out alive. I made them all some nice soup and did all I could for them all. Dr Hatch told his brother he did not know what the sick would do if not for me. I have now got all the camp implements picked up and put in the Alfor (?) cases all so they can be hung on the pack saddles. I suppose you know what they are. I will tell you they are made of rawhide. Now the next thing is to try to skin the buck so we will be sure of some meat. Well I see a smoke down near the spring so I went to it and there was a man who was out hunting with others and was going to get something to eat. I told him what I wanted and he came and skinned the deer for me and I cut off the hind quarters to take with us. Well in the afternoon we were all collected to gather and ready to start—and I tell you we were as anxious to get off of Hull mountain as we were to get on its top. After we get down from Hull we will then go to San Hedron. Now we are on the top of San Hendron won’t stop here only long enough to rest then will go down in to Gravely Valley which is a nice place. We are now going down the grade or trail of the San Hendron on to White Creek. It is said to be a great place for the steer to water. we are getting along nicely. There is lots of grease wood and some mathrone (madrone?). All at once someone called the crowd to halt. One of our hunters gave me that pack horse to hold that he had and said don’t you see that buck. I said no. Some one else said look at his horns and they all began to shoot. the buck did not move by this time. It was discovered to be an old mathrone stump which had the bark off and looked the color of a buck. well it was my time to laugh, and the pack horse I had charge of got scared and you ought to have been there to see the tin pans fly through the air and a small sack of flour was torn open and scattered everywhere. Well, the horse was soon caught and the cooking vessels picked up an his pack was put on and he went all right.

Then I jumped ahead to the final entry, dated February 24, 1907, not quite a year since the great San Francisco earthquake.

I will close this history for the present as I am not in possession of any news which I can write as I leave in the morning in 9 o’clock train. If i encounter any thing worth writing, I will send it to you and you can ad it to this other close the book properly I will say to you Mr. Madson what I have written is the truth and if you find anything which is not fit to publish leave it out. I have written this for you as you asked me to tell you something of my ancestors and my own life. My life has been one of worry, but honorable virtuous and honest. I now bid you both good bye and may you be prosperous and happy is the wish of your mother. Be good to yourselves and to each other. I hope to live to come home to you, if not, if there is another world where we will know each other, we will meet there. So good bye my dear children

Mrs. Eleanor F. Knowlton

And that was that. One of her daughters, my grandfather’s mother, died in September of that year, a victim of the epidemic of bubonic plague that swept San Francisco in the wake of the earthquake. But I’m not sure what happened to Eleanor. I’m sure Bonnie has the details. More to learn.

→ 5 CommentsTags: History

Computer woes unfortunately return

November 24th, 2014 · No Comments

Continuing woes at my hosting service knocked by site out all morning. It’s been coming back online intermittently, but then quickly goes “down” again.

It started with “an attack targeting another site on the server,” according to their tech people.

But although the initial attack was thought to have been quickly responded to, my site has continued to be missing in action.

I may not be able to post again until tomorrow, but if full access to my site is restored, I’ll try to get today’s post uploaded.

→ No CommentsTags: Blogs · Computers