Thursday, January 23, 2014

Paroline, Haugen, Maharaj - Catching Up on the News

We here at Gamso For the Defense (that's the Royal we, since I'm the only one here) struggle to stay atop the news and to keep tabs on stories.  Occasionally we even succeed.  As it happens, there are developments of a sort in two of the things about which I've written before.

So while we wait to find out how SCOTUS will parse the language of the Mandatory Restitution for Sexual Exploitation of Children Act -- Oh, I guess I'd better explain.

In 1994, Congress passed this law that said anyone convicted of federal crimes of sexually exploiting children must pay restitution to the identified victims of those crimes.  (There are a bunch of preliminary hoops that folks have to jump through - not least of which is identifying the victims.)  One child, known as Amy Unknown, was raped by her uncle when she was 8 and 9.  

She's 21 now, but her life has, apparently been a complete mess ever since she learned some years later that her uncle took pictures of the rape and they've been circulated widely on the internet.  (Don't go looking for them.  That's a serious federal crime.)  The damages she suffered and will continue to suffer from the knowledge that the pictures of her rape are being viewed by folks have been calculated at 3.4 million dollars.   To date she's been paid some 1.7 million in restitution.  Which means she's still owed 1.7 million.  The question is who should pay.  And how much.

That question made it to the Supreme Court this morning for oral argument in Doyle Randall Paroline v. United States.  (Transcript here.)  Paroline was discovered to have thousands of pictures of child pornography on his computer.  Two were of Amy.  He's been ordered to pay Amy 3.4 million for the harm he caused her by looking at her pictures.  Oh, nobody thinks he personally caused all 3.4 million in harm.  But he caused part of her harm by looking at the pictures of her being raped.  He's to pay what he can. After all, she's harmed whenever she learns that someone looked at her pictures.  

But should he really be stuck with the whole bill since he didn't cause the whole harm?  Maybe he should only have to pay restitution for the portion of the 3.4 million harm caused by his looking at those two pictures.  And how do you calculate that?  That's what the Court will try to work out in his case.

But hang on a second.  So he looked at Amy's pictures.  That doesn't harm her unless she knows, right? How is it that she knows?  How did she learn that Paroline had those 2 pictures?  Good questions.  The answer:  Our government told her.  Congress says the children in these pictures, if they can be identified, have to be told every time someone's caught looking at their pictures.  Which harms them. But the government isn't liable for the harm, even though it's actually the immediate cause of it.  That issue wasn't before the Court.

Did I mention that this is really fucked up?


Or maybe it would be better to say not in the Supreme Court, is Gary Haugen.  You remember Gary. He's the guy on death row in Oregon who was due to be executed when Governor Kitzhaber granted a reprieve explaining that he would not allow any executions as long as he's governor. Haugen was pissed, wanted to be killed.  He sued the Governor claiming that Oregon law makes a reprieve something like a contract and it has to be accepted or it doesn't count.  Since he didn't accept it, it didn't count and he could be killed.  The Oregon trial court agreed, grudgingly.  The Oregon Supreme Court said no. 

So Haugen went to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Which on Tuesday told him to go away
. They wouldn't hear his case.  Damn.  Now if he wants to die he has to kill himself.  Or wait till Kitzhaber's no longer governor and hope that the next guy is more bloodthirsty.  

The good news from Haugen's point of view is that Kitzhaber only has another year in his term.  The bad news is that he he just announced he's running for another term.  If he wins, that's 5 more years of reprieve.  Shit.

Oh, and there's this.  Jason Brumwell, Haugen's co-defendant is also on death row.  Same song, second verse.  Two weeks ago. Brumwell announced that he wants to be killed and will sue the Governor if he's granted a reprieve.  

Maybe it's something in the water.


It was November 2012 when I reviewed Clive Stafford Smith's The Injustice System which told the story of Kris Maharaj, how he ended up in prison in Florida, first on death row, then just for decades, for the 1986 murders of Derrick and Duane Moo Young in a Miami hotel room.  A pair of murders he almost certainly did not commit.  He's 74 years old and confined to a wheelchair.  He's served some 27 years so far.  He'll first be eligible for parole in another 27 years, when he's 101. If he lives that long.  

Clive's been on the case for close to 20 years now, struggling to free him.

Just maybe.  

The evidence Clive presented in the book suggests that the actual killers may be from Columbian drug cartels.  There's more evidence now, including witnesses who can say that Pablo Escobar personally ordered the murders and that Maharaj had nothing to do with them.  And there are the fingerprints in the room which can be matched, maybe, to the actual killers.  If Florida would just let the examination be done.

But why would Florida do that?  Why would they want to find out?  Oh.  Right. 

What I say about the DNA in other cases, I say about the prints in this one.
I mean, there are three possibilities.  Either they'll strongly corroborate the claim that Kris didn't do it and that a couple of Columbian drug cartel types did.  Or they'll show nothing of the sort.  Why wouldn't they want to know. 

There's supposed to have been a hearing earlier today.  I haven't found a news report.  

But when I do.

* * * * *
Just another day in the trenches.

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