By Mark Richards, 2019
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently ruled that the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause was violated when the government introduced videotaped deposition testimony without making a good-faith effort, based on the facts of the case, to secure the witnesses’ presence at trial. It is the law of the land in America that people get to face their accusers – for a number of good reasons.
In the case at hand, the government filed a motion to declare the witnesses were ‘unavailable’ and to allow the introduction of their videotaped depositions at trial. The defendant countered with a motion to exclude the depositions on the grounds that the government had failed to prove the witnesses were unavailable and that the introduction of the videotaped depositions violated his right to confrontation. (Ankney, Douglas; “Fifth Circuit: Introduction of Deposition Video Without Making Good-Faith Effort to Secure Witnesses’ Presence at Trial Violates Confrontation Clause,” Criminal Legal News [March 2019], pg. 29.) As the Supreme Court stated in United States v. Allie, 978 F.2d 1401 (5th Cir. 1992): “…[b]ecause of the importance our constitutional tradition attaches to a defendant’s right to confrontation, the good-faith effort requirement demands much more than a merely perfunctory effort by the government.”
In the past, the public has been protected from such un-Constitutional attacks by the appeal courts for criminal encounters, and by local courts when it came to what most would consider ‘slander’ or ‘false witness’ accusations. But because the legal system has not been able to keep up with the technology, we now find fanatics of every sort are able to accost us with any wild accusation or statement that they want, with seemingly no realistic recourse on the part of the victim.
How many children have you heard about over the last few years who have killed themselves after a cyber-bully attack? Nor are well-healed adults immune from such reactions to being emotionally butchered by such cowardly backstabbing. A well-known 23-year-old porn star, apparently hung herself in December 2017 after a number of bitter media attacks over something she had said.
My only recourse in my own case seems to be to ‘vent’ a bit, and try to remind the public of a number of factors that my enemies have overlooked in their rush to do harm to my family and myself. I am reminded of actor Jackie Chan’s words: “I allowed myself to be bullied because I was scared…I was bullied until I prevented a new student from being bullied. By standing up for him, I learned to stand up for myself.” (Quoted in Guideposts, March 2019, pg. 12.)
After 35 years in California prisons, very little scares me, and nobody bullies me. Another point, however, that most of us have heard before, but those of us in prison know often to be a false hope, is that “the truth shall set you free.” Anyone in prison, or who has suffered a government or media attack, will tell you that all too often the ‘truth’ becomes so twisted by the expert enemy forces that the sure weight of the falsehoods are going to convict you no matter what the truth might have been. And because in the new “Media Rules” society there is no such thing as “You’ve done your time,” or “Give the man another chance,” the more vicious pundit can excite the public ‘will,’ the less chance a man has to ever get out of prison.
Because of the timing of my own case – that the attack came shortly after the filing of paperwork requesting a commutation that might have allowed me to start going to a Parole Board with the long-range hope of someday going home – my family and I have to consider the possibility that the government still so fears my whistleblowing efforts that they will go so far as to organize a media attack to further discredit me and rebuild an active ‘hate’ and ‘fear’ towards me in the public mind. Why else, after nearly 40 years, would anyone try to dig up such long-forgotten stories?
Well, money for one thing. The men involved have been trying to get money from the public for months to supposedly use it in the making of a more elaborate video against me. One can only guess how much money they’ve already been given by interested sources that have a stake in trying to silence me. I might remind the public of the words of Ray Bradbury, when he warned that, “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
In its landmark ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010) – which held political campaign spending is a form of protected speech – the U.S. Supreme Court noted the First Amendment is “[p]remised on mistrust of governmental power.” The Court has also held that such mistrust extends to bans on books and other reading materials, since “freedom of speech is not merely freedom to speak; it is also freedom to read.” (See: King v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 415 F.3d 634 [7th Cir. 2005.)
In addition to the many other privations that prisoners experience, we are often subjected to censorship of books, magazines and even correspondence by prison officials, and everything we attempt to write of say is constantly looked at and often censored. As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit wrote, “The simple opportunity to read a book or write a letter, whether it expresses political views or absent affections, supplies a vital link between the inmate and the outside world, and nourishes the prisoner’s mind despite the blankness and bleakness of his environment.” (See: Wolfish v. Levi, 573 F.2d 118 [2d Cir. 1978], rev’d sum nom. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 .)
Yet restrictions on books and magazines have become commonplace in prisons and jails, and now someone is trying to silence my comments on a number of subjects by turning public attention against me – or perhaps even provoking an attack on me in prison to silence me once and for all. It should be noted that the men involved in this ‘cyber’ attack have already contacted my fellow prisoners in the attempt to make me look bad in their eyes – something that, in prison, can result in very dangerous situations, and leave me in a position where I have no options but to defend myself, and thus ruin any hope there may be for a positive action by the Parole Board.
In 1974, in Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396 (1974), writing for the majority, Justice Thurgood Marshall stated, “when the prison gates slam behind an inmate, he does not lose his human quality; his mind does not become closed to ideas; his intellect does not cease to feed on a free and open interchange of opinions, his yearning for self-respect does not end; nor is his quest for self-realization concluded. If anything, the needs for identity and self-respect are more compelling in the dehumanizing prison environment.”
Crucial to that need for self-improvement is the ability to read and study, to thereby learn new ideas and ways of thinking – and thus behaving. As a result, federal courts have found that incarceration does not automatically deprive prisoners of the First Amendment’s protection from policies that abridge the freedom of speech.
And yet, here we are, with some group of cyber bullies, performing a smear campaign, trying to convince the public that you shouldn’t pay attention to what I might say because they want you to believe that I’m a ‘bad man.’
Let’s get something clear: after 35 years on the main lines of California prisons, I am a really bad man. I sure as Hell wouldn’t want me for an enemy. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t listen to my voice when I try to warn you that something is going wrong! I have never spoken or written a word over the last three decades that I didn’t expect people to question. I’ve told the public to question and research everything they are told. What I object to is the current fad of attacking a speaker or writer on a personal level when you can’t find a ‘real’ flaw in their arguments. This becomes no different than the street thug who beats someone into silence just because he is more brutal and can get away with the attack. The sad fact is that the government, and the New World Order-backed media, get away with this sort of tactic just about any time they desire. That doesn’t mean that we have to like it, or that we should remain silent when we see it happening yet again! As Americans, it is up to each of us to demand that our rights are not violated by the government or any individual who thinks they are above the laws of the land.
And it is our right, according to our American Constitution, that we can defend ourselves against those who attack us, or pose a threat to our loved ones and our nation. That is why I have started this series of essays, and why events have been set in motion to legally present my side of the story to the public in a rational and organized manner. If my attackers become a little worried about the direction things may take, so be it. How does it feel, punks? You should never have attacked my wife and children in public!
Sad, when a convict is the only one with any class left standing.
To be continued….