Supreme Court Rejects Guilty Until Proven Innocent
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Supreme Court Rejects Guilty Until Proven Innocent
Posted by CN Staff on May 06, 2017 at 08:48:11 PT
By Nick Sibilla, Contributor
Source: Forbes
Washington, D.C. -- With so many constitutional rights under siege, it’s welcome news when one of them is defended. Reaffirming the presumption of innocence, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Colorado law last month that forced criminal defendants to prove their innocence when the defendants’ convictions were already overturned. As the court explained, “Absent those convictions, Colorado would have no legal right to exact and retain petitioners’ funds.” Not only is this decision a win for due process, the court’s ruling in Nelson v. Colorado could have major ramifications for government shakedown schemes nationwide.
The case arose after two defendants, Shannon Nelson and Louis Madden, were convicted for sexual offenses and ordered to pay thousands of dollars in court costs, fees and restitution. Between her conviction and later acquittal, the state withheld $702 from Nelson’s inmate account, while Madden paid Colorado $1,977 after his conviction. When their convictions were overturned, Nelson and Madden demanded their money back.Although a state appellate court sided with them, the Colorado Supreme Court denied their refund request. Instead, the court ruled that Nelson and Madden could reclaim their money only through the state’s Exoneration Act, which requires filing a civil claim and proving “that the person was actually innocent of the crime for which he or she was convicted.”Allowing that ruling to stand would fly in the face of centuries of Western legal traditions. As the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm, noted in an amicus brief, “the presumption of innocence has deep historical roots” and can be traced back not only through American jurisprudence but through English common law, Roman law and even to the Pentateuch. Moreover, that presumption is a critical safeguard against a justice system “where individuals can be subjected to arbitrary and irrational deprivations of their liberty and property.”Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-1 ruling, ruled Colorado’s law was unconstitutional. Writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg held that “the Exoneration Act’s scheme does not comport with the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of due process.” Nelson and Madden are “entitled to be presumed innocent” and “should not be saddled with any proof burden” to regain what is rightfully theirs.Ginsburg forcefully rejected Colorado’s argument that “[t]he presumption of innocence applies only at criminal trials,” and not to civil claims, as under the Exoneration Act: “Colorado may not presume a person, adjudged guilty of no crime, nonetheless guilty enough for monetary exactions.”Armed with this ruling, the Nelson decision may set an important precedent to rein in another abusive civil proceeding: civil forfeiture. The parallels are striking. Through civil forfeiture, law enforcement can confiscate and keep cash, cars and real estate without securing a criminal conviction or filing charges against the owner. Perversely, under civil forfeiture, even those found not guilty in criminal court can still forfeit their property in civil court, since the latter has a lower standard of proof.According to the Institute for Justice, under civil forfeiture proceedings in over 30 states and on the federal level, the burden of proof is on the property owner, not the government. So when police seize someone’s property, the owner must prove they did not know of or consent to their property being used for an alleged criminal activity. That turns the presumption of innocence straight on its head.Although civil forfeiture sounds like a clear-cut violation of many constitutional rights, courts have repeatedly upheld civil forfeiture schemes. For instance, in 2014 the Texas Supreme Court refused to hear a case involving a 2004 Chevrolet Silverado belonging to Zaher El-Ali. Ali had previously sold the Chevy but still held title to it and it was registered in his name. When the buyer was arrested for a DWI and drug possession, police seized the truck and filed a civil forfeiture action against it, even though Ali was not involved. In order to regain his Chevy, Ali was asked to prove his innocence.Represented by the Institute for Justice, Ali made claims very similar to the arguments by Nelson and Madden. By “impos[ing] an unconstitutional burden on innocent owners,” Texas’ civil forfeiture law violated his right to due process. In a strident dissent from not taking the case, Justice Don Willett highlighted the injustice inherent in the system: “Criminals in our legal system enjoy a presumption of innocence, requiring government to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But property owners are actually treated worse, presumed guilty and required to prove their innocence.”Fortunately, reform is on the march. Today, 12 states require a criminal conviction for most or all forfeiture cases, while Utah has banned forfeiting property from the acquitted. For innocent-owner claims, New Hampshire and Ohio have also shifted the burden of proof for proving knowledge or consent of illegal activity onto the government.In Congress, the FAIR Act by Sen. Rand Paul and the DUE PROCESS Act by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner would both reform federal forfeiture laws so that property owners are innocent until proven guilty. And Justice Clarence Thomas (the lone dissenter in the Nelson decision) recently slammed civil forfeiture for its “egregious and well-chronicled abuses.”If judges can be as engaged as the U.S. Supreme Court was in Nelson, civil forfeiture will not be long for this world. Or as Justice Willett so eloquently put it, “Our Constitution was written precisely to prevent carte blanche assertions of governmental power, to prevent police power from devolving into police state.”Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.Source: Forbes Magazine (US)Author: Nick Sibilla, ContributorPublished: May 2, 2017Copyright: 2017 Forbes Inc.Contact: readers forbes.comWebsite: Justice Archives 
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Comment #3 posted by HempWorld on May 10, 2017 at 09:29:12 PT
OT: Dose of THC restores cognitive function mice
"Marijuana isn’t exactly synonymous with mental sharpness, but surprising new research has found that it might help protect the brain from the effects of aging.A German study on mice published in the journal Nature Medicine found that low, regular doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana, may help to keep our brains from slowing down as we get older. For the study, researchers from the University of Bonn and Hebrew University spent a month giving daily THC to mice that were two months, one year, and 18 months old, and studied the effects on each.Scientists first tested the mice on their ability to recognize familiar objects and navigate a water maze without the influence of THC and found that, while younger mice did well, older mice struggled. Once they were given THC, the younger mice had a drop in performance, but older mice showed improvement that lasted for weeks afterward — and even did as well as younger mice that had no THC."
Low dose of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol restores cognitive function in old mice
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Comment #2 posted by Hope on May 09, 2017 at 20:43:10 PT
Cannabis seems very beneficial to me.
Could Cannabis Help Preserve Brain Function As We Age? dose of cannabis extract could reverse brain's decline in old age, study suggests at Pennsylvania conference say cannabis can help fight opioid epidemic Adie Poe Believes Cannabis is America's Best Weapon in the Fight Against Opioid Abuse‘This Trail Was Blazed by Patients’: An Interview With Cannabis Advocate Montel Williams
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Comment #1 posted by Hope on May 08, 2017 at 16:19:54 PT
An Amazing gift of the earth just keeps on amazing
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