By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Weltz and Weeks have filed suit for punitive damages and the return of their medicine, but for Weltz it may be a moot point: "They tell me if I make it to Christmas, I’m a lucky man."—Michael Simmons
Public defenders and district attorneys rarely find themselves on the same side of the law. But that’s what happened when the criminal-justice bar united in opposition to the California Legislature’s unanimous passage last month of the Sherrice Iverson Child Protection Act.
The act, which requires every citizen to report "as soon as reasonably possible" the rape or murder of a child 14 or under, stemmed from witness David Cash’s role in the 1997 Nevada casino murder of 7-year-old Iverson. Cash stood by while his friend Jeremy Strohmeyer trapped the Los Angeles girl in a bathroom stall before raping and strangling her. Strohmeyer is serving a life sentence in the case, but Cash got off scot-free.
By almost any standard, Cash’s behavior was repugnant; after escaping charges, he bragged that his notoriety was helping him "score" with women. But opponents, including California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, the California Public Defenders Association and the California District Attorney Association, say the bill, sponsored by Senator Tom Hayden, is likely to backfire. People with belated information will demand immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony. And prosecutors will give it to them, rather than lose a murder conviction — even if they are cads like Cash, says David LaBahn of the D.A. Association. The defense will then use the immunity grant to make witnesses look like rats trying to avoid the clinker.
LaBahn and Steven Meinrath of the Association for Criminal Justice Lawyers forecast that when word of the statute hits the streets, decent citizens will keep silent, and potentially good cases will be ruined. The final score, as it so often is when the courts collide with the Legislature: Politicians 1, Justice 0.—Sara Dunn
I DIDN’T DO IT, AND IF I DID . . .
Representative Maxine Waters may have found a way to topple the wall of plausible deniability the CIA has erected around its ties to international drug dealing. Last month, the House of Representatives passed her amendment to the intelligence authorization bill, outlawing drug trafficking by the CIA or its agents and mandating reporting of any narcotics activity to appropriate authorities.
Absurd? Unnecessary? Think again. Ever since San Jose Mercury Newsreporter Gary Webb’s landmark series detailing the CIA-backed Nicaraguan contra connection to L.A. crack sales, the agency, in lockstep with the mass media, has gone through contortions to stonewall exposure of mounting evidence that its friends and relations were funded by narcotics trafficking. An internal report only raised new questions about the CIA’s knowledge of drug trafficking; much of the material remains classified.
Last year, CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz revealed a secret 1982 agreement between the late U.S. Attorney General William French Smith and the equally late Central Intelligence Agency Director William Casey authorizing CIA officers to overlook drug-trafficking allegations against their agents, assets and non-staff employees. Hence, Waters’ amendment.
"All they [the CIA] can do is kind of look at me. They say they don’t do it. They say they’re not involved in it," Waters explained at the recent Los Angeles Citizens’ Fact-Finding Commission on U.S. Drug Policy, held at USC. ". . . Except that these people would not be doing anything if they [the CIA] were not connected to them."
Based on its shoddy record, the CIA will hardly volunteer evidence of its own perfidy. Exposure will come, if at all, from outside. But count out the mainstream media, which — embarrassed by Webb’s scoop and incredulous of CIA malfeasance — produced frantic reams of copy attempting to undermine Webb’s credibility.
"What if they had put in that same amount of time and money in investigating the work of the intelligence community and the explosion of crack cocaine in South-Central?" Waters asked. But that might cut off the flow of portentous-sounding but ultimately empty foreign-policy leaks from the boys at Langley, Maxine. And those leaks are how you claw your way to the top of the corporate-journalism heap.—Jim Crogan
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