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It's A Fun New Computer Game! It's A Furniture Polish! No, It's Our Craptastic 'Justice' System!

Cops Behaving Badly

We all know police officers can do no wrong. Their union representatives frequently tell us this at scary high volumes. Occasionally, though, it turns out an officer has not behaved entirely on the up and up. The Los Angeles Times this week detailed the history of a deputy who planted evidence like the sleazy guest star cop in a "Law & Order" rerun:


The two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies said they saw [Gerald Simmons] toss a plastic baggie of rock cocaine to the ground.

Their testimony would become the backbone of the 2009 criminal case against Simmons.
After a six-day trial, the verdict was swift. Guilty.

But jurors made their decision without knowing a crucial detail.

Jose Ovalle, one of the deputies who also booked the evidence, had been suspended five years earlier for pouring taco sauce on a shirt to mimic blood in a criminal case. He nearly lost his job.

Ovalle should've lost his job for trying to fake evidence in the dumbest way possible. Blood is not known for its distinctive odor of cumin. He might as well have used ketchup.

To be fair, it's not as if Ovalle corrupted evidence in every case he handled. I'm sure some days he'd never made it over to Chipotle. However, jurors put a lot of stock in the police's credibility, and Ovalle had none. Justice eventually prevailed and prosecutors made some generous plea deals and dropped charges. Everyone's happy-ish, but before we cut to the Executive Producer: Dick Wolf closing credits, we should point out that there are probably other cops like Ovalle out there. It's just really hard to find out because California's police privacy laws routinely hide officer misconduct like Easter eggs you'll never find (no, they're not under the sofa, you're not even trying) and that will eventually send you to prison for life.

The U.S. Supreme Court requires prosecutors to inform criminal defendants about an officer's wrongdoing — but the state's laws are so strict that prosecutors cannot directly access the personnel files of their own police witnesses. Instead, California puts the burden on defendants to prove to a judge that an officer's record is relevant.

Times reporters reviewed documents from hundreds of criminal cases in which the district attorney's office identified Ovalle as a potential witness after he was caught faking the bloody evidence in 2003.

Few defendants tried to obtain information about Ovalle's past. A handful of those who did weren't given information about the deputy's discipline. Judges never gave them a public explanation for why it wouldn't have been relevant.

By the time the district attorney's office learned about Ovalle's misconduct, he had been a potential witness against 312 defendants. More than 230 were convicted.

Yep, California prosecutors are under no obligation to ensure that their police witnesses aren't dirtbags. Sure, the system's corrupt, but knowing's half the battle. How can tomorrow's defendant protect himself against the police corruption of yesterday (and today, and, well, throw in tomorrow, too, while we're at it)?

The L.A. Times demonstrated just how futile it all is with a handy visual aid that plays like a cross between a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book and the classic Oregon Trail computer game. Let's give it a go. Just try not to get cholera. (And click that link to play at home!)

L.A. Times

This is why Kamala Harris and other senators are advocating for reforming the bail system: Poor people end up doing actual, real jail time before they've even had a trial. They also wind up pleading guilty under duress, which has permanent ramifications that can limit their future employment options.

Hey, we're innocent. We're pleading 100% not guilty. Now what happens? Well, we filed a Pitchess motion, which should get us a peek at Officer Smith's personnel file. We're told the "odds are good." We extend our stay at the prison Airbnb for another month, but we still believe in justice so much we sleep on an American flag bedspread we use to clean up the blood from our morning prison beatings, not that we could ever imagine such a thing happening in an American prison ...

Eventually, we get a list of names and absolutely no help from the state in tracking them down. We hire a P.I. with our oodles of no money (not sure how that works but whatevs) to get cracking on the list. Oh, and we just lost our job. Bummer. But justice is nigh! Our P.I. found someone named "Donna" who filed a complaint against Officer Smith.

L.A. Times

Womp! Womp! Thin blue line strikes again. Donna sucks, by the way. It's another week or so, but after a few more dead ends, our investigator finds "Mike" on Facebook. Officer Smith once jacked him up real good, as well, and he's willing to testify. Hooray! We finally caught a break here in the land of the free, which does not include us. We might wind up doing more time than convicted rapist Brock Turner and we haven't even seen the inside of a court room.


L.A. Times

Hey, we won! No, wait, just what the fuck did we win? Why does Officer Fake Name still have a job and we're applying for SNAP benefits? Why isn't his misconduct public record now? We've also lost our apartment. They repossessed our car. The ex won't let us see our kids, and something happened to us on the inside. We can't talk about it but we're crazy now.

Man, this game sucks, and it's all too real for many Americans who've broken no actual laws. On the upside, the private prison system is flourishing! God bless Mr. Sessions.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Seattle. However, he's more reliable for food and drink recommendations in Portland, where he spends a lot of time for theatre work.

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Republicans are devouring each other's carcasses, and we are here for it! Especially when one of those Republicans is King Kris of the Kansas Votefucker Klan ... errr, Clan! It's been a week since Kansans cast their votes in the gubernatorial primary, and the GOP looks to be rolling up its sleeves for a slugfest.

As we type, Kobach leads by 298 votes out of more than 314,000 cast -- a whopping 0.00095 percent, if you round up! The Kansas GOP begged Donald Trump to stay out of the race and leave the field clear for sitting governor Jeff Colyer, who took over when Sam Brownback wandered off to bring Jesus to the Hottentots on behalf of the US government. Safe bet that Colyer would be gearing up for the general election now if President Twitterthumbs hadn't flapped his yap. So thanks for that, Donny!

No, really, THANKS!

Remember the hanging chad debacle in Florida? Now picture it in a landlocked state with more cows than people. It's like fantasy island for Devin Nunes, ALLEGEDLY.

Oh, but we are to kid!

After first insisting he wasn't going to recuse from the counting, Secretary of State Kris Kobach (one and the same!) wrote Colyer a fabulously bitchy letter agreeing to hand off the tabulation to his deputy, Eric Rucker. Colyer had made the shocking suggestion that Kobach delegate responsibility to the Kansas attorney general, rather than his own political appointee, and Kobach was stretched out on the settee with a fit of the vapors at the gross impropriety of it all!

I will not breach the public trust and arbitrarily assign my responsibilities to another office that is not granted such authority by the laws of Kansas.

After several anguished paragraphs, Kobach closed by remonstrating that Colyer was betraying his office by destroying the faith of Kansans in the sacred integrity of their electoral process.

As governor of Kansas, your unrestrained rhetoric has the potential to undermine the public's confidence in the election process. May I suggest that you trust the people of Kansas have made the right decision at the polls and that our election officials will properly determine the result as they do in every election.

Said the guy whose entire adult life has been dedicated to whipping up panic about millions of imaginary illegal alien voters.

So now these two princes can kick the crap out of each other WITH VOTES, specifically, provisional ballots cast by unaffiliated voters under the supervision of poorly trained poll workers. Kansas holds closed primaries, meaning only registered Republicans can vote to select the GOP candidate, BUT an unaffiliated voter can cast a vote by checking a box identifying as a Democrat or a Republican at the polling place. This was news to some poll workers, who mistakenly directed over one thousand unaffiliated voters to use provisional ballots without checking the box indicating party preference. Whoops!

So, will those provisional ballots be counted based on voter intent? Or tossed based on strict interpretation of the statute? And does Kansas law mandate tossing mail-in ballots that arrive without a postmark on Wednesday, since there's no forensic proof that they were mailed before midnight on Tuesday? And how disgusted will the Kansas electorate be when one of these assholes emerges from the melée holding the other one's scalp? And how many millions of dollars are going to be spent on litigating the Republican primary while this nice lady Laura Kelly, the Democratic minority whip of the Kansas Senate, is out campaigning for November?

Even before this debacle, Kobach looked significantly weaker against Kelly than Colyer, with self-funded Libertarian Jeff Orman threatening to throw a wrench in the works. The Wichita Eagle reports on a Remington Research Poll conducted in July:

In a Kelly-Orman-Kobach race, the poll puts Kelly and Kobach effectively in a dead heat — 36 percent for Kelly and 35 percent for Kobach, with Kelly's lead within the margin of error. Orman has 12 percent.

Colyer leads in a three-way race with Kelly and Orman, according to the poll. In that scenario, Colyer receives 38 percent of the vote, while Kelly gets 28 percent and Orman receives 10 percent.

Which is ONE POLL, in a deeply red state, but ... Kobach is a crap candidate who's likely to emerge from this fight with two black eyes and a pissed off base. If there's anyone who can blow this election, it's Kris Kobach.

Keep fighting, Kris! You can do it! (And now we need a shower.)

And YOU need an OPEN THREAD!

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[Kobach letter / Wichita Eagle / Mother Jones / Kansas City Star]

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While most people spent this weekend telling Nazi punks to fuck off, a couple 11-year-olds were in Las Vegas hacking into voting machines. Why? BECAUSE IT'S FUN!

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