Tag Archives: criminal courts

Proven Innocent But Still Locked Up: Our Broken Criminal Justice System

God Wants Justice and Mercy, Not Religion,

and We’re Falling Short

by Pastor Paul J. Bern (Isaiah 58)

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new-world-order

For this week’s message I have been inspired to write about the true meaning of the twin brothers of the Spirit of the Lord known as justice and mercy. I saw an item of general human interest on the evening news on one of the local channels here in Atlanta about a man, one Sonny Bharadia, who has been locked up for 17 years for a crime he did not commit. It has only recently come to light that the DNA evidence in his case points to another man who is already serving a life sentence for murder in a separate case. And yet the state prison system here in Georgia is refusing to hear the evidence and release the man (to view the whole story, click here). This is injustice at its absolute worst! So I took this to the Lord in prayer, as I often do, and inquired as to what part of the Scriptures I should use to deliver a message condemning the State of Georgia’s refusal to hear the evidence that would exonerate this man. The result of my communication with the Lord will be a message on Isaiah chapter 58, and I will begin at verse 5.

Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Isaiah 58, verses 5-7)

Fasting, from a Biblical standpoint, is the voluntary abstention from all food and drink except for plain water. This usually means abstinence from sexual relations as well, and for a certain period of time, usually for anywhere from 24 hours up to an entire week or more. So, when God defined fasting through his prophet Isaiah, he meant different kinds of fasting besides simply doing without food. What can we compare this to today? In the first place, what we call ‘dieting’ today is what used to be called ‘fasting’. When we’re dieting we’re still eating, but a lot less of it. But when we’re fasting, we’re doing without everything all at once. By doing this, we rely on the Lord for our sustenance and him alone. That’s why fasting brings us closer to God. Although my fasts are of the 24 hour variety because I have medical issues, I find even little fasts like those can bring me into closer union and harmony with God.

False humility will not cut it before the Lord either. Go ahead and give your unwanted clothing and chattel furnishings to the charity of your choice, tithe your 10% to the church of your choice, and when you attend your charity gala’s, be sure to be there to see and be seen. Those are the people who gladly humble themselves when everyone is looking at them, but when they are out of sight they turn into ravenous beasts of prey. But we know who they are, don’t we? But then the Lord corrects us in verse 6: “Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and …. to set the oppressed free and to break every yoke?” To me at least, ‘loosing the chains of injustice’ would include the injustice that has been committed against men and women like Sonny Bharadia. Although the Bill of Rights contained in our still-beloved Constitution says we are all innocent until proven guilty, oftentimes in today’s American criminal in-justice system the defendants in these cases are considered guilty right from the start, which is clearly unconstitutional. This is apparently what happened to Mr. Baradia.

To “set the oppressed free” in today’s world means, to me as an American, normalizing relations between Native Americans, other minorities and people of color with the remaining majority white Anglo/Caucasian population. To ‘set the oppressed free’, then, should be defined as normalizing race relations in America. As we have seen from the police shootings of unarmed Blacks, not to mention Rosanne Barr’s racist tweets and Neo-Nazi’s openly running for political office in states like Illinois and Virginia, my country has a long way to go towards ‘setting the oppressed free’. What about this, people? Please, we have to do something about America’s race problem immediately! Otherwise, our ‘Christian faith’ becomes little more than a Sunday morning social club.

What about “breaking every yoke”? This would presumably mean yokes of bondage. Nearly 2 ½ millennia ago when these words were written, ‘bondage’ meant being sold into slavery, or living one’s life as a slave. Although human slavery still flourishes here in the 21st century, the number one form of bondage in modern times is debt, the second is very low wages and the third is taxes. Never mind the latter two – I have already written expensively on the need for a $15.00 per hour minimum wage, and I outlined a simple way to overhaul the tax system in chapter 9 of my 2011 book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”, which is still available in its third edition on Amazon from here. Debt is a topic for yet another day.

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” What happens today when somebody sees a homeless person rummaging through their trash, or when a vagrant camps out on the porch of a vacant house on their street? Does anybody share food or offer any warm, dry shelter? No, they call 911 and watch triumphantly through their windows while the cops haul the homeless guy off to jail for trespassing. Provided, of course, the homeless guy survives being arrested. There are even people being put out of whole families – banished, actually – for reasons real and imaginary. The reason this condition exists to the extent that it does in American society today is because forgiveness is no longer being taught in the home. How can we expect our children to learn forgiveness and loving kindness when many of us are lacking in these qualities ourselves? One thing is for sure – this is a time of reckoning by a lot of people. It is a time of reckoning and taking stock of ourselves and the world in which we live. And when we have done these things, only then can the repair work begin. Now let’s finish up this week’s message starting at verse 9.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: ‘Here am I’. If you do away with the yoke of oppression; with the pointing finger and the malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58, verses 9-11)

Those who practice true justice and mercy, those who show compassion and empathy, those who put others before themselves, they are the ones who, when they cry out to God for help, their prayers get answered. So, if you’re crying out to God for help and it seems he’s not listening, try doing something really nice for some people. Bake them a cake, mow their grass, babysit their child, you get the idea. Whatever you do will come back to you. But as the prophet went on to say, “If you do away with the yoke of oppression; with the pointing finger and the malicious talk….” It’s time for America to pack up her outdated and mean-spirited racial prejudices and carry them to the curb. It’s also time to clamp down hard on human trafficking – too many women and children have become sex slaves for the rich and powerful, and not enough people are talking about this. Well, I am one who is, and I want to know why there aren’t more joining with me in exposing this distasteful business! In the meantime, these same people maliciously point their fingers at others and judge them for perceived wrongs real or imagined. As you judge, so you will be judged. Never forget that.

“…. if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday.” Notice that Isaiah wrote “spend yourselves”, not ‘spend your money’. How is this accomplished? By devoting our bodies to a little work, maybe get a little sweaty, or giving our precious time to a cause greater than ourselves, such as helping the survivors of a natural disaster. You can even make a career out of this kind of work, people do it every day. “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs….” But, mind you all, only if you walk in His ways instead of your own. I know, I know, this seems counter-intuitive on the surface of things. God gave us a brain, it’s our own responsibility to use the darn thing. So making our own decisions based on our own best judgments is the responsible thing to do, and that’s right. Except, our minds can sometimes play tricks on us, causing us to see or hear things differently than they actually are, creating what we perceive as audio or visual distortions. Our emotions often give us even bigger problems than that. So consequently we take the wrong actions. Whether this is purposeful or not is besides the point when it still turns out to be wrong.

“…. he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden….” There are hidden benefits – more like bonuses, actually – to consulting with God prior to putting our plans into action. Are our plans congruent with God’s? Better yet, does that work both ways as well? Because if it does, God doesn’t just reward us. He reinforces us in ways that we cannot do ourselves. God can and will give us an overhaul – sometimes whether we ask for it or not! Trust me, I’ve been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt. But God doesn’t allow us to go through these things to be hard on us, or to be mean to us. He does it to build us up and to strengthen our character. So cheer up! Life isn’t so hard. You’re just like a well-watered garden when you consult God first. Who else would know any better except for your Maker?

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Law enforcement misconduct has become a foul stench in God’s nostrils

Once Again, the Government Sins Against the People

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

There was a headline just a few days ago on the Internet mainstream media that was all over the national news on my old rabbit-eared TV and CNN’s website. The FBI, our nation’s top law enforcement agency (at least up to now), has been giving false testimony about forensic samples obtained from alleged crime scenes. Fully 95% or more of all federal criminal prosecutions in the last ten years – those we know about so far – were engineered by way of apparently bogus testimony! Allow me to quote a short excerpt from this article:

FBI admits it fudged forensic hair matches in nearly all criminal trials for decades

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Beforeitsnews.com

WASHINGTON — “The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000. Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 per cent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence. The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions. The FBI errors alone do not mean there was not other evidence of a convicts guilt. Defendants and federal and state prosecutors in 46 states and the District of Columbia are being notified to determine whether there are grounds for appeals. Four defendants were previously exonerated. The admissions mark a watershed in one of the country’s largest forensic scandals, highlighting the failure of the U.S. courts for decades to keep bogus scientific information from juries, legal analysts said. The question now, they said, is how state authorities and the courts will respond to findings that confirm long-suspected problems with subjective, pattern-based forensic techniques — like hair and bite-mark comparisons — that have contributed to wrongful convictions in more than one-quarter of 329 DNA-exoneration cases since 1989. In a statement, the FBI and Justice Department vowed to continue to devote resources to address all cases and said they “are committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance. The Department and the FBI are also committed to ensuring the accuracy of future hair analysis, as well as the application of all disciplines of forensic science….”

In other words, there are thousands of criminal convictions that were falsely obtained, meaning there are literally hundreds of thousands of people in the federal prison system who aren’t supposed to be there in the first place. To call this outrageous would be a gross understatement, to call it a miscarriage of justice would in my view still be insufficient. The best description I can think of – and I can think of a few I can’t print here – is “completely over the top”!

Wikipedia has this to say about incarceration in America: “The United States has the largest prison population in the world, and the second-highest per-capita incarceration rate, behind Seychelles (which has a total prison population of 786 out of a population of 90,024). In 2012, there were 707 adults incarcerated per 100,000 population. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), 2,266,800 adults were incarcerated in U.S. federal and state prisons, and county jails at year-end 2011 – about 0.94% of adults in the U.S. resident population. Additionally, 4,814,200 adults at year-end 2011 were on probation or on parole. In total, 6,977,700 adults were under correctional supervision (probation, parole, jail, or prison) in 2011 – about 2.9% of adults in the U.S. resident population.” Of that 2.26 million incarcerated individuals in state and federal prisons, that number is pretty much divided down the middle between the two. So, if there are 1.13 million people in federal prison, and 95% of them are there due to what amounts to perjured testimony, the FBI just lost every ounce of its credibility. Plus, a crime of the highest order has been committed in America due to false imprisonment and perjury – both felony offenses – and, people’s civil rights have been violated because 3 out of 4 prisoners are black. The uproar over this should have been deafening, but the story came and went in 24 hours or less. Without a doubt the majority of people do not yet know about this report, which is why I am going to great lengths to bring this topic back up again.

What does the Bible say about this? Quite a lot, actually, so let me quote just a handful of verses, which should be sufficient for me to make my point. In Exodus chapter 20, verse 16 says, “You shall not bear false testimony against your neighbor.” No doubt you will recognize this as being one of the ten commandments. Exodus chapter 23 says in verse one, “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness.” Proverbs chapter nineteen, verse five says, “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will not go free.” Psalm 119, verse 163 says, “I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love the law.” It says in Ephesians chapter 4 and verse 25, “Therefore each one of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body”. And finally, Jesus himself said in Luke chapter 3, verse 14, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely – be content with your pay”. What’s the 21st century version of that truism? Don’t be greedy! Sorry, Gordon Gecko and Wall St., greed is most definitely not good, not even a little. Greed is counterproductive, it is self-centered and therefore childish, and often times it can be criminal in nature.

As our planet becomes more and more populated, working for the greater good instead of one’s personal needs and desires will become the preferable way of life. Fewer resources for more people seems to be the order of the day. As such, hoarding money, food, investments such as houses, or other commodities like gold and silver, is becoming the old way of doing things. People are finally starting to figure out that we can either coexist together peacefully, or we can annihilate each other in war. Which do we choose? As for me, since I worship the Prince of Peace, I choose to live in His peace, and harmoniously with those around me to the best of my ability. But when people are falsely imprisoned, that’s where I draw the line. When people are railroaded into prison after being nearly defenseless in court based on false testimony, that is where I draw the line. When people’s civil rights are being viciously violated up one side and down the other, that is where I draw the line! This grotesque miscarriage of justice has just over a million people falsely imprisoned, and that’s the federal system alone. The other 50 states are undoubtedly just as bad, if not worse.

What can we do about this? There can be no question that law enforcement and the criminal court system are utterly corrupt, all one has to do is watch the news on TV or the Web. The latest death of yet another unarmed black man in Baltimore, Maryland is the most current example as I write this. It seems this poor guy suffered a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody. Naturally, nobody in the department knows anything about it, not one little bit. Evidently the police in Baltimore expect us to believe this gentleman broke his back accidentally. How ridiculous!! This was a case of cold-hearted murder, pure and simple. If a civilian did this to another, at the minimum they would be charged with second degree murder, or at least manslaughter, depending on the jury. But if it’s the police, they will almost always get off scott free. Why? Because the cops lie on the witness stand to convict people just like the FBI agents I wrote about at the beginning of this posting. And, as you have read, God hates false testimony and He hates liars.

Is it any wonder that more and more people are becoming afraid of the police? When I’m out in public and see a cop, I refuse to even so much as make eye contact with them. You see, a long time ago, back in the early ’90’s, I found myself convicted of a weapons charge over an altercation in traffic. Another driver was repeatedly cutting into my lane and slamming on his brakes right in front of me. After the altercation, I left the scene, nor do I make an apology for that because I regarded it as justifiable self-defense, and I still do. A year and a half later, when the case came up in court (I had posted bond and gotten out of jail), I found out that the man who started the whole thing was an off-duty cop. He was driving in his civilian car wearing civilian clothes, and I had no idea this guy was a police officer. The bottom line was that I was convicted of 2 felonies because the off-duty cop who started the whole thing got up on the witness stand and told one lie on top of another (naturally, this time he was in uniform). My only consolation was that I got probation and a fine instead of jail time. So I know what it’s like to be falsely convicted of a crime. And that’s exactly why I side with the protesters, and I always will. And I am convinced that this police and courtroom misconduct will eventually deteriorate into massive civil unrest, which is something I’ve been predicting in my books for years. The summer of 2015 could get very interesting. Only time will tell.

 

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