January 1, 2012

Freedom Awards 2011

Filed under: Freedom Bulletin by Victoria Liberty @ 12:52 am

Each New Year here at the Freedom Bulletin, I make a list of the top people of the year. It has taken different forms and has used different criteria over the years, but this year, like last, I decided to do a top 10 list. The following people are the 10 who, in my opinion, mattered the most in the fields of politics, law, individual rights, and freedom. The people in the list were chosen based on a combination of how interesting, influential, high-profile, and unique they are, as well as the importance (in my humble opinion) of the issues that they stand for or are associated with. Without further ado, here are the top 10 people of 2011:

10. Casey Anthony – Accused of murdering her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, she was almost universally vilified by talking heads, trial watchers, and the general public, who ridiculed her partying ways and presumed her guilty because of the large amount of circumstantial evidence in the case. But her acquittal this year showed that, to one jury at least, reasonable doubt is still the standard to which criminal defendants must be judged, no matter how wrong the verdict may intuitively feel and no matter how unpopular it may be.

9. Dr. Virginia Moyer – The chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, she was behind the decisions to recommend fewer pap smears, mammograms, prostate cancer tests, and other medical screenings. After decades of ever-increasing pressure by society, government,  and doctors to undergo more and more frequent medical procedures, which take a huge toll on human dignity and quality of life, this is a small and long-overdue step in the right direction.

8. Gabrielle Giffords – This congresswoman from Arizona doesn’t need much of an explanation. It is amazing that she survived being shot in the head, let alone managed to return to Congress the same year. Her strength and bravery make her more than worthy of a place on this list.

7. SEAL Team 6 – Responsible for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, they don’t need much of an explanation either. While I don’t believe in celebrating another person’s death, no matter who it is, it is undeniable that bringing an end to America’s 10-year-long pursuit of the world’s most dangerous terrorist is a significant event that changed the world.

6. Jesse Ventura – The former Minnesota governor and wrestler won at least one fan with his opposition to the TSA’s pat-downs and full-body scanners. Although his lawsuit against these unconstitutional and degrading security policies was (wrongly) dismissed, everyone should admire his outspoken and courageous stand for freedom.

5. Susie Castillo – A somewhat unlikely freedom fighter, this former Miss USA similarly gave star power to the fight against airport security excesses. Her candid and brave YouTube video decrying a pat-down that was more like a sexual assault went viral and brought much-needed attention to this issue.

4. Gary Johnson – Although he never picked up a lot of steam in the Republican primary and is now running for president as a Libertarian, he is a man of principle who, both in his personal life and his political life, stands up for what he believes in instead of doing whatever he thinks will make him popular.

3. Anne Sinclair – Married to possibly the most hated criminal defendant of the year (see below), she showed tremendous bravery by fighting for her husband’s freedom when most of the world expected and wanted her to abandon him. By standing up for his presumption of innocence, she also became an icon of loyalty and true feminism.

2. Dominique Strauss-Kahn – No longer a powerful politician or banker, he is an important figure nonetheless because he is this year’s most high-profile victim of race, gender, and class stereotypes. Accused of sexually assaulting an African hotel maid, the wealthy, libertine Frenchman was the perfect villain to many people, who ensured that he was immediately convicted in the court of public opinion. The charges against him were dismissed for lack of evidence, but not before he was severely and unjustly punished, losing his reputation, his privacy, many of his friends, and his political career.

1. Ron Paul – What is there to say about the good doctor and congressman that I haven’t already said somewhere on this blog?? One of my favorite politicians of all time, he has managed this year not only to bravely, consistently, eloquently, intelligently, and passionately voice his pro-liberty views on almost every issue, but actually gained quite a bit of popularity as well. It is exciting to see his poll numbers placing him in the top tier of presidential candidates and sometimes even as the frontrunner. In addition to being a warrior of principle, he has actually changed public opinion and GOP ideology in the direction of liberty, and it is that achievement that lands him in the top spot on my list.

October 18, 2011

Amanda Knox and Casey Anthony

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 7:48 am

I just realized I never blogged about the Amanda Knox case…probably because I never followed the trial too closely. Even though it’s been a little while since she won her appeal and returned home to America, I figured I would post my thoughts after reading up on the case.

Knox, an American exchange student, and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering Knox’s roommate, Meredith Kercher, in Perugia, Italy. A drifter and drug dealer, Rudy Guede, was also convicted of playing a part in her death; he says he was there but Knox and Sollecito did it.There appeared to be DNA evidence linking Knox and Sollecito to the crime, but it turned out to be contaminated and unreliable. Knox also looked suspicious when she tried to pin the murder on her employer, Patrick Lumumba, who ended up not being at the scene of the crime. And it didn’t help when she initially told police she was present in the apartment when Meredith was killed, but later said she wasn’t. But due to the unreliability of the evidence, an appellate judge and jury overturned the convictions of Knox and Sollecito and set them free.

Andrea Peyser at the New York Post compared Knox to Casey Anthony, saying that both young women were “too pretty to convict.” These two cases do have similarities, the main one in my opinion being that while both defendants lied to investigators and behaved suspiciously in some ways, there just isn’t quite enough evidence to be sure they are guilty. Peyser, who sure seems to be anti-Knox, even admits, “the truth is murkier than a Florida swamp,” and writes, “it’s never been clear that Guede acted alone.”

Perhaps, but it’s never been clear that Guede didn’t act alone, either. If the truth could go either way, then the legal system needs to err on the side of giving the defendant the benefit of the doubt. Knox was convicted of defamation for her statements about Guede, for which she received credit for time served, just as Anthony was sentenced to time served for misleading investigators about what happened to her daughter, Caylee. They were both freed not for their looks but because there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. I was happy to see Knox and Sollecito regain their freedom – especially after reading about how horribly Amanda was treated in jail – for the simple reason that no one should have their freedom taken away when there is a pretty good chance they are innocent.

July 23, 2011

Why Caylee’s Law is a bad idea

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 10:31 pm

In the wake of Casey Anthony’s acquittal in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, there have been proposals in numerous states and even the federal government to pass “Caylee’s Law.” The various versions of the law would make it illegal for parents not to report a child missing or dead within a specified time period. I tend to be skeptical of laws that are passed as a result of high-profile tragedies. The purpose of the law should be to define people’s basic rights and liberties. Since the rights that people should have do not change as a result of sensational trials, laws shouldn’t, either. And in my opinion, Caylee’s Law is no exception to this.

First of all, as Maia Szalavitz at Time points out, Caylee’s Law would be difficult to enforce. What if parents were trying for hours to resuscitate a drowned child and were so exhausted they didn’t think of reporting the death? What if parents and/or caretakers were confused about who was supposed to be minding the child? What if an older child or teen simply decided to go to the store on their own, or stay out later than their parents expected? Caylee’s law would make more work for hospitals which would have to report children’s deaths, as well as for police departments, which would have more missing child reports to investigate, most of which would not actually involve any danger to a child.

Speaking more philosophically, another problem with Caylee’s Law is that it would not criminalize an action, but merely the failure to take action. The law should only penalize taking actions that violate the rights of others, and failing to report your child’s death or disappearance, although it might come across as heartless or neglectful, does not rise to this level. You cannot predict every possible scenario that might occur in which a child dies or goes missing, so there is always a chance parents who fail to make a report have a good reason for doing so. People should not have the burden of proving that they didn’t do anything wrong when they didn’t actually do anything, but merely failed to act.

July 5, 2011

Casey Anthony’s not guilty verdict

Filed under: law & crime by Victoria Liberty @ 11:48 pm

As the entire world is buzzing (and raging) about, Casey Anthony was acquitted today of first-degree murder, manslaughter, and child abuse in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. (She was convicted of four counts of giving false statements to police.)

People all over Twitter and the blogosphere have been heaping all sorts of profanity and abuse on Casey, her defense team, and the jury in the midst of today’s verdict. I’m not going to name any names, but various people have said that the jury reached their verdict merely to get out as soon as possible, that people no longer consider murder a serious problem anymore, and that Casey will be free to live the “bella vita” (as the tattoo that she got after Caylee’s disappearance says). There has also been endless criticism of the fact that Casey smiled and embraced her lawyers after the verdict and that defense attorney Jose Baez went to a bar to celebrate.

These people fail to realize that perhaps the jury acquitted Anthony because they truly weren’t convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that she committed murder.

When Casey is released from jail, which could be as early as Thursday, depending on what sentence the judge chooses for the false statement charges, she won’t be living the “bella vita.” She will no doubt find it extremely difficult to find a job, even her parents aren’t particularly supportive of her, and she’ll remain perhaps the most hated woman in the world.

As for Baez and the defense team, there is nothing wrong with them being happy. For three years, the media has reveled in every lie Casey told, every photo of her “partying,” and every piece of evidence seeming to show her guilt. Baez has been ridiculed as stupid and inexperienced, and the judge even banned him from mentioning his theory that Casey had covered up Caylee’s accidental death partly because of childhood sexual abuse. Someone who triumphed over such immense adversity, and against so many people’s expectations and wishes, is the ultimate underdog and has every right to celebrate. If prosecutors can go drinking to celebrate sending someone to jail, a defense attorney can do the same to celebrate winning a client’s freedom.

Given that the jury came back in less than 11 hours, I was surprised at the verdict. But the trial of Casey Anthony has demonstrated the American legal system working as it should.

ETA: Here are some of my favorite editorials I’ve read about the Anthony verdict: