How Did Ahmaud Arbery’s 3 Assailants End Up With 12 Murder Convictions?

“The felony murder rule “divorces intent from consequence,” says Lara Bazelon, a professor of law at the University of San Francisco. “The concept is that, well, if you went along for the underlying felony, if you went along for the less serious act…then you’re just as guilty as [the murderer], even if you didn’t know that your co-defendant was armed, and even if you had no intent to kill yourself.”
That scenario is not a hypothetical. In May 2020, not long before Arbery’s convicted murderers were indicted, Jenna Holm was arrested on a manslaughter charge in Idaho, accused of killing a police officer after he arrived to respond to her apparent mental health crisis. But it wasn’t Holm who killed Bonneville County Sheriff’s Deputy Wyatt Maser—something the state conceded. It was another cop, who struck Maser in his vehicle when he drove onto the scene.

While an internal investigation revealed the officers disregarded safety procedures that night, the police eschewed introspection and set their sights on Holm, charging her with an “unlawful act” and tacking a manslaughter charge on top. (A judge recently struck it down, but only after Holm sat in jail for 16 months pre-trial.)

There are many more such stories. In December 2018, 16-year-old Masonique Saunders was charged with the felony murder of her boyfriend, who a police officer shot during the commission of a robbery. Because she allegedly helped plan that burglary, Ohio said the teen effectively killed her own partner. But perhaps the most iconic anecdote associated with the felony murder rule is the unfortunate story of Ryan Holle, who was sentenced to life in prison after he lent his car to some friends. Those friends then used it to commit a crime—also a burglary—which went horribly awry after one of the men found a firearm in the house they were robbing and used it to kill 18-year-old Jessica Snyder.

Holle was a mile and a half away from that scene, but he was treated no differently than Charles Miller, Jr., who saw that gun and spontaneously murdered Snyder. “Felony murder says you are just as liable, you are just as guilty as the person who pulled the trigger,” notes Bazelon. In 2015, Holle’s sentence was commuted to 25 years in prison; he will not be released until 2024.”

The $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill Spends a Lot More Money on the Same Old Highway Programs

“The $1 trillion infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed into law..dumps a lot of new money into existing highway programs to be spent by state departments of transportation (DOTs).
The price tag of the bill—which includes $550 billion in new spending, $110 billion of which is earmarked for highways and bridges”

“by mostly topping off existing programs, it will largely maintain a status quo where some states deploy their highway dollars effectively, while others continue to set them on fire in the hopes that that will produce better roads.”

“That would include places like New Jersey, which ranked last in a report on state highway performance released by the Reason Foundation today.

The Garden State, per the report, spent $1,136,255 per mile of state-controlled road in 2019 while also having some of the worst urban congestion and pavement conditions in the country.

That’s well above more cost-effective states like Virginia. It managed to spend only $34,969 per mile of state-controlled roads while also having above average pavement quality and slightly worse-than-average congestion. (Virginia ranked second overall in the Reason highway report, right behind North Dakota.)”

“Feigenbaum says part of New Jersey’s high expenditures can be chalked up to the high design quality of its highways, which have generally wider lanes and straighter curves in order to improve safety. (It ranks fourth in the Reason report in terms of overall fatality rate). But he also says a lot can also be explained by a cronyist state DOT that’s dominated by political appointees.

A state like Virginia has been able to keep up road quality while keeping overall road spending in line by having a more professionally run DOT, he says. It also makes heavy use of public-private partnerships, whereby private companies put in their own capital to rebuild or expand highways in return for being able to charge tolls on the lanes that they build, says Feigenbaum.

In keeping with its “spend more on the same old programs” nature, Biden’s new infrastructure bill does remarkably little to advance public-private partnerships or expand the interstate tolling that supports them.

The infrastructure bill does increase the amount of private activity bonds (tax-exempt bonds issued by a private company to fund an infrastructure project) that can be issued from $15 billion to $30 billion. It also reauthorizes a handful of limited programs that allow states to use tolls to reduce congestion or rebuild bridges. But it leaves in place a general prohibition on tolling interstate highways.

The overall trend in highway spending over the past decade has been higher spending and marginally improved roadway quality, says Feigenbaum, with some states standing out for either their innovations or their wastefulness.

The new infrastructure bill will likely produce more of the same.”

States have the power to make or break the infrastructure law

“Now that President Joe Biden has signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (also known as the bipartisan infrastructure framework, or BIF) into law, the federal government faces a new challenge: getting the funds out to states and cities.

In the coming months — and years — federal agencies will distribute billions of dollars for everything from bridge repairs to public transit expansions to bike paths. Most of this money will go directly to state governments, which will have significant discretion over which projects they’d like to fund.”

Congress Finally Passed Biden’s Inefficient, Deficit-Hiking Infrastructure Bill

“The bill is also larded up with provisions that will make infrastructure projects more costly for taxpayers. That matters, of course, because if you inflate the cost of building a bridge and you have a fixed amount of money to spend on new bridges, you’ll get fewer bridges.

For example, the bill’s “Buy American” provision is nothing more than performative patriotism and a handout to politically powerful unions. By mandating that materials used in road, bridge, and rail projects come primarily from the United States, Congress will effectively hike prices and engage in arbitrary protectionism.”

“The infrastructure bill could have been an opportunity to reform other federal rules that unnecessarily drive up the cost of building infrastructure. Like the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires that most workers on federally subsidized building projects are paid the local “prevailing wage” negotiated by unions even if the workers themselves are not unionized—and only about 13 percent of construction workers are part of a union. The Davis-Bacon Act rules can increase the costs of infrastructure projects by as much as 20 percent.

Similarly, the infrastructure package could have suspended or eliminated parts of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in order to streamline environmental reviews of infrastructure projects. Currently, NEPA reviews take more than four years on average, and they are frequently used as tools to block development for reasons that often have little to do with the environment.”

Barely Legal Strippers Now Illegal in Texas

“In May, the Lone Star State raised the minimum legal age for working in a sexually oriented business from 18 to 21.”

“Since the new law passed, adult businesses in Texas have laid off “droves” of 18- to 20-year-old workers, according to the Texas Entertainment Association (TEA), an organization that represents the interests of sex-oriented businesses and one of the plaintiffs challenging S.B. 315. Kevin Richardson, a TEA member who owns five adult cabarets, told the court he had to lay off more than 700 people due to the new law.

Evanny Salazar is one of the young adults who lost a job after S.B. 315 reclassified her as a child. Salazar “worked at two adult cabarets in San Antonio, Texas, where she earned about $1,000 a night” and did not witness any human trafficking, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman noted in a July ruling. “Before she worked as an exotic dancer, Salazar was homeless and lived in her car,” he wrote. “Her job at the adult cabarets allowed Salazar to obtain housing and cover her living expenses. Since losing her job as an exotic dancer, Salazar has become homeless again and works for Door Dash [sic], where she makes about $30 a night.””

The Texas Social Media Law Is Blatantly Unconstitutional

“Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who..signed a bill that aims to restrict social media platforms’ editorial discretion, says the new law “protects Texans from wrongful censorship” and thereby upholds their “first amendment rights.” The law, H.B. 20, is scheduled to take effect on December 2, but that probably will not happen, because it is blatantly unconstitutional and inconsistent with federal law.

Abbott, a former Texas Supreme Court justice who served as his state’s attorney general from 2002 to 2015, presumably knows that. But whether he is sincerely mistaken or cynically catering to his party’s base, H.B. 20 reflects widespread confusion among conservatives about what the First Amendment requires and allows.”

“the First Amendment applies to the government and imposes no constraints on private parties.

To the contrary, the First Amendment guarantees a private publisher’s right to exercise editorial discretion. The Supreme Court emphasized that point in a 1974 case involving a political candidate’s demand that The Miami Herald publish his responses to editorials that criticized him.

The constitutional protection against compelled publication does not disappear when we move from print to the internet, or from a news outlet to a website that invites users to post their own opinions. As Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted when he was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, “the Government may not…tell Twitter or YouTube what videos to post” or “tell Facebook or Google what content to favor.”

Yet that is what H.B. 20 purports to do. The law says “social media platforms” with more than 50 million active monthly users in the U.S. may not “censor” content based on the “viewpoint” it expresses. That edict covers any effort to “block, ban, remove, deplatform, demonetize, de-boost, restrict, deny equal access or visibility to, or otherwise discriminate against expression.”

H.B. 20 makes a few exceptions, including “expression that directly incites criminal activity” and “specific threats of violence” that target people based on their membership in certain protected categories. But otherwise the rule’s reach is vast: As two trade organizations note in a federal lawsuit they filed last week, H.B. 20 “would unconstitutionally require platforms like YouTube and Facebook to disseminate, for example, pro-Nazi speech, terrorist propaganda, foreign government disinformation, and medical misinformation.””

FOSTA’s Failure: The 2018 Sex Trafficking Law Has Been Worse Than Useless So Far

“FOSTA and the takedown of Backpage have made finding and fighting sex criminals more difficult, according to the GAO report.

Since FOSTA’s passage, the commercial sex ad market has become more highly fragmented and more likely to be based overseas. This “heightens already-existing challenges law enforcement face in gathering tips and evidence,” the report says. Those running the newer platforms often “host servers abroad, reside abroad, use offshore bank accounts and financial institutions, or introduce third parties to attempt to obscure or distance themselves from the day-to-day operation of their platforms, according to DOJ officials.”

Whereas sites like Backpage and Craigslist were willing to work with legal authorities—reporting suspicious ads, turning over information relevant to prosecutions, etc.—the new crop of commercial sex ad platforms are much less responsive and helpful. As a result, prosecuting their users has become more difficult, as has finding the victims of sex trafficking.”

The Feds Can’t Compel States to Enforce Restrictions on Guns or Immigrants

“Contrary to what the Times reported, that policy is not “legally shaky.” It relies on the well-established anti-commandeering doctrine, which says the federal government cannot compel state and local officials to enforce its criminal laws or regulatory schemes.

That doctrine is rooted in the basic design of our government, which limits Congress to a short list of specifically enumerated powers and leaves the rest to the states or the people, as the 10th Amendment makes clear. That division of powers gives states wide discretion to experiment with different policies, some of which are bound to offend the Times.

The paper suggests that defending state autonomy is disreputable, because that argument was “deployed in the past in the South to resist antislavery and civil rights laws.” But federalism does not give states a license to violate rights guaranteed by the Constitution or to flout laws authorized by it.

Although the Times tries to tar the anti-commandeering principle as racist, the same basic idea was a crucial weapon for Northern states that refused to help the federal government enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. Today that principle likewise means that state and local officials have no obligation to participate in the “deportation crackdowns” that the Times decries.

Similarly, the ongoing collapse of marijuana prohibition—a development the Times welcomes—would be impossible if states were obligated to participate in the federal war on weed. While both progressives and conservatives might wish that federalism could be limited to achieving results they like, that is not how constitutional principles work.”

Magistrate Judges Took Bribes, Stole Money and Mishandled Cases. South Carolina Officials Now Want Reform.

“Hand-picked by politicians, some magistrates were found to have accepted bribes, stolen money, flubbed trials, trampled over constitutional protections and mishandled even the most basic elements of criminal cases.

And though they handle hundreds of thousands of misdemeanor and civil cases every year, roughly three-quarters of the state’s magistrates have never practiced law in their life, the investigation found.”

“The investigation found that a flaw in the application process removed a requirement for magistrates to disclose if they have been disciplined for misconduct by the state’s judicial watchdog. A dozen sitting judges with prior ethics offenses skated through their last reappointment, no questions asked, the investigation found.”

“Magistrates are the busiest judges in the state. They sit in judgment on cases involving petty thefts, drunken driving, domestic violence, assaults and disorderly conduct. They also issue arrest warrants, set bail, preside over trials and conduct preliminary hearings to assess if there is sufficient probable cause to support felony charges such as murder, rape and robbery.

Yet the news organizations’ investigation found that most magistrates are not lawyers and could not represent someone in a court of law — yet they preside over them.

Davis has stressed that the state must bolster its legal qualifications for all magistrates. Though he has not proposed details, he would at least increase their mandatory legal training from the current minimum of 57 1/2 hours.

By comparison, South Carolina is stricter with its barbers: Their training school mandates 1,500 hours.”