Due process or git-‘r-done?
I am writing in response to the Oct. 25 letter from Milfred C. Weeks [“Does State Trump Nation?“]. I thought it worthwhile to disabuse him of some of the misconceptions he has and to inform him and your other readers of the actual basis in law for the current state of affairs as relates to criminal proceedings.
First, the federal Constitution trumps state laws or state constitutions in the few areas [in] which the states surrendered their sovereignty, and only those areas. Please remember that the Constitution of the United States of America (1787) grants to the general government 17 limited, enumerated powers. [Today], this seems hard to believe; however, with the bankruptcy of the United States in March of 1933, the United States was converted from a representative republic into a legislative democracy under emergency powers. What we have now are states that are instrumentalities of the federal government. …
[However], under the police powers inherent in any sovereign, the states are sovereign within their sphere of sovereignty. Criminal cases are one of those areas … . The North Carolina Constitution (1971) allows the state to prosecute misdemeanors without a jury in the district courts. This was done for commercial purposes to allow the state to collect a lot of revenue on traffic citations without the expense of juries and courts of record. Since most people plead guilty and pay the fine, thereby waiving their right to challenge the charges leveled by their accuser, many states went for the commercial expediency of juryless courts at this district-court level.
This system is defended as constitutional because if one loses their misdemeanor criminal case in district court, an appeal is a complete do-over. By simply saying “I appeal,” the defendant moves up to Superior Court — a court of record with the option of a jury in what is called a “trial de novo,” which simply means a new trial. Everything that happened in district court is a nullity. So due process is presumably preserved, since if you have the time, inclination and desire to “git ‘r done” with a jury, you can use the district-court case as a practice proceeding.
I find this an unacceptable state of affairs, since anything that makes it easier for the state to fleece its citizens and harder for the people to protect themselves from the abuses of government is a bad thing.
As an aside, Mr. Weeks mentions that Mr. Chairamonte has availed himself of the services of a public defender. … A public defender is not there to prove his client innocent. His job is to make sure the defendant has his due-process rights protected at every stage so that he cannot mount an effective appeal. The public defender works for the state, and it is the state that is prosecuting you in a criminal proceeding. So if you think that the public defender is going to bust his hump to prove you innocent, then I must presume you still believe in the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy. …
— Ed Wahler
Turning the other cheek
I was delighted to see the letter [“Bully for Asheville,” Oct. 18.] by Mr. Harris (from Alabama) published in the Mountain Xpress! Mr. Harris noted that our country gained freedom from England by guns, guts and loving our country more than ourselves. I wonder how he would interpret Canada’s freedom from England, which was obtained without guns or violence?
I would like to address the claim Mr. Harris made about those people he calls “bullies” — that “you can only defeat one by striking him harder than he can strike you.”
While Mr. Harris was very young, there were racially motivated bombings in his state — surely the work of bullies. It was fairly certain that those bombings were done by white folks, just as we are fairly certain that 9/11 attacks were done by men who are from the Middle East. In standing up to those bullies in Alabama, did the victims of those bombings have the right to bomb in retaliation against their fellow citizens who happened to have white skin? That is essentially what we have done in the Middle East. Does Mr. Harris think that retaliation bombings in Alabama would have been a good idea?
I am grateful for the words and wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr.: “Stand up for righteousness, stand up for truth; and God will be at your side forever.” I think by not using violence against the bullies, King saved our country from a horrible fate.
Currently, America is delivering the freedom of the grave and the democracy of death to hundreds of thousands of innocents (and making life miserable for millions more), all in an effort to strike at the bullies who attacked us. I think this is a terrible mistake that will only promote more terrorism and has failed to get the true perpetrators. The use of widespread violence by America against our fellow human beings saddens me greatly.
— Susan Oehler
The ghosts of Asheville past
Few people in Asheville’s diverse community can tout themselves as true locals. However, though not born here, I call myself a proud local, having located here almost 15 years ago. I have watched downtown go from a sleepy little cascade of empty storefronts and a few coffee-house dives to a thriving community filled with local artisans from all walks of life. It is fantastic and wonderful, and I believe it is a godsend that Asheville is so progressive.
However, all good things must come to an end. Working as a clerk in downtown Asheville, I was able to experience the full throttle of tourism and the effect on local businesses. You would think with all the hustle and bustle from New Yorkers and Floridians visiting and moving to Asheville, local businesses would be thriving beyond all measure. Unfortunately this is not the case. In fact, over the past 14 months we have watched business [after] business close or relocate.
The number-one reason why local businesses are closing their long-open doors? Realty costs. Downtown landowners are realizing they have a mountain mecca on their hands, and they can double or even triple their rents! Maybe rent control might be a good local agenda for election 2008?
Starting back with my favorite little dive Vincent’s Ear (may it RIP), to Beanstreets, Max & Rosie’s, Bonnie’s Little Corner and most recently and heartbreaking, M’Press. These are local institutions that gave Asheville so much of its flavor and distinct culture. These are local families and friends who keep this community alive by putting money back into the community! Now we watch them fall like dominos, and who can afford the new storefronts? Who will replace them? National chains have the money that no locals can afford. God(dess) forbid we get a Pottery Barn downtown! The culture of downtown is disappearing at a rapid rate, only to be replaced with trendy, over-priced, tourist-enticing kitsch.
Starbucks and Pottery Barns aren’t progress, but a corporate decadence that is spreading across America like a disease. Local matters — and for all you people who are proud to call yourself local, whether you were born here or you relocated last week, do your best to support local franchise and keep Asheville’s culture alive.
— Jen G. Bowen
Reject civil-rights pabulum
I take strong objection to the assertions UNCA Professor Mark Gibney made in his interview [“Despair and Hope,” Oct. 25] regarding legal and human-rights issues.
He makes the statement, with regard to the recent federal interrogation legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president, that the judicial branch “declare[s] what the law is … [They] decide what the law is, not the president.” Mr. Gibney is wrong on this account. The judicial branch doesn’t decide law. It merely gets to interpret it. At my last check, lawmaking and law implementation still resided with Congress and the executive branch. Because Mr. Gibney and other activist lawyers may have a problem with this concept does not change it.
Further, I disagree with his broad and imaginative interpretation of “human rights.” Even a casual reading of our founding documents lists a sampling of the rights upon which our government was instituted: “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Note that Mr. Gibney’s “education, housing, food and water and social security” were not listed. The reason for the difference is profound, revealing and is the central nub of where thinking like the professor’s goes badly astray. The founders reasoned that people were autonomous, responsible individuals who — given life and the liberty to pursue their own happiness — could supply their own education, their own housing, food, water and social security.
To be sure, these goals are laudable. However, laudable goals are not necessarily “rights.” But only by becoming reclassified as such can they satisfy the strong central-state/one-world concept certain moderns have envisioned. So they have undertaken to overhaul the original intent of unalienable (God-given) rights recognized by the founders to include a number of items that can only be supplied by (an ungodly) state through redistributionist policies.
It is obvious from the interview that Mr. Gibney’s intent is that these be imposed from the courts, no doubt aided and abetted by elite amicus briefs such as he would be only too happy to supply.
While Mr. Gibney is dreaming up new rights, I have another to throw into the hopper: university education free of such facile pabulum regurgitated from lefty activists dressed up like professors.
— Mark Ruscoe