Thursday, April 24, 2014

Judge Humiliated During Tsarnaev Hearing

Judge Humiliated During Tsarnaev Hearing


On April 16, 2014 TMO attended a status hearing for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, who faces a 30-count federal indictment for his alleged role in the Boston marathon bombings. Tsarnaev was not present in the courtroom, nor were his family members. The 1½-hour hearing took place before Judge George O’Toole. The US government was represented by Aloke Chakravarty, Nadine Pellegrini, and William Weinreb while only two of Tsarnaev’s lawyers were present: Miriam Conrad and David Bruck, the death penalty specialist recently appointed to the team. US District Attorney Carmen Ortiz was in the courtroom.
“Judge O’Toole wasted no time announcing his decisions on two of the motions before the court. Without hearing any arguments, he matter-of-factly denied the government’s motion for a protective order barring Tsarnaev from viewing the autopsy photos of the four people killed in the bombing and its aftermath. He also denied, without prejudice, a defense motion to dismiss several counts of the indictment. The defense team had argued that the charges were redundant and duplicative. ‘I think it’s premature,’ Judge O’Toole explained, adding that the motion could be revisited at the time of the trial,” reports Victoria Liberty of the Freedom Bulletin.
The first discussion topic was Tsarnaev’s visitation rights under SAMs (Special Administrative Measures).
Attorney Bruck requested SAMs be vacated. He complained that  Tsarnaev’s legal team is not allowed to speak with him without an FBI officer present, which creates a problem since the FBI is on the prosecution team. This results in “fearful conversation” with family members and denies lawyers the ability to see the “story of the family.”
US Attorney Pelligrini countered that the SAMs have already been modified. There are now 12 people who have permission to visit Tsarnaev, including lawyers, paralegals and investigators. Pelligrini said the defense is “unable to control what the defendant says.”
“What’s quite clear is the defendant felt clear to say whatever he wanted, despite the presence of the FBI investigator.”
Bruck said there is no national security reason to allow an FBI agent to listen in on family conversations. The FBI will spin anything said.
They were both referring to a recent incident when Tsarnaev joked to his sister about the SAMs restrictions, making light of the uncomfortable situation. The FBI leaked to the media that he was making inappropriate statements that demonstrated his lack of remorse for his crime.
“At least we want the FBI agent who’s listening in on these conversations not to pass information to the prosecution,” argued Bruck.
The prosecution argued that Tsarnaev can always talk to lawyers freely, but when his sisters are there it is a social visit that warrants FBI monitoring. This makes very little sense from an investigative standpoint. The FBI presence can only make the Tsarnaevs nervous about talking. If the FBI wanted information they would leave them alone with a recording device.
The government insisted that Tsarnaev will “pass messages” to the public if they let him talk. “Information is being transmitted!” Pelligrini warned.
Tsarnaev had been imprisoned without incident until Attorney General Eric Holder, alarmed by the thousands of letters Tsarnaev received supporting his innocence, called for restrictions on Tsarnaev, claiming there was “substantial risk” that his “communications or contacts with persons could result in death or serious bodily injury” to others, insinuating that he had “followers” that would commit violence at his command.
Judge O’Toole sided with the defense. He said the normal prison visitor screening and security measures were sufficient for public safety. He felt the defense is being limited in their ability to defend their client by the FBI presence during their meetings. He ruled that since family visits are only allowed with a lawyer present, they should be considered legal visits exempt from monitoring and not as social visits, since understanding family dynamics is relevant to the defense.
“If the security interest is higher than the investigative interest, then a party other than the prosecution should be present,” said O’Toole. “The defense team ought to have an opportunity to have a 2 or 3 way conversation among siblings. I don’t think the safety, security issue looms very large.”
The government rather insolently retorted that the Warden is able to restrict visits even without SAMs.
“Is the court ordering the BOP to not impose restrictions?” Weinreb seemed to dare the judge.
Weinreb openly undermined the judge’s authority, telling him if you order this, we will go around you. The prosecution seemed to be talking to the judge like an employee!
Judge O’Toole submitted to government pressure, conceding to allow in a BOP lawyer to argue against reducing prison restrictions before he made a decision in two weeks.
Next, the lawyers moved on to discovery disputes.
Defense Attorney Miriam Conrad stated that “as a result of government failure to meet discovery deadlines, we are now at a disadvantage.”
Conrad said the government is not following normal protocol to respond within two weeks to discovery requests and the defense had not received certain long requested documents until Friday last week.
“We have had no opportunity to submit a response,” she said.
Conrad stated that the defense still does not have the Todashev interview materials, and insisted that they are entitled to know what he said during the FBI interview.
The government says the information should not be public.
“But they have leaked so much to the public already,” Conrad argued.
Weinreb said the government has no legal obligation to produce the requested materials, although they agreed to voluntarily provide some information.
The defense wants information on how Tamerlan “slit the neck of 3 helpless people,” Bruck explained, because, “This case is very much a story about a family and the relationships between them.”
“Todashev implicated himself and Tamerlan in the Waltham murders, not our client. It’s not clear if Dzhokhar knew of the crime,” stated Conrad.
Weinreb said Todashev’s interview is not related to this case and “has no relevance.” This is curious since it was the prosecution that added the alleged confession into the court documents in the first place.
Now he says Tamerlan’s influence on Dzhokhar “relates to what he knew, not what happened.”
In court papers, Dzhokhar’s lawyers argued that Tamerlan “was an all-powerful force who could not be ignored or disobeyed.”
Weinreb responded that there is no indication that Dzhokhar knew of Tamerlan’s murderousness, and that is all that is relevant.
O’Toole had denied the request in November for Todashev documents on the grounds that law enforcement privilege protects disclosure of files in an ongoing investigation. Now that the FBI has issued a report clearing itself of any wrongdoing regarding the killing of a potential witness, O’Toole said he would ponder the defense request for the Todashev statement after viewing it privately, “in camera.”
The ACLU is currently suing the FBI and US District Attorney Carmen Ortiz over the FBI murder of Todashev. The ACLU of Massachusetts is calling for state Attorney General Martha Coakley to conduct her own independent investigation into Massachusetts law enforcement’s involvement in the Todashev shooting in the name of transparency and accountability.
The defense has argued that the FBI had pressured Tamerlan to become an informant. Could Todashev have had damaging information about links between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the FBI? A genuine investigation would reveal information about the FBI that could hurt the case for the prosecution.
“While some of this circle of friends in Florida, like Todashev, faced pressure to confess to participating in or having knowledge of the Waltham crime, others, according to CAIR’s Shibly, have been told that if they want to be left alone and not deported, they need to become informants. He says several of those harassed have opted to return to Russia rather than become spies for the FBI in Florida’s Muslim community,” reports firedoglake.
I have to assume the defense is aware that Tamerlan probably didn’t commit the triple murder in Waltham – one of the victims was his best friend. An investigative journalist for WBUR told TMO she suspects the crime was related to a local drug ring.
However, for the sake of argument involving requesting documents related to Todashev, the defense appears to accept the government story. They’ve also suggested that Tamerlan suffered from mental illness, saying his “paranoia and distress” were fueled by an FBI attempt to recruit him as an informant to report on the Chechen and Muslim communities in Boston.
“We base this on information from our client’s family and other sources that the FBI made more than one visit to talk with (Tamerlan’s parents) and Tamerlan, questioned Tamerlan about his internet searches, and asked him to be an informant,” the defense motion states.
The government denies the allegation.
Defense lawyers want to see FBI documents to confirm their allegation. Naturally, the government is not cooperating.
Next, the defense argued for access to lab reports and other materials. The government is delaying or refusing to provide information about its mental/physical examinations of Tsarnaev and other investigations including computer searches.
“How can prosecutors argue with a straight face that computer or phone searches aren’t material to the Tsarnaev case? I don’t know how a search of a computer and what they revealed is anything other than an examination under rules of discovery!” Conrad argued.
“They thought it was material to search 12 computers. If we have to conduct our own studies of hard drives it will take longer and be very expensive.”
Obviously whoever has Tsarnaev’s debit card, computer and cell phone information can easily figure out where he was and what he was doing before, after and during the marathon.
Aloke Chakravarty, who was the lead prosecutor in the case against Tarek Mehanna, whose trial was also overseen by O’Toole, now argues that evidence from government computer searches isn’t relevant to Tsarnaev. But at Mehanna’s trial he heavily relied on chat messages and computer files to make the case for the prosecution. If the government doesn’t want to reveal computer and chat records now, this would imply that the information obtained from Tsarnaev’s computer/phone might be more useful for the defense than for the prosecution.
When the defense asked for any information obtained under secret surveillance programs, the prosecution said they will not reveal this information, unless they plan to use it at trial.
As she asked for FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) information, such as intelligence that the Russian government had shared about Tamerlan and his radical leanings, Conrad commented, “I have been puzzled all along by the government’s rather opaque responses to our requests for FISA notice, and I continue to be puzzled.”
Conrad argued, mentioning the Patriot Act: “First the government says they do not intend to use FISA obtained evidence, but there are indications of Homeland Security surveillance. Then the government takes the position that we are not entitled to notice their data mining. The defense has a right to challenge how information was obtained and to challenge admissibility.”
The defense may move to suppress evidence gleaned from computer searches on the grounds that the searches exceeded the scope of the warrant. Any such motions are due on May 7th.
Chakravarty stated, “The government doesn’t want to be in a position of foreclosure just because the defense provoked a response. We can put to rest right now whether there is any secret evidence. There isn’t.”
O’Toole said that because the government said it doesn’t plan to use any surveillance material at trial, there is nothing for him to rule on. He denied the defense motion to obtain this information. Prosecutors will have to give proper notice if they plan to use any evidence, and if they don’t, they can’t.
O’Toole says he plans to discuss expert witness disclosures at the next hearing on June 18. He chuckled aloud to himself that this is no ordinary case.
Dzokhar Tsarnaev is scheduled to be tried on November 3.
Conrad expressed doubts that the defense could be ready by that date, given the government stalling to avoid handing over documents.
“I’ll make you a believer,” said O’Toole, who intends to stick to the schedule no matter what.
I sincerely hope this trial will proceed with a fact-based format rather than the tactics that Miriam Ortiz and her employees have previously used, basically overwhelming the jury with irrelevant, unsubstantial, prejudicial, and downright false evidence.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Witnessing Yourself in Everyday Life


The Path Towards Self-Realization: Part V
Witnessing yourself during meditation is important, but putting the focus on witnessing ourselves is also a wonderful way to deal with problems in everyday life. For instance: Instead of getting all depressed and wailing, “I’m ugly, worthless, and unloveable!,” be a witness of yourself and observe: “I’ve been going through a lot of problems lately, and when Joseph broke up with me, I overreacted. I don’t even care about being with him that much, I just didn’t like my ego being damaged.”
It is up to you to face up to yourself, challenge those defenses covering up the truth, and say, “I will look at you! I will listen to what my Psyche is trying to tell me!” You must bring your repressed fears and desires into your consciousness and into the light, in order to view them objectively. Otherwise, if pushed into the subconscious, they will haunt you in dreams; a pervading feeling of emptiness and longing; anxiety which follows you throughout every moment; or a constant driving anger, which causes you to rebel against your own true nature as well as against others.
If you are open and honest with yourself, you can know and realize what your hangups are. Think back to your childhood – What has made you fear the most? What motivates you more than anything else? Is it one and the same thing? Often, I find that the thing one fears the most is the same thing one longs for above all else. What angers you? What is it you really want? And who or what have you been fighting all your life? Why?
Through understanding, self-awareness, and acceptance, you can shed light on the monster which controls you – your fear of dealing with your imperfections. Once you can view the monster objectively, you will find that it is not a monster after all, but a great potential of your being, which has as of yet been unrealized! Once you get at the root of your anger, you will be able to channel that great energy into creative and productive purposes, rather than destroying yourself by letting it eat away at you.
Accepting Your Limitations
The same voices, which nag you about the imperfections of others are the same voices that remind you of your own imperfections. In other words, finding fault in others is merely a projection of your own guilt. Instead of accepting your own self-criticism for your weaknesses, you project the blame towards others, whom you resent for some reason or another – often the reason being for pointing out your imperfections to you!
The strongest resentment is usually aimed at authority figures who censor you, take away your freedom, make you feel powerless, punish you, and in many cases, love you.  Often there is one person who represents to you everything you hate, envy, or fear in the world. All this person’s good points are invisible to you. You hardly think of this person as a human being, but as a symbol. In many cases, it is the parent of the same sex.
What you fail to realize, though, is that your bitterness against this person is more harmful to you than anything that this person could ever do to you. Even when you’re away from him, the bitterness fills you. You hate anything that reminds you of him, and when you are with this person, deep communication is impossible. Your anger is keeping you prisoner; stifling your personal evolution and maturation process. If you could find the strength within yourself to forgive this person for the crimes he has committed and commits against you, you will have taken a big step towards freeing yourself of the anger, fear, and guilt that controls you more than any person ever could!
Accepting those who limit you, control and frustrate you, is one of the most important steps in accepting the limitations you hate yourself for.
A teacher is not there to tell you what you already know. He is there to point out what you are doing wrong! The only way to figure out the right way is to know what the wrong ways are. Swallowing your pride and forgiving your teachers for mistakes they have made themselves in trying to help you is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. But it is also one of the most beautiful and beneficial steps you can take in your journey towards self-acceptance and contentedness.
Getting along with authority figures also makes life a lot easier for you. When you realize that most limitations are meant for your own good, you will often find yourself better able to convince the authority figure that you are trustworthy enough to have fewer limits. And even if that doesn’t work, you’ll be able to deal with limitations in a better way.
An analogy I like to use is this: Water needs to be channelled through the riverbank in order to flow anywhere. If there were no limits, the water would just turn into a swamp that doesn’t go anywhere, and where little but algae and weeds can grow.
Inner emotional turmoil is the root cause of almost all sickness. There can be a point in spiritual development where one stops being habitually plagued by colds and viruses. By breaking down the barriers that hide one’s inner light, your physical body gains a great deal of vitality and endurance!
People find other things besides the older generation at which to project the blame for their unhappiness: the place they live, their financial situation, their government, their school…
Unhappiness is a personal thing, which has less to do with outer circumstances than it seems. It is up to you to be happy in spite of difficulties. As they say, “Living well is the best revenge.”
Either change it now, or accept it. You can waste your life away being miserable, but that does no one any good. If you want to change a situation, but can’t, at least not in the present moment, then it’s best to accept it and stop blaming it for all your problems.
Find the good in all things unpleasant. Know that every difficult situation is a lesson, to teach you inner strength or to give you life experience; or it is a test of your adaptability and ability to overcome obstacles. If you look at it this way, you will not only be able to endure hard lessons, but you may even welcome them. If you can find something good in the things you detest, you are far wiser and nobler than those who fight against their supposed enemies.
Now, sometimes a situation is really bad. A parent is abusively cruel, or a government is unfairly harsh. These situations need to be dealt with. But it is much better to deal with them peacefully and with objectivity and understanding than to rebel and lash out, because that almost always makes the situation worse. Try to change “I hate you!” into “I accept that you are a person with weaknesses, not unlike myself – but what you are doing to me hurts a lot.”
It’s YOUR attitude you need to change first. Then, with understanding and awareness, patience and determination; with no need to protect your pride and ego but only a humble self-dignity, you can effectively deal with human beings, not monsters.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Path Towards Self-Realization: Part IV


Our Defenses: Intellect
People have many reactions and defenses to keep from realizing truths about themselves. One thing we do a lot is rationalize: to twist the truth around so that we see only what we feel like looking at. Another thing we do is project the blame at another person: the age-old, “But he started it!”
With our intellect, we deny our Psyche the chance to speak. We deny the existence of anything we cannot see or touch with our hands. Intellectual reasoning is definitely necessary in order to function in this world, but because it is limited to obvious, tangible evidence, we must be able to go beyond it! There are truths which we cannot grasp with our intellect alone. The unconscious has nothing to do with rational thought. (Just take a look at your dreams!) The Psyche speaks in riddles, which can only be solved with an open mind that can accept intuition as reality. Sometimes, when you stop trying to figure it all out, and just let it be, then you will suddenly understand!
Another thing we try to do with our intellectual defenses is to stifle our emotions. That won’t work either! When suppressed, emotions blow totally out of proportion until they become unmanageable. Being overwhelmed with emotion, be it pleasant or unpleasant, drains you of all objectivity and clarity of thought. For example: When you are in a bad mood, it is impossible to think of anything as positive, and likewise – if you are in a good mood, you have to ignore everything negative in order to stay in your bubble.
With all this struggling going on inside you – between your intellect and emotions, between your ego and the egos of others, between what you are and what you wish you were… it is very important just to sit quietly and feel what’s going on inside.
But instead of doing this, a lot of people try to drown out all these struggling voices by adding other voices on top of them! They are simply terrified to be alone with themselves. They surround themselves with company, they listen to loud music, or they watch TV constantly – violent programs to feed their aggression, or soap operas to help them ignore their own problems by worrying about the lives of fictional characters.
The best thing to do is, once in a while, turn off the TV, turn off the music, sit by yourself and listen to the birds chirping, and the wind rustling through the trees. Because underneath all of this struggling lies Psyche, your soul, and the answers to your problems. She is deep inside you, waiting patiently for all the voices to quiet so that she can speak clearly, tell you what you need to do, and give you the strength to do it.
What is Meditation?
A lot of people, when they hear the word “meditation,” think of people with shaved heads chanting “ommmmm.” Certainly this is one way to meditate, but meditation is really just finding the peace inside oneself and residing in it. Meditation is important to combat stress and mental fatigue, as well as a way to bring unrealized truths out from within you.
Like sleep is to the body, so is meditation to the mind. It rests and revitalizes the spirit, and you come out feeling stronger, calmer, and better able to handle stressful situations.  Don’t expect to have out-of-body experiences or revelations from God – though you might, but that’s not the main point of meditation – just as your dreams are not the main reason for sleeping!
A good way to meditate is to sit peacefully and listen to the rain pattering on the roof, but people find meditation through exercise, or manual labor such as gardening, shoveling snow, cooking or cleaning. Others find peace by doing artwork or chanting on beads. The best thing to do is whatever comes naturally to you, maybe something you’ve enjoyed doing as a child, such as hunting for four-leaf clovers or flying a kite. If you do most any activity with spiritual intention, with the higher purpose of cleansing and resting your spirit, the benefits from the activity will be multiplied.
Sitting Meditation
A beautiful spiritual practice is sitting meditation. In the west, it is also known as quiet contemplation. It often follows prayer and chanting exercises. Sit comfortably (with the back straight is healthiest) and listen to your breath going in and out. Your breath came with you into this life, carries you through each moment in life, and leaves you as you go out of this life. So, your breath is very important for concentration in meditation.
The goal of sitting meditation is to have complete silence in your mind, but this does not happen immediately. In fact, it may take several periods of meditation before you can attain even one moment free of thoughts. But that moment is really beautiful!
Don’t try not to think, because that is a thought in itself. Picture yourself as a mountain, and all your thoughts as clouds drifting by. Don’t cling to them, just watch them go by, and then bring your focused attention back to your breathing again. If you begin to doze or drift off into daydreams or worries, just gently bring yourself back into consciousness. One good way to help yourself to not drift off, is right before you start, make a little vow to yourself to sit quietly and focused for ten minutes or whatever amount of time you wish to meditate. In time, your thoughts will slow down automatically, gradually becoming less and less, until all you hear is the crystal silence inside yourself.
You can also practice meditation while doing chores or walking to school, or sitting on the bus. Do whatever you’re doing with focused attention on your breath, and be at one with whatever task you are performing. Not only will this give you peace of mind, but you will find that your work becomes much more pleasant this way, and gets done more carefully. Be awake at each moment. Not only when you are doing sitting meditation, but with everything you do, be aware and conscious of what you are doing.
When meditating, it is important to be a witness of yourself. Watch yourself breathing. If you are a witness to yourself, you will be less likely to be carried away by thoughts and daydreams. If you feel discomfort, just be a witness of it, don’t start getting involved with it. For instance, instead of thinking, “My leg is asleep! Oh it feels so strange! What should I do?”, just be aware that your leg is asleep, and don’t be bothered by it; or, should it become too uncomfortable to bear, simply move your leg, still with attention focused on breathing, deal with the situation calmly and purposefully until it is resolved.
Developing the strength to become a witness of yourself will positively affect every aspect of how you handle life.