Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Brandon Hein Needs Your Help

The other day, I wrote an article concerning the rejection by the 9th Circuit Court to hear Brandon Hein's case. As mentioned in the article, this was Brandon's last chance at a rehearing and it appeared that his fate was sealed: 10 more years (at least) in prison. After writing the article, I contacted Brandon's parents, Gene & Janice, to see if there was anything left to be done. I have been following this story for close to a year now and have been in contact with the Hein's sporadically. From what they told me, it is now in the hands of Governor Schwarzenegger and a letter writing campaign is now underway. I ask that anyone who is either familiar with the case, or cares at all about the state of our judicial system, to join me in writing to the governor on behalf of Brandon.

For those who are not familiar with the case; you can go to to get the particulars of the case. You may also ask for a guide to writing the governor by e-mailing to You can let Gene and Francis know that I sent you and you can expect a quick reply. For additional information on Brandon's case, go to the "Archives" section of my blog and click on "2009" and then click on "August". There you will find my original article, written on August 24, 2009, describing the events that took place leading up to this terrible injustice.

If our history has shown us anything, it's that if enough people voice their concern over an issue; our government has no recourse but to pay attention and to act on it. Brandon Hein, now 33, needs our voices to be heard NOW!! Governor Schwarzenegger is leaving office in January of 2011 so the clock is ticking. He has the power to right a terrible wrong but only WE can make it happen. So please, join me in writing to the governor (you do not need to be a resident of California) asking for the
IMMEDIATE commutation of Brandon's sentence, so that he may have a chance at living a productive life. I would say that 15 years is a long enough sentence for someone who did not harm a single person but had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. On behalf of the Hein family, I thank you for your efforts.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Brandon Hein's Appeals Exhausted

On July 16th, the 9th Circuit Court denied Brandon Hein's final request for a rehearing. This was Brandon's last chance so, after 15 years of passionate pleas and legal jockeying; Brandon is now destined to spend at least 10 more years in prison before he becomes eligible for parole. I can now say, without hesitation, that in all my years of studying and witnessing our judicial system, I have NEVER seen a greater miscarriage of justice.

What has become of our great nation? The fact that our country, the one that has been perceived to be the model for humanity, tolerance, and fairness, can allow such a travesty is terribly disconcerting. While we sit in judgment of the atrocities perpetrated by other nations, a young man in our own country will spend at least 25 years of his life for doing nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yes, it's that simple!

When I was first contacted regarding this decision, my first reaction was a physical one. The next was emotional as I hung my head in shame. Having lived through the Vietnam era, Watergate, the Iran-Contra affair, the invasion of Iraq, Abu Ghraib, and Gitmo; I can honestly say that this is the first time that I was ashamed to be an American. While some may view that as hyperbole-I can assure you that it is not.

Recently, the Supreme Court has made some rulings that I found to be contrary to the values instilled in me as a child. The two that immediately jump out are the ones dealing with post-conviction DNA testing and the decision to allow corporations to be granted the same rights as an individual in regard to campaign funding. While, in my estimation, they pale in comparison to the ruling handed down by the 9th Circuit Court; I find them to be quite disturbing nonetheless.

As a liberal, I am forever accused of ignoring both the intent of our founders and the sanctity of the Constitution. Truth be told, while I believe the founders to have been men of incredible courage and forethought; I also believe they were human beings with human flaws. And while I see the Constitution to be the foundation for the greatest nation on earth; I also see it as a document that needs to adjust with our forever changing times. How else does one explain the need for it to be amended 27 times since its initial ratification in 1787?

At the root of Brandon Hein's situation is the Murder-Felony Rule, an abomination that I have addressed in previous articles. I daresay that our founders never intended for our judicial system, at any level, to be granted the power to enact and employ such a hideous and inflexible law. The same can be said for the detention and treatment of a number of the prisoners still being held at Guantanamo Bay. Many of the detainees were deemed to be "non-combatants" and posed no threat to our country years ago (i.e. Ighurs). Yet, they still remain imprisoned. Two of the primary tenets of our judicial system, "due process" and "habeus corpus", have been all but ignored by our government-past and present.

Make no mistake about it; the American flag will still fly proudly from the porch of my home but our feeling of "exceptionalism" may require another look. Brandon Hein now faces the very real possibility of entering prison at the age of 18 and not leaving it until, at least, the age of 43! His fate now rests solely on a commutation of sentence by Governor Arnold Schwarnegger, who leaves office in January of 2011. It's important to note that were it not for Governor Schwarznegger, Brandon would not have a chance at parole at all. The Murder-Felony Rule offers only two options upon conviction: death or life without the possibility of parole.

I urge all of you, as both Americans and human beings, to write to Governor Schwarznegger pleading that this terrible injustice be minimized by commuting Brandon's sentence all together, before leaving office. For information on how to contact the governor and to learn more about Brandon's case, please go to:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Huge Day in Massachusetts

Today, all eyes will be on my home state, Massachusetts. The senatorial race between Martha Coakley(D) and Scott Brown(R) has evolved into a referendum of sorts regarding the health care bill as well as the policies of the Obama administration. I am active in many political discussion boards online and the focus of many has been today's election. The problem is that very few people know what either candidate stands for. The conservatives see Brown as nothing more than the much needed vote #41 while the liberals see Coakley as necessary to carry on the goals of the late Ted Kennedy. Over the past month; local television has been inundated with ads from both campaigns and I, for one, will be happy when this is over. Though I believe Coakley has run a "dirty" campaign; I intend to cast my vote for her.

While some will say that I am voting along party lines; I prefer to think I am voting on the important issues aside from health care reform. Coakley has been a strong advocate for regulation of Wall St. while Brown has not. Coakley has been in favor of removing the pre-existing provision in health care while Brown has not. Furthermore, Coakley's record as Attorney General is laudable. As a state representative; Brown has voted in favor of Republican legislation 96% of the time. I have no desire to see the Bush/Cheney policies return and Brown appears to favor that approach. It's difficult to tout yourself as an independent thinker, as Brown does, when you have a voting record like that.

The emergence of the Tea Party will play a major role in today's election as well as the mid-term elections this fall. Their influence and power seems to grow by the day while their intelligence does not. It is no secret that the Tea Party is merely an extension of the FOX network which, in my opinion, provides more false information than accurate information. Their pundits are nothing more than well paid, misinformed celebrities. In a future article, I will spend more time on Beck, Coulter, Hannity et al but for now; my focus will remain on today's election.

Most polls have the election at a dead heat while others whose credibility is suspect, to say the least, have Brown with an almost insurmountable lead. As for myself, I will stay tuned to the local stations as the individual precinct numbers come in. I have never placed much stock in polls and let's not forget the famous "Dewey Defeats Truman" faux paus in the late 40s. I think a nice nap will be in order today as I suspect the final tally will not be known until very late this evening or early tomorrow morning. As an aside; it is beginning to snow rather hard here in Central Mass. and I fear a low turnout will not bode well for Martha Coakley. We'll just have to wait and see! GO COAKLEY!!