Results tagged “ACLU” from The Court Reporter

Audio Recording Chicago Cops Doing Their Jobs Okay

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American Civil Liberties Union lawyers were audio recording Chicago police officers while they were performing their duties in public as part of an effort to monitor policing practices in that city.

Enter another group of lawyers from the Cook County State's Attorney who wanted block the ACLU lawyers and the public, in general, from audio recording cops doing their jobs.

The cops were speaking loud enough to be heard by a passerby, according to the ACLU.

But the  state lawyers said it is eavesdropping on cops and against Illinois state law.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit blocked the Cook County attorneys from prosecuting ACLU staff for audio recording Chicago cops as part of its advocacy for changes in police practices in that city.
The State Attorney barristers appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the high court refused to hear the case and let the federal appeals court ruling stand.

Two Illinois state court judges have ruled that the application of the law to prosecute people for recording police in a public place is unconstitutional, according to the ACLU.

The ACLU also noted that a Cook County jury last year acquitted a young woman who was charged with the eavesdropping offense.

Harvey Grossman, Legal Director of the ACLU of Illinois stated that nation's high court decision not to review the case will have a ripple effect throughout the state of Illinois.

"We are hopeful that we are moving closer to a day when no one in Illinois will risk prosecution when they audio record public officials performing their duties. Empowering individuals and organizations in this fashion will ensure additional transparency and oversight of public officials across the State," Grossman stated.



DNA and Other Evidence Frees Man from Louisiana's Death Row

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NEW ORLEANS -  A man who has been on death row in Louisiana since 1997 was exonerated today of the murder and rape of a young relative after DNA and other evidence proved he didn't commit the crime, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Damon A. Thibodeaux walked out of the Louisiana State Penitentiary today after the court dismissed the indictment against him, ACLU officials stated.

The ACLU  joined the Innocence Project  along with private lawyers worked on overturning the conviction against Thibodeaux.

Thibodeaux was tried in the killing of his 14-year-old step-cousin Crystal Champagne whose body was found on July 20, 1996, a day after she had left her apartment to go to a nearby supermarket, ACLU officials stated.

After being interviewed for nine hours, Thibodeaux confessed to raping and murdering Champagne.

The confession was the sole basis for Thibodeaux's conviction and death sentence, according to the ACLU.

 "This is a tragic illustration of why law enforcement must record the entire interrogation of any witness or potential suspect in any investigation involving a serious crime," said Attorney Steve Kaplan from Minneapolis who was on Thibodeaux's legal team.  "When juries learn that the accused has apparently confessed, they invariably have a difficult time questioning the reliability and truthfulness of the confession."


ACLU Settles "Texas Highway Robbery" Lawsuit

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NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union today settled a class-action lawsuit filed against police in an East Texas city who took cash from Black and Latino motorists during traffic stops by threatening them with baseless criminal charges, according to ACLU officials.

It is estimated that police fromTenaha and Shelby County seized $3 million in at least 140 cases between 2006 and 2008 after asking Black and Latino drivers if they were carrying cash, according to the ACLU.

If they were, ACLU officials claimed that the drivers were ordered to sign over the cash to the city or face charges of money laundering or other serious crimes, say ACLU officials.

Almost all of the stops involved Black and Latino drivers, according to the ACLU.

None of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed by the ACLU in 2008 were arrested or charged with a crime.

In one incident, the ACLU stated that a Black man and his partner, a white woman, were detained during a 2007 traffic stop. The officer threatened to charge the couple with money laundering and to put their children  who were traveling with them, in foster care, if they refused to sign papers agreeing to forfeit the $6,000 they had, ACLU officials stated.

"This was a brazen case of highway robbery, plain and simple," Elora Mukherjee, a staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program stated in a press release. "Law enforcement needs to focus on protecting communities they serve, not policing for profit."

Under the consent decree filed in U.S. District Court in Marshall, Texas, police will be required to follow rigorous rules that govern traffic stops in Tenaha and Shelby County.  All stops will be videotaped, the officer must state the reason for the stop and basis for suspecting criminal activity, according to the ACLU.

In addition, officers can no longer use dogs in conducting traffic stops. No property may be seized during a search unless the officer first gives the driver a reason for why  it should be taken.  All property improperly taken must be returned within 30 business days.

Also any asset forfeiture revenue seized during a traffic stop must be donated to non-profit organizations or used for the audio or training required by the settlement, ACLU officials state.

In Texas, the law allows for the confiscation of personal property that police believe is connected to the commission of a crime.


The Court Reporter
Raul Hernandez has spent years writing stories about the drama that unfolds in the courtroom. Here he answers common questions, share some insights on the judicial system and passes along some of the little things that make the Ventura County courts an interesting place to be. You can contact him at