April 2012

Need for a Warrant for GPS Tracking Still Not Settled

ACLU Files a Friend of the Court Brief in GPS Tracking Case

Yesterday, the national ACLU and ACLU of Oregon filed an amicus brief in United States v. Pineda-Moreno in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2007, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in Oregon, without a warrant, were able to place a GPS tracking device to the silver Jeep owned by Juan Pineda-Moreno while parked in his driveway. Pineda-Moreno was suspected of growing marijuana.

The Ninth Circuit initially ruled against Pineda-Moreno in 2010, but the U.S. Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further consideration by the Ninth Circuit in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in United States v. Jones.


Death Penalty - The Enduring Failure to Protect Against Racism

By Jeffrey Ellis, Director of the Oregon Capital Resource Center

Twenty five years ago this week in a case entitled McCleskey v. Kemp, the United States Supreme Court was faced with disturbing proof that race influences who is sentenced to death in the United States. In Georgia, where the case originated, black defendants charged with killing white victims were 4.3 times as likely to receive a death sentence as white defendants charged with killing black victims. This prompted Justice Brennan to write:

"At some point in this case, Warren McCleskey doubtless asked his lawyer whether a jury was likely to sentence him to die. A candid reply to this question would have been disturbing. First, counsel would have to tell McCleskey that few of the details of the crime or of McCleskey’s past criminal conduct were more important than the fact that his victim was white….In addition, frankness would compel the disclosure that it was more likely than not that the race of McCleskey’s victim would determine whether he received a death sentence…  Finally, the assessment would not be complete without the information that cases  involving black defendants and white victims are more likely to result in a death sentence than cases featuring any other racial combination of defendant and victim. The story could be told in a variety of ways, but McCleskey could not fail to grasp its essential narrative line: there was a significant chance that race would play a prominent role in determining if he lived or died."

Although our criminal justice system aspires to be color blind we are tethered to our unfortunate history of racism.


Racial Profiling Hurts Everyone, Regardless of Color

On April 2, 2012, the Community Alliance of Lane County hosted a Justice for Trayvon Martin rally at the Wayne Morse Plaza in downtown Eugene. ACLU of Oregon co-sponsored the event which called for an end to racial profiling. Here is the speech that Claire Syrett, Field Director for ACLU of Oregon, gave at the rally.

I want to thank the Community Alliance of Lane County for organizing this vigil and for all the important work that the Back to Back program does in our community. I am grateful to have this opportunity to speak on behalf of the ACLU of Oregon about the Trayvon Martin case which has sparked such a strong reaction across the country.

I want to be clear that the ACLU is not seeking to pass judgment on George Zimmerman – we are not in a position to know all the facts in this case. We are pleased that there is a special prosecutor investigating, and it is up to the federal and Florida state authorities to decide whether or not to charge Mr. Zimmerman with a crime. If he is charged with a crime, he should be afforded the full criminal due process rights we all expect of our criminal justice system, including that he is assumed to be innocent unless proven otherwise.