Friday, December 28, 2007

I went back to Ohio but my rights were gone

Here's a story that's sure to get your dander up just in time for 2008.

According to the Lima News, an Ohio man must try to prove he legally earned the life's savings police took from his house, even though the man has not been charged with a crime.

In June, Luther Ricks shot and killed a would-be robber who had broken into his house and stabbed his son. When police responded to the scene, they found (I bet you can guess) a small amount of marijuana that Ricks says he uses to manage arthritis pain. The FBI stepped in and confiscated the money from the police. Now, Ricks has to prove that he earned the confiscated $400,000 before the government will return it.

The article quotes Ohio's ACLU Legal Director Jeff Gamso, who said it will be difficult for Ricks to get his money back.

"The law of forfeiture basically says you have to prove you're innocent. It's terrible, terrible law," Gamso said. The law is tilted in favor of the FBI in that Ricks need not be charged with a crime and the FBI stands a good chance at keeping the money, Gamso said.

"The law will presume it is the result of ill-gotten gains," he said.

So, the heck with the "Fifth Amendent's No person shall be...deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." The burden of proof is on him.

In other news, let's stick with Ohio as we gear up for the election year. ACLU officials there are concerned that a change in Cuyahoga County's voting system could lead to many votes going uncounted. The story is here.

Ohio, as you know, was the scene of much voting strife in the 2004 presidential election, in which John Kerry conceded to President Bush after narrowly losing Ohio's 20 electoral votes. At the time, the ACLU had already filed suit, in Stewart v. Blackwell, arguing that the punch card voting system at issue here violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

Lauri in York

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