Finding the answers

Finding-the-Answers-art-by-Lee-Max-Barnett-San-Quentin, <strong>Finding the answers</strong>, Abolition Now!
“You have earned one more tomorrow by the work you did today” – detail from the upper center of Mr. Barnett’s artwork. – Art: Lee Max Barnett

by Lee Max Barnett

I created this art in response to the 5%, but 25% statistic – that is, the rather astonishing fact that the USA has only 5% of the world’s population, but it has about 25% of the world’s prisoners. I feel certain those two statistics are the result of biased judges making trial rulings which favor prosecutors, thereby ensuring convictions and sentencing even of those who are known to be innocent.

My artwork addresses these facts. It explains why most judges are biased: most judges were “prosecutors” who were given judgeships so that they could ensure trial rulings favorable to prosecutors. Prosecutor judges ensure denial of fair trials. Hence, the prisons get filled.

I am on death row at San Quentin State Prison. Since my arrest on July 17, 1986, I have studied law every day without exception. One of the first things I realized was that most judges used to work in district attorney’s offices. That’s the result of pro-prosecution forces not liking the US Constitution, which is designed to protect against wrongful convictions.

Many decades ago, the racist United States Supreme Court, out of thin air, created the “Harmless Error Doctrine,” which held, and holds, that the wrongly convicted bear the burden of establishing that the constitutional violations occurring during his or her trial were “not harmless.” That’s absurd! It should be the burden of the state to prove that constitutional violations are harmless. That’s because it is the duty of the state to provide a fair trial, and that duty is violated whenever there are constitutional violations during trial. 

The most scandalous part of the so-called Harmless Error Doctrine is that it denies the accused a jury trial on the issue of “whether the so-called errors were really harmless.”

The founders created the Constitution to protect citizens against wrongful convictions and sentences; therefore, constitutional violations are presumptively prejudicial because crucial constitutional protections were denied. Importantly, prosecutors and their henchmen, prosecutor-judges, would not have denied constitutional rights unless they thought it helped their cases and harmed the defense. That’s an admission of harmfulness.

The most scandalous part of the so-called Harmless Error Doctrine is that it denies the accused a jury trial on the issue of “whether the so-called errors were really harmless.” That’s because most appellate judges are ex-prosecutors sitting as appellate judges. And they were placed there for the purpose of declaring trial errors harmless. Gee, isn’t that called a stacked deck? To further cover up their corruption, they made rules which prohibit the actual jurors from saying how constitutional violations affected their verdicts. Instead, the ex-prosecutors sitting as appellate judges declare that they are the only ones who can determine whether constitutional violations during trial errors are harmless or harmful.

These constitutional violations are intentional and are injected into criminal trials because prosecutors and prosecutor-judges know that the deprivations help their cases.

You may notice that I refuse to call constitutional violations to be errors like all the courts call them. I call them constitutional violations because they are not errors. Errors are mistakes. After over 300 years of conducting prosecutions in the USA, only a fool would believe that dozens, and in some cases even hundreds, of constitutional violations are mistakes. 

No, these constitutional violations are intentional. They are injected into criminal trials because prosecutors and prosecutor-judges know that the deprivations help their cases; and their collaborators sitting as appellate judges will declare all deprivations and defendants’ constitutional rights to be harmless errors, rather than what they are – strategically injected constitutional violations of defendants’ rights. Citizens need to wake up to how corrupt the whole criminal justice system is.

I assist countless others with their capital cases, and I see one constant: countless constitutional violations during capital prosecutions and courts almost always calling the violations errors, thereby implying mistakes cause the constitutional violations. For courts to admit the constitutional violations of an accused’s rights are intentional would prohibit applying harmless error review. Instead, courts would have to apply the “Unclean Hands Doctrine” that results in courts refusing to assist such a litigant. 

Appellants would win and prosecutors would lose appeals. See Bein v. Heath, 6 How. 228, 247 in which the U.S. Supreme Court said: “The equitable powers of this court can never be exerted on behalf of one who has acted fraudulently or who by deceit or any unfair means has gained an advantage. To aid a party in such a case would make this court an abettor of inequity.” See also Hazel-Atlas Glass Co., v. Hartford-Empire Co., 322 U.S. 238; and Keystone Driller v. General Excavator Co., 290 U.S. 240; Glus v. Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal, 359 U.S. 231; and American Pipe & Construction Co., et al. v. Utah, et al., 414 U.S. 538, 559. All essentially the same as Cal. Civil Code section 3517: “No one can take advantage of his own wrong.”

When prosecutors commit constitutional wrongs during prosecutions, the law holds they cannot gain advantage from the wrong; therefore, prosecutors should not be permitted to maintain convictions obtained through constitutional violations. Sadly, most appellate and habeas lawyers never cite these legal doctrines and authorities. 

I hope this message and these authorities inspire some wrongly incarcerated persons who are representing yourselves to use them in court. The issues need to be forced to expose why the USA has 5% of the world’s population but 25% of its prisoners.

Lee Max Barnett

Send our brother some love and light: Lee Max Barnett, E03100, San Quentin SP, 2E Bay 72, San Quentin, CA 94974.