Behind Bars

Justice on Trial: Lynne Stewart’s Appeal

By Stephen Lendman

Lynne Stewart’s case highlights American judicial unfairness. Her wrongful indictment, prosecution, conviction, sentencing, and harsher re-sentencing sacrificed her on the alter of upholding wrong over right.

On February 29, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit arguments were heard on her behalf. She wasn’t there, but supporters packed the courtroom as she hoped. More on the hearing below.

Criminal justice includes law enforcement involved in apprehending, prosecuting, defending, sentencing, and incarcerating those found guilty of crimes following rule of law standards.

Doing so requires proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors bear the burden, or they’re supposed to. Judicial fairness can’t exist without it. In America, it never did and doesn’t now.

Moreover, U.S. law gives jurors no reasonable doubt guidance. Prosecutors take full advantage. Innocent victims suffer unjustly. America’s system is inherently unfair. Nothing’s done to fix it.

The American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct preamble calls for:

“An independent, fair and impartial judiciary,” calling it “indispensable to our system of justice, (composed of) men and women of integrity; all times (ensuring) the greatest possible public confidence in their independence, impartiality, integrity, and competence; (and) standards (of) ethical conduct, (including) overarching principles of judicial ethics (and fairness), consistent with constitutional requirements, statutes, other court rules, and decisional law, and with due regard for all relevant circumstances.”

Above all, it requires truth, impartiality, and judicial fairness upholding fundamental rule of law standards.

Merriam-Webster defines fair as:

“marked by impartiality and honesty; free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism; conforming with the established rules; (and) free from favor toward either or any side.”

Often, American justice excludes them all. Lynne said when she began practicing law; she collected cartoons and clippings relating to it “and the absurdity of the legal system.”

One of her favorites was a “smarmy, grinning lawyer leaning over his desk and saying to a client ‘You have an excellent case, Mr. Jones. Now just how much justice can you afford?’”

That’s the root injustice issue, she said, but it’s worse than that. People of color, the poor, disadvantaged, and accused Muslims get no justice at all. Neither does anyone federal and state prosecutors target to convict. In Lynne’s case, it was for doing her job honorably and responsibly for decades, including defending unpopular clients.

When lawyers defend those the authorities want to convict, they risk running afoul of the law. As a result, Lynne is wrongfully serving ten years. Paul Bergrin, a lawyer accused of setting up a murder for his clients, is in the fight of his life for the same reason.

Moreover, thousands of political prisoners languish in America’s gulag for challenging U.S. injustice, supporting right over wrong, or praying to the wrong God.

Constitutionally protected rights don’t matter. Yet they’re supposed to require probable cause for arrests and prosecutions (Fourth Amendment), as well as freedoms:

  • from unreasonable searches and seizures (Fourth Amendment);
  • self-incrimination (Fifth Amendment);
  • double jeopardy (Fifth Amendment);
  • cruel and unusual punishment (Eighth Amendment);
  • excessive bail or fines (Eighth Amendment);
  • speedy, public, fair trials (Sixth Amendment);
  • an impartial jury (Sixth Amendment);
  • right to competent counsel (Sixth Amendment); and
  • from being deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law (Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments).

When prosecutors and courts, including appellate and Supreme Court, permit exceptions or ignore rule of law standards, freedom no longer exists. America’s war on crime (especially on elicit drugs) eroded numerous protections.

Post-9/11, they’ve practically disappeared altogether. America’s spurious war on terror takes precedence. Everyone’s vulnerable to terrorism charges, conspiracy to commit it, or threatening national security other ways.

Secret evidence is withheld. Defense counsel can’t challenge it. Defendants are convicted by accusation. Jurors are intimidated to go along even when no crime or intent to commit one exists.

As a result, justice is unfairly denied. America’s poor and disadvantaged get none. Neither do those challenging state and/or corporate crimes. In contrast, white-collar offenses are rarely punished. Those caught red-handed at most pay fines too small to matter and rarely serve prison time. Occasional exceptions prove the rule.

A former corporate felon once said only little people pay taxes. They also comprise the vast majority in America’s gulag. In fact, a small fraction of prosecutions are for white-collar crime. Few top officials are convicted, today virtually none, especially those guilty of the grandest of grand thefts.

America’s criminal justice system protects them. Mostly little people are targeted, including many innocent ones. America’s drug and terror wars punctuate how unjustly.

Elicit possession accounts for over half of America’s prison population. Those imprisoned represent a 20-fold increase since 1980. Their numbers exceed those incarcerated in 1980 for all offenses. They’re the most significant reason for America’s 700 percent federal prison population growth.

Post-9/11, Muslims became America’s target of choice. They’ve been ruthlessly vilified, hunted down, rounded up, detained, isolated, denied bail, tried on secret evidence, convicted on spurious charges, and given long sentences as war on terror scapegoats for political advantage.

Illegal entrapment is commonly used. Guilt or innocence doesn’t matter, just the illusion that America is safer when, in fact, every victim assures greater insecurity, injustice, and fear. Many wonder who’s next. Today, no one’s safe, especially Muslims and those outspoken for justice.

In contrast, Wall Street and other corporate crooks continue to plunder and steal with impunity. One is hard pressed to name a single corporate official ever given hard time or capital punishment. Innocent Blacks, Latinos and Muslims face them often, as well as disproportionately longer sentences for many offenses little more than misdemeanors at best.

Moreover, street crime is inconsequential compared to high-level white collar ones harming millions. For corporate crooks, crime pays. Wall Street’s business model features it.

As a result, America’s criminal justice system is grossly discriminatory, inequitable, biased, and unfair. There are none worse in Western society.

In Manhattan alone, said Lynne, “there is a litany of wrongs perpetrated in each and every Courthouse” in sight. She saw it firsthand defending unpopular clients, then unjustly against herself.

She was tried in the same Foley Square federal court that unjustly framed, convicted, and sentenced Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to death. At an earlier time of hysteria, it was done vengefully for allegedly conspiring to violate the WW I era 1917 Espionage Act.

Today, for America’s 99 percent, the wheels came off the wagon, said Lynne. Only a just replacement can fix it—”a different economic system that will in turn mend the legal system because it will be forced to serve the People,” not wealth and power interests alone.

Lynne’s appeal

Arbitrary injustice must end. Freeing Lynne and others like her is vital. On February 29, Herald Prince Fahringer argued for her in appellate court. He said one of America’s most cherished freedoms is being “allowed to speak freely. This case puts that principle to a very great test.”

He called using her First Amendment right against her “highly hazardous.” In fact, he added, comments made “on the steps of the courthouse (have) much wider latitude.” He urged the justices not to go “down that road (because) no one will be able to comment after a sentence for fear that the same thing could happen to them.”

Justice Robert Sack challenged him saying, “I’m not sure that freedom of speech means absolute immunity from the consequences of what you say.”

Judge John Walker asked, “How else do you get a window into the character of the defendant?”

Fahringer responded, calling Lynne’s comments ambiguous, adding:

“If it’s ambiguous under the First Amendment, you have to give the speaker the benefit of the doubt.”

On March 1, New York Law Journal contributor Mark Hamblett said Fahringer “ran into a dubious (three judge) appellate panel” as he argued for reversing Lynne’s grossly unfair sentence.

Expect months perhaps before they rule. Their earlier decision against Lynne was harsh. She has an uphill struggle, especially in today’s climate of fear and injustice.

Nonetheless, she’s upbeat, saying if she serves her full ten-year term, she’ll emerge as she entered, her “principles unsullied and strong!”

She thanked supporters for cards, letters, books, contributions, and mostly for believing in her just cause.

“It is being remembered that counts,” she said, “and you all keep me alive!! Shoulder to Shoulder, Onward to Victory!!”

She’s already vindicated by friends, family, and legions of worldwide supporters aware of her lifelong struggle honorably for equity, justice, fairness, and rule of law standards without compromise. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM U.S. Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

—War is a Crime, March 2, 2012