#FreeBlindJustice Urgent call to stop the abuse of disabled people by the USA legal system

#FreeBlindJustice Urgent call to stop the abuse of disabled people by the USA legal system

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Charles De Meillon started this petition to Institute For Justice and

This is an urgent call to action to stop the abuse of disabled people by the legal system in the USA.

On 6 October 2020, a blind US veteran and disability rights activist who goes by the name Blind Justice was arrested on the steps of the Rockingham County Judicial Center, North Carolina in the USA.

When he arrived at the courthouse, he was prevented from entering the building by officers due to the fact that he uses using electronic recording devices to act as his eyes, take and retrieve notes and support his memory.  Whilst his entry was being blocked, his lawyer proceeded to the courtroom to inform the judge, who immediately issued an arrest warrant for "Failure to Appear", which lead to to the arrest of Blind Justice on the steps of the building immediately thereafter.

District court judge Chris Freeman had previously improperly denied the Americans with Disabilities Act request for reasonable accommodation filed by Blind Justice asking for the use of these devices, but he appeared at the courthouse in good faith in the hopes that his rights under Federal ADA as well as North Carolina State law would be respected and he would be allowed fair and equal access. Judge James "Tony" Grogan issued the arrest warrant and was responsible for setting bail and determining jail time.

Blind Justice is currently incarcerated until his trial date, which has been rescheduled to November 9th unless he can come up with a bail amount of $50,000 at which point he would be held under house arrest until this date.  This is disturbing because, according to legal advice, a judge is not supposed to impose a sentence on the charge of "Failure to Appear" that would exceed the maximum sentence that would have been imposed had he been found guilty of the underlying original charge.  As someone with a clear criminal record, no prison term would be imposed for a class two misdemeanor!  The extremely high bail amount is also a violation of the 8th amendment of the US constitution and Article 1 section 27 of the NC Constitution.

Blind Justice was due to appear as defendant on a second degree misdemeanor charge of "Resisting an Officer" which arose on February 21 when he was arrested whilst being the passenger in the car with his wife whilst they were playing Pokémon in the publicly accessible parking area of a church in the town of Madison NC, where they had moved to just days prior to the arrest.

Whilst no reasonable articulable reason has ever been established, and no primary charges filed, Blind Justice was nonetheless arrested for not producing identification in what the officer deemed a timely fashion, despite the fact that North Carolina is not a "stop and I.D" State and the legality of the stop is highly questionable.  As none of the above actually constitutes a crime, the District Attorney settled on the charge of "Resisting an Officer" after discussion with the local magistrate in the courtroom. 

In this original incident, Blind Justice who, like many blind people, suffers from severe photophobia, was put on suicide watch, stripped naked and deprived of his cap and prescription blackout glasses in a permanently brightly lit cell.  He was not in the least bit suicidal.

As many blind people can attest to, this leads to severe, debilitating migraines and is tantamount to a cruel form of torture, leaving him so severely debilitated that he was unable to speak.  When the nurse tried to do a health check on him, he gestured for a pen to write, but this was denied by the officer who instructed the nurse to document that he had refused medical treatment.  In this instance, bail was set at $2,500, which his wife was able to raise with the help of a bondsman and he was able to bond out. 

Blind Justice has a YouTube channel where all of these incidents and supporting documents, as well as videos covering a few years of their activism activities are available for viewing.  

Unfortunately these activities, focused on ensuring that government complies with the same rules as it enforces on businesses, is often met with a lot of hostility by government organizations, the police, sheriffs and even the judiciary itself.

We as international citizens are watching closely as these events unfold and are extremely concerned by what appears to be a systemic and planned attack on a civil rights activist with the intent to silence and punish him for standing up for the rights afforded to himself and others with disabilities by US law.  

We are urgently calling for help from civil rights defense organizations like the Institute for Justice or the ACLU to step in to help this activist who has continued to fight for rights in his country even after sacrificing his eyes in service of the very same country that is now letting him down so severely.  

Furthermore we call on the United States of America to honor it's obligations under the United Nations Human Rights Treaties to which it is a signatory, specifically the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of May 3, 2008 and ask the North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, the State Legislature of North Carolina, NC Attorney General Josh Stein, the US Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and any other person or agency with relevant oversight to step in and intervene to specifically observe the following sections of the UN HR CRPD

Article 13 - Access to justice
1. States Parties shall ensure effective access to justice for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others, including through the provision of procedural and age-appropriate accommodations, in order to facilitate their effective role as direct and indirect participants, including as witnesses, in all legal proceedings, including at investigative and other preliminary stages.

2. In order to help to ensure effective access to justice for persons with disabilities, States Parties shall promote appropriate training for those working in the field of administration of justice, including police and prison staff.

Article 14 - Liberty and security of the person
1. States Parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others:

(a) Enjoy the right to liberty and security of person;

(b) Are not deprived of their liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily, and that any deprivation of liberty is in conformity with the law, and that the existence of a disability shall in no case justify a deprivation of liberty.

2. States Parties shall ensure that if persons with disabilities are deprived of their liberty through any process, they are, on an equal basis with others, entitled to guarantees in accordance with international human rights law and shall be treated in compliance with the objectives and principles of this Convention, including by provision of reasonable accommodation.

Article 15 - Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
1. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his or her free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.

2. States Parties shall take all effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, from being subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Passing of new legislation
As it appears that, when given the chance, judges of questionable character are using their powers to control their courtrooms as a tool to punish those with a dissenting point of view, we ask that the US and State Legislatures pass legislation specifically addressing the use of cameras in the courtroom as an aid for the visually impaired, people suffering from memory loss, etc., as well as phones for the use of the disabled, including, but not limited to the visually and hearing impaired (who increasingly rely on smartphones in support of their other aids) in order to ensure uniform compliance with the articles quoted above.  

 

We ask anyone who cares about the equal rights of others, anyone who is currently suffering at the hands of discrimination, or has in the past experienced discrimination based on disability, race, religion, beliefs, sexual orientation, sexual identity or any other reason to join us in taking a stand in letting our brothers and sisters who are currently suffering at the hands of corrupt judges, police departments and other government actors know that we stand behind them!

We further extend an invitation to our American brothers and sisters who feel the same to join us in signing this petition.

We ask that you sign this petition to let the United States of America, North Carolina and all corrupt government actors engaging in discrimination know that the World is watching!

 

#FreeBlindJustice

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