De-Bug’s ACJP Featured in Investigative Reporting Workshop’s Review of Public Defense

awww-img-courts-mainSpecial thanks to journalist Kat Aaron for including De-Bug’s ACJP organizing model in her insightful and comprehensive review on the current condition of public defense nationally entitled, ““Courts explore new ways to deal with heavy caseloads, overflowing jails”. The article examines various state’s efforts to meet Gideon’s promise, as well as new models that are starting to catch momentum, such as the Bronx Defender Program in New York. ACJP is given as example of how community organizing efforts can impact indigent defense services.

She writes, “The Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project, works with people facing criminal charges and their families to ensure that the public defense they receive is attentive and engaged. Family members have worked as volunteer investigators, tracking down witnesses and gathering cellphone videos of events. They scour police reports, looking for inconsistencies. They collect testimonials and stories that paint a portrait of the defendant and his family ties. This is the kind of work that can be crucial to a defense but that many defenders are too overwhelmed to do.” Read her full piece, including more on De-Bug’s efforts to promote community organizing in the courts by clicking here.

Police Newsletter Promotes “Letter of Apology” Tactic to Beat Claims of Coercion

In the July edition of the Vanguard, a magazine that identifies itself as the “official publication of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association,” is a step by step guide on how and why police should get a letter of apology during interviews in order to impact how cases are later adjudicated in the courts. The piece offers “techniques used by sales professionals,” explains why “defense attorneys hate” to see the letters, and how they can be “one more nail in the coffin of your case.”


Time Saved: Ramon Vasquez, 95 years

Read and listen to the story of Ramon Vasquez, a 33 year old father of 2, who was released from Santa Clara County Jail back in 2008 for a crime he didn’t commit.  His family came weekly to De-Bug meetings to get assistance for his case, and because of their persistence and community support, Ramon is home.

This is part of the “Time Saved” series.  In court systems across the country, the term used to show that someone has done their time of incarceration is called “Time Served.”  At De-Bug, we transform that term, and that time, to “time saved” through family and community organizing to change the outcome of cases.  — Submission Post by Charisse Domingo


De-Bug Family Members Win $1 Million Civil Suit in Taser Death Case

For six years, Noreen Salinas has fought for justice for her father Steve Salinas, who was tased to death by a San Jose police officer in 2007. Noreen walked into De-Bug the week of her father’s death asking for support, and she has been De-Bug family ever since, attending regular ACJP meetings. Throughout the years, she has become our moral leader in the effort to shelve Tasers, a lethal weapon that continues to take lives. We marched, rallied, held press conferences, all under the call, “Justice for Steve Salinas.” As of last Friday, after a jury unanimously delivered a verdict in favor of the Salinas family — we have made some of the promise of that chant a reality. As you will read in the Mercury News article, this is the first win of its kind in San Jose. And that a federal jury has found that the Taser was a contributing cause of death also is a major blow against Tasers nationally. Here is Noreen in front of the mural we made of her in the basement of De-Bug, holding the Mercury News article. The title though is misleading. When a city holds officers accountable for excessive force, and a mourning family is given some peace — that city doesn’t loose, it wins. Click the image to go to Mercury News article.

Zimmerman Verdict Exposes Systemic Racism in Jury Selection

Former public defender Aram James, and co-founder of ACJP, has seen the inner-workings of the courtroom for decades. The Zimmerman verdict, he writes, is emblematic of systemic issues such as racial bias in jury selection that must be addressed if justice is ever to be achieved for black life like Trayvon Martin.

trayvonshirt_largeOver the last several weeks I have had a chance to see many hours of the Zimmerman trial on television and have paid close attention to many of the instant, self-described, legal scholars and commentators on both sides of the issues raised by this trial.

Spoken and unspoken throughout the trial, and the proceedings leading up to the trial, including the media coverage was a palpable racial tension from the start, going back to 2012 when the Sanford Florida police refused to arrest George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. And then we found, once the long delayed trial began, that the jury that was selected was made up all most exclusively of white folks. Continue reading

Supreme Court: Right to Remain Silent Must Now Be Invoked

Submission by Robin Yeamans

The US Supreme Court recently ruled that in order to assert your right to remain silent, you must speak up and say you invoke the Fifth Amendment. In Salinas v. Texas, Mr. Salinas answered officers’ questions for an hour but became silent when police questioned him about shotgun shells found at the crime scene. At trial the prosecutor used Salinas’ silence to persuade the jury he was guilty, and he was convicted of murder.

Justice Alito stated in the Court’s ruling that the defendant’s “Fifth Amendment claim fails because he did not expressly invoke the privilege against self incrimination in response to the officer’s question.”

Justice Breyer, writing a minority opinion disagreed, pointing out, “But does it really mean that the suspect must use the exact words ‘Fifth Amendment’? How can an individual who is not a lawyer know that these particular words are legally magic?”

A public defender from San Francisco pointed out: “This ruling will hurt our most vulnerable citizens: the mentally ill, those with language barriers, people with little education and those who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of their questioning.”

The US Supreme Court, so careful to protect corporations’ supposed rights, are destroying the rights of others, literally ripping up years of precedent.