Friday, April 23, 2010

The Death Penalty for Murderous 'Corporate Persons'

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

If corporations are 'people', as SCOTUS has said they are, then, by law, a corporation committing murder should be executed! A corporation like Dow or Union Carbide perpetrating mass murder should be tried and when found guilty put to death! Because corporations are now 'people', the same criminal penalties must apply to them as well as to the rest of us. To do otherwise violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, specifically, the 'equal protection' clause.

How do you put a corporation to death? How do you execute a corporation?
  • You wipe the incorporation off the books; it no longer exists;
  • you round up the major decision makers --the board, top execs etc --and you put them to the SAME punishment that would be exacted individuals for the same crime!
My friend David Tingley summed it up:
  • Forfeiture of all company assets to the government. All stocks become worthless on conviction. Real estate, buildings and equipment auctioned off to the highest bidder - someone willing to turn them back into an honest business perhaps?
  • All senior officers of the company surrender bonuses for the 5 years preceding the offense and salary for the last two. Officers involved in the decision process leading to the death face the same jail time as an armed robber who kills
If corporations are people then they must obey the same laws that apply to people who commit mass murder, armed robbery or any number of crimes that corporations may have gotten away with simply because they were not people. Times have changed. Corporations must now live in real world where 'evil doers' are locked up in a dank cell or worse -- getting the lethal needle in Texas. In Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment applies to the states by way of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Supreme Court dramatically changed Fourth Amendment jurisprudence when it handed down its decision in Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383 (1914). Weeks involved the appeal of a defendant who had been convicted based on evidence that had been seized by a federal agent without a warrant or other constitutional justification. The Supreme Court reversed the defendant's conviction, thereby creating what is known as the "exclusionary rule." In Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961), the Supreme Court made the exclusionary rule applicable to the states.

The Fourth Amendment reads:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
How does this apply to corporations? Corporations are now people. Mapp v. Ohio [cited] specified the rights of 'people' to be secure against the described powers of the state. But are corporations people? It was the California Constitutional Convention of 1878-79 in which the state legislature's new constitution denied railroads [corporations] a right that had been granted real people, that is "...the right to deduct the amount of their debts [i.e., mortgages] from the taxable value of their property." Southern Pacific refused to pay up and challenged the law based upon what was called a 'conflicting federal statute' of 1866 giving them 'privileges' inconsistent with state taxation.

In a unanimous decision, SCOTUS ruled that the railroad was, indeed, 'privileged' and that the state of California had illegally assessed the total value of the railroad's property. It was a first, tentative step down the road to the conflicting notions of 'privilege' on the one hand and 'corporate personhood' on the other. Perhaps the court has not figured out that persons are not privileged. Our rights, as people, as enumerated in the Bill of Rights, are not 'privileges' in Anglo-American jurisprudential tradition. Rather, they follow from 'natural rights' as described by John Locke [See: Human Rights, Stanford University] and, much earlier, affirmed in Magna Carta. No such 'right' has ever been recognized as belonging to mere contracts, legal abstractions, combines or corporations!

I believe that 'corporate personhood' is but the first step to making of these United States a fascist state. In times past, the 'state' itself was considered to be and often called a 'corporation'. Thomas Hobbes described such a state in 'The Leviathan'.
The second part of the paper is mostly focused on Leviathan and deals with the consequences of such an interpretation to Hobbes's account of representation and persons of the sovereign, subjects and the state. It is argued that it is unlikely that Hobbes considered the person of the state as clearly separated from the sovereign?s person and that there can be no differentiation between the sovereign's private and public persons. Finally, it is suggested that the person of the state has to be viewed from different perspectives. For example, in the sphere of international relations Hobbesian commonwealth is a single natural person, whereas its citizens see it differently from the inside: as a personified combination of their own wills that is being unified and represented by the sovereign. The sovereign, on the other hand, acts as she would act in the state of nature, without any regard to the fact that her subjects consider her an artificial person.

--Marko Simendic', The Personhood of the State in Thomas Hobbes’s Political Philosophy [PDF]
Now, corporate 'papers' may be searched and/or seized upon the probable cause that the 'corporate person' has committed a crime. I suspect that the corporate crime wave since 1900 will produce millions of 'papers' proving all manner of crimes against 'real' people perped by corporations who got away with it only because they were not real people. Specific instances include deaths of thousands in Bhopal at the hands of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical et al.
Section. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process f law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

--Fourteenth Amendment, Constitution of the United States of America
The Fourteenth Amendment followed a bloody Civil War. It defined citizenship in broad terms, overturning what has been called the worst Supreme Court decision in U.S. history --Dred Scott v Sandford of 1857. It was Dred Scott that robbed black persons of 'personhood' denying them every protection and every right that had been guaranteed in the Constitution. Until the recent decision 'creating' corporations people, Dred Scott had been the very worst decision in U.S. history. Clearly --the current court has no monopoly on stupidity!

These decisions are mirror images. The more recent ruling, which I shall call the Pinocchio Fiat, grants personhood to mere 'legal abstractions' as the earlier court had denied personhood to real people! We've come full circle and once again found idiocy and evil.

More recently, Jim Hightower reports another outrage by yet another corporation which will no doubt seek refuge in its 'privileged' position --being a person but only when it suits them. In the case of murder by a corporation, the corporation, the Leviathan, will most certainly not want to be a person.

A mass murder has taken place in another American workplace, taking 29 lives. The authorities know who did it, so shouldn't that person be made to pay for this heinous crime?

Yes! But the killer is one of America's largest coal corporations, Massey Energy Company, and you can't give the death penalty to a corporation. Can you? Well, the Supreme Court has ruled that a corporation is a "person" – so why not?

Massey – headed by its right-wing multimillionaire CEO, Don Blankenship – has spent millions of dollars on lobbyists and lawmakers to fend off any effective regulations to protect mine workers. By using its political clout to muzzle the federal watchdog, Massey has been able to flaunt the law. Last year, it had nearly 500 safety violations in just one of its mines, including life-threatening violations. It's punishment? Fines totaling a mere $168,000 – chump change to an outfit with $56 million in profits last year.

--Jim Hightower, Corporate Murder

It is ironic that the intent of the Fourteenth Amendment was to protect people's rights against the power of government at a time when corporations had been placed above the law. Now that SCOTUS has pulled a Pinocchio and created corporations 'real people', those provisions of the law that had applied only to people apply now to Corporations. If a corporation's heedless actions result in death despite warnings, that corporation must be put to death --just as persons are routinely executed in the GOP gulag state of Texas for much less!!