Pounds for Victim of Police Assault

A hairdresser won 220 000 pounds damages yesterday after a jury found that he was assaulted by police and wrongly arrested. This happened after counsel for Din Zung, 32, urged the jury to send a clear message that the public would no longer stand for "lying, bullying, racism and perjury" by the Metropolitan Police.

Central London County Court was told that police went to Mr. Zung's home over a dispute involving a leaking roof. Mr.Zung was arrested after refusing to allow officers in without a warrant. Akmal Khan, his solicitor, said his client's arms were twisted behind his back and he was handcuffed. "They punched and kicked him in the van and he was kicked in the kidneys." Another policeman used his back as a footstool and the driver turned round and insulted him verbally saying he had got no more than he deserved. The charge officer told him, "I've never arrested a Chink before." When he was released at 11 p.m. that night they threw him into the street in just jeans and flip-flops. "He had to walk two miles home," Mr.Khan said.

When Mr.Zung arrived home, the front door was open and his stereo and other property had been stolen. Doctors found extensive bruising to his back and kidneys and he was passing blood.

Mr.Zung made a formal complaint to the Police Complaints Authority. Despite a police surgeon confirming the injuries, the complaint was rejected and he decided to sue.

Ben Emmerson, counsel for Mr.Zung, urged the jury to send a strong message to Sir Paul Condon by awarding damages that would hit his budget. "In this case a small award would be regarded as a victory by the officers."

A statement issued on behalf of Sir Paul, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said: "We believe the award to be excessive and we are going to appeal against the size of the award but not the verdict."

The Metropolitan Police said no action would be taken against the constables involved: Christopher Smith, Andrew Morris and Bob Davies.

In a separate case at the same court Terence Wilkinson, 27, was awarded 64 000 pounds damages. He had accused other officers from the same area of wrongful arrest and assault, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.


If You Can Marry, Should You?

Fast facts to help you decide whether you're ready to pop the question.

If same-sex marriage is ever legalized, you and your partner will need to decide whether marriage is right for you. Here are some things to think about before you pop the question.

- If you have children or hope to raise a family, marriage is probably the right option. Married couples by law have equal rights to raise their children, as well as equal obligations of support. In a divorce, both parents can seek visitation and custody, and if one parent dies the other one steps right in as the primary legal parent. It is nearly impossible to make these sorts of arrangements absent a legal marriage.

- Marriage isn't a pre-requisite for owning property together, but if you get married, in most situations in most states your property will be jointly owned regardless of who pays for it. This is the reverse of the presumption that applies to unmarried couples. Getting married may be the most efficient way of establishing a property merger – though if keeping things separate is more to your taste, you will have to sign a prenuptial agreement to avoid the joint ownership presumptions of a legal marriage.

- In most states, each married spouse's earnings are owned by the two of you, and if the marriage breaks up – regardless of who's at fault – you each generally get half of everything you've accumulated. By contrast, if you are unmarried, your property is co-owned only if you have an agreement to that effect; likewise for debts and obligations. Divorcing couples are also entitled to demand alimony if the marriage doesn't last, without the need for any explicit contract providing for post-separation support.

- Every marriage requires a formal ceremony, and every marital separation requires some kind of formal court action, and quite often the help of a lawyer. Unmarried couples can break up informally, on their own terms.

- Absent a legal marriage, a couple needs to sign several agreements to create even a partial framework of protection in the event of death, and certain tax benefits are forever denied to unmarried couples. If you are married, however, the surviving spouse generally inherits all the property if the partner dies without a will. At death, a bequest from one spouse to another is tax free, regardless of its size.

- Transfers of property upon dissolution of the relationship are also tax free for legally married couples, but not for unmarrieds.

- Marriage can bestow a bevy of important benefits, including military or Social Security benefits, health care and nursing home coverage. Marriage may also qualify you for unpaid leave from your job under the Family Leave Act. But watch out - a married person's income could disqualify a spouse from receiving Social Security, welfare or medical benefits she'd receive if she was unmarried.

- A legal marriage is the only reliable method of providing a foreign lover with the privileges of immigration to this country, when he doesn't qualify under work or other provisions of the Immigration Act.

If you are ever allowed to make this difficult decision, first decide whether you fall into one of the got-to-marry or better-not-marry situations. Raising kids, courting a foreign lover or facing a serious illness, for example, generally favors a marriage (unless it disqualifies you for Medicaid), whereas getting saddled with your partner's debts or losing Social Security benefits probably favors a no vote.

If you don't fall into either extreme, take a close look at the marital property rules for your particular state, evaluate the benefits given your personal situation and get a good sense of what being married would do for you financially. Then, consider whether being married feels right for both of you emotionally. If the answers come back positive for both of you, then proceed, but consider creating a prenuptial agreement if any aspect of the traditional marriage structure doesn't meet your needs. If the impact of marriage feels unduly negative for one or both of you, however, hold off. The push for legalizing same-sex marriage isn't likely to make marriage mandatory.


The Death Penalty Dilemma

On February 24th of this year, two masked men walked into the bodega which Andre Gonzalez operated in a poor section of Manhattan. They demanded money, and when Gonzalez resisted one of the robbers killed him with a shotgun blast to the chest. The robber in turn was killed by Gonzalez's son with a licensed 38-calibre pistol kept in the store for protection. The other robber fled.

Gonzalez's fate is not unusual in New York City. What is unusual is the true justice achieved by the son's justified killing of his father's murderer. If the murderer's confederate is caught and convicted, however, he will not pay with his life, thanks to Governor Mario Cuomo's repeated rejection of efforts to restore capital punishment in that state.

Pace of Executions

The pace of executions in this country has fluctuated in recent decades, mostly in response to shifting rulings by the Supreme Court. During the 1950s, executions averaged about 50 a year, but they slowed in the late 1950s and came to a stop so that no executions occurred between 1967 and 1977. Executions resumed sporadically and since 1984 have averaged roughly 20 a year.

Thirty-six states now authorize the death penalty, typically for murder. Federal law provides for the death penalty in various cases within federal jurisdiction, including: first-degree murder; murder while a member of the armed forces; retaliatory murder of a member of the immediate family of law enforcement officials; murder of a member of Congress, an important executive official, or a Supreme Court justice; destruction of aircraft, motor vehicles, or related facilities resulting in death; destruction of government property resulting in death; mailing of injurious articles with the intent to kill or resulting in death; assassination or kidnapping resulting in the death of the President or Vice President; willful wrecking of a train resulting in death; bank robbery-related murder or kidnapping; treason; murder of federal judges and officers; espionage; death resulting from aircraft hijacking; and witness tampering where death results. In 1988, Congress also authorized the death penalty for certain drug offenses, but no one has yet been executed under those provisions. Various proposals introduced in Congress in 1993 would extend the death penalty to almost 50 additional crimes where death results, including murders committed by prisoners in federal correctional institutions, drive-by shootings, and kidnappings which result in the death of any person.

The framers of the Constitution clearly did not intend to outlaw the death penalty on either the state or federal level. The Bill of Rights, which originally applied only to the federal government until its provisions were erroneously applied to the states in this century, explicitly validated that penalty in its Fifth Amendment provisions that "no person shall be held to answer for a capital or other infamous crime" except by action of a grand jury, and that "no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law".

However, the prospect of expanded federal capital crimes ought to give pause to those who generally favor the death penalty. The Constitution gives the federal government no general criminal jurisdiction. In recent decades, unfortunately, federal law has intruded into large areas of state responsibility through expansive interpretations of congressional power to regulate interstate commerce and to oversee the activities of recipients of federal subsidies. Expansion of federal capital crimes would compound this abuse.