Monday, August 03, 2015

Baltimore Cops’ Attorneys Just Made Two Explosive Claims In Freddie Gray Case

According to The Baltimore Sun, the officers’ attorneys are claiming that the office of Baltimore city state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby has evidence that the 25-year-old Gray had “attempted to injure himself” in police custody prior to his April 12 arrest. They also claim that Mosby had a “private meeting” with the medical examiner who conducted Gray’s autopsy days before the report was released.

Mosby’s office has failed to turn that evidence over to the defense, the attorneys asserted.

“Based upon information and belief, the State’s Attorney’s Office was informed of this fact, yet failed to disclose to the Defendants any statements, reports, or other communications relating to this information,” the attorneys said of evidence that Gray has tried to harm himself during a previous arrest.

Prosecutors have also withheld “multiple witness statements from individuals who stated that Mr. Gray was banging and shaking the van at various points,” the defense claims, adding that they have also concealed “police reports, court records, and witness statements indicating that on prior occasions, Mr. Gray had fled from police and attempted to discard drugs.”

Gray was arrested after a foot chase with police. He reportedly began running after making eye contact with Lt. Brian Rice, one of the arresting officers. Gray had been arrested at least 18 times before, mostly for drug-related offenses. The official explanation for his arrest was that he was in possession of a spring-loaded knife.

The knife has been a source of controversy as well. During her very public announcement of charges against the officers on May 1, Mosby said that Gray’s arrest was illegal, in part, because the knife he had was legal in Maryland.

But the defense claims in its motion that even before Mosby made that public claim, she was told that the knife was, in fact, illegal in Baltimore.

Mosby also failed to disclose that she met privately with Carol Allan, the medical examiner who conducted Gray’s autopsy, the motion reads, according to The Sun.

When Mosby announced charges, she had received the results of the autopsy just hours before. Allan ruled Gray’s death a homicide. That allowed Mosby to slap serious charges on the officers involved in Gray’s arrest and van transport. Caesar Goodson, Jr., the driver of the police van, was charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder and manslaughter. Three other officers face manslaughter charges, too.

If the defense’s claims are true, Mosby’s case will have suffered a heavy blow.

Her case relies on the theory that the officers contributed to Gray’s death through “acts of omission.” They failed to properly restrain Gray in the back of the police van, and when Gray was calling for help, they failed to provide proper medical attention, the theory goes.

But if Gray has tried to hurt himself before — as the defense claims — the case will likely be made that he could have done the same thing on April 12. And if he did try to hurt himself in the back of the van, that would mean that the officers did not cause his death.

One witness has given a statement that he believed Gray was trying to harm himself in the back of the police van.

Donta Allen was arrested shortly after Gray and placed in a separate compartment in the police van. Allen reportedly gave a statement to investigators in which he said he heard Gray making loud banging noises. He also said the van ride was smooth, undermining claims made by some that Gray was the victim of a “rough ride.”

Allen retracted his claims, though, after they were made public.

Original report here

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Sunday, August 02, 2015

Disquieting law enforcement behaviour in Australia

Customs officer confiscates passenger's phone and then uses it to secretly text

A customs officer at Sydney international airport confiscated a mobile phone from a passenger during a baggage search and then secretly used it to send and receive messages without the passenger's knowledge.

The November incident has been referred to the Australian Federal Police, but the new Department of Immigration and Border Protection has refused to release further details, prompting widespread concern and a call for a federal police investigation into the actions of the customs officer.

The passenger, a 22-year-old man who did not wish to be identified, discovered what had happened only when he received a letter from the Integrity and Professional Standards branch of the department, saying it was investigating the "inappropriate use" of his phone by the customs officer.

The letter dated nearly six months later, said "this behaviour does not uphold the standards expected of our officers at the border and on behalf of the department and the ACBPS [Australian Customs and Border Protection Service] I apologise that it occurred. The letter said the "appropriate steps" were being taken in relation to the incident.

The man told Fairfax Media last week he was "disgusted" when he found out what had happened.

"It is embarrassing for them. They obviously have something to hide."

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection refused requests for information by Fairfax Media under freedom of information laws in part to protect the privacy of the officer and would not reveal what the messages said, who they were sent to and why.

A spokesman said "Under section 186 of the Customs Act 1901, officers have the power to examine goods in certain circumstances. 'Goods' includes electronic devices, such as mobile telephones. Access to the passenger's phone was consistent with the act."

The revelations have alarmed civil libertarians and prompted Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young to refer the matter to Australian Federal Police to investigate the wrongdoing.

Senator Hanson-Young said the secrecy of the department and the behaviour of the customs officer involved raises questions about the culture of the Border Force.

"Tampering with an individual's phone like this is illegal," she said.

"Why is the department being so secretive about the case? I have written to the AFP and asked them to investigate."

Professor Michael Fraser, the director of the Communications Law Centre at UTS, said unless there was some lawful reason – which needs to be given – the department needed to justify why the phone was used.

"The person has a right to know what communications were made on his phone," Professor Fraser said.

Stephen Blanks, president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, said "this is frightening".

"The Australian people should be frightened that a public official in a position of apparent authority can illegally access people's phones and send messages and then the department thinks that is not a matter of public interest. That is the kind of secrecy a police state relies on to damage the reputation of people who are being targeted," Mr Blanks said.

The man told Fairfax Media he was stopped when leaving Australia for a holiday in Turkey and Cyprus visiting his parents. He was taken to a room where Customs and AFP officers were present. They took his phone and computer and demanded the access codes and then took his phone into another room where he could not see what was happening.

During the time he was detained and searched, the man said he was asked weird questions including how many times a day he prayed? Was his family religious? And did they have a lot of money?

By the time he was released he had missed his flight. No one has since offered to refund his fare. After organising another flight, he was again stopped by Customs and the second time he called his solicitor, he said.

After tense conversations and the customs officers refusing to speak to his lawyer, he was eventually allowed to travel and he returned in December. His solicitor Zali Burrows has been instructed to commence legal proceedings against the department.

The decision not to release any information did say the incident had been "self-reported" the day after by the officer and his supervisor.

It revealed two documents existed that  the department would not release – an Integrity Complaint Assessment Report and an internal minute dated December 16, 2014.

No documents showed that the matter had been referred to any other authority such as the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity which is the federal watchdog, or even that the minister had been had been informed.

Original report here

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Saturday, August 01, 2015

Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing charged with murder over shooting of black driver

It's never wise to defy the police but antagonism towards the police has been preached to blacks.  Bad advice, this time fatal


A DRAMATIC bodycam video has emerged showing the moment a Cincinnati police officer pulled a gun and fatally shot an unarmed driver.

The video was released by police on Wednesday during a news conference announcing officer Ray Tensing, 25, had been charged with the murder of Samuel DuBose, 43.

Officer Tensing discharged one round into DuBose’s head on July 19 after DuBose attempted to drive away from a routine traffic stop.

Tensing faces life in prison if convicted, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said on Wednesday.

“He lost his temper because Mr Dubose wouldn’t get out of his car,” Deters said.  “When you see this you won’t believe how quickly he pulls his gun. Maybe a second — it’s incredible.”

The 3 minute 40 second video begins when Tensing approaches the drivers side window of DuBose’s car.

Tensing asks DuBose if he has a license on him and explains that he was pulled over for failing to display his front license plate.

DuBose searches for his license and pulls out an unopened bottle of gin. He explains that he does not have his license on him. “I have a license, you can run my name,” DuBose says.

Tensing responds by asking: “Be straight up with me, are you suspended? Why don’t you have your license on you.”

Things escalate quickly when Tensing attempts to open DuBose’s door. “Go ahead and take your seatbelt off,” Tensing says.

DuBose reaches for the ignition, saying: “I didn’t even do nothing,” before attempting to drive away.

In an instant, Tensing shouts “stop”, pulls out his weapon and fires a single shot at close range through the drivers side window as DuBose drives away.

The officer catches up with the car less than 100m down the road where DuBose’s body appears limp in the front seat.

The footage was reportedly shown to DuBose’s family before being released to the public.

On Wednesday, Deters labelled the shooting “asinine” and “senseless”.

“I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. This is the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make — totally unwarranted,” he said.

“It’s an absolute tragedy in the year 2015 that anyone would behave in this manner. It was senseless.

“People want to believe that Mr. DuBose had done something violent towards the officer — he did not. He did not at all. I feel so sorry for his family and what they lost, and I feel sorry for the community, too,” Deters said.

Tensing surrendered to authorities on Wednesday and has been fired from his job at the University of Cincinnati.

His lawyers are expected to argue that he feared for his life. “The guy jams the keys in the ignition,” Stew Mathews told CNN.

“Turns the car on, jams it in the drive and mashes the accelerator. He wasn’t slowly pulling away. (Tensing) feared for his life. He thought he was going to be sucked under the car that was pulling away from him. He thought he was going to get sucked under and killed.”

DuBose’s mother told reporters she was grateful the real story had come out.

“I want everybody to just lift up their heads in prayer, and thank God because this one did not go unsolved and hidden,” said Audrey DuBose. “We’re going to continue to fight together with God.”

The footage is expected to further inflame tensions between police and the public in the US following the shootings of Michael Brown, Walter Scott and Tamir Rice.

Earlier this month, Black Lives Matter activist Sandra Bland was pulled over for failing to indicate when changing lanes in Texas. She was found hanged in a police cell hours later.

Original report here

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Friday, July 31, 2015

British cop fired for smoking cannabis while on duty

A policeman was sacked yesterday after being caught smoking cannabis in his marked patrol car.

PC Kirk Van Niekerk, who had been an officer for West Midlands Police for more than six years, was supposed to be searching for a missing person when he used the drug in the early hours.

He was caught after a colleague noticed a pungent aroma wafting from the car and reported him.

Niekerk was caught when PC Nigel Weston approached his patrol car at 3am on November 19, 2014.

Deputy Chief Constable Dave Thompson told the Birmingham hearing: 'These are important areas that lie at the heart of being a police officer. 'The public expect high standards from police officers.

'The officer has smoked drugs on duty and he has potentially put the public at risk and lied in subsequent interview.  'As a result of this, the decision of the panel is to dismiss him without notice.

'It demonstrates behaviour that falls well below standards and indicate he is a controlled user of cannabis.  'We have found the officer smoked cannabis in his vehicle on November 19, 2014.

'We note that he is sorry. We are not quite aware what he is sorry for.'

Nierkerk, who was based at the Newtown police station in Birmingham, took a drugs test on November 26, 2014.

Miss Dent added: 'The results of the test were ready on December 3 and confirmed traces of cannabis.

'It was more than three times the accepted cut-off for passive smoking.'

Niekerk admitted to professional standards he had taken cannabis in the past and was suspended by West Midlands Police force on December 4 last year.

John Williams, representing Niekerk for the Police Federation, said: 'He had asked me to tell the panel he was sorry. 'He felt that he and his family had been put in the limelight and perhaps in this current time they should not have been.'

Original report here

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

UK: Now police won't visit even if your home was burgled

Burglary victims should no longer expect the police to come to their homes, one of the country’s most senior officers said yesterday.

Chief Constable Sara Thornton, the £252,000-a-year head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said public expectations had to change in the light of budget cuts.

Forces needed to shift their focus away from ‘traditional’ crimes, she said – admitting that officers might not call round for offences such as an iPad being stolen by intruders.

‘Crime is changing in this country,’ she said. ‘There are a lot less burglaries than there used to be and a lot less car crime.

‘The sorts of crimes that are on the increase, sexual offences, concerns about terrorism, cyber crime, that’s where we really need to focus. We need to move from reacting to those traditional crimes to thinking about focusing on threat and harm and risk and really protecting the public.’

Mrs Thornton’s comments reflect the growing mood among police chiefs that ‘something has to give’ among frontline policing.

Many feel that spending cuts have left them struggling to provide the services millions of people expect, although crime is at a record low. But critics warned that the impact of a burglary remains ‘devastating’ and victims need long-term reassurance and support.

Above all, they said, those who have suffered at the hands of thieves want to know police are determined to catch those responsible.

Speaking to the BBC, former Thames Valley Police chief Mrs Thornton said: ‘What we are saying is if we are really serious about putting a lot of effort and resource into protecting children for example, that might mean that if you’ve had a burglary and the burglar has fled, that we won’t get there as quickly as we’ve got there in the past.

‘Of course we will still want to gather evidence, but we might do it in different ways.’

Pressed on whether an officer will always attend a burglary victim’s home, she said: ‘Our budgets have been cut 25 per cent over the last four years.

‘We are anticipating those sorts of cuts again. Over ten years we will have lost about 70,000 posts and I don’t think it’s possible for us to carry on doing what we’ve always done.

'Because we will just fail the public but also we will cause unacceptable stress among our officers and staff. I think in terms of the threat to children from sexual offences, from sexual abuse, from online abuse, I think that’s what we’ve got to prioritise.’

Chief constables will pay close attention to the comments by Mrs Thornton, the head of the organisation that replaced the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

She will be at the vanguard of police reform over the next few years amid simmering tension among police chiefs, who are under pressure to continue traditional beat policing while tackling new threats from cyber crime to child slavery.

They are braced for more difficult years as the Government holds a tight rein on budgets and the numbers of officers and staff fall.

But Lucy Hastings, of Victim Support, said burglary victims deserve the highest levels of service from police. She said: ‘Victims tell us that they suffer far more than lost possessions when their home is burgled.

‘There can be a lasting effect on the whole family and victims often feel violated as their home is no longer a safe haven. It’s so important that all victims have access to the practical help and emotional support they may need to cope and recover from crime.’

Criminologist Liz Yardley, of Birmingham City University, said victims are being ‘lost’ in the row over police priorities.

She said: ‘Attending the scene of a burglary is significant for victims – it shows that someone actually cares about the burglary and that someone wants to take steps to catch the perpetrator.

Original report here

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

British cops pinned a man to the ground and stamped on him and refused to listen to his protests because of his Welsh accent

The thugs concerned

Two police officers wrestled a man to the ground and stamped on him after mistaking him for a missing Alzheimer's patient and refusing to listen to his protests because of his Welsh accent.

PCs John Richardson, 50, and David Littlemore, 35, both based in Thorpe Wood, Peterborough, were today convicted of beating John Morgan, 59, while he was sitting on a park bench with his dog.  Mr Morgan, who has poor sight and diabetes, was with his Jack
Russell, Winston, when the pair approached him.

He told them he wasn't the missing man but refused to give them his name and address, leaving Littlemore suspicious that he was putting on an accent.

Mr Morgan told the court he was then 'dragged to the floor' by Littlemore and Richardson, who twisted his arms behind his back.

His phone and glasses fell to the ground and he said Richardson repeatedly stamped on his right hand, Luton Magistrates' Court was told.

Mr Morgan was only released when Littlemore confirmed via his radio that the missing man's dog was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier type - not a Jack Russell.

The retired engineer told the court earlier this month: 'Officer two on my right [Richardson] wrenched my thumb back from my index finger and tried to get the dog lead out of my hand.

'He then stamped on my hand repeatedly and a lot of pressure was put on my back by officer one [Littlemore]. It could have killed me.

'I remember asking them about my human rights and taking their collar numbers which I forgot and being very disorientated.

'I remember officer two [Richardson] saying he 'did not care' repeatedly about my vulnerability.'

The missing man, Bill King, was described as wearing a hat, check shirt, brown cord trousers, brown shoes and had a black and white dog with him.

Mr Morgan was described as wearing a similar outfit, also with a black and white dog, but wearing black combat trousers.

It was confirmed in a radio conversation between PC Littlemore and another officer that the missing man did not have a Welsh accent.

The correct missing man was found later that day and Richardson assisted in taking him home to his family.

Littlemore, of Wittering, Cambridgeshire, and Richardson, of Kings Cliffe, Northamptonshire, both denied assault by beating, but were found guilty by the judge earlier this month.

Sentencing them today, District Judge Susan Holdham gave both PCs three months in prison, suspended for two years, and fined them £1,030 each.

She said: 'I have heard a lot about how stressful and difficult this time has been for the officers. You have both lost good character and probably whatever the sentence you will lose your employment.

'However, I remember what I saw at the trial. I saw a man who was, if not actually frail, but certainly not robust. 'A man with various ailments and although not related to the case with diabetes and have part of his foot amputated. He was a man minding his own business with his dog that day you came up to him.

'You asked him for his name and address as you thought he might be the missing gentleman with Alzheimer's.

'When he refused he was brought to the floor, he was punched, constrained, had his thumb bent back to release a dog lead and hand stood on.

'I still find it very difficult to understand what was going through your minds that day. You could have thought he was a vulnerable man who said he needed safeguarding.

'And to this day I do not understand how taking a man like that to the floor is safeguarding.

'I saw Mr Morgan was very reasonable and particularly depressed as he had to have his foot amputated since.

'This happened because he did not give his name and address and he was dealt with as if is some kind of police state and taken to the floor for not giving their name and address.

'He was either a 76-year-old man with Alzheimer's or he was an innocent man who refused to give his name and address.

'It is vital society has faith in their police officers and society is entitled to look to police officers to use their powers responsibly and that was not done that day.'

Mike Humphreys, prosecuting, told the district judge in Luton the PCs had 'no legal authority to do what they did.'  District Judge Holdham agreed and said Mr Morgan had every right to free himself from PC Richardson holding his arm.

She ordered Richardson to carry out 200 unpaid work and Littlemore is required to complete 150 hours' unpaid work.

Both were ordered to pay £1,030 - £450 compensation to Mr Morgan, costs of £500 and a victim surcharge of £80.

Littlemore, whose parents, wife and sister were in court, has 10 years service with Cambridgeshire Police and Richardson has been with the same force for 18 years.

Richardson and Littlemore, who have been suspended from duty and will face internal misconduct proceedings by Cambridgeshire Police, both refused to comment as they left court.

Det Supt Mark Hodgson, head of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Professional Standards Department, said: 'We want the public and our own employees to feel confident about raising concerns about the conduct of our officers and staff and we will always investigate these cases thoroughly and ensure prosecutions are brought where appropriate.

'All our officers must act within the lawful execution of their duties and on this occasion these officers clearly did not.'

Original report here

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Documentary: Northwestern journalism investigation led to wrongful conviction

A documentary released this summer argues an investigation led by a Northwestern journalism class in 1999 led to the wrongful release of a convicted killer.

“A Murder in the Park” chronicles the twists and turns of one of the state’s most infamous criminal sagas, in which a man on death row for the murder of a young couple in 1982 was set free based on revelations by former Medill Prof. David Protess and his students in the Medill Innocence Project, now the Medill Justice Project.

The original investigation of the case found Anthony Porter guilty of shooting two teenagers in Chicago’s Washington Park. He was locked up for 16 years until Protess’ team obtained a confession from another man that led to Porter’s immediate release — a tale of wrongful conviction that played a part in the end of the Illinois death penalty. Alstory Simon took Porter’s place in prison on the basis of the confession, videotaped in his own home.

The film points to Paul Ciolino, a private investigator who worked on the case with Protess’ team, as having convinced Simon to agree to videotape a false confession with a promise of financial compensation and a reduced prison sentence. Simon says in the film he was intimidated into following the investigator’s orders.

“It is mentally painful to walk around every day locked up for something that you know you didn’t do,” said Simon, filmed inside prison wearing a blue short-sleeve button-up.

Ciolino told The Daily that Simon’s confession was genuine. Ciolino called the film’s allegations against him a “fairytale,” including his offer to pay Simon for his confession and the claim that he brought a gun into Simon’s home to intimidate him.

“The thought that Northwestern and Protess and I conspired to do anything like this is ludicrous,” Ciolino said. “It’s patently false and it never happened.”

Ciolino said he refused to be interviewed for the film.

Last October, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez overturned Simon’s murder conviction, saying the team’s coercive investigative tactics “tainted this case from the outset.”

Simon was released from prison having served 15 years of his 37-year sentence. In February, Simon filed a lawsuit against Northwestern and Protess for $40 million, claiming Protess, Ciolino and Simon’s attorney at the time framed him for the murders.

When Simon’s conviction was dropped, filming for “A Murder in the Park” had already concluded. But co-director Shawn Rech said Simon’s release gave the film a new ending.

“Rather than the audience leaving thinking, man, this is a real injustice, they leave the theater having had a little satisfaction,” Rech said.

Rech said he made the film in two and a half years and about 40 trips from Cleveland to Chicago, where he interviewed detectives, lawyers and witnesses connected to the case. To Rech, the film’s ultimate lesson is meant for the reporters whom he said failed to seek real evidence proving Simon’s guilt. When the videotape of Simon’s confession surfaced, it was immediately broadcast on television and many reporters called for Porter’s release.

“These reporters didn’t even take the time to pull a police report,” Rech said. “They would have seen that this was all wrong.”

Although Rech said the student journalists are not to blame for the objectionable investigative strategies, he said he still questions why the University never looked deeper into Protess’ previous investigations after he was barred from teaching his investigative journalism class in 2011 due to accusations in a separate case that he doctored emails and withheld documents from prosecutors. Protess retired from NU and now serves as president of the Chicago Innocence Center.

Northwestern officials declined to comment for this article.

More here

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Monday, July 27, 2015

A scalpel in the back: How hospital buried evidence that could clear surgeon jailed over patient's death after 40-year 'exemplary' career

Britain's biggest private healthcare firm concealed an internal report that identified ‘systemic failings’ at one of its hospitals where a patient died after a routine knee operation, a Mail on Sunday investigation can reveal.

The hospital’s owner, BMI Healthcare, heaped blame for the death of a retired builder on one of its surgeons, David Sellu. He was convicted at the Old Bailey of gross negligence manslaughter and jailed for two and a half years, ending a 40-year career described by colleagues as ‘exemplary’.

James Hughes had complained of stomach pains after the operation and died just over a week later of cardiac arrest following a ruptured bowel while he was under the care of Mr Sellu.

The Root Cause Analysis (RCA) report ordered by BMI into what went wrong was hidden from Mr Sellu’s trial in 2013. Documents obtained by this newspaper reveal that BMI executives not only read the report, but were taking advice from the firm’s lawyers on its ‘status’.

Last night, Peter McDonald, a senior colorectal consultant at London’s world famous St Mark’s Hospital, told this newspaper in an exclusive interview that he considers BMI made Mr Sellu a ‘scapegoat’ for the broader failings at the Clementine Churchill Hospital in North-West London.

Mr McDonald has worked part-time at the hospital for years and knew Mr Sellu, a colorectal specialist, well.

‘I regarded him as a safe, reliable colleague with an excellent record,’ he said.

‘David Sellu was unfairly treated. The hospital appeared to place all the blame on to him, perhaps to protect its commercial position. Mr Hughes died through a combination of errors by a lot of people and errors in the system, and the hospital failed to acknowledge that.’

Now 68, Mr Sellu was released on parole after 15 months and will seek to reopen his case at a Court of Appeal hearing in September.

This newspaper’s investigation has revealed that:

    The secret RCA report, completed just over a month after Mr Hughes died on February 14, 2010, found that the hospital’s procedures for routine cases which turned into emergencies were ‘not robust enough to prevent a systemic failure’;

    The report found there were delays taking an X-ray and later a CT scan, while staff responsible for monitoring Mr Hughes’s condition failed to do so;

    When Mr Sellu was ready to operate on Mr Hughes to try to save his life, there was a further delay because his anaesthetist was in another operating theatre. The hospital had no emergency roster of anaesthetists – and still doesn’t;

    Also hidden from the trial were the minutes of a meeting of the hospital’s Medical Advisory Committee, composed of its top specialists. They said that Mr Sellu, who had been suspended, should be reinstated because he ‘had no case to answer’ and that emergency surgery should cease because of the danger to patients;

    In a report last year, health watchdog the Care Quality Commission said emergency provision at the Clementine Churchill was still ‘inadequate’, adding it ‘did not have reasonable procedures in place for dealing with emergencies which are reasonably expected to arise from time to time’. As a result, ‘patient safety and welfare are not always ensured’;

    The death of Mr Hughes triggered an investigation into Mr Sellu by the Ealing NHS Trust, where he had worked for many years as its senior surgeon. It found his record was flawless;

    More than 400 ‘Friends of David Sellu’ have made statements on a website supporting him, including some of the country’s most eminent medical practitioners.

Mr Hughes, 66, from Northern Ireland, had a knee replacement operation on February 5, 2010, at the Clementine Churchill. He developed a minor urinary tract infection but otherwise all seemed well. However, early on February 11 he woke up with severe pain in his abdomen that steadily increased. He was seen by the hospital’s resident medical officer, Dr Tsvetan Georgiev, a locum from Bulgaria.

According to the RCA report, he prescribed a muscle relaxant in the belief that Mr Hughes was suffering from cramp. In fact he had a perforated bowel – a life-threatening condition unconnected with his knee operation. Yet no one on the ward seems to have realised his condition was becoming extremely serious.

Mr Hughes eventually made a phone call from his bed in an effort to contact John Hollingdale, the surgeon who had operated on his knee. He was working on NHS patients at the Central Middlesex Hospital several miles away.

The RCA report says Mr Hughes told Mr Hollingdale’s secretary ‘that he had been in pain since early morning and that he was concerned that nothing was being done. He also informed her his symptoms were getting worse’.

Mr Hollingdale visited Mr Hughes that afternoon and recommended an abdominal X-ray. According to the RCA report, this was not done for several hours.

Mr Hollingdale referred the patient to Mr Sellu, who like Mr Hollingdale, did private part-time work at the Clementine Churchill.

Mr Sellu saw Mr Hughes at about 9pm. By now the X-ray had been done. Mr Sellu thought there might be gas in the patient’s abdomen – evidence of a possible perforated bowel. He believed Mr Hughes needed to be stabilised before he could operate and ordered a CT scan for first thing the next day, marking his request ‘urgent’.

The scan, which confirmed and located the perforation, was not taken until 11.30am on February 12 because routine scans for other patients were done first.

NHS and private hospitals are supposed to have clear protocols for assessing and treating patients who become seriously ill unexpectedly, so cases can be ‘escalated’. One crucial element is half-hourly monitoring by nursing staff.

Hospitals are also required to have an intensive care unit ‘outreach’ system, so that if patients fall dangerously ill they can be moved to receive the care they need – without any need to involve a consultant such as Mr Sellu.

But the RCA report states that these systems were not functioning as they should. For six hours from 8am until 2pm on February 12, Mr Hughes was not monitored. The report says: ‘The outreach protocol is not robust enough to prevent a systemic failure for the patient that requires critical care.’ It added that the hospital’s nurses were ‘weak’ at sticking to the monitoring and outreach systems.

After seeing the CT scan, Mr Sellu booked an operating theatre for that evening. Later he would be blamed for failing to act with greater urgency. But the RCA report says the pre-operative report prepared by nursing staff ‘failed to capture the physiological picture… little or no risk of deterioration was identified’.

Mr Sellu had planned to start the operation at 7pm but the anaesthetist he had lined up was busy with another operation. At 10.15pm there was a further delay because Mr Hughes was in septic shock and had to be stabilised. The operation began at 1.20am on February 13 and lasted three hours. Mr Hughes’s abdominal cavity was severely infected. He was certified dead at 2.39pm the next day.

The RCA report was the work of four senior staff, led by the hospital’s executive director, Jan Hale. The version obtained by this newspaper was contained in a computer file entitled ‘RCA Report Mr Hughes – Final.doc’. On March 18 it was sent in that form attached to an email from BMI’s then clinical governance director, Gail Webster, to Professor Duncan Empey, the firm’s ‘responsible officer’.

In another email, Ms Webster said she planned to ‘check with legal on the status of the root cause analysis’. But in July 2010, Professor Empey and a colleague issued a further report that strongly criticised Mr Sellu. BMI suspended him.

The minutes of the Clementine Churchill Medical Advisory Committee meeting on September 23 show that Mr Sellu’s colleagues were appalled. They voted unanimously to reinstate him – a decision BMI ignored. One doctor warned the hospital was ‘not geared up for emergency surgery to be done safely’.

The minutes add that another consultant proposed that ‘all emergency surgery at Clementine Churchill Hospital should cease… The committee voted unanimously that it did not feel the hospital is safe to perform emergency surgery’.

Neither the RCA report nor the minutes were shown to the inquest in October 2010. It was halted when the coroner ordered the police to investigate Mr Sellu. He was charged and two years later stood trial. Again, the RCA report and minutes were kept hidden. But the judge did see Professor Empey’s much more critical report, which had triggered Mr Sellu’s suspension, and cited it in his summing up. This referred in passing to the RCA, but stated that it was ‘not available’.

It is not known if this was ever followed up with a request for disclosure of the report. The thrust of the prosecution case was that Mr Sellu was principally responsible for all aspects of Mr Hughes’s care, should have realised how ill he was and acted more urgently. For example, he should have insisted the hospital find him an anaesthetist.

However, David Melville, a colorectal consultant at St George’s Hospital in South-West London, said yesterday: ‘It’s highly unlikely you’ll find someone who would agree at short notice to assist with a high-risk patient needing emergency surgery in the private sector.’

BMI owns 70 private hospitals, earning almost £1 billion last year, and treats thousands of patients referred from the NHS. The Mail on Sunday asked BMI for its response on Friday morning, but yesterday a spokesman said he could not comment on the RCA report unless we sent our copy of the document to the firm – which might have jeopardised our source.

The spokesman said: ‘We always do, and did in this case, co-operate fully with all relevant authorities, and no charges were subsequently levelled against the hospital. If The Mail on Sunday are asking us to comment on documents they will not show us and which could affect ongoing legal proceedings, for obvious reasons we cannot.’

He added there was ‘no need’ for an emergency anaesthetist at the Clementine Churchill. When necessary, patients could be transferred to NHS hospitals.

However, the day after Mr Sellu was convicted, executive director Jan Hale sent an email – seen by this newspaper – to all consultants, saying she had been advised by the medical committee to introduce an on-call anaesthetists’ rota as ‘a priority’ and was taking steps to do so.

Mr Sellu is forbidden from commenting under the terms of his parole. His wife Catherine said yesterday: ‘David was devastated at the outcome and has analysed everything he did a thousand times and what he might have done differently. There were clearly a number of factors that led to this tragedy, and many were outside his control.

‘David’s career and livelihood have been destroyed and his reputation demolished. He gave over 40 years to helping others but all those decades of work and an unblemished career seem to count for nothing.’

Original report here

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

More British Keystone Kops

Britain's equivalent of the FBI has been condemned by judges after a sophisticated bugging operation against alleged money-launderers descended into farce and a series of ‘grave failures’.

The National Crime Agency deployed 100 officers in 30 cars to seize the bosses of a company in West London under investigation.

While the suspects were being interviewed at a police station, NCA chiefs hid listening devices in their offices.

In a plan that has echoes of the hit US drama series The Wire – in which detectives use bugs to bring down a drugs gang – the NCA hoped that the suspects would admit their guilt while discussing their arrests.

But the NCA broke basic laws on search warrants and surveillance bugs during the raid because of the ‘ignorance’ of its senior staff, according to two damning rulings.

Last week The Mail on Sunday revealed a leadership crisis at the top of Theresa May’s flagship law enforcement agency, with seven out of 17 directors quitting.

A separate report published last week reveals outgoing Director-General Keith Bristow is ‘shocked’ at plummeting morale within the NCA, while budget cuts mean the agency no longer has officers listening to phone taps overnight.

The bugging operation was outlined in legal documents which showed that the NCA swooped on the alleged money-laundering gang on January 28 as part of an investigation called Operation Heterodon. Senior officers believed there was a link between five men, three of whom are brothers who arrived in Britain from Uganda in the 1970s, and others who were ‘known and suspected money-launderers’.

The plan, according to judges, was ‘to arrest the suspects in a deliberately boisterous way’, and while they were being held at a police station, ‘to place covert surveillance devices’ at their head office in Ruislip, West London, which they claimed was ‘at the hub of this criminal activity’. The judges described how ‘about 30 vehicles with about 100 men’ were deployed ‘for the purpose of effecting the arrests, executing the search warrants and taking the opportunity to deploy the covert surveillance devices’.

Officers also searched the suspects’ homes, which ‘culminated in wedding rings and other personal jewellery of the suspects’ wives being seized’.

After being questioned briefly, the suspects were released in the hope that ‘they would have conversations with each other or third parties that would evidence, if not conclusively confirm, their part in the suspected money-laundering activities’.

About a third of the officers on the raid were ‘trainee investigators’, according to the High Court, while the seizure of evidence was ‘haphazard’. The NCA surveillance officers then heard the suspects planning a ‘sweep’ for bugs. In response, they removed the devices during another search a week later.

The next day, February 6, the suspects began legal action, asking for the NCA to stop using the material seized under the search warrants.

In a Divisional Court case in May, judges ruled the arrests had been lawful but that the search warrants had been unlawful. They said it was ‘disappointing and of great concern’ that the NCA officers had not ‘understood the basics’ of rules governing how search warrants are to be obtained from magistrates, and the ‘procedure went very wrong’.

The NCA should have known legally privileged material would be found and so should have applied to a Crown Court. It also failed to disclose that the reason for the search was to plant the bugs. In any case, it then ‘ignored’ the restrictions of the warrants and gave the officers ‘carte blanche to search for and seize any and all documents’.

Mr Justice Hickinbottom said: ‘The errors were grave.’ He added: ‘This case smacks of incompetence.’ Lord Justice Davis said: ‘It is to my mind rather remarkable that an organisation such as the NCA could have been so ill-informed.’

The suspects then brought a separate claim to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal and in a ruling published last Monday, judges agreed that the NCA had erred over the planting of the bugs. Due to the obvious risk that legally privileged material would be overheard on the devices, the NCA should have given its true reasons for the plan to the Surveillance Commissioner, who had approved the operation.

The NCA said last night: ‘This is a training issue, not a disciplinary one. Our cases are complex and challenging, and the nature of the criminals we investigate requires us to be dynamic and assertive in our approach. We are providing additional training on the points relevant to this case.’

Original report here

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

NY: Wrongful-conviction suit can’t be tossed because of man’s death: judge

Court allows suit to proceed for man wrongfully convicted in murder case

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was dead wrong when he tried to get a wrongful-conviction lawsuit tossed out on grounds that the exonerated man hadn’t signed it — because the man died just before the suit was filed, a state judge ruled.

William Lopez did 23 years behind bars for murder, but was released in 2013 when his conviction was overturned.

His widow, Alice Lopez, pressed on with a $23.5 million wrongful-conviction lawsuit against the state, but the AG’s Office moved to dismiss it because William ­Lopez didn’t sign it. The suit was filed a month after he died in September 2014.

“I think that’s ridiculous. How’s he going to sign it if he’s not alive? It’s crazy,” ­Alice Lopez told The Post.

“Because the claim was verified by Alice Lopez, and not William Lopez, it must be dismissed,” an assistant ­attorney general had argued.

But state Court of Claims Judge O. Peter Sherwood denied the motion, writing, “The Legislature recognized the issues created by the passage of time, including even the death of the wrongfully convicted.”

Original report here

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Deaths in police custody at five year high in Britain

The number of people who died in custody has reached its highest level for five years, the police watchdog said yesterday.

Official figures showed there were 17 fatalities during or soon after detention in England and Wales in 2014-15. This was six more than the previous year and the most since 2010-11.

Another 69 people are suspected of committing suicide within 48 hours of being detained by officers – 50 per cent higher than five years ago, according to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The annual report was published as Home Secretary Theresa May launched an independent review into deaths and serious non-fatal incidents in police custody in England and Wales.

In a keynote speech in Brixton, south London, she said each one represented a failure that could ‘dramatically’ undermine the ‘unwritten contract’ between the public and police and harm community relations.

She said: ‘Sadly, as these figures show, deaths and serious incidents in custody may be rare, but they do happen. ‘And when they do, for the families involved who have lost loved ones, all too often the system doesn't work the way you would expect.

‘When things go wrong... that unwritten contract is damaged and the police's ability to maintain law and order is undermined.’

Mrs May is determined to make it easier for bereaved families to get answers following a death in custody.

The inquiry will look at how serious incidents in police custody are handled, including how official investigations are run and what support is in place for families.

It will also look at the availability of appropriate facilities for the mentally ill and the police's use of restraint.

The IPCC found that eight of those who died in 2014-15, and half of those apparently taking their own life after custody, had mental health concerns

All but one of those who died, and more than a third of those who apparently took their own life, had links to drugs or alcohol.

IPCC chairman Dame Anne Owers said: ‘Regrettably, our investigations have too often exposed the same issues: inadequate risk assessments; token checks on a person in custody; insufficient hand-overs between custody staff; a failure to recognise or properly deal with people with mental health concerns or substance abuse issues; poor liaison between police and other agencies.’

Original report here

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Why Do Prosecutors Fight to Maintain Wrongful Convictions?

By Lorenzo Johnson

When it comes to our criminal justice system, prosecutor and police misconduct remains the elephant in the courtroom. Sometimes it is spoken about, but rarely is any action taken. One recent exception to this pattern of inaction, however, can be seen in Orange County, California, where all 250 lawyers in the district attorney's office have been disqualified from participation in a capital murder case. After evidence surfaced that the District Attorney's office, in concert with the county sheriff's department, had systematically suppressed exculpatory evidence in at least forty cases, Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals removed every single prosecutor from the DA's office from the case.

The widespread misconduct involved a secret database of information about defendants being held in custody. This database was related to false testimony obtained by prison informants. The Sheriff's Office denied this database existed. This deception was further concealed by prosecutors while these cases went on for decades. Judge Goethals helped bring this to light, and recommended that the prosecutors be prosecuted.

People are paying attention to this unusual and shocking case. Even the ultra-conservative National Review is covering this story:

"The database tracking inmates' movements around the jail and the reason for those movements is significant, because Orange County law enforcement and prosecutors were in the habit of placing targeted suspects in proximity to criminal informants, who were rewarded with reduced sentences, favors, or money -- payments in some instances ran into the six figures -- for helping put together cases against jailed suspects. This practice is illegal. It is one thing if a suspect in custody speaks about his crimes and an informant comes forward to report that confession; it is another thing to operate a program under which the interrogation of suspects is effectively delegated to incarcerated felons who are secretly on the county's payroll.

The lack of present legal counsel is only the beginning of what is wrong with that practice. To operate such a program is ipso facto a violation of the law and of ethical standards for jailers and prosecutors both. To lie about it is a serious crime. It may turn out to be a lucky thing after all that these defective prosecutions will probably open up a great many jail cells: Orange County is going to have to put these sheriff's officers and prosecutors somewhere.

This is as case of organized crime on the part of the same people who are supposed to enforce the law and guarantee our constitutional rights. And hard as it is to believe, these same procedures have long been in existence. This problem is bigger than you can ever imagine. I would like to personally commend Judge Thomas M. Goethals for two things: First, for having the courage to say "enough is enough" and take a stand for justice. Second, for letting these sheriffs and district attorneys know that they are not above the law. Judge Goethals gives innocent prisoners like myself some hope that one day the misconduct in our cases could be addressed.

Careers are made out of many wrongful convictions. Some of these same officers go on to be police commissioners. Some district attorneys go on to become judges in state and federal courts, and some become attorney generals. Innocent prisoners are the skeletons in their closets. If our stories were ever to get out, their careers--and those of many others--would come into question. It's sad, but egos also play an integral part. Most of the time, prosecutors are only concerned with winning cases to put more notches on their belts. Justice is rarely on their agendas.

In my case, the prosecution and police withheld evidence of my innocence for nineteen years. For example, their chief witness against me turned out to have initially been a suspect in the same murder I was later charged with. Among other kinds of misconduct, perjured testimony went uncorrected, witnesses received deals to testify falsely, and the lead detective bullied witnesses not to come forth and help show my innocence at trial.

Once most of this evidence came to light, Senior Deputy Attorney General William Stoycos, the current prosecutor on my case, agreed to do a "good-faith" investigation of my claims. But how could that be possible when he's still involved in maintaining my wrongful conviction?

Back in 2011, after 16-and-a-half years, my conviction was overturned by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, on the grounds of insufficient evidence, which is equivalent to a "not guilty" verdict. I was released from my natural-life sentence. This all took place before my defense had any knowledge that the prosecution knew I was innocent from day one. Prosecutor Stoycos went as far as filing a late appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Without the knowledge of the perjured testimony that convicted me, the Supreme Court relied on this testimony to reinstate my wrongful conviction. Just think about it: not once did Stoycos say to my trial judge--or any other judge up to and including the U.S. Supreme Court--that the testimony before them was false.

These are the degrees that prosecutors will go to in order to maintain a wrongful conviction. They have total disregard for the law and for justice. Until they are held fully accountable by criminal charges, nothing will change. Judge Goethals's principled action in Orange County is a promising step in that direction.

Lorenzo Johnson served 16 and a half years of a life-without-parole sentence, from 1995 to 2012, when the Third Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled there was legally insufficient evidence for his conviction. He remained free for four months, after which the US Supreme Court unanimously reinstated the conviction and ordered Lorenzo back to prison to resume the sentence. With the help of Michael Wiseman, Esq., The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, The Campaign to Free Lorenzo Johnson, and others, he is continuing to fight for his freedom.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress.  If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where  posts  appear as well as on  the primary site.  I have reposted  the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts  HERE or HERE or here

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dubious arrest of defiant black woman

Defying cops is never smart for anyone. It just makes your situation worse. Sadly, many blacks fail to be civil and co-operative in dealings with police -- due in part to constant assertions from the Left and black leaders which demonize the police. It's a vicious circle and a self-fulfilling prophecy

ALMOST two weeks after Sandra Bland was found dead in her jail cell, Texas authorities have released footage of her arrest and it doesn’t look good.

Despite a medical examiner ruling that her death was suicide, the 28-year-old’s family and friends believe something else happened to the anti-racism activist during those three days.

And the video, which shows the roadside encounter escalate into a shouting confrontation, may add to their suspicions.

The video, posted by the Texas Department of Public Safety, shows the trooper stopping Bland for failure to signal a lane change.

The dashboard footage shows the state trooper trying to pull Ms Bland out of the vehicle, then drawing his stun gun and saying "I will light you up" after she refuses to follow his order.

After he hands her a written warning the trooper remarks that Bland seems irritated. The Illinois woman replies that she is irritated because she had changed lanes to make way for the trooper’s car.

The conversation quickly turns hostile when the officer asks Bland to put out her cigarette and she asks why she can’t smoke in her own car.

The trooper then orders Bland to get out of the vehicle. She refuses, and he tells her she is under arrest.

Further refusals to get out bring a threat from the trooper to drag her out.

Bland was taken to the Waller County Jail that day

Days later Ms Bland was found dead in a jail cell. Authorities said she hung herself with a plastic garbage bag.

However her family dispute the "spontaneous" and "outgoing" woman would have taken her life.

The day she was arrested she was on her way to a job interview with her former university, Prairie View A & M University.

Ms Bland’s sister Sharon Cooper told reporters in the days after her death that people who "knew her, truly knew her", know that suicide is "unfathomable right now". "Based on the Sandy I knew, this is unfathomable to me," Ms Cooper said.

"She was someone who was extremely spontaneous, spunky, outgoing, truly filled with life and joy. So when you think through the circumstances shared with us through this point, this is unimaginable."

Ms Bland was reportedly fighting internal demons. According to CNN, the 28-year-old suffered from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as recently as March. She addressed her mental health struggles in videos posted online.

In other videos, she addressed the issue of racism.

Before being jailed, Ms Bland used her voice to encourage others to support the Black Lives Matter movement that took hold following the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.

What exactly happened to Ms Bland has also resonated on social media, with posts questioning the official account and featuring the hashtags #JusticeForSandy and #WhatHappenedToSandyBland.

Others referred to #SandySpeaks, the hashtag #Bland used in monologues she posted on Facebook in which she talked about police brutality and said she had a calling from God to speak out against racism and injustice.

The trooper said in an affidavit that after handcuffing Ms Bland for becoming combative, she swung her elbows at him and kicked him in his right shin.

In the affidavit released Tuesday, trooper Brian Encinia said he then used force "to subdue Bland to the ground," and that she continued to fight back. He arrested her for assault on a public servant.

The trooper has been placed on administrative leave for violating unspecified police procedures and the Department of Public Safety’s courtesy policy.

The agency would not address questions about whether the trooper acted appropriately by drawing his stun gun or pulling her out of the vehicle.

"Regardless of the situation, it doesn’t matter where it happens, a DPS state trooper has got an obligation to exhibit professionalism and be courteous ... and that wasn’t the case in this situation," said Steven McCraw, the department director.

Bland was taken to the Waller County Jail about 100 kilometres north west of Houston on July 10 and found dead July 13.

A Texas Rangers investigation into her death is being supervised by the FBI.

The Texas Commission on Jail Standards last week cited the jail for not providing documents proving that jailers in the past year had undergone training on interacting with inmates who are mentally disabled or potentially suicidal.

The citation also showed that jailers fell short by not observing inmates in person at least once every hour.

The sheriff’s office said Friday in a statement that jailers checked on Bland via an intercom on one occasion rather than in person.

Commission Executive Director Brandon Wood has declined to say if the citation is related to Bland’s death.

But sheriff’s officials mentioned her when explaining the violations, noting that they don’t believe "either one of these deficiencies had any part in the death of Ms. Bland."

Original report here

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Don't Blame Juries for Wrongful Convictions

As of this post's press time, the National Registry of Exonerations shows the number 1,625. Those are the documented ones, at least, marking the number of people convicted of serious crimes who have been later shown to be not guilty. As our understanding of the prevalence of wrongful convictions grows, scholars and advocates are looking into the reasons why. Kara MacKillop and Neil Vidmar of Duke Law School have a new article in the Chicago-Kent Law Review (MacKillop & Vidmar, 2015), in which they ask, "With estimates of wrongful conviction rates as high as 5% in serious felony cases, how are juries getting it wrong?" After all, one reaction to the risks of convicting the innocent is to just consider it an inevitable by-product of a justice system that depends on fallible human judgment. The analysis provided by MacKillop and Vidmar, however, offers a sobering response: In most cases, based on what they were told, the jury seems to have the right decision, or at least a justifiable one. Instead of the blame lying with the 12 individuals, good and true, responsibility rests with the quality of evidence that does or doesn't make it into trial. "When the evidence presented is false or misleading or simply nonexistent at trial," they write, "the jury cannot be held responsible for creating an erroneous narrative and thus a wrongful verdict."

The article is entitled, "Decision-Making in the Dark: How Pre-Trial Errors Change the Narrative in Criminal Jury Trials" and it is currently available in a free download. MacKillop and Vidmar review research showing that jurors work hard, take their roles seriously, and apply a rational system in resolving cases by trying to form a complete narrative. The main problem, they say, is not with that process, but with the information that is fed into it. For example, they report on one recent analysis (Garrett, 2012) of the first 250 DNA exonerations showing clear patterns of error in those cases regarding the evidence that was let in or kept out. And when those errors are explored, the appeals process applies a bias for finality and a very high standard for tossing out a verdict and ordering a new trial. As a result of what the authors describe as "astonishingly consistent problems with withheld, suppressed, and misleading evidence," jurors try to complete the story, but frequently don't have the necessary information to reach a fair conclusion. MacKillop and Vidmar draw out of this some implications for court reform, but their investigations carry some broader implications for jury trials generally.

The Root Cause of Wrongful Convictions

The authors both work with the Duke Wrongful Convictions Clinic and the article is part of their development of a "root cause analysis" methodology to look at what policies and doctrines are most responsible for erroneous verdicts. As part of that effort, they also looked at the jury's role, but found little evidence to support the idea that juries are making independent errors of their own to any substantial degree. Instead, their analysis points to the way the two keystone cases on withheld evidence (Brady v. Maryland) and false evidence (Napue v. Illinois) are being applied by the courts. At the appeals level, courts apply a high standard of whether the evidence's presence or absence would have likely led to a different result, and all mistakes that don't rise to that level are tossed into a bin labeled "harmless error." The problem with that approach is that it ignores the fact that jurors aren't just processing evidence, but are instead trying to form their own narrative of what happened, and if the error leads to jurors not reaching a complete and accurate story, then the error isn't harmless. As MacKillop and Vidmar argue, "Without question, the allowance of absent, misleading, or false evidence must influence the narrative the jury develops, and the final verdict absolutely springs from that narrative."

In keeping with their focus on narrative, the authors also provide two stories to illustrate these problems, and both are worth reviewing in the article. The first involves LaMonte Armstrong, convicted and sentenced to life in a 1988 murder. His conviction was based on testimony from a number of incentivized jailhouse sources that would have been much less credible if jurors had heard the full extent of their prior activities. Prosecutors also presented misleading information about the relationship between Mr. Armstrong and the murder victim, a neighbor, and suppressed evidence denying the state's implication that Armstrong had a motive in the form of an attempt to borrow money. The second story focuses on J.L. Hardee, a juror who wrote a 2012 account of his own experience as a capital juror in a 1999 conviction. That case also involved several problems including a very questionable confession along with suppressed evidence on an alternate suspect and indications of a lack of communication and a broken-off relationship between the supposed co-conspirators. In both cases, the reasons for the wrongful conviction stem from the inaccurate and incomplete information that made up the jurors' story.

The Implication for Civil Trials

Drawing lessons from both stories, MacKillop and Vidmar focus their implications on criminal trials, paving the way for what is likely to be a broader set of recommendations on handling Brady and Napue issues in trial. In thinking more broadly on juries and the causes of questionable verdicts, however, I believe that the work carries implications for civil trials as well.

The main implication is to expect jurors to want a complete story in every case. MacKillop and Vidmar rely on Hastie, Penrod & Pennington's story model (1983), noting that "jurors construct a story that embraces the facts presented, as well as their own knowledge and experience, into a coherent whole." That insight suggests that treating narrative gaps as "harmless errors" is a problem not just for criminal trials but for all trials. To make sense of the events and to work their way to a resolution that feels just, jurors need to knit the disparate facts together until they form a continuous narrative.

One lesson of the story model is that jurors will be unsatisfied with any unfilled gaps, and will have a powerful incentive to fill in those gaps with inferences, probabilities and even speculation. And that is where the perspective runs up against the rules of evidence, which understandably aren't interested in "the full story," but in what is relevant and material. Still, it is every litigator's responsibility to know about the likely gaps and to make reasonable efforts to understand how jurors are likely to fill them. If a focus group, for example, tells about a key assumption that jurors are likely to make, then steps are taken to address it. You can, for example, call it out to them by acknowledging where they'll be tempted to speculate, and then reminding them that they'll be instructed to resist that temptation. There is some evidence that becoming sensitized to a bias can provide jurors with improved armor in combatting that bias. In addition, litigators and judges should also think broadly about relevance and materiality, understanding jurors' natural pull toward resolving issues in the context of the full story.

Ultimately, a jury's decision can only be as good as the information that is allowed in to support that decision. While the stakes are definitely higher in serious criminal cases, the narrow and selective processes that can lead a reasonable jury to an unreasonable conclusion are a risk in any case.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress. If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where posts appear as well as on the primary site. I have reposted the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts HERE or HERE or here