Monday, September 15, 2014

Black actress claims ‘racist’ police mistook her for prostitute

The account below is the woman's version but bystanders have said that the couple were in fact having sex in their car

An African-American actress who appeared in the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained claims she was handcuffed by ‘racist’ police who mistook her for a prostitute because she was kissing her white boyfriend.

Danièle Watts is now suing the Los Angeles Police Department after, she says, her arm was cut when officers briefly detained her outside a studio in Hollywood earlier this month.

Her boyfriend, celebrity chef Brian James Lucas, who is known as Chef Be*Live, claimed he was told that a neighbour had called the police when they spotted the couple kissing in a car.

He said on his Facebook page: "I could tell that whoever called on us (including the officers), saw a tatted [tattooed] white boy and a hot bootee shorted black girl and thought we were a HO (prostitute) & a TRICK (client).

"This is something that happened to her and her father when she was 16. What an assumption to make!"

Watts posted several photographs of the moment she was detained to Facebook, writing that she was proud she had been "honest" enough to weep angry tears as she was being held after failing to comply with a request to produce her ID.

She wrote: "Today I was handcuffed and detained by two police officers from the Studio City Police Department after refusing to agree that I had done something wrong by showing affection, fully clothed, in a public place."

Originally from Atlanta Georgia, Watts did her training at the British American Drama Academy in London. She played Coco in Django Unchained, and has also appeared in the hit television drama Weeds.

Lucas told the TMZ website that the couple had engaged a lawyer to bring a legal case against the police. The force did not comment.

Describing the incident in detail on her Facebook page, Watts said: "When the officer arrived, I was standing on the sidewalk by a tree. I was talking to my father on my cell phone. I knew that I had done nothing wrong, that I wasn’t harming anyone, so I walked away.

"A few minutes later, I was still talking to my dad when 2 different police officers accosted me and forced me into handcuffs.

"As I was sitting in the back of the police car, I remembered the countless times my father came home frustrated or humiliated by the cops when he had done nothing wrong.

"I felt his shame, his anger, and my own feelings of frustration for existing in a world where I have allowed myself to believe that "authority figures" could control my being … my ability to be!

"I was sitting in that back of this cop car, filled with adrenalin, my wrist bleeding in pain, and it occurred to me, that even there, I still had power over my own spirit.

"Those cops could not stop me from expressing myself. They could not stop the cathartic tears and rage from flowing out of me. They could not force me to feel bad about myself.

"The tears I cry for a country that calls itself ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ and yet detains people for claiming that very right."

Lucas wrote: "Because of my past experience with the law, I gave [the officer] my ID knowing we did nothing wrong and when they asked D for hers, she refused to give it because they had no right to do so.

"So they handcuffed her and threw her roughly into the back of the cop car until they could figure out who she was. In the process of handcuffing her, they cut her wrist, which was truly not cool!

"Our freedom isn't freedom folks, when people can abuse others with no reason or evidence at all just because they "think" they have been given the power by people that are only equal to us.

"Of course, they had to let her go eventually cuz we weren't a threat to anyone.

They weren't expecting D to be so intelligent and outspoken, and left truly feeling the fear vibration finding out that they had just f***** with 2 celebrities."

Original report here



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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ghetto mobster or innocent man? An NYC murder case falls apart

John Giuca was accused of being a gang boss who ordered the death of a teen. But as the case slowly falls apart, he may turn out to be just another victim of Brooklyn justice.

In the early hours of Oct. 12, 2003, a handsome 19-year-old college football star named Mark Fisher accompanied a college classmate, Angel DiPietro, to a house party in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn.

Several hours later, a few blocks away from the house, Fisher was found dead — shot five times, lying on top of a blanket.

Suspicion fell quickly on the party’s host, 20-year-old John Giuca. During the sensational trial that followed, prosecutor Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi told the jury that Giuca, whom she described as a Tony Soprano-like gang boss, had armed his loyal "soldier," co-defendant Antonio Russo, and ordered him to kill Fisher.

Giuca and Russo were both sentenced to 25 years to life.

But now, nine years after the verdict, the case against Giuca appears to be crumbling, possibly adding to a long line of overturned convictions from the era of former District Attorney Charles Hynes.

‘The Ghetto Mafia’

Mark Fisher’s murder dominated front pages as investigators struggled for more than a year to make an arrest. Initial reports of the shooting came in through 911 and cops arrived on the scene within three minutes. They found Fisher’s body at the end of a driveway on Argyle Road; only two shell casings were recovered from the scene.

A canvass of the block revealed that many residents had heard multiple gunshots, and several also heard car doors opening and closing and a car drive away; some saw the car and one reported hearing the sound of voices, including that of a young female.

Cops later got information that Fisher had attended the impromptu party several blocks away at Giuca’s home, where DiPietro was the only person he knew.

All the partygoers lawyered up almost immediately. Cops publicly declared the group uncooperative, and the Fishers offered a $100,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest.

But it wasn’t until Hynes assigned an "elite team" to the case — including his controversial former rackets chief Michael Vecchione and the telegenic Nicolazzi — and convened a special, investigative grand jury that people began to talk.

Albert Cleary, the son of a prominent member of the Brooklyn Republican Party and a friend of Giuca’s, was one of the first to finger him, but only after the DA threatened Cleary about the status of his probation in connection with a brutal assault he committed only months earlier when he kicked a man in the head, rendering him unconscious.

Fisher’s body was found about 50 feet from Cleary’s back door. Months before, under a cloud of suspicion himself, Cleary had submitted a polygraph report to the DA through his lawyer indicating he knew nothing about the crime.

At trial, Cleary, who had attended the party, testified that Giuca had called him in the late morning after the murder, in what was framed as an initial attempt to cover up his knowledge of the crime. Cleary also recounted that Giuca ultimately confessed to him that night, in the presence of Giuca’s then-girlfriend (who had not been at the party).

Cleary said Giuca told them he gave Russo a gun and instructed him to show Fisher "what’s up" after Fisher "disrespected" him by sitting on a table.

Cleary also spoke of Giuca’s status as a "capo" in a local gang, dubbed the Ghetto Mafia, and recounted an alleged conversation prior to the murder between Giuca and "the boss" — in reality, a college student in North Carolina double-majoring in accounting and economics — about the need to "get a body" in order to bolster the gang’s credibility.

Phantom phone calls

But Cleary put the place of death about three blocks from where Fisher was shot, and neither he nor anyone else who testified offered an explanation as to how Fisher ended up on Argyle Road.

The testimony of Giuca’s girlfriend, Lauren Calciano, about this alleged confession also differed markedly from Cleary’s, even though they supposedly heard it together. Calciano said Giuca told them that Russo planned to rob Fisher and asked Giuca for a gun. She even put the time of the "confession" in the afternoon after the murder, while Cleary said Giuca confessed to them at night.

Calciano has since recanted her testimony, claiming she was pressured and threatened by prosecutors to testify against Giuca.

Cleary’s own grand jury testimony also told a different story. It wasn’t Giuca but someone else who had been upset that Fisher sat on the table. And gang involvement? No mention of it.

Perhaps most striking, Cleary told the grand jury that Giuca first called him not in the morning but about 1 p.m. that day — a fact that is confirmed by phone records Nicolazzi introduced into evidence and that the DA publicly touted as the key to cracking the case. Despite this, Nicolazzi elicited the incorrect time from Cleary.

Why? Most probably to harmonize his account with DiPietro’s and remove what were possible credibility issues.

DiPietro testified that at about 6:10 a.m., roughly a half-hour before the murder, the pair left Giuca’s house together and went to sleep at Cleary’s nearby home. Though Fisher’s body would be discovered across the street from where they reportedly slept, both denied hearing anything.

Two friends called DiPietro around 11:30 a.m. looking for Fisher; she told them he had left the party a few hours earlier. DiPietro later claimed that one of the other partygoers, Meredith Denihan, had been the one to tell her that Fisher left Giuca’s house safely, but that turned out to be a lie; the two had not spoken that morning.

Ultimately, DiPietro changed her story, claiming that Giuca had been the one to report that Fisher had left safely, in an 11 a.m. call to Cleary that the prosecution knew never happened.

Ironically, DiPietro was hired as a prosecutor by Hynes in 2012.

Changing stories

In her opening statement, Nicolazzi suggested that the killing of Fisher was gang-related.

But by the end of the trial, she introduced a completely new theory of the crime through the testimony of a drug-addicted jailhouse snitch named John Avitto.

Avitto testified that Giuca had confessed to him in jail, where he said he also overheard Giuca and his father speaking about the murder in the visiting room. This story had Giuca, Russo and a third individual beating Fisher after he refused to hand over $20 he had withdrawn from an ATM. In this version of events, Russo wrestled the gun from Giuca and shot Fisher. Despite the fact that his account contradicted that of every other witness, in her summation Nicolazzi told the jury that Avitto was "truthful," "honest" and that "everything [he] told you is credible."

Avitto has also recanted his testimony in a sworn affidavit. He now says he fabricated his entire story with help from newspaper accounts, in order to curry favor with the DA on his criminal charges. As it turns out, medical records show that Giuca’s father, having suffered a series of debilitating strokes, was unable to hold a conversation.

The jury ploy

From the start, Giuca maintained his innocence, saying he fell asleep in his home after the party and had no idea what happened to Fisher. Russo also maintains his innocence.

After Giuca’s conviction, his mother, Doreen Giuliano, began a quest to exonerate her son.

In one of the more bizarre aspects of this case, Giuliano concocted a false identity, Dee Quinn, rented an apartment and wore hotpants to befriend a juror, Jason Allo, who sat on her son’s trial.

Giuliano promised her husband, Frank, that she wouldn’t have sex with Allo, but told The Post in 2012, "Look, husbands are always second when you have kids. So when you say you’d do anything for your kid, you mean it. And if I’m gonna lose Frank over my son, so be it. You can always get another husband. And would I lie if I did [sleep with Allo]? Yeah, most likely, yes, I would lie."

After months of secretly recorded conversations, Allo admitted he had undisclosed connections to the case, that he recognized some of the witnesses from the neighborhood. He also mistakenly thought Giuca was Jewish and didn’t like Jews. But a judge threw out all of Giuliano’s appeals.

Giuliano didn’t give up. She hired criminal defense attorney Mark Bederow, of Bederow Miller LLP, to reinvestigate the case. Working with Jay Salpeter, an ex-cop-turned-private investigator with a specialty in wrongful convictions, Bederow uncovered what he alleges is compelling evidence of prosecutor misconduct. They also obtained key witness recantations — including those of Giuca’s former girlfriend and the jailhouse snitch.

The Ghetto Mafia, Giuliano said in a TV interview, is just a name Giuca and his friends called themselves as a joke. They weren’t a gang. They weren’t robbing people, and they certainly weren’t killing people.

Bederow declined to comment on the case, citing a pending review by the district attorney’s office. A spokesman for Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson declined to comment on the substance of the review or any likely decision.

What really happened on Argyle Road? Despite the reports of a car and voices at the scene of the shooting, the only witness from that block who was called to testify at trial was a 911 caller who said he saw and heard nothing but five gunshots. And so like that, the voices and the car disappeared from the narrative of the crime.

John Giuca could be freed, but what really happened to Mark Fisher — and why — on that tragic autumn morning may never be answered.

If John Giuca is freed, it will be one of a number of cases — many prosecuted under former Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes — that have been thrown out recently.

Original report here


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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Shocking moment British cop is caught on camera punching a suspect who was being restrained by two other officers

This is the shocking moment a police officer appears to throw a punch at a suspect who is being restrained by two other officers.

The video, taken by a passer-by, shows the officer apparently attacking the man as he was arrested in Derby city centre in July.

Senior officers have now launched an inquiry into the incident after studying the alarming footage.

The footage shows the suspect being restrained by police and appears to show the officer arguing with him

Policeman caught on camera punching a suspect who was restrained

The video shows the suspect being pulled along Holcombe Street by officers, as he shouts abuse at a third officer who follows them down the road.

Then, as they approach a police car, the third officer appears to argue with the suspect before apparently launching himself at the man landing a punch on his face.

Filmed by an onlooker who did not want to be identified, a woman's scream can be heard before the video cuts out.

In response, a force spokesman confirmed the incident took place in late July and that an internal investigation had been launched.

At the time of the incident, the suspect had been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and public order offences.

Alan Charles, the police and crime commissioner for Derbyshire, who oversees the work of the county's force, said: 'Police officers deal with very difficult situations on a daily basis.

'The public have the right to expect officers to behave in a professional manner.

'If any officers don't meet these standards, then they can certainly expect any breaches to be thoroughly investigated and appropriate action taken.'

Mark Pickard, Derbyshire Police Federation chairman, said: 'We are confident that, if a complaint is made, then the Derbyshire force will carry out a thorough investigation.

'The force has an exemplary record when it comes to investigating complaints from members of the public about its officers and staff.

'Police officers are bound by the force's standards and the new Code of Ethics and, as such, their behaviour must meet stringent guidelines.

'Where their conduct is found to be wanting, there are also procedures in place to ensure they are dealt with appropriately.'

Lisa Higginbottom's stepbrother Sam Kirk died after being felled by the single punch of an attacker.

She launched a campaign called 'One Punch' to educate people about the dangers of lashing out.

She said: 'I am shocked to hear that a police officer can behave in this way.

'The whole idea of the campaign is that, whatever the provocation has been, people should not lash out with their fists.

'The campaign was launched in the hope that people learn that their fists are weapons and should not be used.

'It asks that when faced with a potentially explosive or tension-filled atmosphere, they take 60 seconds to think about exactly what the consequences of their actions might be.'

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

Friday, September 12, 2014

Married British cop had sex with witness in his patrol car while on duty - and then 'smoked cannabis he had seized from a suspect'

A married policeman had sex with a witness in his patrol car while on duty and smoked cannabis he had seized from a crime scene, a court heard.

PC Alan King met Zoe Barham after being called to a stabbing at the bookmakers where she worked in 2011.

After collecting a witness statement and mobile number from her, the 48-year-old from Hoo, Kent, allegedly sent her text messages and the pair embarked on an affair.

The father-of-two picked Ms Barham up in his marked police car at least once every two weeks and had sex with her in an alleyway next to her house, Canterbury Crown Court heard.

During the affair. he asked her if she 'needed' drugs then offered to drop charges against a suspect in exchange for cannabis he found after being the first officer at the scene of a stabbing, it was alleged.

King denies misconduct in office, perverting the course of justice and supplying drugs.

The court heard how the pair met in June 2011 when King was called to a reported stabbing at Betfred in Gravesend where Ms Barham, 36, worked.

That week he visited the shop frequently and was even warned by a superior about his behaviour, the court heard.

After collecting her phone number when she gave a witness statement, he sent a text message to the woman on her birthday and the pair began seeing each other.

Over one year, the couple met in King's marked car and had sex in the vehicle in an alleyway next to her home while he was on duty, it was alleged.

Rebecca Fairbairn, prosecuting, said: 'Alan King had a duty as a police officer to act beyond reproach, however we say he used a telephone number given as part of a police investigation and used it just because he was attracted to this woman.'

'He had an obligation to respond to emergencies and calls from the public, that’s what he is there to do.

'But we say that instead of doing that he was visiting his girlfriend and having sex, and on occasions doing it in public.'

At first Ms Barham was unaware that King was married and had two children, she claims.

'We met in Forge Lane in Gravesend and he took me back to his home.

'I wasn’t aware about his relationship at first but I did suspect after a little while [he was married].'

'He would turn up in his marked police car and if I was at work we would just talk and have a fag.

'He would sometimes take me to my home in Gravesend in his police car.

'On one occasion he took me up an alley where we had sexual intercourse in his police car. That happened on several occasions.

'Mr King picked me up in his police car and took me there and he was in uniform. I went there because I was in a relationship with him.

The married father-of-two denies misconduct in office, perverting the course of justice and supplying drugs after being accused of taking cannabis from a crime scene and smoking it with his lover

'He promised me everything. He promised me a lot. He told me he loved me and I believed him at the time.'

The 48-year-old took her along while investigating incidents and allowed her to input information into the vehicle's police computer, she added.

While responding to a report of a man who had been stabbed in the neck, King allegedly seized cannabis from a suspect after being the first officer at the scene.

He then gave the drug to Ms Barham after allegedly agreeing to drop all charges against the suspect, Martin Reid, in exchange for them.

The affair ended when the the pair were arrested in relation an alleged fraud.

Giving evidence on PC King claimed he was going through marriage difficulties and he was flattered when Ms Barham flirted with him.

'She was very friendly and was flirting with me. 'She made it very clear that she fancied me and its not very often a woman flirted with I felt flattered and I flirted back.'

PC King said they began their affair within a week and he admitted taking Ms Barham in his police car while attending non-emergency calls.

Andrew Boughan, defending, asked: 'You would give Ms Barham lifts to and from her place of work in your marked police car?' The officer replied: 'That’s correct, maybe once a fortnight.'

He denies taking cannabis from a crime scene, telling the jury: 'I hate drugs'.

When asked why his former lover had made the allegations, he described her as a 'woman scorned'.

Original report here



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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Convicting the innocent in Britain

As recently as last year, there were innocent men inside Britain's prisons - as these high-profile cases that were eventually ruled as wrongful convictions show.

Victor Nealon

Convicted: 1997

Time served: 17 years

Released: 2013

Nealon spent 17 years in prison for attempted sexual assault – though police officers never carried out DNA testing on the victim’s clothing. At his trial in 1997, the court was told that no DNA evidence was available. But privately funded DNA tests discovered that the victim’s clothes had been kept sealed and untested. In fact, the garments did contain DNA samples - from a man who wasn’t Nealon. The Criminal Cases Review Commission refused to investigate the evidence twice, and only carried out a review at Nealon’s third appeal. When Nealon was released in December 2013, he was given just £46 discharge money and spent his first night of freedom on the streets. This June, the Ministry of Justice ruled that Nealon would not get compensation for his 17 years behind bars.


Sam Hallam

Convicted: 2005

Time served: Seven years

Released: 2012

Hallam was 18 when he received a life sentence for the death of trainee chef Essayas Kassahun, but judges were told that Hallam was the victim of a "serious miscarriage of justice" when his conviction was quashed in 2012. Evidence from Hallam’s mobile phone showed he was not at the crime scene, and judges found that, for "reasons that escape us", his phone was not investigated by the police. Hallam also suffered the loss of his father, who committed suicide when Hallam was sent to prison. "He’s never going to get over his miscarriage of justice," says Dr Naughton.

Sam Hallam leaves the Court of Appeal with his mother Wendy and surrounded by jubilant friends


Barry George

Convicted: 2001

Time served: Eight years

Released: 2008

George was convicted of the murder of television presenter Jill Dando and was released after two trials and two appeals. His sentence was finally overturned after scientific evidence was ruled inadmissible by the trial judge. He was denied compensation and is taking his claim to the European Court of Human Rights.


Barry George spent eight years in prison after being wrongly convicted of the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando


Sally Clark

Convicted: 1999

Time served: Three years

Released: 2003

Clark was wrongfully sentenced to life in prison for the deaths of one young son in 1996, and another, a two-month old, in 1998. She was released after three years in jail after an expert witness, Professor Roy Meadow, was discredited. Meadow wrote in his book that "one sudden infant death is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder, unless proven otherwise". He claimed in court that there is a one in 73 million chance of two cot deaths in a wealthy family, but the Royal Statistical Society said there was no basis for this claim. Following her release, other cases that relied on evidence from Meadow were re-examined, and another mother, Angela Cannings, also had her conviction for murder overturned. But Clark never recovered from her imprisonment and became an alcoholic. She died of alcohol poisoning in 2007.

As she left the High Court in 2003, Sally Clark said: 'There are no winners here.'


Paul Blackburn

Convicted: 1978

Time served: 25 years

Released: 2003

Blackburn spent a quarter of a century in prison after he was convicted, aged 15, for the sexual assault and attempted murder of a nine-year-old boy. The prosecution depended on a confession by Blackburn that was written after four hours of police interrogation. In 2005, appeal judges found that police "did not tell the truth" when they said that the confession was offered freely and in Blackburn’s own words. Blackburn says the statement was dictated to him, and expert testimony found it unlikely that a badly educated 15-year-old could have spelled so many technical terms correctly. The appeal court ruled that Blackburn’s confession should never have been considered evidence.

Asked if he could return to a normal life, Paul Blackburn said: "I don't know. What is a normal life after 25 years in there?'


Are innocent men still in prison today?

Miscarriages of justice will continue, says Dr Naughton, as long as our criminal justice system relies on unreliable forms of evidence, such as theories from expert witnesses, eyewitness identification and circumstantial evidence – all of which have been scientifically undermined.

Even DNA evidence can be discredited, due to problems with partial samples, mixed samples and "innocent transference". Dr Naughton explains that if two people shake hands, each will contain a trace of the other’s DNA. "I can then go into a pub that you’ve never been in or pick up a gun that you’ve never touched. I can shoot somebody with that gun and your DNA will be on that gun because I’ve transferred it. The public doesn’t know these things," says Dr Naughton.

And cases such as Blackburn reveal the problems with "parole deal" sentencing. Prisoners applying for parole are more likely to be released if they complete courses to show that they’ve reduced their risk of re-offending. Those that won’t admit their guilt and refuse to do so can end up with longer sentences than if they’d pleaded guilty, says Dr Naughton. "They end up in this limbo situation. We call it the parole deal, where prisoners maintaining innocence are trapped in prison," he adds.

One of the most high profile criminals who maintains his innocence today has been continually denied parole in part because he insists he is innocent. Raymond Gilbert was convicted of murder in 1981 and could have been released from prison in 1996 if he’d plead guilty. Instead, he is still in prison 33 years later.

Dr Naughton claims that the presumption of innocence leaves those accused of crime vulnerable to wrongful convictions because fewer resources are allocated to the defence team. Instead, the prosecution and police are well funded to chip away at the presumed innocent status.

He also makes a distinction between miscarriages of justice and "abortions of justice", where police actively undermine a fair trial. The Criminal Cases Review Commission was founded in response to just such a case, after police manufactured evidence against the Guilford Four and the Birmingham Six, who were accused of IRA bombings.

"There was a real crisis of confidence in the criminal justice system when those cases were revealed to be wrongful convictions," says Dr Naughton.

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, September 10, 2014

'My brother is not a murderer': How one woman gave up everything to fight for justice

Charlotte Henry’s brother Alex is serving a life sentence for murder. He didn’t kill anyone, but, according to a 300-year-old law, is ‘guilty’ because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here she talks to Catherine O’Brien about her fight for justice

A little more than a year ago, Charlotte Henry’s life was going to plan. Despite doom-laden reports about graduates struggling for jobs, she had made a smooth transition from law student to case administrator for the probation service.

A bright, smiley blonde who loved nightclubbing, Charlotte also had her serious side – her ambition was to specialise in work with youth offenders. As part of a team juggling up to 100 cases, she was on the first rung of her career ladder, earning £28,000 a year, running her own car and saving up for a mortgage deposit. Not bad, she thought, for a girl of 23.

Today, Charlotte’s aspirations are on hold and her mind is focused on just one case. In March this year, Charlotte’s younger brother Alex was found guilty of murder. His conviction was achieved using a 300-year-old law known as ‘joint enterprise’, which meant that he could be prosecuted for murder even though he dealt a fatal blow to no one. At 21, he has been sentenced to life imprisonment with an order that he serves a minimum of 19 years.

Supporters of joint enterprise argue that it is a vital piece of legislation in the battle against gang violence. Without it, the killers of many murder victims, including Stephen Lawrence and Ben Kinsella, would still be free. But there is a growing unease that joint enterprise is also leading to miscarriages of justice, dragging into its net those caught on the periphery of crime. ‘People ask how this happened to us,’ says Charlotte. ‘The simple answer is that Alex was in the wrong place at the wrong time.’

I meet Charlotte in the terraced house in West London where she lives with her mother Sally and stepfather Geoff. The sitting room is clutter-free, but step into the dining room and you’ll find a table covered in legal textbooks and boxes of files containing court documents. Charlotte no longer works for the probation service.

Her request for unpaid leave to support Alex through his trial was declined, so she left. Today she volunteers for Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association (JENGbA), a group campaigning on behalf of 500 prisoners convicted under joint-enterprise legislation. She is also masterminding Alex’s personal campaign – liaising with lawyers about his grounds for appeal, writing to MPs and running a website dedicated to his case.

She has appeared on BBC Two’s Newsnight and Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour as well as in a BBC documentary to highlight his plight, and she is currently working on an address to the Justice Select Committee at the House of Commons. ‘Each day, I set myself new tasks,’ she says. ‘I have to do something otherwise I am a bundle of anxiety. Campaigning is my way of coping.’

On the wall behind us is a photograph taken at Croyde Bay, Devon, a week before Alex’s arrest last August. It shows the family enjoying what turned out to be their final carefree moments.

‘We went surfing and had a brilliant time,’ says Charlotte, ‘and I’m so glad we had that holiday together.’ Elsewhere around the house, framed pictures chart Charlotte and Alex’s upbringing – school portraits, snaps from a trip to Euro Disney and, among Charlotte’s favourites, an image of her and Alex taken a couple of Christmases ago. She is posing confidently with a protective arm around his shoulder; he looks more reserved, but relaxed. They have the same expressive eyes and the camera has captured the closeness between them. What it cannot show, though, is the way that, despite having grown up side by side, their lives have diverged to polar extremes.

Now 25, Charlotte has always possessed a sunny disposition, while Alex, although affectionate and capable of making the family cry with laughter, was more emotionally fragile. Their early childhood years were stable, but when Charlotte was ten and Alex seven, their parents separated. Charlotte explains how her father Frank, a Glaswegian carpenter, met Sally, then working as a barmaid in Benidorm, when both were in their early 20s.

Back in the UK, he moved south to be with her, she became pregnant and within little more than a year they were a family. ‘It was a whirlwind romance, and they admit that they were too young,’ says Charlotte. Frank, now 50, still works as a carpenter, but after Charlotte and Alex started school, Sally, now 47, returned to education and trained as a research psychologist. Today she has a doctorate and works at the Institute of Psychiatry.

Charlotte doesn’t remember being particularly distressed by the marriage breakdown. ‘There had been the odd argument, but there was no big trauma.’ Frank moved out and into a house nearby, and he and Sally shared residency of the children. ‘I loved Dad but I knew as a girl that I would be better staying mainly with Mum,’ she says. ‘Alex took it a lot harder; he lost his routine and security. He would have tantrums, screaming and crying for Mum when we were at Dad’s, and screaming and crying for Dad when we were at Mum’s. He couldn’t understand why they were no longer together.’

At school, Alex had been identified as gifted at maths. But as his anxiety levels increased, he developed a school phobia. ‘He began to really hate being there. Sometimes, at break time, I would go and find him in the playground and he was often being picked on.’

Charlotte didn’t understand that Alex had mental-health problems. ‘He just didn’t look well. I’d talk to him and try to get him to open up about Mum and Dad, but he wasn’t good at saying how he felt.’ In the year following their parents’ separation, Alex was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Frank and Sally took him out of his state primary and placed him in a small private school where he excelled academically. By the time Alex was ready for secondary school, however, his anxiety disorder was re-emerging.

He had several clashes over behavioural issues and, at 13, was permanently excluded for graffitiing on a school wall. From then on, he was consigned to an alternative provision centre ‘which was a one-size-fits-all teenage daycare centre,’ explains Charlotte. ‘A lot of kids at alternative provision centres can’t even read or write. Alex was an intelligent boy, but he had fallen out of the system and lost confidence.’

In contrast to Alex, Charlotte loved school. She achieved 13 GCSEs and three A-levels, and is aware that her success may have emphasised his failure. ‘He had fallen so far behind he could see no way back. And it was hard for Mum to see her clever son rejected by the system and yet feel powerless to help him.’

Clumped together with other socially excluded boys, Alex started hanging out in the local park, and before long he was picking up the first of several convictions for possession of cannabis.

‘He used to hide it from me because he knew I would give him a lecture. But I’d know when he was using, because he would go from being hyper to calm. He’s never liked alcohol, but smoking cannabis was almost self-medication for him.’

After one arrest, Charlotte was summoned to the police station. ‘He was too scared to tell our parents so I acted as his appropriate adult.’ As she watched the solicitor negotiate Alex’s case, she had a light-bulb moment. ‘I realised I wanted to become a solicitor, too.’

She secured a place to study law at Brunel University and in her final year, wrote a 10,000-word dissertation on ‘combatting gangs: early intervention versus harsher sentences’. ‘Through Alex and his friends, I’d seen what happens when you throw boys out of school. We all feel hostile when we are alienated and that is how boys are drawn into gangs – they are seeking the approval that they can’t get elsewhere.’

It was hard for Mum to see her clever son rejected by the system

By his late teens, Alex appeared to be more settled. He was working with his father and lived with him most of the time, but he visited his mum regularly. Alex and Charlotte remained close and spoke at least twice a day on the phone. ‘I would call him up to check in. They weren’t long chats – just me asking whether he had eaten and if he wanted me to pick him up. I never liked him coming home late at night,’ she says.

In the event, however, the fracas that was to cost Alex his freedom happened in broad daylight. One Tuesday afternoon in August last year, he was in Ealing with three friends. He had known two of them – Younis Tayyib and Janhelle Grant-Murray – since he was 11; the third, Cameron Ferguson, he had known for less than a year. The four hung out for a while, and then Younis and Janhelle decided to go to Younis’s house nearby, and Alex and Cameron went shopping.

The next time Alex saw Janhelle – just after 3pm – he was being confronted on the street by a group of four boys. One of the group had removed his belt to use the metal buckle as a weapon and Janhelle was holding a bottle of wine which he had stolen from a nearby off-licence. CCTV footage presented at the trial and available on Alex’s campaign website shows a tense clash, with Younis trying to act as peacekeeper. Moments later, Alex appears in the frame from some way up the road and sprints to Janhelle’s defence with Cameron behind him.

The fight, which lasted less than 40 seconds, took place just out of range of the CCTV cameras. Alex picked up Janhelle’s phone, which had fallen out of his pocket, and threw it at the head of Taqui Khezihi, 21. He then threw a punch at Taqui’s brother Bourhane, 24, before fleeing the scene. His escape is clearly visible on the CCTV film and also on mobile-phone footage taken by a bystander. What Alex claims not to have known was that Cameron had a knife concealed in a carrier bag slung over his shoulder. Off camera, without removing the knife from the bag, Cameron had stabbed Taqui and Bourhane in their backs before also fleeing. Bourhane survived, but the wound to Taqui penetrated his heart and lung. Tragically, he died shortly afterwards in his brother’s arms.

The first inkling Charlotte had that something was amiss was later that afternoon when she answered the front door to two police officers asking for Alex and saying they were worried for his safety. She was able to tell them that she had only just spoken to her brother – by chance she had called him around 4pm. ‘He’d sounded normal. But he hadn’t known then that Cameron had used a knife,’ says Charlotte. She gave the police officers Alex’s mobile number and then called him again. ‘Cameron had told Alex and the others by then what he’d done. Alex didn’t tell me what was going on, but he was quiet and I think the gravity of the situation was hitting home.’

According to Charlotte, Alex didn’t know that someone had died until it was announced on the news later that evening. His misguided concern was that he had promised his girlfriend Gemma*, who was pregnant, that he would accompany her to a scan in three days’ time. He went to stay with a friend in Croydon and claims that he had intended to hand himself over to the police on the Friday. But he was arrested on the Thursday night and within 24 hours had been charged with murder under joint-enterprise legislation.

Charlotte accepts that Alex was not innocent. ‘He threw a phone and landed a punch, so he was guilty of common assault. He was involved in an affray and because of the level of violence in that affray, he could even have been charged with violent disorder, which carries a maximum four-year prison term. So there are several options available.’

What she cannot accept is the prosecution’s argument that Alex knew a knife was present and therefore foresaw the possibility of serious harm, yet failed to prevent it. ‘In my mind, if you enter into a premeditated fight as one of a group, knowing that someone in your group has a knife and intends to cause serious harm, then it doesn’t matter who delivers the fatal blow – you are all guilty of murder,’ says Charlotte. ‘But in Alex’s case, there was no plan, no premeditation. He wasn’t present at the outset of the fight. He came across it only by chance and stepped in to try to protect his friend. He didn’t know there was a knife and didn’t intend to cause serious harm.’

Alex, Cameron, Younis and Janhelle went on trial at the Old Bailey in February. Four days into the hearing, Cameron, then 20, changed his plea to guilty. He was subsequently sentenced to 22 years. Janhelle and Alex received minimum terms of 19 years. Younis, who was clearly seen on the CCTV footage trying to stop the fight, was found not guilty. ‘The jury was allowed to come to a circumstantial verdict, and yet Cameron is prepared to testify that neither Alex nor Janhelle knew he had a knife. That is the basis of our appeal,’ says Charlotte.

While Charlotte has established a website for Alex, the family of Taqui, a French-Algerian national who had been living in London since 1995 and had completed a diploma in accountancy, has set up a memorial page to record the loss of their ‘kind, polite’ and clearly much-loved son and brother. ‘We have lost Alex to a crime he didn’t commit and that is terrible, but it is by no means as terrible as losing someone you love to murder. We understand that,’ says Charlotte.

At the trial, she approached a member of Taqui’s family to express her condolences. ‘I can’t imagine the suffering they are going through and what Bourhane endured, holding his brother as he died.’ None of this, however, can deter her from defending her brother. ‘Alex is not a murderer and, as his sister, I have to be the one who stands up for him.’

Alex has now served just over a year in prison – having been held in custody since his arrest. Charlotte has spent the morning before our interview visiting him in HMP Pentonville. He is allowed two visits a month, for two hours a time. Sometimes Charlotte goes with her mother and sometimes with Alex’s girlfriend Gemma and his baby daughter Annabel*, who was born in February. Today, however, she went alone. ‘He is looking pale and gaunt because he’s locked up for 23 hours a day, but he is being strong mentally and the campaign is raising his hopes,’ she says.

Within the next few weeks, Alex will be moved to Nottingham Prison, where he will have more time out of his cell and the option to embark upon educational courses. Meanwhile, Charlotte has gone back to her original ambition to become a defence solicitor and this month begins a chartered legal executive course at the University of Westminster. She will be combining her studies with running Alex’s campaign. ‘I never used to be the sort of person who was comfortable speaking in public, but one good thing about this is that I now know how to make myself heard,’ she says. She is aware that if she is to have any hope of making a difference, she needs to be able to argue from a legal, as well as an emotional, standpoint. ‘Luckily, I do know what I am talking about – and I will keep on talking on Alex’s behalf until he gets the fair hearing he deserves.’

Original report here


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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Judge condemns Crown Prosecution Service for pursuing sex case

The kid was the victim of a tease

A judge has criticised the Crown Prosecution Service for shoddy evidence and said a case should never have been brought to court after a former pupil at a £30,000 a-year public school was cleared of sexually assaulting a friend.

Archie Reed, 20, was accused of sexually assaulting the 19 year-old woman when they shared a bed at her student digs after a drunken night out in central London.

Judge Anthony Morris QC had urged prosecutors to pull the case before the trial had even begun and criticised the CPS for its shambolic evidence during the trial.

Judge Morris said he would never have allowed the case to go ahead if he had known that the allegations had not been properly investigated.

When the CPS opted to press ahead despite the judge’s reservations, the trial was beset with problems as gaping holes in the police investigation emerged.

The woman had claimed Mr Reed had pulled off her pyjama bottoms and knickers while she slept, and only stopped groping her when she screamed for him to leave.

But Reed claimed that he "picked up the wrong vibe" after she kissed him and invited him to stay in her bed when he missed his last Tube home.

Blonde-haired Reed was cleared of assault by penetration by the unanimous verdict of the jury of five men and seven women.

The judge told prosecutor Dianne Chan: "These were people who were good friends of each other, close friends who spent the evening drinking quite a considerable quantity of alcohol together, at the end of which the allegation is the defendant in a drunken state took advantage of her.

"It is something which he bitterly regretted as soon as it happened and he was stopped in the course of it.

"Some might say to go through the process now is going to make matters worse rather than better, but that's a matter for the complainant and the Crown."

The incident happened after Reed and the woman met for a drink at the Northumberland Arms pub in Tottenham Court Road on October 8 last year.

She had already drunk more than two glasses of wine at a reception held by a top law firm, and told a friend she was 'getting p*ssed' that night.

She and Reed then shared two bottles of white wine as they shared gap year stories, before leaving the pub at 1am.

The woman, a student in London, offered to let Reed stay at her university halls, as his last Tube had already left.

She claimed Reed attacked her while she was asleep, climbing into her bed and pulling off her clothes before trying to rape her.

However, CCTV showed the pair holding hands and hugging on their walk home.

After the woman gave evidence, Judge Morris cleared Reed of attempted rape due to lack of evidence.

Reed said he had decided to "go for it" after she had kissed him and invited him into her bed, saying she had grinded her bottom against his groin while they were 'spooning'.

He touched her intimately and when she told him to stop a confused Reed said he left soon afterwards.

"I had obviously made a mistake with a friend", he said.

"I thought I had completely read the wrong signals.

"I knew it would take a long time to rebuild our relationship.

"I was also really confused because I wasn't sure why she had freaked out all of a sudden."

However, a fortnight later a bewildered Reed, a currency consultant at Smart Currency Business, was hauled in by police for questioning, and asked the officer: "Am I going to prison?"

He was charged five months later, but the case against him began to unravel as soon as the two-week trial began.

The jury struggled to follow a video interview with the alleged victim, and it was left to the defence team to produce a transcript.

Police experts had been unable to download key texts sent and received by the woman, and had resorted to taking photos of the screens which were barely legible.

Forced into yet another adjournment because evidence was not ready, Judge Morris exclaimed: "I would never have started this case if I had known it would take this course."

It then emerged that vital messages sent by the alleged victim hours after the incident had been wiped.

Police were forced to admit they had not seized her phone after she first complained, and waited six months before starting to analyse it.

An increasingly exasperated Judge Morris said: "I would have expected that to be taken from the complainant at the time of her interview and examined there and then.

"That is a shortcoming of the investigation of this matter."

When he learned that the alleged victim had not been questioned about the missing texts, the judge criticised the Crown Prosecution Service for opting to pursue the case.

"Sometimes it would be helpful for someone from the CPS to be in court and see the problems created at cases which aren't investigated properly, and the consequences, instead of being at the end of the phone opining whether cases should go ahead or not."

In terse exchanges with Ms Chan, the judge asked whether the CPS knew "what a mess had been made of the telephone evidence".

Reed's defence team narrowly failed to have the case against him thrown out entirely, and then brought forward a string of glowing character references.

The former head girl at his school described Reed as a 'gentleman' who could always be trusted to look after his friends.

Carl Hasty, the director of Smart Currency Business, said he was 'astonished' when he heard about the charge.

"I find it difficult to believe Archie would commit such an offence", he said.

Reed, of Kensington, west London, denied attempted rape and assault by penetration.

He walked free from court after being discharged by the judge. His barrister Sallie Bennett-Jenkins QC said she was considering making a wasted costs application in addition to her client's defence costs because of the way the case was handled.

The judge said any costs application would be heard at a later date.

Original report here


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Monday, September 08, 2014

Cops Who Killed John Crawford III At Ohio Walmart Shot Him 'On Sight': Attorney

Surveillance video from an Ohio Walmart shows that a man fatally shot by police earlier this month had his back to officers and was talking on a cell phone, an attorney for the man's family says.

John Crawford III died Aug. 5 after Beavercreek police responded to reports of an armed man at a Dayton-area Walmart. Crawford was not armed -- he had a pellet gun with him, which he had picked up in the store's toy department.

Attorney Michael Wright said that the video, which he was allowed to view with the man's family, contradicts statements by police and witnesses that Crawford ignored commands to drop the gun and "looked like he was going to go violently."

"John was doing nothing wrong in Walmart, nothing more, nothing less than shopping," Wright said in a statement. He said the 22-year-old father of two was shot "on sight" in a "militaristic" response by police.

LeeCee Johnson, the mother of Crawford's children, was on the phone with him when he was shot. She told the Dayton Daily News:

"[The] next thing I know, he said ‘It’s not real,’ and the police start shooting and they said ‘Get on the ground,’ but he was already on the ground because they had shot him... I could hear him just crying and screaming. I feel like they shot him down like he was not even human."

The Ohio attorney general’s office said that the gun Crawford was carrying was an MK-177 BB/pellet rifle, also known as a "variable pump air rifle."

A special prosecutor is scheduled to present the case to a grand jury Sept. 22, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Tuesday.

Beavercreek Police Sgt. David Darkow, one officer involved in the shooting, returned to duty last week. The other officer, Sean Williams, remains on administrative leave.

One of the officers in Crawford's death was involved in a 2010 shooting that was ruled self-defense, according to the Associated Press. Authorities would not confirm which officer it was.

Original report here


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Sunday, September 07, 2014

Federal Court Questions 'Self-Serving' Police Account of Fatal Shooting

Jury trial ordered for California cops who shot and killed an unarmed suspect

Last week The New York Times published a widely read op-ed titled "How the Supreme Court Protects Bad Cops." According to the author, one of the key ways SCOTUS shields the police is by consistently extending the benefit of the doubt to law enforcement agents who employ deadly force against criminal suspects. Thanks to such deferential decisions, the op-ed observed, the high court has made it "very difficult, and often impossible, to hold police officers and the governments that employ them accountable for civil rights violations."

Perhaps the Supreme Court should take a few pointers from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Last Thursday, that court refused to let one California police department off the hook for a fatal shooting that claimed the life of an unarmed suspect. Declining to accept at face value what he characterized as the "self-serving" police narrative, 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski ruled that not only was there reason to doubt the officers' version of the facts; there was reason to "conclude that the officers lied."

At issue in the case of Cruz v. City of Anaheim is a December 2009 incident arising from tips made by a confidential police informant. According to those tips, Caesar Cruz, an alleged gang member and methamphetamine dealer, was driving around Anaheim with a gun in his waistband, informing listeners that "he was not going back to prison."

In response, Anaheim police moved in, stopping Cruz for a traffic violation and surrounding him at a Wal-Mart parking lot. What happened next is in dispute. According to the police, Cruz fully exited his vehicle and reached for his waistband. Several seconds later he was dead, shot multiple times by the officers.

Cruz's relatives question that official narrative. Contrary to the officers' claims, they note, Cruz's body was found tangled in his seat belt. He had never fully exited the car. Nor was he carrying a gun on his person at the time he was killed. Charging the police with wrongful death and with violating the Fourth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, Cruz's relatives filed suit in federal court against the officers and the city.

The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California sided entirely with the police. No reasonable jury, that court declared, could ever seriously doubt the official police version of the event. As such, the case against the cops was kicked out of court.

But now it appears the district court spoke too hastily. "In this case, there's circumstantial evidence that could give a reasonable jury pause," observed Judge Kozinski in his ruling last week for the 9th Circuit. "Most obvious is the fact that Cruz didn't have a gun on him, so why would he have reached for his waistband?" As Kozinski put it, "for him to make such a gesture when no gun is there makes no sense whatsoever."

Equally troubling is the record of Officer Bruce Linn, one of the five cops who shot and killed Cruz. In August 2011, Linn was involved in the similar shooting death of an unarmed suspect named David Rayer. Like Cruz before him, Rayer came to police attention via a confidential informant. Also like Cruz, Rayer was unarmed when the police claimed he reached for his waistband and shot him dead.

"Given these curious and material factual discrepancies," Judge Kozinski declared in conclusion, "the district court erred in ruling that only an unreasonable or speculative jury could disbelieve Officers Phillips, Vargas, Stauber and Linn’s version of events."

The matter of Cruz v. Anaheim will now end up before a jury—which is right where it belongs

Original report here


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Saturday, September 06, 2014

Suppressed information

On 9th June this year I received a note from Google advising me that they had taken a post on this blog down. The post originally appeared on 8 September, 2012. The post reported that Pc Kyle Webber resigned from Central Scotland Police in May following allegations that he had sex with Sarah Mitchell, 23, described at the time as a former escort girl. The offence was committed on June 6, 2011 at Alloa Police Office.
Google did not say why the post was "infringing" but in any case I have no intention of reviving the post. You can however read more about the matter here

Deputy who killed former Napster COO after drifting into the bike lane while distracted by his laptop will NOT face charges because he was answering a work-related email

California prosecutors have declined to file charges against a sheriff's deputy who struck and killed a prominent entertainment attorney and former Napster executive with his patrol car last year.

Deputy Andrew Wood was apparently distracted by his mobile digital computer when his patrol car drifted into the bike lane, running over cyclist Milton Olin Jr.

Olin, a 65-year-old attorney and former chief operating officer of the online file-sharing service Napster, was riding in Calabasas in December when he was hit.

Prosecutors said in a letter released Wednesday and cited by Los Angeles Daily News that because Wood was acting within the course of his duties when typing into his computer, criminal charges are not warranted.

Under the law, law enforcement officials are allowed to use electronic wireless devices while carrying out their duties.

The victim’s family have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Sheriff's Department and accused Wood of negligence.

Olin’s loved ones also started an online petition on demanding that charges be brought against the deputy. So far, more than 67,000 people have signed.

Milton Olin, a married father of two, was riding his bike in the 22400 block of Mulholland Highway at around 1pm on December 8, 2013, when Deputy Wood's patrol car slammed into him.

Olin was pronounced dead at the scene and the deputy was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

Wood was returning from a fire call at Calabasas High School and was on patrol when the accident occurred.

‘He was responding to a deputy who was inquiring whether the fire investigation had been completed,’ the letter from the prosecutor’s office stated. ‘Since Wood was acting within the course and scope of his duties when he began to type his response, under Vehicle Code section 23123.5, he acted lawfully.

‘Wood briefly took his eyes away from the road precisely when the narrow roadway curved slightly to the left without prior warning, causing him to inadvertently travel straight into the bike lane, immediately striking Olin.’

Olin, from Woodland Hills, had been a lawyer for 38 years and practiced business, labor and employment and intellectual property law from a firm he co-founded, Altschul & Olin LLC in Encino.

According to his LinkedIn profile, he was the COO of Napster between 2000 and 2002. Napster was a file sharing site for music before becoming an online music store.

Before his job with Napster, he worked for A&M Records as vice president of business development and was responsible for signing artists and acquiring music rights.

Olin is survived by his wife, Louise, and his two sons, Chris and Geoff. The family lived in a $1million home in Woodland Hills.

Original report here



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Friday, September 05, 2014

Brothers freed after 30 years in jail amid new DNA evidence

Lumberton, North Carolina: Thirty years after their convictions in the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in rural North Carolina, based on confessions that they quickly repudiated and said were coerced, two mentally disabled half-brothers were declared innocent and released on Tuesday by a Robeson County court.

The case against the men, always weak, fell apart after DNA evidence implicated another man with a history of rape and murder.

The startling shift in fortunes for the men, Henry Lee McCollum, now 50, who has spent three decades on death row, and Leon Brown, 46, who was serving a life sentence, provided one of the most dramatic examples yet of the potential for false, coerced confessions and also of the power of DNA tests to exonerate the innocent.

As friends and relatives of the two men wept, a superior court judge, Douglas Sasser, said he was vacating their convictions and ordering their release.

"Thank you, Jesus," said Mr McCollum's father as the judge said that the convictions were void. "Thank you, Jesus," he repeated.

The current district attorney, Johnson Britt, did not contest the motion to dismiss the charges and said he would not attempt to reprosecute the men because the state "does not have a case".

Mr McCollum was 19 and Mr Brown was 15 when they were picked up by police in Red Springs, a small town in the southern part of the state, on the night of September 28, 1983. Weeks earlier, the body of Sabrina Buie, who had been raped and suffocated with her underwear, had been discovered in a soybean field.

No physical evidence tied the youths, both African-American as was the victim, to the crime, but someone had apparently cast suspicion on McCollum. After five hours of questioning with no lawyer present and with his mother weeping in the hallway, not allowed to see him, Mr McCollum told a story of how he and three other youths attacked and killed the girl.

"I had never been under this much pressure, with a person hollering at me and threatening me," Mr McCollum told The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. "I just made up a story and gave it to them so they would let me go home."

After he signed a statement written out in longhand by investigators, he asked, "Can I go home now?" according to an account by his defence lawyers.

Before the night was done, Mr Brown, told that his half-brother Henry had confessed and facing similar threats that he could be executed if he did not cooperate, also signed a confession. Both have subsequently recanted, saying their confessions had been coerced. Oddly, the other two men mentioned in Mr McCollum's confession were never prosecuted.

T The two young defendants were prosecuted by district attorney Joe Freeman Britt, a 1.98 metre, Bible-quoting lawyer who was later profiled by 60 Minutes as the country's "deadliest DA". (He is not related to the current district attorney.)

As recently as 2010, the North Carolina Republican Party put Mr McCollum's booking photograph on campaign fliers accusing a Democrat of being soft on crime, according to The News & Observer.

In 1994, when the US Supreme Court turned down a request for review of the case, Justice Antonin Scalia cited Mr McCollum's crime as so heinous that it would be hard to argue against lethal injection.

Justice Harry Blackmun, who was an open opponent of the death penalty and had voted to hear the case, noted that Mr McCollum had the mental age of a 9-year-old and that "this factor alone persuades me that the death penalty in this case is unconstitutional".

In later years, the Supreme Court barred the death penalty for minors and the execution of the mentally disabled.

Lawyers for the two men from the Centre for Death Penalty Litigation, a nonprofit legal group in North Carolina, began pressing for DNA testing of the physical evidence in the case, which included a cigarette butt found near sticks used in the murder.

Recent testing by an independent state agency, the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, found a match for the DNA on the cigarette butt - not to either of the imprisoned men, but to Roscoe Artis, who lived only a block from where Miss Buie's body was found and had a history of rape convictions.

Only weeks after the murder of Miss Buie, Artis confessed to the rape and murder of an 18-year-old girl in Red Springs, a town of fewer than 4000 residents. Artis received a death sentence, later reduced to life, for that crime and remains in prison. Officials have not explained why, despite the similarities in the crimes, they kept their focus on Mr McCollum and Mr Brown even as the men proclaimed their innocence.

The only witness at Tuesday's hearing was Sharon Stellato of the innocence inquiry commission, who under questioning from defence lawyers described the lack of evidence tying the two men to the crime as well as the DNA evidence implicating Artis. The district attorney said he had no evidence to the contrary.

Joe Freeman Britt, the original prosecutor, told The News & Observer last week that he still believed the men were guilty.

Mr McCollum, his hopes raised by the apparent DNA exoneration, reflected on his fate.

"I have never stopped believing that one day I'd be able to walk out that door," he said recently.

"A long time ago, I wanted to find me a good wife, I wanted to raise a family, I wanted to have my own business and everything," he said. "I never got a chance to realise those dreams. Now I believe that God is going to bless me to get back out there."

Original report here


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Thursday, September 04, 2014

US homeowner jailed for 17 years for shooting teenage accident victim on his porch

This is a political verdict. He is being made a scapegoat for black anger. What's an elderly man in reasonable fear of his life supposed to do? I would have described this as an unfortunate accident

An American homeowner who shot and killed a teenager on his porch in suburban Detroit as she sought his help following a car crash has been sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Theodore Wafer fired at Renisha McBride, 19, in the early hours of the morning after being woken from his sleep by a knock at the door.

He told police he thought the noise was from a burglar and feared his life was in danger, but was convicted of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in August.

As Wafer is white and his victim was African-American, the case came at a sensitive time for an America which appears increasingly divided over issues of both race and gun control, following a series of incidents in which unarmed black people were shot and killed, often at the hands of the police.

Last month there were weeks of riots in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, over the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer, and in 2012 the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a neighbourhood watch coordinator also led to protests. Both teenagers were unarmed.

Wafer, 55, was sentenced to between 15 and 30 years over the death of McBride, plus an additional two years for a felony weapons charge.

The court heard the teenager had been drinking before getting into a car accident in November.

Witnesses said she appeared disorientated and refused offers of help, staggering off into the night rather than listening to calls to stay by her car.

It is unclear how McBride ended up on the front porch of Wafer’s suburban bungalow, which is in a middle-class, largely white suburb adjoining the bankrupt, crime-hit and predominantly black city of Detroit, Michigan.

She banged on the door, before moving around to the side of the house and then back to the front.

The airport worker opened the door and fired a single shotgun blast, which killed her.

At the start of the sentencing hearing, Wafer wept as he apologised for his actions. He said: "To the parents, family and friends of Renisha McBride, I apologise from the bottom of my heart and I am truly sorry for your loss. I can only hope and pray that somehow you can forgive me."

The court also heard statements from McBride’s father and two of her sisters.

The words of younger sister Jasmine were read by her father after she said she had been experiencing panic attacks and was too upset to attend the hearing.

She said: "Many days I think about the good times we shared and how it was cut short by a person's cowardly actions.

"I was taught to apologise when I made a mistake or an accident. Never once had I heard Mr Wafer send his condolences. I find it very hard to believe that his actions were an accident."

Prosecutors had recommended that Judge Dana Hathaway give Wafter to 17 years, a period of time his attorney, Cheryl Carpenter, described as a "death sentence" given his age.

Original report here


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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Police accused of 'industrial levels of dishonesty' over Plebgate as Scotland Yard releases previously-unseen CCTV footage

Downing Street police officers were accused of 'industrial levels of dishonesty' today after a new report on the 'Plebgate' scandal was published by Scotland Yard.

According to the report one armed police officer on duty in Downing Street on the night of the row texted a colleague to say she could ‘topple the Tory government’.

The new evidence reveals the extent to which police 'conspired' to destroy former Tory minister Andrew Mitchell’s career, the Metropolitan Police's deputy assistant commissioner Patricia Gallan admitted.

Mr Mitchell was accused of calling police officers ‘f****** plebs’ after they refused to let him push his bike through the main gates in Downing Street on September 19, 2012. The Tory MP admits swearing, but vehemently denies ever calling the police officers ‘plebs’.

Today MP David Davis, a staunch supporter of Mr Mitchell, said: 'Although the Operation Alice closing report is a police report into the police, it nevertheless shows industrial levels of dishonesty by police working in Downing Street.

'One police officer has been jailed. Three more police officers have been sacked and a further two police officers have received final written warnings.'

Today's report was released just days after Mr Mitchell's father - Sir David Mitchell - died aged 86 after a long illness.

The publication of today's report has been expected for some time and comes the day Parliament returns from its summer recess.

The report also contained previously-unseen CCTV footage of the incident revealing that a mystery passer-by witnessed the incident.

The video of the incident appears to corroborate the original police account of the incident recorded by officers on duty that night.

The police log said ‘several members of public [were] present’ during Mr Mitchell’s showdown with the police.

Previously-released CCTV footage - taken from within Downing Street - appeared to show that only one member of the public showed an interest in the unfolding event.

Mr Mitchell's allies said this footage undermined the police's official account of the incident.

But the new video footage of the incident released today - which is shot from across the road on Whitehall - clearly shows one passer-by stopping in front of the Downing Street gates while Mr Mitchell in in discussion with the police officers. It also shows two other witnesses.

Mr Mitchell is then seen wheeling his bike out of the pedestrian side gate.

Despite the fresh footage appearing to back the official police log, Scotland Yard’s deputy assistant commissioner Patricia Gallan said the ‘heart’ of the scandal was police officers conspiring together ‘to lie and falsify statements against a cabinet minister’.

The damning remarks came as the Met published a text from one of the officers on duty that night.

The message is published in today's lengthy report by the Metropolitan police into Operation Alice, its investigation into the plebgate incident.

Operation Alice led to the dismissal of four police officers, one of whom was sent to prison.

The report found that PC Gillian Weatherley, who was one of the four officers to lose their jobs after disciplinary hearings, texted a colleague two days after the incident to declare that she could topple the government.

PC Weatherley witnessed, but did not overhear, the incident between Mr Mitchell and her colleague PC Toby Rowland.

In the text, sent on September 21 to a colleague known as Officer 18, PC Weatherley wrote: ‘This will make you feel better, I'm the officer that stopped the chief whip leaving Downing St in Wednesday. He didn't swear at me but Toby that let him out the side gate. I could topple the Tory government x.’

PC Weatherley said the message was office banter.

But a month later, on October 21, 2012, a text message was sent from her phone number to a neighbour called Nick. It read: ‘Not today but I'm at the front gates tomorrow so I still have time to bring the government down thanks for no graffiti.’

PC Weatherley lost her job after she failed to provide an honest account of her role in the handling of an email by Rowland that described the incident. She denied having passed on Rowland's email when she had in fact sent a picture of the email to a colleague. This was passed to the Daily Telegraph.

Deputy assistant commissioner Gallan said of the report: ‘At the heart of this investigation were very serious allegations that police officers had conspired together to lie and falsify statements against a cabinet minister. ‘I have no doubt these allegations have damaged public trust and confidence in us. ‘The police service is here to serve the public, without fear or favour, with honesty and integrity.

‘Where our staff fall short of those standards they must be held to account. We wanted these discipline boards to be held in public, but legally we were unable to direct that this happened.

‘Ultimately, four police officers have been dismissed from the MPS, one of whom was sent to prison. ‘Every serving police officer has cause to feel let down by those colleagues who fall below the standards we all strive to uphold.’

Original report here


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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

British cop heading a murder investigation arrived drunk at the scene

And none of the other police there knew what they were doing either

It is one of the most notorious unsolved murders in recent memory and, with the bill for five police investigations and other inquiries now nearing £100 million, one of the most expensive too.

On March 10, 1987, at just after 9.30pm, Daniel Morgan, a small-time private eye, was found slumped next to his BMW outside the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, South London. An axe was embedded in his head.

One of his suit trouser pockets was ripped, but in the other an envelope containing £1,100 in cash was untouched.

These facts are undisputed; other aspects of the murder are far less clear-cut.

Despite the resources thrown at the case, no one has ever been brought before a jury and Morgan's family doubt whether justice will ever be done – yet the murder's residual impact reverberates in both Scotland Yard and Whitehall to this day.

The Mail on Sunday has learned that police are fighting a £4 million compensation claim brought by five key suspects – among them Morgan's former business partner, Jonathan Rees – who were all cleared of involvement.

It can also be disclosed that the Yard has launched a criminal inquiry, Operation Megan, into their failed prosecution, which collapsed at the Old Bailey in 2011 amid allegations that officers perjured themselves, withheld 18 crates of evidence and coached a supergrass witness described as having a 'constellation of personality disorders'.

With the case in disarray, Home Secretary Theresa May has instructed an independent panel to 'shine a light' on the circumstances. Its findings are not expected for another year.

Now, drawing on dozens of statements and previously unseen material being scrutinised by the panel, this newspaper can reveal that:

A secret police review of the original inquiry called the forensic investigation 'pathetic'

The detective in charge turned up at the crime scene drunk and 'ordered a bottle of scotch', according to one of his team

Defence lawyers identified 32 'plausible' suspects they insist were never properly investigated because police were 'obsessed' with Rees

Morgan was threatened many times in the months before he was killed

On the night of the murder, Morgan spent more than an hour with Rees in the Golden Lion in what appeared, according to witnesses who included three BBC sound engineers, to be a 'perfectly normal meeting'.

At 8.55pm Rees waved goodbye to his partner and left the pub. Morgan remained and bought two packets of ready salted crisps from the bar. No one knows what happened between then and his body being found.

Two police officers arrived at the scene at 9.52pm, with others following later. They found Morgan's body in the car park behind the pub. He was clutching the crisp packets in his left hand and his car keys in the other.

Detective Superintendent Douglas Campbell, turned up at 11.12pm, and, according to one of his junior officers, 'ordered a bottle of scotch'. Detective Constable Noel Cosgrave said in his witness statement that he approached Campbell at the bar and noticed 'he was already inebriated'. He added: 'I suggested he hand the case over to another senior officer. He didn't take kindly to my words and told me to leave.'

The incident at the bar is mentioned in court documents submitted during the abandoned 2011 trial. In them, lawyers for Rees and his co-accused said Campbell's behaviour 'defies belief'. Other witnesses said no one appeared to prevent customers leaving the pub and police failed to remove all the glasses and ashtrays for forensic examination, which would have established if anyone with a criminal record was – or had been – on the premises.

Rees's legal team claim 'none of the officers really knew what they should be doing, and there is even a report of a discussion about whether they should draw a chalk mark around the body, since they had seen this in films'.

Two officers – Cosgrave and Leonard Flint – reported seeing Morgan's silver oyster Rolex watch on his wrist as he lay in the car park. But it had disappeared when his body arrived at the morgue. It has never been found.

As judge, Mr Justice Maddison, would observe many years later, this was 'a case in which frankly nothing seems to be straightforward'.

The Mail on Sunday has seen a secret 1989 Hampshire Police report into the handling of the original inquiry, which was submitted to the 2011 trial but never published.

It says: 'Forensically, the case was not handled at all professionally' and says there was neglect, ignorance or incompetence and fragmented involvement.

'There was an obvious lack of direction, co-ordination, management and supervision. The initial effort must be described as pathetic.'

Precious early hours were wasted in the 'grossly flawed' first inquiry and, because of this, Rees's lawyers argue that all subsequent investigations were affected and that now 'the truth can never be securely known'.

Campbell became convinced that Rees was involved in the murder and suspected he lured his partner to the pub knowing his fate.

He was suspicious about Rees's account of how, a year before the murder, he had been attacked and robbed of £18,000 – a car auction company's takings that he'd been asked to put in the bank.

It has been suggested that Morgan was furious when Rees said the money should be paid back out of their company's own account and this created bad feeling between the two men. But Campbell could never make his case stick.

Rees's lawyers believe Campbell's obsession with Rees left him blinded to 'other obvious possibilities'.

Some of Morgan's friends and colleagues said, for instance, that his womanising might hold the clue to his killing. David Bray, who worked at Morgan's detective agency Southern Investigations as a bailiff, recalled how he and Morgan were driving past a house in Sydenham when Morgan remarked that 'he had been seeing a woman that lived there'. Bray added that the 'husband had found out about them and had phoned Danny at home and threatened to kill him'.

Morgan was no heroic gumshoe in the mould of, say, Philip Marlowe. He was at the seedy end of his trade, a bailiff who worked the streets of South London and was described as 'volatile' by his wife Iris.

Often he would repossess cars and there was plenty of work serving legal papers on bullying husbands.

Shortly before the murder, Morgan had an affair with a woman who had a violent husband. It is thought the man suspected Morgan, having seen them in a car together.

One night he returned home drunk with his brother and tried to attack his wife. An officer reviewing the case in December 1988 noted that the man 'should not be forgotten, he is a good suspect'. Other documents indicate Morgan had a 'lengthy relationship' with a woman whose husband was bugging her bedroom. Morgan had a row with the man and the woman told police she thought her husband 'may have had something to do with the Daniel Morgan murder'.

The nature of his work meant that Morgan encountered a number of undesirable characters. Few caused him more anxiety than a gangster he came up against in Malta during a car repossession. Morgan told a friend the job was 'a bit heavy' and had caused him a lot of problems. He had been threatened, he said.

The axe wound to Morgan's head left a tremendous amount of blood at the scene.

One witness spoke of speculation that the Range Rover that Morgan repossessed 'may have contained Maltese Mafia drugs and they were not impressed when their drugs disappeared together with the car'.

Another witness said Morgan received a phone call 'saying that he should hand over the packets that were in the vehicle, or else. Daniel Morgan told the caller to go the police.' Perhaps significantly, on the night of the murder, a witness in the Golden Lion reported seeing an 'Italian-looking' man peer through the saloon bar window three times.

Another repossession job in West London in the weeks leading up to the murder also ended messily, according to other statements. Afterwards, Morgan was warned in a phone call: 'Living on borrowed time. You're a dead man.'

It was against this complicated background, with turbulence at home and at work, that Morgan was murdered.

By the time of the inquest in April 1988, Rees and five others, including three Met officers who were murder suspects in the first investigation, had been arrested but then released without charge.

It was at this hearing that one witness appeared to provide damning evidence of Rees's guilt. Kevin Lennon, an accountant at Southern Investigations, claimed he watched Rees's relationship with Morgan deteriorate. He told the inquest that six months before the murder, Rees told him he had found the perfect solution to the problem. 'My mates at Catford nick are going to arrange it. For £1,000. Those officers are friends of mine and will either murder Danny themselves or will arrange it.'

At the time, Lennon was in a desperate position: his wife had left him and he was in Brixton prison on remand, facing the possibility of jail for a £1 million tax fraud unrelated to his work at Southern.

Five months after the inquest, Hampshire Police, which was by then examining the Morgan case, concluded that Lennon's credibility and integrity as a witness was 'diminishing'.

At this stage Lennon was a free man, having been given an 18 months suspended sentence. Lennon refused to discuss his involvement in the case last week.

Another accountant, Bill Newton, who worked for Rees and Morgan in the six weeks leading up to the murder, recalled a chance meeting between Rees and Lennon in a pub in Croydon. He told The Mail on Sunday: 'Lennon was shaking a bit, and he [Lennon] said to him [Rees], 'Look I'm sorry. They put a lot of pressure on me. I had to do it for my children'.'

As the years passed, Rees remained a key suspect in subsequent inquiries as a new intriguing theory emerged.

Morgan's family believe he was murdered because he was about to expose a web of police corruption allegedly involving Rees. But while the Met has said corruption was a 'debilitating factor' in the original inquiry, the Hampshire report concluded this was not the case. Either way, because of the serious flaws in the first investigation and the probe that led to the failed 2011 court case, the Morgan family are unlikely now to see their theories tested in court.

Yesterday Scotland Yard declined to discuss the writ alleging malicious prosecution and false imprisonment received from Rees and the other acquitted defendants. 'We have been served with the claims. We are not prepared to comment outside this legal process.'

In his own witness statement, Campbell makes no reference to the bottle of whisky when describing his arrival at the crime scene. Nor does he say he had been drinking.

When The Mail on Sunday put the allegation that the detective was drunk to the Yard it declined to comment. It also refused to respond to the damning conclusions of the Hampshire report.

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