Friday, September 30, 2005

UK Father Claims Organized Miscarriage of Justice

More custody battle lies at work -- with blind and biased social workers as usual too

A Christchurch father has gained access to sensitive information revealing an organised cover-up by authorities which he says has prevented him receiving custody of his son. And after dedicating the last year of his life solely to winning backthe boy – who has been shown by a variety of experts to be at serious risk from the mother - he has also called into question the impartiality of a district judge.

Over the past year a bitter custody battle has been fought costing an estimated £1 million of tax payers’ money that he says may not have been necessary had important information not been concealed. The Advertiser and Times can also reveal that during the breakdown of the couple’srelationship a campaign of “mud throwing” by the mother was launched in an attempt to smear her husband’s name that had devastating consequences. A friend of the mother was so taken in by what he later described as “convincing” stories of rape and abuse at the hands of her husband that he was propelled into acting. Wearing a balaclava the man broke into what he believed was his target’s house and in afrenzied hammer attack, struck the sleeping man with several blows to the head.

The victim – who was deemed lucky to live after having three fractures to the skull and a metal plate put into his head – was in fact not the intruder’s intended target. After being caught the attacker sentenced to six years in prison and while inside admitted his actions were based on the lies of his female friend and has even apologised to his intended victim. As well as calling for a series of reforms in the judiciary and the way information is handled by government departments, the father - David (under a false name) - has asked MP Chris Chope to take the case up to the House of Commons. The MP admitted the information - showing a succession of inconsistent statements and allegations by the mother - disclosed to David during the custody battle was “bizarre”.

In condemning the “collusion, incompetence and bias” operated by Dorset County Council’s Social Services, particularly the Christchurch and Ferndown teams, David says internal documents released at the asking of a judge about a co-ordinated “cover-up”, also involve the complaints team and legal services. In particular, the disclosure papers from the social services revealed how a Christchurch social worker spoke to the son, who admitted his injuries were the result of his mother and pleaded to be allowed to live with his father. Yet despite this the boy was told he had to return to his mother – only to be foundto have fresh injuries the following week.

Even after numerous occasions when the son had expressed his desire to live with his father and explained fear of his mother, senior officials at social services said the injuries, which include scratches to the neck and back shown in photographs, were accidental. Since the custody battle began the Christchurch social worker has since left with David trying in vain to speak with her and having evidence that his attempts have been blocked, because he says, of what else she may reveal apart from her statement.

In an email between two senior social services officials, in reference to the former Christchurch social worker, one states to the other: “I remember you telling me that you weren’t prepared for “x” to meet with David”. As all emails were sent to the various departments and key players, David is concerned that the senior social services figures were able to wield considerable influence or “bully” other agencies or those further down the pecking order. He gave the example of when a member of the child care agency CAFCASS consulted with the social services figure - even though they are supposed to be separate bodies. And “influenced” by the senior figure, formed the same view that he was safe with the mother, despite the child care agency member not having investigated the situation herself. The collusion between departments and, in particular, influence exerted by social services is seen by David as a means of not losing face. “It is easier to continue forward the same approach of avoiding or hiding information, rather than to reverse a big error that has snowballed out of all control.”

The systematic attempts to discredit David by his wife and then social services can be traced back to shortly after the couple’s separation in 1997. With his partner making a series of false accusations, which included raping her and abusing his son, he says it served to “get him out the house, gain custody of the child and therefore acquire housing refuge from the state”. Yet when appearing in court she has denied making these allegations of domestic abuse, leading to accusations by her former husband of perjury. A variety of statements to police and social services reveal her accounts to be inconsistent – a fact confirmed by a police officer who was involved in the case.

On obtaining the social services documents, David belatedly discovered that his wife was suffering from two personality disorders, including paranoia, which was confirmed by two psychiatrists in 1996. Two psychiatrists at the time of the baby’s birth said she was suffering from post natal depression and “could not love the child” and also demonstrated psychotic behaviour, such as believing the baby to be dead. David, after later making the claim to social services that she may in fact be suffering from a more sadistic personality disorder, has since been shunned and even threatened with the police by Dorset County Council’s legal service if he contacts them again. They now simply put the phone down on him even if he is ringing to express a concern, he says.

He is angry that the personality disorders were kept from him at the time and that the damaging accusations she made, although retracted by her, and proved to be unfounded, have stayed on the social services file. They have even been read out in court. These are two areas where he would like to see reform, with a correction mechanism put in place on those wrongly tarnished, as well as important information not to be kept fromthose it affects.

Serious reservations have also been expressed over the judiciary and in particular a district judge who presided over the residency hearing for the child since the end of last year. Over one aspect in particular, David said the judge was guilty of a “complete fabrication”. The judge said that he had slapped his former wife, but not even social services or the mother of the child had claimed this – she merely said she was grabbed. And even though the judge had stated there was to be no new evidence that day, he received a piece of paper from the mother’s barrister before admitting he was wrong – and subsequently changed his view to her being grabbed instead. David wanted the transcripts of the case but was unable to afford the £3, 500 to see if the correction was noted. This event happened on the same day when the father attempted to hand the judge a letter from his son saying he wanted to live with his father, but this was declined, leaving the father feeling unfairly dealt with.

An expert in child psychiatry, who had carried out an assessment of the boy, told the court of his concern if he remained with his mother but this information was also dismissed.

According to fathers’ rights group, Mankind, evidence used in courts, which highlights the benefits of awarding custody to the mother is often flawed and unfairly balanced toward the female. Chairman for the South East region, Paul Randle-Jolliffe, explained why John Bowlby’s study on “Maternal Deprivation”,often used as evidence in court, is problematic: “The problem being that Bowlby's work was used politically to get women back into the home after World War Two and has been used by both the courts and other social agencies as a gender position despite other evidence and Bowlby's sample being unrepresentative of the majority of the population and erroneous in some areas.”

He added: “Many ordinary people suspect that things are wrong but they cannot put their finger on what is actually happening because they do not really know. Only when the juggernaut hits you like in (David’s) case - and with all the super dads you see on TV being just the tip of the ice berg - do you look deeper - or walk away from your children as many fathers for their own sanity do. Mothers are just as much the victim but even more so are our children. (David) is unusual in that he has proof of all he says, most of us do not! What you must realise is that there is a hidden agenda being promoted under the banner of equality and that it is global right into the UN.”

More here

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Thursday, September 29, 2005


An Ontario court rules that the police can be sued for negligence but say that a blatant set-up of an innocent man was not negligent

Ontario's Court of Appeal has ruled that residents of the province can sue the police over negligent investigations, adding that this is not likely to open a floodgate of suits and paralyze police work. The ruling came as part of a decision released Monday, where the court said Hamilton's municipal police were not negligent when they arrested an aboriginal man for 10 robberies, put his picture in a photo lineup along with 11 non-aboriginals, and then found that someone else committed most of the crimes.

Three of the five judges on the appeal court panel upheld a lower court decision that said the police did their work using "appropriate standards." However, two judges hearing the case disagreed, and in a dissenting judgment said the treatment of Jason Hill was "another wrongful conviction of an aboriginal person in Canada, who served more than 20 months in prison for a crime he did not commit."

In rejecting Mr. Hill's attempt to get compensation from the police, the court opened up the possibility for many others to seek redress. The appeal court said it is completely reasonable to let people sue for misconduct when it is "anchored in very poor performance of important police duties." The court cited the case of Jane Doe, who was raped in Toronto in 1986 when police failed to warn women in the neighbourhood that a rapist was on the loose. She sued the police department and won a large settlement. Others should be able to take similar action, the judges said. "Should Canadian law not provide a cause of action in negligence to people like Ms. Doe . . .?" the court said in its ruling. "The rights of suspects and victims need to be recognized and carefully balanced with the important duties of the police." Currently, only Quebec and Ontario allow negligent-investigation suits against police.

Sean Dewart, Mr. Hill's lawyer, said that while the appeal court ruling was "extremely disappointing" for his client, the decision on the broader issue is very important for everyone who is concerned about miscarriage of justice. Now, the Court of Appeal has made it clear "you don't have to prove malice in a police investigation, and that negligence [alone] can result in a lawsuit," Mr. Dewart said. While Ontario is "blessed" with highly professional police, "mistakes are made, and there are sloppy investigations, and they cause extreme hardship and pain," he said.

David Boghosian, the lawyer who acted for the Hamilton police, said he was surprised the judges rejected the views of the British House of Lords -- the highest level of appeal in that country -- that negligence suits can cause a "chill" in police work. He also predicted that the issue will eventually go to the Supreme Court of Canada. Mr. Boghosian said there could be an "explosion" of suits as a result of the decision. Mr. Dewart disagreed: "You hear that from doctors and lawyers and anyone who doesn't want to answer in court for their conduct."

Mr. Hill's own battle with the Hamilton police began early in 1996, when he was pegged as a suspect in a series of 10 bank robberies in the city. The police prepared a "photo lineup" -- a series of a dozen pictures that included one of Mr. Hill -- to show witnesses. The other 11 photos were of Caucasian men, although they resembled Mr. Hill. After Mr. Hill was arrested, new evidence made it clear there were other suspects, and most of the charges against him were dropped. He was found guilty of one robbery and sentenced to three years in jail.

Mr. Hill appealed and was eventually acquitted. He then sued Hamilton police, including several individual police officers, claiming negligence and malicious prosecution. He lost at the Superior Court, and the appeal court has agreed with that decision. There was no evidence the "photo lineup identification process was an unreasonable police practice," wrote Justice James MacPherson for the three majority judges: Justice Stephen Goudge and Justice Jean MacFarland were the other two. Mr. Boghosian said the appeal court ruling makes sense because the fact that Mr. Hill was aboriginal was not a factor in the selection process. "Mr. Hill blended in nicely with the other people that were picked" in the photo lineup, he said.

The two dissenting judges -- Justice Kathryn Feldman and Justice Harry Laforme, who is of aboriginal descent -- take issue with this view. "A photo lineup where the target suspect is the only aboriginal person among a group of Caucasians, even where the people can be viewed generally as similar in appearance, perpetuates the appearance of unfairness," the judges wrote. Furthermore, "we believe there is a clear causal link between the photo lineup and Mr. Hill's wrongful conviction," they said.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005


While whoever is guilty goes free

Campaigners who say a Leicester man was wrongly jailed for the city's so-called hot-dog murders are holding an event to highlight his case on Tuesday. It coincides with the 15th birthday that Warren Slaney has spent in prison. The Miscarriage of Justice Association, (Mojo) are releasing 15 balloons, one to mark each year of his imprisonment.

Slaney was jailed for the murders of Gary Thompson, and his employee John Weston. He was refused leave to appeal but continues to protest his innocence. Mojo is calling for independent investigators to be appointed to look at his case.

The murders came in the summer of 1990, while the so called "hot-dog wars" reached their height, as traders fought over lucrative pitches. It ended with the murder of Mr Thompson , known as Hot Dog King, and one of his workers.

Although an appeal into Slaney's case has been turned down, his supporters are still waiting for a review into fresh evidence, submitted a year ago. Russ Spring from Mojo said: "We feel that the scale of the inquiry that is needed into his conviction really is beyond the scope of the Criminal Case Review Commission and they need to appoint an independent outside investigators.

More here

Background to the case (From here)

* Physical descriptions given by eye witnesses do not match Warren Slaney's appearance
Witness 1 :- that the perpetrators were over 6ft and of the same build as Gary Thompson (about 21st).
Witness 2 :- that one was 6ft-6ft 1", broad, heavily built, dark tan, big moustache, hat with pony tail.
Warren Slaney is 5ft 8" white, clean shaven and had very short hair. At the time he weighed between 9«-10st.

* 9 witnesses were with Warren at a party till 4.30am on the morning of the murders.

* A crucial prosecution witness testified in court that she had falsified her statement to the police. This statement implicated Warren Slaney directly in the "robbery".

* The man who disposed of the gun admitted that Warren had nothing to do with the murders. This statement was not used in court.

* Warren was accused of firing the Berretta handgun which killed 2 men. The shots fired displayed a great degree of accuracy.Warren had previously suffered hand injuries which resulted in the insertion of metal plates. He would not have been capable of such an act because he would not have been capable of pulling the trigger. This medical evidence was never used by the defence

* there was no forensic evidence to link Warren to the murders although the police searched his home 4 times....

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Schwarzenegger Should Sign Bill to Reduce Prisoner Recidivism

With AB 862 California Democrats are promoting a common sense way to reduce prisoner recidivism and facilitate ex-offenders' reintegration into society. By contrast, the California State Assembly Republican Caucus has chosen to play politics. Governor Schwarzenegger has until September 28 to put sound government over partisanship by signing the bill.

AB 862, introduced by Assemblywoman Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), adds a section to the Penal Code which would require that upon incarceration, every inmate under the authority of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation receive materials assisting them in lowering their child support obligations. Currently inmates-many of them mothers incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses-rack up thousands of dollars in child support arrearages while they are incarcerated. The vast majority of these arrearages are not owed to custodial parents, but instead to the state to reimburse welfare and foster care costs.

Everybody loses under the current system. The state tries in vain to beat huge arrearages-sometimes $20,000 or more-out of dead broke, unskilled, and uneducated ex-offenders. Because interest and penalties accrue rapidly, many former prisoners struggle under a staggering debt they could never hope to pay off. Some return to jail because of nonpayment of child support. Others are re-incarcerated after turning to illegal activity to support themselves, because at their low wage legal jobs 40 or 50% of their paychecks are garnished to pay their arrearages and current support. For ex-offenders interested in and capable of playing a meaningful role in their children's lives, these debts often make such a role impossible.

In all cases, the costs of the crimes committed and of re-incarcerating the ex-offenders vastly outweigh the puny sums the state collects in back child support. According to former California State Controller Kathleen Connell, the average annual cost of state-level incarceration in California is $21,000 per prisoner. By contrast, AB 862's total cost to the state is only $80,000 a year.

The current system is also unfair to ex-offenders. Child support is based on income and the ability to pay. Incarcerated parents have neither. Prisoners pay for their crimes with their time behind bars and should not be subject to other punishments which are artificially extended beyond their sentences.

The only way inmates with child support obligations can avoid this problem is by getting downward modifications or complete abatements upon entering prison. This is because the federal Bradley Amendment bars judges from retroactively modifying or forgiving child support arrearages, even when they determine that the arrearage occurred because of the obligor's inability to pay. AB 862 helps insure that these arrearages don't accrue.

Despite the obvious need for reform, change has been slow because it benefits two of society's most disliked groups--ex-offenders and "deadbeat" parents. While states such as New York and North Carolina have enacted sensible measures to address prisoner arrearages, similar legislation introduced in California in 2002 died a quick death in committee.

The problem of putting politics before common sense on this issue continues with AB 862. The Assembly Republican Caucus recently issued a statement condemning the bill, and is pressuring Governor Schwarzenegger to veto it. Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, (R-Orange) said "The state should never aid and abet a convicted criminal in avoiding child support."

But AB 862 has nothing to do with aiding and abetting criminals. It instead acknowledges the obvious-parents who are unable to work are unable to pay. AB 862 will help ex-offenders do what society needs and wants them to do-return to legal employment instead of crime.

Report from here

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Monday, September 26, 2005


I guess we should expect a Left-dominated police force to become more and more Soviet-like

SCOTLAND YARD responded to an FBI request for a discreet background check on an alleged terrorism suspect by smashing down his door at 3am and arresting him at gunpoint. Documents obtained by The Times shed new light on the bungled investigation into Lotfi Raissi, an Algerian pilot who was wrongly accused of training the September 11 hijackers.

Mr Raissi, 31, was the first person in the world to be arrested in connection with the attacks of September 11, 2001. He spent five months in prison before a judge threw out the "tenuous" case against him and ordered his release.

The Government has refused to compensate him for wrongful arrest and imprisonment and claims that the British authorities were acting properly on an American request. But US papers concerning the case clearly show that America did not ask for the arrest of Mr Raissi and suggest that British police overreacted.

The FBI asked for Scotland Yard's assistance in tracing Mr Raissi on September 17, 2001. A formal request from the legal attach‚ at the US Embassy in London was delivered to a detective chief superintendent at Scotland Yard. It stated: "The FBI request that this matter be handled as expeditiously and discreetly as possible". The words "expeditiously" and "discreetly" are typed in bold. Towards the end of the six-page letter, the American official writes: "The FBI requests all available information on Raissi. The FBI requests that New Scotland Yard discreetly conduct a thorough background investigation on Raissi and confirm his presence in the UK. The FBI requests that Raissi NOT BE alerted to the US Government's interests at this time."

The word "discreetly" is printed in bold and underlined, and the words "not be" are in bold, block capitals and underlined.
In the early hours of September 21, armed police raided Mr Raissi's flat in Colnbrook, Berkshire. A gun was put to his head and an arrest warrant thrust into his face. He was led naked to a police car.

Mr Raissi's wife, Sonia, a French Roman Catholic, was also arrested, as was his brother Mohammed, who lived in Hounslow, West London. All three were taken to Paddington Green high-security police station. Mr Raissi's wife and brother were released without charge after four days.

The pilot had been in police custody for a week before the American authorities, after discussions with the UK, issued an international arrest warrant. Formal terrorism charges were never laid against Mr Raissi but at extradition hearings Crown Prosecution Service lawyers alleged that he had taught four of the 9/11 hijackers how to fly and had associated with known terrorist suspects. After five months as a category A prisoner in Belmarsh prison, southeast London, Mr Raissi was released when a judge said that the allegations against him were completely unsubstantiated.

A video that the FBI claimed showed Mr Raissi with Hani Hanjour, one of the hijackers, was revealed in court to be footage of him with his cousin. Mr Raissi is still fighting for a public apology from the British Government. His case has won the backing of Algerian ministers, who are in negotiations with Britain over a "memorandum of understanding" for the deportation of terrorist suspects. Algiers wants the resolution of Mr Raissi's case to be part of any agreement. Mr Raissi, who has had relatives killed by Islamist terrorists in Algeria, said that the documents obtained by The Times would strengthen his legal claim.

He said: "I have been branded a terrorist and can no longer get a job in the aviation industry. I want a full, unreserved apology and compensation for the destruction of my career and all the harm that has been done to my family." Mr Raissi is seeking a judicial review of the Home Secretary's refusal of his compensation claim. In one letter to his lawyers, the Home Office admitted that the decision "will seem harsh". But officials added: "The Home Secretary would not support the contention that the UK authorities committed any serious default in their handling of your client's case."

Story from here

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Sunday, September 25, 2005


And then think that a few words of apology fixes it. He's lucky he got out after only a month

Sydney man David Turbit was thrown into a maximum security jail for a month after a paperwork bungle caused his wrongful arrest. Mr Turbit, 38, is now claiming $250,000 compensation for the administrative error that incarcerated him in Silverwater Correctional Centre in June.

Mr Turbit, from St Marys in western Sydney, served nine months of periodic detention in late 2001 after being convicted of driving while he was disqualified. A warrant for Mr Turbit's arrest was issued in October last year because the department believed that he had failed to serve his full term.

In a letter dated July 18, the Acting Commissioner of the Department of Corrective Services, Ian McLean, apologised for the mistake. "I am informed your situation was caused by breakdown in the administrative process," the letter says. "I apologise for the inconvenience and anxiety caused."

But Mr Turbit said the apology was insufficient and has asked for $250,000 in compensation from the State Government. "I was very depressed and I tried to commit suicide. Luckily, my cellmate saved me," he said. "If they don't pay, I'll sue. I'm still having nightmares about being in there. "I was being held illegally in maximum security and they assumed I was a criminal. "I'm angry at the way they (the officers) treated me in there and then tried to cover up their mistake."

Late on Friday, the Department of Corrective Services offered Mr Turbit $60,000 compensation, but he rejected the offer as inadequate. Opposition justice spokesman Andrew Humpherson said Mr Turbit deserved to be paid compensation. "The letter is insulting. It suggests the only impact of this gross error is a little anxiety and inconvenience when it almost caused his death," he said.

"There are clearly catastrophic failings in record-keeping and communication within the prison system. The State Labor Government is overseeing a chaotic prison system which is expensive, ineffective and is imprisoning the wrong people. "Any person to which this has happened deserves some compensation for what is pure incompetence on the part of this government."

A spokeswoman for Justice Minister Tony Kelly said that he had instructed Corrective Services to provide an explanation for the incident. The spokeswoman said Corrective Services would respond within a week.

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Saturday, September 24, 2005


One of the crooks finally gets what he deserrves

A Dallas man was sentenced to 20 years in prison Monday for his role in the 2001 fake-drug scandal in which crooked police informants profited by planting fake drugs on innocent people. Daniel Alonso's prison term far overshadows other state and federal sentences handed down so far to other players in the complicated scheme. Witnesses in the former police informant's trial testified that he was responsible for purchasing nearly 200 pounds of billiards chalk that was then pulverized and packaged to resemble cocaine. Mr. Alonso also helped plant the phony drugs and select unsuspecting people for arrest, according to court testimony.

Prosecutor Toby Shook argued that the informants were motivated by profit and didn't care that innocent people were being arrested and faced up to life in prison for the charges. Mr. Alonso and five other informants received more than $440,000 cash from former Dallas police Detective Mark Delapaz, although the officer's reports documenting the payments are now in question. "This is a man who knew what was happening to those innocent people," Mr. Shook said, referring to Mr. Alonso. "The plan was to get money, and he knew those people were going to go to jail for it." ......

More than two dozen people were falsely arrested in the series of fraudulent busts. Five of the victims waited outside the courtroom Monday as jurors spent two hours deliberating Mr. Alonso's potential sentence, which ranged from probation to 99 years in prison. One of those wrongly jailed, Abel Santos, said he's pleased with the 20-year sentence. "I think it's OK," he said. "We all have to pay a price for what we do. That's enough time for him to think about what he did and learn."

Jury foreman Norman Oliver said that the case was complicated and that jurors struggled to stay focused on the specific charges against Mr. Alonso and not consider the roles that other informants and police officers are accused of performing. "Everything that everybody else did – the other officers and informants – we kept our deliberations to what was part of the evidence we heard in court," he said. In the end, jurors agreed that Mr. Alonso had been a knowing participant in the scheme, although individual jurors initially had a range of feelings about how much punishment he deserved. The panel considered everything from probation to 50 years in prison during their two hours of deliberation, Mr. Oliver said.

In April, Mr. Delapaz was convicted of lying in search warrants and was sentenced to five years in prison. He remains free on bond while his conviction is under appeal. He faces another trial in January for one of more than a dozen other indictments related to his work. Former Officer Jeffrey Haywood faces trial next month for a charge that he lied about performing a field test on one of the drug seizures. Two other former officers have been indicted on charges that include aggravated perjury, fabricating evidence and forgery.

Three of the informants have already pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges and have received sentences ranging from 33 to 41 months in federal prison. Those three and two others also face organized crime charges. Those five may not face a jury trial because they have all admitted responsibility, but Mr. Shook vowed that they would still be punished. "All of those people are going to face justice," he said.

More here

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Friday, September 23, 2005


Will he get his money back? Not likely! It's getting so that DNA testing should always be required before any payment order is made

The mistress of convicted murderer Scott Peterson is back in the spotlight after a DNA test showed that her first child was not fathered by the man who has been paying child support. Fresno hairstylist Anthony Flores, 29, has been paying Frey $175 a month for nearly four years, his attorney, Glenn Wilson, said Wednesday. The father of the 4-year-old girl is actually Fresno restaurant owner Christopher Funch, Wilson said. No one answered the telephone at Porky's Rib House on Wednesday, and Funch did not have a listed home number.

"You'd think that Amber Frey's notoriety would have died down," Wilson said. "Unfortunately, she's like a bad penny, she keeps coming back." Wilson said Flores was preparing to file a court motion seeking visitation rights, which he has been denied, when the man received word last week that he was not the child's father. "Amber always asserted to him that he was the only guy she was sleeping with during that time period so Anthony's never had any reason to question it," Wilson said. "Anthony's big thing is that his reputation has been harmed. This poor guy can't go anywhere without people pointing at him."

Flores said he feels duped. She was very convincing when she told me I was the only person who could be the father," he said. "I want an apology."

Frey, a massage therapist from Fresno, was Peterson's mistress when he killed his pregnant wife, Laci, in December 2003. Her testimony helped prosecutors convict the fertilizer salesman, who was sentenced to death. Frey's attorney, Gloria Allred, said Wednesday that her client never intended to deceive Flores. "Amber, in good faith, always believed that Mr. Flores was her child's father," Allred said. Frey also has another child by a different man.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Study of faulty fingerprints debunks forensic science ’zero error’ claim

Set of known errors is merely tip of the iceberg, UCI researcher says

While forensic scientists have long claimed fingerprint evidence is infallible, the widely publicized error that landed an innocent American behind bars as a suspect in the Madrid train bombing alerted the nation to the potential flaws in the system. Now, UC Irvine criminologist Simon Cole has shown that not only do errors occur, but as many as a thousand incorrect fingerprint “matches” could be made each year in the U.S. This is in spite of safeguards intended to prevent errors.

Cole’s study is the first to analyze all publicly known mistaken fingerprint matches. In analyzing these cases of faulty matches dating from 1920, Cole suggests that the 22 exposed incidents, including eight since 1999, are merely the tip of the iceberg. Despite the publicly acknowledged cases of error, fingerprint examiners have long held that fingerprint identification is “infallible,” and testified in court that their error rate for matching fingerprints is zero. “Rather than blindly insisting there is zero error in fingerprint matching, we should acknowledge the obvious, study the errors openly and find constructive ways to prevent faulty evidence from being used to convict innocent people,” said Cole, an assistant professor of criminology, law and society.

The study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology. Cole’s data set represents a small portion of actual fingerprint errors because it includes only those publicly exposed cases of mistaken matches. The majority of the cases discussed in this study were discovered only through extremely fortuitous circumstances, such as a post-conviction DNA test, the intervention of foreign police and even a deadly lab accident that led to the re-evaluation of evidence.

One highly publicized example is that of Brandon Mayfield, the Portland lawyer who was arrested and held for two weeks as a suspect in the Madrid train bombings in 2004. FBI investigators matched prints at the scene to Mayfield, and an independent examiner verified the match. But Spanish National Police examiners insisted the prints did not match Mayfield and eventually identified another man who matched the prints. The FBI acknowledged the error and Mayfield was released.

Wrongful convictions on the basis of faulty evidence are supposed to be prevented by four safeguards: having print identifications “verified” by additional examiners; ensuring the examiners are competent; requiring a high number of matching points in the ridges before declaring the print a match; and having independent experts examine the prints on behalf of the defendant. However, each of these safeguards failed in cases Cole studied. In fact, in four of the cases, independent experts verified the faulty matches.

Despite print examiners’ zero-mistake claim, Cole points out that proficiency tests conducted since 1983 show an aggregate error rate of 0.8 percent. Though that may seem small, when multiplied by the large number of cases U.S. crime laboratories processed in 2002, it suggests there could be as many as 1,900 mistaken fingerprint matches made that year alone. “While we don’t know how many fingerprint errors are caught in the lab and then swept under the rug – or, worse, how many have still not been caught and may have resulted in a wrongful conviction – we clearly need a full evaluation of the errors,” Cole said. “The argument that fingerprints are infallible evidence is simply unacceptable.”

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005


The innocent guy gets 23 years. The guy who finally confessed to the crime gets 4 years

Gail Miller's killer is perplexed about why Saskatchewan justice officials didn't hand him a stiffer sentence for four sexual attacks he confessed to committing in Saskatoon around the time the woman was raped and murdered in 1969. "I could have expected a life bit [sentence] for every one of them," Larry Fisher testified yesterday at the public inquiry examining the wrongful conviction of David Milgaard for the murder of Ms. Miller in Saskatoon 36 years ago.

In 1971, a Regina judge, based on the strength of a deal made by the Crown, handed Mr. Fisher four years to run concurrently with a 13-year sentence he had received one year earlier for two sexual assaults he committed in Manitoba. When asked by Mr. Milgaard's lawyer, Hersh Wolch, why he didn't receive a tougher sentence, Mr. Fisher replied: "That's thanks to them sending me to Regina. "They could have asked for more time. They could have got any time they wanted," the 56-year-old said. "No matter where I go, any form of violence against women is serious."

Mr. Milgaard, who was 17 when he was convicted in 1970, spent 23 years in prison for Ms. Miller's murder. He was finally set free after the Supreme Court of Canada reviewed his conviction in 1992 as evidence connecting Mr. Fisher to the Miller murder began to mount. Mr. Fisher, a stocky, 5-foot-6 former construction worker, was found guilty of the crime seven years later and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Mr. Milgaard's original appeal to the Supreme Court was turned down a month before Mr. Fisher received his conviction in Regina for the four sexual assaults in December, 1971. Mr. Milgaard's lawyers and his supporters have long argued that knowledge of Mr. Fisher and his criminal past was suppressed or ignored by Saskatchewan justice officials in order to keep Mr. Milgaard behind bars. For example, they have claimed the decision to quietly move Mr. Fisher's case to Regina resulted in the guilty pleas not being publicized. Mr. Fisher's attacks bore a striking similarity to the one in which Ms. Miller, a 20-year-old nursing aide, was raped and stabbed to death on Jan. 31, 1969.

During his testimony yesterday, Mr. Fisher, who has always claimed he didn't kill Ms. Miller, often sparred with Mr. Wolch. When Mr. Wolch asked him if he felt any remorse for Ms. Miller, he snapped back: "Why should I have remorse for something I didn't do?" At that point, Mr. Fisher's lawyer, Edmonton-based Brian Beresh, interjected that Mr. Wolch's questioning was out of line. "I object. This is not the Truth and Reconciliation Commission," Mr. Beresh said, referring to the court-like body that probed South Africa's apartheid.

The public inquiry, which started in January and was supposed to finish in the spring, has seen its projected budget balloon from $2-million to $7.7-million. Mr. Justice Edward MacCallum, who is heading the inquiry, cannot assign civil or criminal blame, but will be able to table recommendations. Every moment of the 36-year-old case is being torn apart and carefully studied, as the inquiry is expected to be the final word on why justice eluded Mr. Milgaard for so long. Mr. Milgaard hasn't attended the proceedings and has no current plans to do so, according to his mother, Joyce Milgaard, and Mr. Wolch. He could be called to testify as early as January, but Ms. Milgaard said he shouldn't have to come, even though "he cares what happens" at the inquiry. "The doctors have [said] it wouldn't be good for him -- he still has nightmares about what happened," she said yesterday.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005


If ghosts are the souls of persons who die with unfinished business chaining them to this world, then Barbara Gibbons must surely be one. Not only was the 51-year-old Falls Village woman brutally murdered on a fall night 32 years ago, but her young son, Peter Reilly, was initially charged with and convicted of the crime. With his later exoneration, the case became unsolved and, presumably, her killer still walks among us......

The state police focused their attention on Mr. Reilly almost immediately after the murder. In a highly controversial move, they segregated the young boy from his adult supporters and interrogated the impressionable youth for 24 hours without benefit of counsel. Eventually the boy "confessed," parroting back what the police told him. "We have an eight-hour tape of that final interrogation," said Mr. Connery. "It is the most valuable example of brainwashing I have ever heard."

Almost immediately, however, the community became alarmed at the state police tactics. Because Mr. Reilly was a slight boy, quiet and naive, most who knew him disbelieved the charges. A legal defense fund was started and noted civil rights attorney Catherine Roraback was his counsel. Nevertheless, Mr. Reilly was convicted of manslaughter in 1974, a conviction based almost solely on his confession.

Efforts to free him redoubled following the conviction and high-profile celebrities such as playwright Arthur Miller and author William Styron became involved. A private investigator was hired and information began to mount up. "Judge [John] Speziale, although bewildered by how this 18-year-old could have done the crime, believed him guilty because of the confession," said Mr. Connery. "The judge had suggested a lesser plea, but Peter wouldn't do it. He knew he was innocent. At trial, Judge Speziale became more and more persuaded that this was an innocent young man, and [eventually] he did an action that is very, very rare and overturned the jury verdict. He said it had been a gross miscarriage of justice."

The action left Mr. Reilly vulnerable to a second trial, but as preparations for the trial were underway the state prosecutor, John F. Bianchi, died of a heart attack. In his files, according to Mr. Connery, his successor found "extremely powerful exculpatory evidence" that exonerated Mr. Reilly. "The prosecutor knew that it was there," Mr. Connery said. "The police knew it was there, but nonetheless, they went ahead and got him convicted."

"This was a momentous event in Connecticut history and remains so today because the police never brought themselves to admit the mistake and to solve the case correctly," continued Mr. Connery. "Nationally, it's the classic false-confession case."

The author has since been involved in a number of false-conviction cases. He estimates the rate of false convictions to be five percent nationwide, and said that "tens of thousands" of persons could be serving sentences for crimes they did not commit....

Mr. Estabrook briefly reviewed his newspaper's role in the Reilly case. One of his editorials on the case won the International Golden Quill Award of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors. Although over the years he harshly criticized the state police performance in the case, he was more conciliatory Sunday. "The State Police came out of the Reilly case with a very black eye," he said, "but there are many fine young men and women in the state police who work hard for the people of Connecticut. The bad actors in this melodrama were not motivated to be bad actors. John Bianchi didn't start out to convict an innocent man-he really believed it. Why? Because the doctrine in the state police is that the confession is everything."

Still the editor said, "We were as astonished as anyone else at the outpouring of Peter's friends and neighbors and we became early on convinced that this young many could not have done what he was accused of doing."

The final speaker was Mr. Reilly himself, now 50 years old and a Tolland resident. Since his exoneration he has worked as an EMT, in sales and marketing and is a semi-professional guitarist. He continues to work with Mr. Connery to learn who killed his mother-a crime police still say he did-and often talks to young people in school about his experience. "I continue to try to move forward to an end of this, when people will know who committed this crime," he said. "I've always felt since this happened to me that something has been missed in teaching young people how to handle themselves. It is more important than ever that young people know their rights. They shouldn't feel that asking for an attorney would be an admission of guilt. That was something they tried to persuade me to feel and it is very important for young people not to be embarrassed or afraid to ask for an attorney if things are running out of control."

He confessed to having moments of bitterness, but said his work with young people provides a healthy outlet for these feelings. "All I can do is try to move forward and make some good of it, and particularly to solve this case," he said. Then he showed a flash of the warm personality that won him so many supporters. A wide grin spread across his face and his voice filled with emotion. "It is so good to see you all again," he exclaimed.

More here

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Monday, September 19, 2005


Former magistrate Michael Frederick allegedly was told he would be suspended immediately if he did not resign from his position after being found guilty of sexual misconduct. Court documents reveal Chief Magistrate Kelvyn Prescott allegedly gave Mr Frederick the ultimatum minutes after his conviction, telling him his position was "no longer tenable". Mr Prescott allegedly told Mr Frederick he had to resign immediately and that "if you do not resign you will be suspended from office as a magistrate immediately".

The circumstances of Mr Frederick's resignation are detailed in a statement of claim lodged in the Supreme Court. Mr Frederick, 58, is seeking an injunction in the Supreme Court to have his "forced" resignation declared invalid. Besides his reappointment to the $198,000 a year position, he also is seeking damages for loss of income and for damage to his reputation. The Supreme Court action follows failed negotiations between Mr Frederick's lawyers and the Crown Solicitor.

Mr Frederick contends he was forced to resign on August 10 last year minutes after being found guilty of sexual misconduct with a 15-year-old girl in 1983. While Mr Frederick was found guilty of two offences, he was acquitted of another three and had intended to appeal immediately. A month later, he was sentenced to three years' jail but was in custody for less than eight hours. He was granted bail pending an appeal against the conviction.

In December, the Court of Criminal Appeal ruled there was "a real risk of a miscarriage of justice" in his conviction because two key pieces of evidence were contradictory. In February, the office of Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to retry Mr Frederick.

The statement of claim lodged in the Supreme Court alleges Mr Prescott demanded Mr Frederick's resignation while he was "overwhelmed with shock and despair following the jury verdict". The claim states Mr Prescott produced a typed letter of resignation and requested that Mr Frederick sign it. "The plaintiff in a state of complete emotional turmoil and confusion signed the letter of resignation," it states.

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Sunday, September 18, 2005


British police forces have been given target numbers of arrests - and they're offered points and bonuses to reach them

Are police officers arresting people merely to meet their targets? Police in Greater Manchester Police are now set a target of four arrests per month. One former officer, who recently left the force, recalls that one month she had only made three arrests. 'Go and arrest somebody for public order', her sergeant instructed.

She describes how the targets changed the way the police worked. 'Before, if somebody was being rowdy you might give them a caution, or arrest them for drunk and disorderly. After the targets came in, we were told by our sergeants to arrest them under section five of the Public Order Act.' Drunk and disorderly isn't a recordable offence, and so doesn't count towards officers' arrest target. Public Order Act offences are recordable - but they're also more serious, leaving the offender with a criminal record. This means that people could be winding up with criminal records in order that an officer can make his month's tally.

Ian Hunt, a representative for the Greater Manchester Police Federation, says there is 'anecdotal evidence that the number of arrests for Public Order has gone up, and arrests for drunk and disorderly have fallen'. There is no official sanction for failing to reach the targets, but officers could come under pressure from their managers. According to reports, officers who perform above target could get bonuses of between 50 pounds and 500 pounds.

Manchester isn't the only police force to bring in targets. Earlier this year, Thames Valley police in London piloted a points scheme for officers - nabbing a rapist or burglar was reportedly worth 10 points, stopping a driver for not wearing a seatbelt was worth five - and they were told to aim for 200 points a month.

The scheme has now been modified. 'It was clearly seen to be clumsy', says John Grant, deputy secretary of the Thames Valley Police Federation. 'Among others, the Police Federation weren't happy.' According to Richard Eccles, secretary of the North Wales Police Federation, North Wales police are running a similar scheme as a pilot in Wrexham. He tells me that officers also have to aim for 200 points a month - apparently they get 25 points for catching somebody who is drunk and unfit to drive, 10 points for getting someone driving without insurance, and five points for someone speeding or not wearing a seatbelt.

These performance targets treat the police as if they were supermarket managers. Yet their 'product' is not cans of beans, but arrests; that is, people's liberty. This unprincipled attitude to criminal justice comes from central government down. The 2002 White Paper Justice for All promised a 'speedier, simpler and quality justice', as if this were just like any business. The government is keen to send messages about crime - either to show that the police are cracking down on crime, or to show that crime has gone down. The government set the target that, 'by 2005-06, 1.2million crimes recorded by the police result in an offender being brought to justice'.

Of course, the enforcement of the law has always been a bit of a lottery. Where one officer would turn a blind eye to a minor offence, another might haul you over the coals. Targets make it even more random, so that whether you get picked up and charged can depend less on what you did, than on what boxes a particular force is trying to tick.

Richard Eccles notes that, for North Wales traffic officers, 'There is no incentive for you to help a colleague with a burglary case. Why spend an hour looking into a burglary when you could be trying to find somebody driving without a seatbelt?' And who knows, the targets could shift when the government decides it wants to send a different message. In a forthcoming police publication, one North Wales sergeant writes: 'I have no doubt that as we now have to reduce violent crime over the next few years that all the current Section five Public Order offences will become drunk and disorderleys again!'

All of this breeds disarray. 'The web we are spinning is becoming more and more tangled', judges the North Wales sergeant. He notes how targets mean that forces compete against one another. 'The performance culture has led to section versus section in the pursuit of better figures whereby officers do not want to know about any crime which is committed 10 yards over on another section.'

With good reason, the targets are breeding suspicion among the public. Richard Eccles tells me: 'People are saying, "You are only booking me because you want points for this".' He says that this could become a defence in court, with defence lawyers suggesting that their client was booked so that the officer could make his 200 points (this would particularly apply to somebody arrested towards the end of a month).

Thankfully, although police may give out arrests like parking tickets, they still have to get through a legal system with a few principles left. At least, that's until magistrates are set targets for the number of convictions they have to hand out every month..

(Original article here)

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Saturday, September 17, 2005


In a case that has attracted worldwide attention, Margaret De Barraicua, the McClatchy High intern teacher arrested for having sex with a 16-year-old special-education student, agreed to a plea bargain Wednesday that carries a punishment ranging from probation to 16 months in prison. "The plea bargain is a compromise between the two competing views of what ought to be a punishment in the case," said De Barraicua's lawyer, Philip Cozens.

The 30-year-old woman, who appeared calm in court, declined to talk with reporters. The plea agreement was struck after Cozens and Deputy District Attorney Rochelle Hao met behind closed doors with Sacramento Superior Court Judge Talmadge R. Jones. "The offer made to the defendant is from the court and not from the District Attorney's Office," Jones said as he announced the details in open court.

Under the agreement, De Barraicua pleaded guilty to four counts of unlawful sex with a minor as felonies. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 18. In the meantime, two mental health experts were appointed by the judge to evaluate the woman, who has no prior criminal history. During previous court hearings, two dozen college professors, teachers, longtime friends, neighbors, a pastor and family members wrote letters saying De Barraicua, the mother of a toddler, didn't deserve prison time.

Prosecutors had wanted a sentence of two to three years in prison for De Barraicua, and also insisted upon registration as a sex offender for life, but the judge postponed that issue until sentencing.

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Friday, September 16, 2005


I'd like to know the details of this one:

A top Toronto pathologist is at the centre of a case that saw a Sault Ste. Marie man go to prision for a murder he might not have committed. 34-year old William Mullins-Johnson has been in prison for 12 years for the sexual assault and murder of his 4-year old niece. He was convicted largely on scientific evidence. Evidence submitted by Toronto pathologist Doctor Charles Smith.

Now, top officials in the Ontario Chief Coroner's office say the murder never happened and the 4-year old died of natural causes.

Smith resigned his position at the Hospital for Sick Children in July, just weeks after Ontario's Chief Coroner ordered a review of all suspicious death cases Smith handled since 1991.

Mullins-Johnson's lawyer, James Lockyer, is asking federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler to quash the conviction on the basis Mullins-Johnson is the victim of miscarriage of justice.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005


"Family members watching from both sides of the courtroom remained still and silent Tuesday as a Montgomery County judge handed the former U.S. Marshal convicted in the shooting death of a Navy seaman from California a 15-year sentence. Arthur L. Lloyd, who sat beside his lawyers in a green prison jumpsuit, showed little emotion as Circuit Court Judge Ann Harrington sentenced him to 25 years, then suspended 10. ... When Lloyd was offered the chance to speak on his own behalf, he sought to explain his actions in the Rockville shopping center parking lot. He said law enforcement officers like him are skittish since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and that he was incensed by a barrage of profanities and racial epithets that Stowers subjected him to. He also said he feared that Stowers might be someone he helped put in jail as a marshal, who was now seeking revenge. 'I'm sorry if my reaction was an overreaction,' said Lloyd, who shot Stowers in the leg during their altercation before killing him with a bullet to his back as he drove away."

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A former Victorian policeman who leaked confidential information from a police database to an accused drug dealer has escaped a conviction. Christopher Gerald Marks, 30, of Frankston South, appeared for sentencing today in Victoria's County Court after pleading guilty to a charge of misfeasance of public office and drug charges. The charges stemmed from an incident in June 2003 when Marks, following a request from a friend and accused drug dealer, ran a check on a man caught with 300 ecstasy tablets. During the subsequent police investigation Marks, formerly a senior constable attached to the Frankston Regional Response Unit, also confessed to using and possessing the drug ecstasy on one occasion. Judge John Smallwood told the court the maximum penalty he could apply included a jail term, but he imposed fines totalling $4350 and did not record a conviction"

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005


A jury can fail to find you guilty but who cares about that if the egos of Federal prosecutors are on the line?

Five former executives of Enron's Internet operation are headed to trial for a second time -- but not as one group. U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore set 2006 dates for a trio of retrials for the men who already have sat through more than three months of trial together only to have it end largely in a mistrial in July.

Enron Task Force prosecutor Lisa Monaco said that in the next month prosecutors will seek new indictments against the five men, splitting out three different cases rather than the one giant technology-laden case that took so long to try. The five former executives of Enron Broadband Services remain accused of systematically lying to investors and the public about the value and capabilities of the business.

The first trial will be in May for Kevin Howard, former chief financial officer, and Michael Krautz, former senior accounting director. The first jury deadlocked on conspiracy and fraud charges against the pair accused of designing a fake sale of video-on-demand profits to falsely inflate EBS earnings and fool Wall Street about the company's prosperity.

Next up, in June, will be Scott Yeager, the former senior vice president of business development for EBS. He is to be tried on his remaining insider trading and money laundering charges. The first jury gave Yeager the most relief when it acquitted him of all fraud and conspiracy charges. Yeager's lawyer Sam Buffone argued in court today that the government cannot reindict Yeager at all because the first jury, by acquitting Yeager of the key charges, constructively destroyed the entire case against Yeager. Buffone said double jeopardy would preclude prosecutors from charging him again with the same crimes.

Judge Gilmore set a September trial date for the remaining two executives: Joe Hirko and Rex Shelby. Hirko, former co-CEO of Enron Broadband Services, was acquitted of some insider trading and money laundering charges, but the jury deadlocked on his conspiracy and fraud charges. Shelby, former senior vice president of engineering and operations, was acquitted of some insider trading charges, but the jury deadlocked on conspiracy, fraud and money laundering. Prosecutor Monaco said the government will drop all the money laundering charges against Shelby. Shelby's acquittals from the jury make the group of money laundering charges, based on how he allegedly moved around ill-gotten gains, too hard to prove under rules about following the money from account to account.

It was in July that the first jury deliberated less than 24 hours over four days, before the judge declared most of the case a mistrial.

Judge Gilmore did not rule today on pending motions from all the defendants asking for acquittals on all charges. The judge made statements chastising both sides for not seeing the big picture in their filings to the court. "What brought us here today is the fact that the government was myopic about the evidence throughout the whole proceeding," Judge Gilmore said. She said prosecutors could not see that some evidence was helpful to the defendants and not just the government.

But she also said the defendants filed motions that ignored some evidence. "The defense invited the court to commit error by ignoring reams of evidence . . . by which a jury could find defendants guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," Gilmore said.

Krautz' attorney Barry Pollack noted to the judge that at least the May trial could start while the large trial of ex-Enron to officials Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling and Rick Causey is still proceeding in the courtroom next door. That case is set to begin in January and could take six months or even more to try. Pollack said publicity about the Lay case could stir up bias in the jury pool and the EBS cases, or at least the first one, might have to be tried in another city.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Two high profile convictions in the Australian State of Queensland were recently overturned by the courts. The Leftist lady got off on a technicality (in other words she did do what she was accused of). The conservative lady was convicted on a technicality (in other words she did nothing wrong). But you would think it was the other way around from the response of the Leftist Queensland government

Controversial One Nation founder Pauline Hanson has upped the ante on her bid for compensation for being wrongfully jailed. Prominent lawyer Chris Nyst today said Ms Hanson had petitioned Premier Peter Beattie for compensation after spending 11 weeks in jail before her conviction for electoral fraud was overturned in 2003.

Ms Hanson's move comes about a week after the Queensland government reached a settlement of $A475,000 for former chief magistrate Di Fingleton, who was wrongly jailed for six months for retaliating against a witness. Ms Fingleton also has been offered the position of magistrate at the Caloundra Courthouse in south-east Queensland.

"The injustice which (Ms Hanson) suffered was at least as substantial as that suffered by the former chief magistrate Diane Fingleton," Mr Nyst said in a statement. "(Ms Hanson's) political career was destroyed; she was publicly disgraced, traumatised and ultimately imprisoned. "Thankfully, her experience in that regard, like Ms Fingleton's, was almost unique in our history, and like Ms Fingleton's it calls for frank and unqualified recognition, and compensation, by the state."

Ms Hanson's only crime was "that she became a popular political figure who polarised views within the community and challenged her political opponents," Mr Nyst said. "Ms Hanson sees Mr Beattie's government as one which is willing to acknowledge error where it has occurred and act accordingly, and she is therefore confident that her claim for compensation will be settled promptly and satisfactorily."

The premier's office did not immediately respond to Mr Nyst's comments. However, Mr Beattie has previously refused to meet Ms Hanson's demands, saying Ms Hanson's case did not warrant compensation because it differed from Ms Fingleton's.

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Monday, September 12, 2005


Ray and Peter Mickelberg last night called on West Australian Sports Minister Bob Kucera to agree to fingerprinting to resolve his role in their framing for the Perth Mint swindle. They want to check if Mr Kucera's prints are on an unsigned draft statement he made about Peter's interrogation at his office in July 1982. "If he's got nothing to hide, there is no reason why he should not let us have his prints," Ray Mickelberg said after obtaining files owned by corrupt former detective Tony Lewandowski, who committed suicide in May last year. He said the documents would be sent to England for expert forensic testing to see if they could be linked to Mr Kucera.

A spokesman for Mr Kucera - who was a police sergeant in 1982 - said the minister would not comment. "It was more than 20 years ago and he views it as ancient history," he said. "He has already given evidence in court and he has nothing to add to that."

The brothers believe the documents will bolster their claim against the Government. Lewandowski confessed last year that he and former CIB chief Don Hancock had bashed Peter Mickelberg in Mr Kucera's office and fabricated confessions. Mr Kucera was not present during the bashing.

The Mickelbergs' lawyer, Martin Bennett, said the statement was stapled to a sketch of Mr Kucera's office and a timeline of events in Hancock's handwriting, suggesting the latter may have been coaching others on what to say in court. "The documents are consistent with after-event concoction. They suggest the Kucera statement needed to be in conformity with the bogus timeline written by Hancock," he said.

Ray and Peter Mickelberg, together with a third brother, Brian, were convicted in 1983 of stealing 68kg of gold - then worth $650,000 - from the mint the previous year. Ray Mickelberg served eight years of a 20-year sentence and Peter served six years of a 14-year term. However, the pair had their convictions quashed on their eighth appeal to the courts last year, with the West Australian Court of Appeal ruling there had been a substantial miscarriage of justice.

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Paternity Case Marks Progress for Defrauded Fathers

On Aug. 31, a small but precedent-setting case was decided in the Superior Court of New Jersey. The plaintiff discovered he was not the biological father of his eldest 'son', now in his 30s. The court affirmed the duped dad's legal right to sue the natural father for the cost of raising the 'child' and removed some limitations imposed by a lower court. The precedent: for the first time, New Jersey has extended a clear statutory deadline for filing on paternity cases. For the first time, a biological parent may be forced to pay child support for an offspring emancipated over 15 years ago.

The significance: family courts are beginning to reflect a growing impatience with paternity fraud; perhaps this is in reaction to a shift in societal attitudes.

Predictably, the pathbreaking New Jersey decision raises more questions. For example, if a deliberate fraud was perpetrated for 30 years by both the biological mother and father, why is only the father held liable? The answer -- right or wrong -- lies in the facts of the case, which are as follows.

In 1957, RAC -- the duped dad -- and BEC were married; in 1980, they divorced. Three children resulted, including DC born in 1969. (Court documents reveal the parties only through initials.) The mother was "virtually sure" that PJS was DC's father but she did not disclose this to her husband. Instead, PJS became the child's godfather. Upon divorce, RAC fulfilled the obligations of both child support and educational expenses for DC, all the while maintaining a close, loving relationship with the three children.

In 1996, DC -- then 27-years-old -- was about to wed. The mother revealed her paternity fraud to DC because his natural father had a pronounced family history of muscular dystrophy, a condition which could be genetically transmitted. She promised to inform RAC of the deception but waited three additional years to do so.

In September 2000, the sadly-enlightened RAC filed a complaint against PJS, which also named the mother and included a demand for DNA testing. PJS was the biological father and a judgment of paternity was entered against him in June 2002.

In February 2003, RAC was awarded $109,697 for child support reimbursement up to DC's 22nd birthday. The reimbursement excluded legal expenses and money spent on DC's education between the ages of 22 and 25.

The judge also dismissed RAC's claim for "fraudulent concealment and intentional infliction of emotional distress." This effectively barred a cross-complaint against the mother.

RAC appealed. PJS countered with a technicality, albeit an important one. The time limit for initiating a paternity fraud suit had expired under New Jersey's Parentage Act before RAC had brought the original suit. The relevant passage states, "No action shall be brought under [the Parentage Act] more than five years after the child attains the age of majority." Thus PJS claimed RAC's suit was invalid. RAC answered that information on paternity was concealed until the time limit had expired. In other words, PJS and the mother had "conspired" to prevent the very possibility of a legal remedy.

The Superior Court agreed with RAC...but only so far. The deadline for filing was waived. The Superior Court fell back on the intention of the Parentage Act rather than its specific wording. The Act was not intended to facilitate fraud; thus, the court extended the principle of "equitable tolling" to paternity fraud. This principle states, "a statute of limitations will not bar a claim if despite use of due diligence the plaintiff did not or could not discover the injury until after the expiration of the limitations period."

The claim for legal fees was sent back to the lower court for reconsideration. But the claims of "fraudulent concealment" and "emotional distress" were denied, as was the filing of action against the mother. Why was the mother exempted? The court found, "BEC owed plaintiff nothing for the support of DC" because she had also paid her fair share. Moreover, "the act of adultery...does not violate any law" and was mitigated by the joy and benefit "plaintiff enjoyed from the love and affection" of the "child he thought was his."

I am uncomfortable with this reasoning. Adultery is not and should not be against the law; consenting adults have an absolute right to have sex together without government interference. The sexual act may be immoral or otherwise unsavory but it should not be illegal. But making an innocent third party legally and financially responsible for the consequences of that sex act is an entirely different matter. And the mother must have perjured herself on several legal documents during the divorce and child settlement arrangements when she attested to RAC's fatherhood.

At least two questions bear on whether the mother should be liable. The first: should the law intrude into family matters? The second: if the law becomes involved, should fraud be tolerated? My ideal society includes explicit contracts into which people voluntarily enter before becoming parents; DNA testing might be a standard provision. The law (or other third party) would become involved only as an arbiter of disputes or as a rescuer in cases of physical abuse. That society doesn't exist. People resist parental contracts and the law inevitably becomes involved in competing claims over children.

And, when a legal proceeding occurs, intentional fraud should be punished. BEC -- along with the natural father -- committed intentional fraud. The New Jersey decision is beneficial in granting increased recognition to the plight of paternity fraud. But an obvious problem remains. Two people committed fraud. Only one of them bears any liability.

Original article here

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Saturday, September 10, 2005


The bastard should go to jail for conspiring to pervert the course of justice

The emails from the Clayton Utz lawyers were hardly subtle. "Keith, there is a problem in your exhibit," one of the firm's senior associates, Nicholas Tyacke, wrote to the man he planned to use as an expert witness in the biggest copyright infringement case in Australian legal history. "What's (sic) you are observing and reporting is, strictly speaking, true - but it is leading to the wrong conclusion."

Mr Tyacke's firm was acting for Sharman Networks, makers of the controversial music-swapping software program marketed as Kazaa. Sharman was being sued by the music industry in a case that would decide who controlled the future of online music, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. And Clayton Utz needed an expert to tell the Federal Court in Sydney how much, or preferably how little, control the company maintained over the pirated music exchanged over the internet by more than 300 million Kazaa users worldwide. In turning to computer science professor Keith Ross from Polytechnic University in New York, the lawyers found a suitably pliable expert.

"Dear Dr Ross, I attach a draft document that is intended to be a skeleton or starting point for your report," another Clayton Utz senior associate, John Fairbairn, wrote in an email. Having provided the initial "skeleton", the firm went on to demand technical changes. Evidence tendered showed that Professor Ross admitted he had not tested propositions Clayton Utz's solicitors had inserted in his draft report, but accepted them anyway. "I was not aware of this even after our testing," Professor Ross wrote to Clayton Utz. "But if you say so, then fine with me." After "a revised and cleaned-up draft" had been returned to Clayton Utz, Professor Ross wrote: "Feel free to make any changes, delete entire paragraphs etc."

Judge Murray Wilcox ruled that he could not accept Professor Ross's explanation for these exchanges, and discounted his evidence on controversial issues. "I am forced to conclude that Professor Ross was prepared seriously to compromise his independence and intellectual integrity. After this evidence, I formed the view it might be unsafe to rely upon Professor Ross in relation to any controversial matter."

In closing submissions, Clayton Utz partner Mary Still addressed the music industry's demand that Professor Ross be discredited for taking directions from Mr Fairbairn and Mr Tyacke when he was supposed to be an independent witness. "The applicants' submissions do not address the fact that the suggestions put to Professor Ross were exactly that. They were requests, not 'directives'."

Clayton Utz declined to discuss the case beyond issuing a statement. "As you know, with the judgment subject to appeal, the matter is not concluded. In these circumstances it is obviously inappropriate to enter into any discussions," it said. "I can, however, tell you Clayton Utz rejects any suggestion that any of its lawyers have acted inappropriately in the conduct of these proceedings."

Professor Ross, who was paid for his testimony, did not respond to questions.

On Monday, the Federal Court stopped short of granting the music industry full victory by allowing Kazaa to continue operating. But the service has been given two months to stop the swapping of pirated music files between its customers. Sharman has said it would appeal against the decision, but industry experts are unsure if the company can remain viable without the estimated 3billion pirated songs available to customers every month.

NSW Legal Services Commissioner Steve Mark said solicitors often put pressure on witnesses to come up with a particular result, and his office took a firm stand on lawyers who coached witnesses or attempted to influence their findings. "A lawyer's primary duty is to the court," he said.

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Friday, September 09, 2005


What could be more basic than being told what you are accused of and being given a chance to answer it?

Former NSW deputy police commissioner Jeff Jarratt will collect more than $1 million after winning a four-year court battle against his 2001 sacking. Mr Jarratt, a police officer since 1967, was appointed deputy commissioner for three years in 1997 and had his $218,000-a-year contract extended for a further five years in 2000. He was fired without notice by then police commissioner Peter Ryan in September 2001. Mr Ryan said the dismissal was on grounds related to Mr Jarratt's performance.

Mr Jarratt complained he had been given no opportunity to be heard on the substance of any criticisms of his performance. Yesterday, the full bench of the High Court ruled that under the rules of natural justice, Mr Jarratt, 57, was entitled to be given anopportunity to answer the criticisms. He will receive compensation of more than $642,000 for the abrupt dismissal and be reimbursed $400,000 in court costs.

Mr Jarratt's solicitor, Robert Tassell, said yesterday the outcome was a final victory in a long case. "They found that the termination of his appointment was invalid and allowed him the damages ... which is a real win for us. We're absolutely ecstatic. It's a great result for a great individual, against the state."

Mr Jarratt had battled through the courts since 2001 for compensation after the police commissioner and the NSW Government argued he was not entitled to a hearing. The NSW Police Service Act provided that a deputy commissioner could be removed from office at any time by the NSW governor on the recommendation of the police commissioner, submitted with the approval of the police minister. Mr Jarratt began court proceedings arguing he had not been validly removed under the act.

In July 2002, judge Carolyn Simpson ruled that his dismissal was invalid and that he had been denied natural justice. She said he was entitled to damages of $642,936 for the balance of his five-year contract.

The NSW Government appealed and the Court of Appeal reversed the decision, ruling that Mr Jarratt had not been entitled to a hearing by the NSW police commissioner before he recommending his removal, and that the common-law principle relied on by the commissioner and the state applied. In 2003, the Court of Appeal ruled the dismissal was lawful and Mr Jarratt lost his compensation payout and was ordered to pay $400,000 in legal costs.

Mr Jarratt applied for special leave to appeal to the High Court and the court unanimously granted his application. Yesterday, the High Court held that under the Police Service Act there was an obligation to give Mr Jarratt procedural fairness and that the "dismissal at pleasure" principle did not apply. The court, led by Chief Justice Murray Gleeson, ruled that the police commissioner's office had an obligation to give Mr Jarratt procedural fairness. The court held that unless excluded by plain words, an exercise of power by a public official, such as the NSW police commissioner, to prejudice the rights of Mr Jarratt was to accord with the rules of natural justice.

NSW Police Association secretary Peter Remfrey welcomed the decision, saying it was vital that senior police were protected from being sacked at will. "It's particularly critical, in our view, that senior police are insulated from being terminated without reason or at will," Mr Remfrey said. "Otherwise, you run the inevitable risk that political considerations will influence their decision-making. And that's not good for policing; that's not good for the public."

Report here

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Thursday, September 08, 2005


"There's little question that free speech is endangered in America today. Witness, for example, those protesters at both the Democrat and Republican national conventions who were relegated to "free speech zones." Consider hate speech laws that are often broad and, as a result, even more broadly interpreted. Remember that we now know that protesters in California were the subject of surveillance by the National Guard, and that the FBI, too, has been monitoring those who would speak out. There have been noises made that Internet 'bloggers should, perhaps, be subject to campaign finance reform laws (which, as they currently exist, are effectively free speech curbs). And then take note of the fact that an Ohio prosecutor recently referred to a 'blogger as a "paper terrorist," and you'll begin to get an even clearer picture as to just how endangered our First Amendment rights have become.

Bryan DuBois is a former marine who lives in northern Ohio with his wife and two young children. When an area attorney began logging complaints of corruption in local government, he took an interest. When Elsebeth Baumgartner was subsequently arrested, charged numerous times with numerous crimes, disbarred, and, it is claimed, harassed by officials, he determined to take a role. It's been just about a year since DuBois began producing his politically oriented 'blog. Entitled "Erie Voices" after the Ohio county in which he resides, the 'blog is his way of publicizing and demanding accountability for what he says is unacceptable if not illegal behavior among local and Ohio state officials ranging from prosecutors to politicians, and from judges to law enforcement personnel.

This summer, DuBois was arrested himself and formally charged with a variety of offenses in two Ohio counties. The charges are serious and could see him jailed if he is convicted. After his arrest, DuBois spent some three weeks behind bars with a combined bail of $190,000. The bail was eventually reduced, and DuBois is currently out on bond and awaiting further legal proceedings. With the permission of his attorney, DuBois agreed to be interviewed via email about his activism and the price he may have to pay for it.


Lady Liberty: You were recently arrested and charged with varying offenses in two different Ohio counties. Exactly what is it you're accused of doing?

Bryan DuBois: I was indicted on seven felony counts of "extortion," "intimidation," "retaliation," and "possession of criminal tools" in Cuyahoga and Ottawa Counties. The criminal tool is the computer I'm typing on right now. For some reason — as you can see — it was not confiscated.

I'm accused of sending an "intimidating" email to a judge who I've conversed with a half dozen times after he received the email. He knew that I was writing about his activity in court - and tried to act like he welcomed the scrutiny. During a court recess, I flirted with him about getting his autograph on a book he wrote (Ohio Civil Procedure) and he laughed and told me that his signature wasn't worth anything. He warmly greeted me every time he saw me in court (addressing me on the record sometimes) - but now, apparently as a result of some of the things I wrote about him, he's claiming that I "intimidated" him seven months ago.

LL: It's likely that none of this would have happened to you if you hadn't established Erie Voices or taken such an active interest in the accusations made by Elsebeth Baumgartner. Why did you first get involved?

BD: I started the 'blog because I think that the press is the ultimate check on government - and I've heard stories about government powers running wild in Erie and Ottawa Counties because of the lack of accountability forced by the local establishment media. When the media becomes too friendly with the government, bad things can happen.

So the purpose of my 'blog is to get the stories to the public that go unreported by the local media. This act in itself seems to be revolutionary enough to make me a target of those who have been protected by their friends in the media, in particular, the local prosecutors who pretty much violate the law at will without any repercussions. Much of my 'blog is exposing documentation that proves misconduct in the offices of local prosecutors.... "

Much more here

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005


The police in Brazil often shoot black street kids out of hand on the generally correct assumption that they support themselves by criminal activity so shooting them reduces crime. So a Westerner who meddled in the system was always asking for trouble from those in power. They simply got him out of the way and intend to keep him there

The family of an orphanage founder imprisoned in Brazil have vowed to continue their campaign to free him after his appeal to return to Britain – supported by foreign minister Jack Straw – was rejected. Rachel Wareing spoke to Craig Alden's family and supporters.

Craig Alden was just a teenager when he saw a homeless child shot in the street in front of him in Brazil. The experience prompted him to set up a refuge for street children. He returned home to Warboys, near Huntingdon, and began raising money to set up the Abrigo Warboys in a small town near the capital, Brasilia. After three years he gave up his job at Anglian Water and moved to Brazil permanently, sleeping in a tent and running the orphanage on a shoestring. The refuge provided food, shelter, training and care for more than 30 children.

Three years ago the dream turned sour. Following a dispute with the town's authorities, Craig was accused of abusing and neglecting five children at the refuge and sentenced to 48 years in jail. He had no defence at his trial because his lawyer missed the statutory deadline for submitting evidence, and the judge ignored defence witness statements and medical evidence. Craig, now 36, also had no interpreter.

His parents Maureen and Brian, from Warboys, believe he was the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice. Mr Alden's family has the backing of the British Government and campaign group Fair Trials Abroad. Supporters include staff and volunteers from Britain who worked at the orphanage.

After numerous appeals, which resulted in a reduction in the sentence to 11 years, the Foreign Office commissioned a legal report by an eminent Queen's Counsel, Lord Renton. Convinced of the injustice of the case, he travelled to Brazil at his own expense to investigate further. It prompted Jack Straw to ask the Brazilian government for a presidential expulsion. It was rejected.

The Aldens and their supporters are determined to fight on. Mrs Alden said: "If Craig comes back here, he has no way of clearing his name, which he has always maintained he wants to do. "However, the Brazilian system seems unable to rectify the mistakes it has made, so we decided the best thing for his safety and his health is to get him home."

The orphanage her son worked so hard to build was run into the ground after Craig's arrest. Mrs Alden said some of the older children visit her son in prison, including some of the children who were allegedly victims of the abuse. Visits and phone calls are difficult, she said, because they depend on the whim of the guard on duty. She said: "It's a prison like no other. It's a very wild west town, out in the sticks. "The conditions are not good, but he's luckier than the majority and has enjoyed some privileges – thanks to the support he's had from the diplomatic community. "The problem is that many of his supporters in Brazil are diplomats, who are only posted there for a few years. His loyal band of supporters is therefore dwindling a bit, not because they no longer believe him, but because the people he knows out there are moving away."

One supporter, Pastor Simon Trundle of the New Life Church in Wellingborough, has visited Craig in prison on numerous occasions. He said: "I quickly realised the facts were dismally slim, and the case against him disintegrated on close inspection."

He describes the conditions Craig is living in as "appalling" with daytime temperatures topping 40C and very cold nights. There is just one small window in the cell, beside an open drain infested with mosquitoes and cockroaches. Mr Trundle added: "When we first visited him, there was excrement and blood on the walls, because it was previously used as a holding cell. "He was sleeping on the floor and we had to buy him a bed. "He has to connect two bare wires to turn the light on at night.

"Other prisoners had threatened him because the guards told them he had abused children. "He has been deeply, deeply depressed and, at his lowest, has talked of finishing it all, but we encourage him to be positive and he rallies round again. "I don't think many people could have coped with three years of what he has been through." Craig's supporters are continuing their campaign for his release, and are asking the Brazilians to respond to the human rights and legal issues raised by the British Government. They are asking people to sign their online petition at and to send Craig a message of support through the website.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005


If you are a drunken Californian

Vera Zukowski wants to know why the drunken driver who killed her 22-year-old daughter could be free after just one year in prison. Merry Zukowski died Jan. 30, when the broken-down car she was sitting in along the shoulder of Highway 60 was hit by Annamaria V. Estrada, 39, of Moreno Valley. Estrada was driving east near Market Street in Riverside just before 5 a.m. when she swerved off the road in her Ford Explorer. Zukowski, in the driver's seat, was crushed to death. Her friend, in the passenger's seat, was unharmed.

Estrada pleaded guilty to DUI vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence June 16. Since she had no criminal record, Estrada received the mid- range sentence: two years in state prison. With good behavior, she could be out in one.

As Zukowski sees it, that sentence was a miscarriage of justice. But the prosecutors say it was a victory. Creg Datig, an expert on vehicular manslaughter at the Riverside County District Attorney's Office, said that by legal standards for DUI vehicular manslaughter, Estrada's crime was not egregious. She wasn't driving 100 mph through city streets. Her blood-alcohol level wasn't outrageously high. She didn't have a string of DUI convictions on her record.

Samah Shouka, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, said Estrada could easily have gotten probation. In fact, she said, that's what the probation department recommended. Datig said the battle was getting over the probation recommendation. "Do I personally think that that's enough?" Datig said. "No." But when he started his career, Datig said, it was routine for first offenders like Estrada to receive no jail time. Datig said the penalties for vehicular homicide have not changed appreciably in the past 20 years. But, he said, the fact that they are getting prison sentences for cases like Estrada's is "a marked departure."

More here

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