Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Statutory rape law ruled unconstitutional

Surprising sense from Ireland about a very bloody-minded law

The Supreme Court has unanimously declared unconstitutional the law under which any man is automatically guilty of a crime if he has sex with a girl under 15. The court made its decision on several grounds, including the failure to allow the defence that a genuine mistake had been made about a girl's age.

The successful challenge to the legislation was brought by a 23-year-old man. He had admitted having consensual intercourse with a girl who, he claimed, had told him she was 16. He was 17 at the time in 2001.

Until today if a man or boy was convicted of having sexual intercourse with a girl under 15, even if it was consensual, he could face up to life imprisonment under the 1935 legislation and he would also be placed on the Sex Offenders Register. But the Supreme Court has shot down the relevant provision of the Act, which did not allow any defence to be offered where the fact of sexual intercourse was admitted or established.

The challenge to the Act was brought by a young man who was facing four charges of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old girl. He admitted having sex with the girl, but claimed she had told him she was 16. His senior counsel, Deirdre Murphy, pointed out that the law as it stood left men like her client without a reasonable defence even when positiviely convinced by the girl herself that she was over the statutory age. She argued that that it was inconsistent with the right to a fair trial to deny her client the defence of mistake or mistake on reasonable grounds.

The Supreme Court agreed that the section offered absolutely no defence once the act of sexual intercourse was established. Mr Justice Hardiman said that once a man has sex with a girl whom he honestly believes to be over the relevant age, a mentally innocent person is criminalised. To criminalise in such a serious way a person who is mentally innocent inflicts a grave injury on that person's dignity and sense of worth, he said. He said the right of an accused not to be convicted of a true criminal offence in the absence of intent was done away with by this Act.

But the court said today's decision does not prevent the Oireachtas from enacting different legitimate laws to discourage sex with very young girls.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Sick priorities of a so-called justice system in Australia

A woman who escaped the clutches of a mentally ill killer was blocked from finding out if he had been set free. Natalie Schindler, 24, is living in fear that he will one day track her down and harm her. But health authorities told her they were more concerned about protecting their patient than passing on details of his whereabouts to her.

"I am disgusted ... they would not tell me anything ... they said they had to protect him," Ms Schindler said. "I got quite emotional. I told them I was sick of this system which protects killers."

The Queensland woman contacted the Mental Health Review Tribunal after reading an exclusive report in The Sunday Mail last week about a mentally ill killer given day release. The man was hospitalised after he was declared to be of unsound mind and never faced a criminal court for the horrific crime.

Ms Schindler, who got out of the man's car and discovered later that he had killed her teenage girlfriend, had concerns that it could be the same man now back in the community. She said she rang the tribunal immediately but, a senior official would not give her details of the offender's movements, even after confirming she had been closely connected to the case. "They said their first priority was to protect the patient., not his victims, she said.

Ms Schindler said that in 2002 she had made a submission to the tribunal about the on-going custody of the killer. She had not put her name on the register of interested parties because she did not want repeated reminders of that terrifying day. However, she believed that because of her close link to the case she should have been advised automatically by the tribunal if the killer was to be released. "People have a right to know ... is it really good enough that the tribunal is satisfied that he will not harm himself or others? "Is the tribunal going to watch over him every minute of every day ... and if he kills again. will they take responsibility?"

Details emerged this week that five Queensland killers sent to secure hospitals after being found meutally unfit to stand trial had been returned to the community. Mental Health Review Tribunal president Barry Thomas said the tribunal was "well aware of its responsibility to make sure there was not an unacceptable risk to community safety".

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CA: $750,000 for women that the boss screamed at: "Three women who were screamed at by their boss were awarded $750,000 in a settlement announced Monday in San Francisco. The women, all employees of the National Education Association in Alaska, complained in a sexual discrimination lawsuit in 2001 that they had been abused, berated and spit upon by their boss, the interim assistant executive director of the office, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said. The complaint, filed by Carol Christopher, Carmela Chamara and Julie Bhend, was originally rejected by a federal judge because the abusive behavior by the women's boss, Thomas Harvey, was not sexual in nature and thus not sexual harassment. The complaint was reinstated by an appeals court that ruled abusive sexual discrimination does not have to be motivated by lust or misogyny."

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Australia: Crooked police face lawsuit

An innocent man charged over a murder in which corrupt police were implicated is suing the NSW Police and Director of Public Prosecutions in a potential multi-million-dollar damages case. John Harlum, 62, was given permission yesterday by Justice David Kirby to bring his wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution case over the shotgun killing of a well-known criminal, Roy Lawrence Thurgar, in 1991. Mr Harlum, a mechanic, spent 15 months in jail before he was acquitted at trial. He had no criminal record, and did not know either Thurgar or another man who was jointly accused of the murder, Garry Nye.

Nye, a small-time criminal, was also acquitted. Three years ago Nye was awarded $1.3 million in damages over the matter, which was later reduced in a confidential settlement. "The terror of a person of good character being arrested and wrongly accused of murder … is almost unimaginable," Justice Kirby said yesterday.

A barrister, Winston Terracini, SC, said there was "evidence suggested during the trial that there was a conspiracy between various police officers and police witnesses to fabricate evidence" against Mr Nye and Mr Harlum. Mr Harlum's legal advisers said they expected a verdict in his favour would amount to "in excess of several million dollars".

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The 1991 shooting of the underworld figure Roy Thurgar came back to haunt a Sydney courtroom yesterday when a man acquitted of his murder launched a compensation claim, saying he had been the victim of a malicious prosecution. Garry Nye is also claiming he was wrongfully arrested and falsely imprisoned for 16 months - the time he spent in jail before a jury threw out the murder charge. In the Supreme Court yesterday, Mr Nye's barrister, Brian Donovan, QC, said the whole case against his client had been based around a police informer, Danny Shakespeare, who had many aliases and a record for fraud and dishonesty. Mr Donovan told Justice Barry O'Keefe there was "not one single jot of corroboration" for Shakespeare's story, which had changed several times. Police should have known at the time he was completely unreliable.

Mr Nye is suing the state of NSW, the Director of Public Prosecutions and four NSW police officers who were involved in the case, Wayne Popplewell, Wayne Gordon, Peter Hawley and David Barnett. The court heard that only Mr Gordon is still in the police. Ian Temby, QC, is appearing for the defendants.

In his statement of claim, Mr Nye says that in addition to Shakespeare's unreliability, officers Popplewell and Gordon had opposed the granting of bail "and put before the court information, material and/or evidence which was untrue." Outlining the case, which is set down for four weeks, Mr Donovan said Thurgar had been shot at point-blank range as he sat in his car in Avoca Street, Randwick, just after 7pm on May 20, 1991. He died in hospital the next day.

Mr Donovan said that initially police had focused their attention on a man named Bert Kidd. Mr Gordon, then a detective-sergeant, had been in charge of the case and Mr Popplewell had been his deputy. However, things changed on May 28, when Shakespeare had been arrested at Port Kembla on 41 warrants relating to dishonesty and fraud. Almost immediately, Shakespeare had told the police he had information about the Thurgar murder and had subsequently implicated Mr Nye and John Harlum, a car dealer.

Mr Donovan said: "As I anticipate, as at today, everyone would accept that was a lie." Indeed, until just before their arrest "these two men didn't even know each other". Broadly, Shakespeare had told police he and Thurgar had stolen some hashish belonging to Mr Nye and Mr Harlum, and as a result, Thurgar had been shot.

Both men were arrested on July 24, 1991, but Shakespeare's numerous statements and interviews had contained many inconsistencies and contradictions that should have been obvious to police. In addition, if police had checked, they would have found that Shakespeare was a person who swallowed razor blades while in prison, bashed his head against a wall and who gave every appearance of being irrational and unreliable.

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

Sunday, May 28, 2006


A digital tape recording that police and union officials claimed would prove an Ipswich mother used vulgar and offensive language when she was arrested for double parking outside a school does not exist. Documents obtained by The Courier-Mail reveal an alleged digital recording of a heated verbal exchange between Yvette Green, of Riverview, and a traffic branch officer outside the Collingwood Park State School on January 25 was "corrupted".

Ms Green, a mother of five, was arrested by Senior Constable Anthony Brett during a statewide traffic safety blitz. She allegedly double parked to drop off two of her children at the school about 8.40am. Her toddler son was strapped into the back seat of her car when she was approached by Sen-Constable Brett. A heated exchange followed during which police claimed Ms Green refused to give her name and verbally abused them, using a string of expletives.

Ms Green claims Sen-Constable Brett handcuffed her and dragged her out of her BMW sedan. Police subsequently charged Ms Green with one count each of obstructing police, disobeying a direction and behaving in a disorderly and offensive manner. She was also issued a ticket for double parking.

In a letter to police investigators on May 15, a Sydney-based manufacturer who analysed Sen-Constable Brett's digital voice recorder revealed the "recorded file" was "corrupted". The letter also reveals their technicians had unsuccessfully tried to retrieve the file which police were expected to allege contained the exchange between Ms Green and Sen-Constable Brett. "After careful analysis and based on the findings of our technician, we have found that the recorded file with approximate duration of 25 minutes contained in the TTS-330 Digital Voice Recorder is corrupted," the letter from JNC Digital service centre administrator Rhoel Adriano says.

The documents show the digital recorder was taken home overnight by Sen-Constable Brett and collected from his home by another officer two days after Ms Green was arrested. It was then logged as evidence and handled by four police officers at Ipswich but it is unclear whether they listened to the alleged exchange. Police forensics and the manufacturer were both unsuccessful in extracting data of the alleged verbal exchange on the recorder.

Sen-Constable Brett did record the alleged exchange in his official police notebook on the day of the arrest. In the absence of Sen-Constable Brett's audio recording, an Ipswich magistrate will have to rely on his sworn testimony and that of his partner, Sen-Constable Kathrine Stafford, as to what Ms Green is alleged to have said . In the days after her arrest, the Queensland Police Union said Ms Green used language that would make a "sailor blush". Ms Green yesterday declined to comment on the absence of the audio recording, saying the matter was set for summary trial in the Ipswich Magistrates Court on June 6.

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Saturday, May 27, 2006


Unlike nutty Britain

A Toowoomba man who launched a legal defence of "sleepwalking" to try to beat a rape charge has been found guilty by a jury and was yesterday jailed for five years. Mechanical supervisor Darryl Kenneth Lotz, 35, claimed he had no memory of the attack – which involved him walking in the early morning hours from the spare bedroom of a mate's house into the main bedroom where the man and his girlfriend were asleep. He was accused of lying between the pair and having sex with the woman – who initially went along with the activity because she believed it was her partner.

The trio had been out drinking together with another friend on the night of the attack, in 2002. Lotz's defence team relied on testimony from sleep physician Roger Allen who said it was "highly probable" the incident happened as a result of sleepwalking. The defence also presented two incidents of sleep walking in Lotz's past. But Crown Prosecutor Sal Vasta was scathing of Dr Allen's diagnosis and called two forensic psychiatrists who found it was unlikely sleepwalking played a role.

Mr Vasta painted Lotz, a divorced father-of-one, as an opportunist who had developed the sleepwalking defence because he got caught out. "There has been an attempt in subterfuge here to hide behind a defence . . . that had no merit whatsoever," Mr Vasta said.

But defence barrister Frank Martin, SC, stressed in his sentencing submissions that Lotz remained genuinely baffled by what had happened that night. He said Lotz had led a blameless life with no criminal convictions. "From Mr Lotz's position this was never an attempt at subterfuge."

But District Court Judge Nick Samios told Lotz the jury's guilty verdict – delivered after 24 hours' deliberation – was a finding that his actions on the night were voluntary. He jailed him for five years with no recommendation for early release.

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Friday, May 26, 2006


Autopsy results obtained by CNN show a mentally disabled man was shot in the back when he was killed by New Orleans police in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This contradicts testimony by a police sergeant that the victim had turned toward officers and was reaching into his waistband when shot. "Clearly he was shot from behind," said famed New York pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, who examined the body for the family's lawyer.

A prosecutor said the case will go before a grand jury soon and acknowledged the investigation includes the possibility of police wrong-doing. Ronald Madison, 40, was mentally disabled and lived at home with his mother. He had no criminal record. He was shot when police responded to a report of gunfire on a bridge over the flooded Industrial Canal on Sunday, September 4, six days after Katrina hit New Orleans last year. It was a week of dire flooding, rampant looting, death by drowning. Police were strained, beset by suicides and desertion. Four people were killed in confrontations with police that weekend alone.

Madison's older brother, Lance, said he and Ronald were walking across the Danziger bridge toward another brother's dental office when teen-agers ran up behind him and opened fire that Sunday morning. By his account, he and Ronald were running away toward the crest of the bridge when a police team, responding to the report of gunshots, arrived in a rental truck and opened fire on people on the bridge.

Police Superintendent Warren Riley told CNN, "Several of the people were shot and two were killed by our officers in a running gun battle... Most police shoot-outs last somewhere between six and twelve seconds, and it's over with. This was a running gun battle that went on several minutes." One teen-ager, still unidentified, was killed near the base of the bridge. Another was critically wounded. Three other people with them were also shot and were hospitalized.

Lance Madison said a policeman pointed a rifle at Ronald and shot him as the two of them were running up the bridge. Lance said he helped carry his wounded brother to a motel on the other side of the canal and left him there as Lance kept running to seek help.

The Police Department said in a press release last fall that Ronald Madison, whom it called a second unidentified gunman, "was confronted by a New Orleans Police Officer. The suspect reached into his waist and turned toward the officer who fired one shot fatally wounding him." Testifying in a preliminary hearing last fall, Police Sgt. Arthur Kaufman said much the same thing: "One subject turned, reached in his waistband, turned on the officers."

Autopsy results, made available to CNN by a source involved in the investigation, directly contradict that police account. The findings list five separate gunshot wounds in Ronald Madison's back. Three went through the body and exited in front. There were two other wounds in his right shoulder. None of the shots entered his body from the front.

CNN had sued the coroner of Orleans Parish to try to get official access to the autopsy report. At a court hearing on that lawsuit in New Orleans a week ago, the coroner, Dr. Frank Minyard, verified the handwritten autopsy report obtained elsewhere by CNN was indeed prepared in his office by a pathologist on his staff who listed the wounds in the victim's right back. Under cross-examination by a CNN lawyer, Dr. Minyard testified those five wounds in the back "were entrance wounds, yes."

Dr. Michael Baden, chief forensic pathologist for the New York State Police, met with CNN in New York City two weeks ago to discuss his own observations when he examined Ronald Madison's body for the family lawyer last fall. Asked if Ronald could have been facing the police when shot, Dr. Baden said, "Absolutely not." No weapon was found on or near Ronald Madison's body.

Assistant District Attorney Dustin Davis, testifying in the same court hearing on the CNN lawsuit, said a grand jury has been assigned to investigate the Danziger Bridge shootings. However, the grand jury has not yet met on the case because the New Orleans Police Department has yet to complete its final report, eight months after those deaths. The CNN attorney asked Davis, "What you are investigating in that case is whether any of the police officers may be indicted for homicide, is that correct?" Davis answered, "That's partially correct. We are also looking at Mr. Madison's involvement in the incident."

Lance Madison was arrested on the other side of the bridge where his brother was killed and was accused of shooting at the police officers in the gun battle. He, too, had no weapon when taken into custody. He was released from jail after six months because the District Attorney's office had not initiated any prosecution, although the investigation remains pending.

Sgt. Kaufman testified at the bail hearing for Lance Madison last fall that another policeman saw Lance throw a gun into the Industrial Canal as he was going over the bridge. Lance Madison denies that. He told CNN correspondent Drew Griffin, "I had no gun, at all." Asked if Ronald had a gun, Lance answered, "No, he didn't."

In a CNN interview earlier this month, Griffin told Police Chief Warren Riley, "We understand Ronald Madison was shot in the back five times." Riley said, "Those are things I can't comment on and no one can comment on until the investigation is concluded." Griffin asked Riley if he was concerned about his officers' actions and Riley replied, "Certainly, we do not condone our officers overreacting, even in the most chaotic time," but he went on, "We don't know that they overreacted. From the radio transmission, it sounds like their lives were in danger." Riley turned down a request by CNN to interview the officers who were involved.

A 25-year career employee at Federal Express, Lance Madison has no criminal record. At the end of the CNN interview, Riley conceded the two Madison brothers may not have been connected with the other people on the bridge that day. "I don't know if those young men were innocent or not. I really don't know if they were with that group or not," Riley said. "I really don't know."

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Some DNA twists and turns

Justice done but in a strange way

A DNA sample which cleared a man of an unfounded allegation, yesterday helped convict him of a rape committed nearly 13 years ago. In a further twist, DNA also saved another man originally charged with the rape from prosecution in 1993.

The District Court in Brisbane was told that in June 1993 a woman, 18, was asleep at her house in the inner western suburb of Auchenflower when a man broke in and raped her. She originally identified her flatmate as the rapist and he was charged with the offence but was cleared in late 1993 after DNA tests.

It wasn't until a DNA cross-checking exercise in 2005 that Anthony Dean Vandenbroek was identified as the rapist. The court was told Vandenbroek had led a blameless life both before and after the rape. He had not known until recently that someone else had been charged with the attack. The court was told Vandenbroek, who lived in a house behind the woman, was suffering from a mental psychosis at the time and had gone off his medication for a short period.

Police had Vandenbroek's DNA for cross reference because he had supplied a sample years before which proved he had not committed another alleged offence. Vandenbroek, now 37, pleaded guilty to rape, break and enter and indecent assault for the June 5, 1993, attack.

Barrister Rob East, for Vandenbroek, said Vandenbroek had led a fruitful life since the crime. Mr East said that had Vandenbroek elected to go to trial the woman's police statement could have put doubt in the jury's mind, but his client had shown remorse by confessing.

Police had Vandenbroek's DNA on file because a former female friend had made an allegation against him but after the sample was tested the allegation was withdraw, Mr East said. He said that Vandenbroek had gone back on his medication in August 1993 and remained on it since. He said his client was a family man who had held down the same job for 15 years and had no criminal history.

Judge Michael Forde said it was also important that Vandenbroek had spared the complainant the anguish of giving evidence. Judge Forde sentenced Vandenbroek to seven years' jail with a recommendation for parole after two years. He declared 285 days spent in custody on remand as time served on the sentence.


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Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Criminal-loving Britain again

Three paedophiles who were caught after a journalist replied to an obscene advert on a train lavatory door were jailed for life yesterday. A fourth member of the same gang received eight years. Sentencing the men at Hove Crown Court yesterday, Judge Andrew Niblett condemned their offending as "evil, in every sense of that word - abhorrent, wicked and harmful to those abused".

Trevor Haddock, 55, the ringleader, who has been sexually abusing children for at least 20 years, will not be eligible for parole for at least 12 years. Ian Jones, 43, and Derek Moody, 44, were also given life sentences and will serve at least ten and four years respectively. John Farmer, 68, was given an eight-year term.

The men were caught after Ruth Lumley, then a reporter on the Chichester Observer, saw graffiti that said "girls 8-13 wanted for sex" while travelling home to Brighton, East Sussex. She replied to the message, posing as an 11-year-old girl, and received a string of text messages in reply. "The messages got more and more sexually explicit", she said. "They were really disgusting. It was at that point that I knew I had to phone the police."

Her tip-off sparked a ten-month investigation, and a paedophile ring that had abused eight girls was uncovered. She informed British Transport Police who discovered the graffiti on a number of trains that operate in the South East. The adverts were also found in a pub in Euston station, Central London. A police officer pretended to be a 12-year-old girl called Amy and arranged to meet a man outside a Burger King in Brighton. Police were lying in wait and arrested Jones. After officers searched his flat and checked his phone records, they discovered calls to Farmer. Earlier this month the four men pleaded guilty to a string of sexual offences including rape and attempted rape.

Judge Niblett said yesterday that they all presented "a real, significant and continuing danger to young children, especially to young girls". He praised Ms Lumley for her "clear-sightedness", and said that she would receive a 250 pound award from the High Sheriff of East Sussex for her help in catching the gang.

Christine Laing, for the prosecution, singled out Haddock, who was convicted of attempted rape of a 20-year-old woman in 1984, as the central figure. "He is a persistent paedophile with regular access to young female children and their friends. He has been abusing them for at least 20 years," she said. She told the court that on one occasion he lured an eight-year-old girl to Brighton on the pretence of enjoying a day out on the pier. He and Jones gave the girl alcohol, cigarettes and the sleeping pill Nytol. A video of the girl on the pier and then being abused was central to the Crown's evidence.

Detective Chief Inspector Jeff Lister said that the videos that Sussex police had seized during the case were "shocking". The officers who had to watch them have been offered counselling. Speaking after the hearing, he said: "The sentences today have reflected the serious and horrific nature of the sexual offences committed by these men and the damage they have caused to their young victims. "These men pose a serious risk to young children and when they are eventually released they will be on the sex offenders register for life. Their victims are now being given the appropriate support but they have undoubtedly had their childhood taken away."

The Times


A loyalist terrorist convicted of murdering one of Belfast’s most prominent Roman Catholic solicitors was released from prison yesterday after serving less than three years. Ken Barrett, a member of the Ulster Freedom Fighters, was given a life sentence in September 2004 and was told that he would spend at least 22 years in jail for his role in the 1989 murder of Patrick Finucane. Mr Finucane, 39, was murdered during a Sunday lunch in front of his wife and children at their north Belfast home. He was shot 14 times and his wife Geraldine was also hit.

The Times


The crack Los Angeles Police department has been hard at work looking for Stephen Albert Briller ever since they added him to the city's most wanted list in November, 2004, not realizing that Briller has been serving 2 consecutive life sentences in Nevada since August, 2002.

Too bad there isn't a reward being offered for information on where to find him. Inspector Clouseau was unavailable for comment.

(Via Jerry Lerman)

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Australia: Notorious wrongful conviction becomes further unglued

A key prosecution witness in the Leanne Holland murder is set to turn the controversial case on its head. Legal experts say astonishing new information could free convicted killer Graham Stafford after almost 15 years behind bars. Forensic scientist Angela van Daal gave crucial evidence that helped convict Stafford of the horrific 1991 sex slaying of the Goodna schoolgirl at his trial the following year. But she now says blood identified as Leanne's - a central piece of the police case - could have come from another family member.

At the time, Leanne's brother Craig had slashed his hand in a pub fight and had bled freely in the family home. Ms van Daal's testimony related to bloodspots found on "removable" items in the boot of Stafford's car. The blood found on a blanket, bag and cloth connected Stafford to the murder of his then fiancee's younger sister.

Ms van Daal, now an associate professor at the Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine at the Gold Coast's Bond University, said key aspects were overlooked at the 1992 trial. "I did not receive any reference samples from any of Leanne Holland's relatives or from the defendant," she said. "It would seem that the blood ... could also be the result of blood from someone other than the deceased." Ms van Daal said it was "very significant" that although the frequency of the DNA type matching anyone in the general population was only about 1 per cent, it was as high as 25 per cent for relatives.

She was only asked to test if the blood was the same type as Leanne's. "But she had a father, sister and brother ... it could just as easily have been their blood," Ms van Daal said. It was a "glaring oversight" that she was not asked to check whether the blood found on items in the boot did not match Craig Holland's.

Sources said that police took blood samples from Leanne's dad Terry Holland, sister Melissa and Craig but they were not sent to Ms van Daal at the state forensic science lab in Adelaide where she then worked.

Ms van Daal said she was also never asked to comment on the amount of blood - just a few drops - that was found. She would have told the court it was not enough to support the police theory that Leanne had been bashed over the head at least 10 times with a hammer, stabbed numerous times, then stored in the boot for the next two days.

Former policeman Graeme Crowley, who has investigated the case and co-authored the book "Who Killed Leanne?", said it was time for an urgent, independent investigation into Stafford's conviction. "The human blood in the boot of Graham Stafford's car was the last unsolved mystery of this case," he said.

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Monday, May 22, 2006


Ministers were told a year ago that innocent lives were being ruined by errors in criminal records checks that labelled people as paedophiles and sex offenders. The Home Office refused to apologise yesterday as the scale of the problem at the Criminal Records Bureau became clear, with the admission that 1,500 people had been wrongly branded as criminals in the past two years. The number of such errors since the bureau was set up in 2002 is thought to be closer to 3,000.

The Times has learnt that an independent government-appointed watchdog called last year for improved procedures, including fingerprint checks, to avoid such blunders. Ros Gardner, the independent complaints mediator to the bureau, said in her 2004-05 annual report: "The impact on the receipt of an inaccurate disclosure should not be underestimated. It can result in loss of employment opportunities, perceptions of damage to reputation, financial difficulties and embarrassment. "While I totally support the need for stringent procedures and accept that bureau staff must err on the cautious side, I believe that all measures to ensure accuracy of data on disclosures must be taken."

Ms Gardner, who expressed concern that her office was not widely known to complainants, said wrongly identifying people as offenders would leave the bureau "vulnerable to charges of unfair discrimination against individuals". She added: "The use of fingerprint matching would help to reduce any uncertainty in this area. However, at present there appears to be some reluctance to send individuals for fingerprint matching."

The report revealed that Ms Y, a hospice worker, wrongly identified as having a conviction for indecent assault, had been awarded a four-figure compensation payment. The watchdog said that bureau staff "overlooked contacting the police for a record that would have distinguished Ms Y from the convicted person".

The Home Office said that vetting mistakes were regrettable but claimed that the number of errors was tiny compared with the millions of checks carried out. A spokesman said: "Last year CRB checks prevented 25,000 unsuitable people from gaining such positions, and customer satisfaction is now at an all-time high. We make no apology for erring on the side of caution. We are talking about the protection of children and vulnerable adults."

But Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said that the Home Office was reaching new absurd levels of incompetence. David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: "The refusal of ministers to face up to their own responsibility and to allow this dreadful practice to continue is not just a failure to do their duty, it is a willingness to perpetuate a serial injustice."

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Sunday, May 21, 2006


But at least the real murderer is dead so that is probably the best justice. He suicided by biting his wrists and bleeding to death. Now it will just be the crooked cops in the firing line

Sitting in his cell in the West Australian prison that had been his home for eight years, convicted murderer Simon Rochford thought his time was up. Hours after he watched himself publicly identified on television as the new suspect in the brutal murder of Perth jeweller Pamela Lawrence 12 years ago, Rochford took his own life. It had been a week since Rochford, who had four years left to serve on a minimum 15-year life term for the bashing murder of his girlfriend Brigitta Dickens, was questioned for five hours by detectives investigating new evidence in the high-profile murder - and the police had planned to come back.

Lawrence's long-suffering family and the man who spent 12 years behind bars after being blamed for her murder - Andrew Mallard - may now never discover the truth. The case has a tortuous history - Mr Mallard's conviction was finally quashed by the High Court last year and he was released in February after the Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew the charge.

In the wake of his release, a Corruption and Crime Commission investigation has begun into the handling of the case and five senior police, including two assistant commissioners, have been suspended, pending its findings.

Even more mystery surrounds Rochford - a backpacker from Huddersfield in England who used an alias and was wanted for being an illegal immigrant. He concocted extravagant stories about his background and was reportedly questioned while in custody awaiting trial over the unsolved murder of a German tourist in a London hotel in 1993. Rochford was convicted in 1995 of wilfully murdering 27-year-old Dickens on July 15, 1994, seven weeks after Lawrence was bludgeoned to death in her Mosman Park jewellery store.

A recent cold-case review put Rochford at the scene of Lawrence's murder after new technology was used to match a previously unidentified palm print with the 38-year-old prisoner.

At 7pm on Thursday, Rochford was watching the ABC news bulletin with at least one other inmate at the medium-security Albany Regional Prison, 400km south of Perth, when he saw himself named as the new suspect. The prison's superintendent had also seen the news, but state Corrective Services Commissioner Ian Johnson said Rochford's reaction had caused "no undue concern". At 7.44am yesterday - two hours after he was last seen alive during a check of his cell - prison officers found Rochford dead on his bed, sparking a police and coronial investigation into his death.

Rochford, 26 at the time of his conviction, arrived in Australia in 1993 on a three-month tourist visa. He was using a false surname and soon met and befriended Dickens while she was working at the Fremantle Hotel. He told her he owned a yacht in New Zealand and they began making plans to sail to Queensland. But after what was described as a "stupid argument" in a room in a backpackers hostel in the beachside suburb of Scarborough, Rochford bashed Dickens twice on the head with a barbell, fatally fracturing her skull. Her body, which he hid in the boot of her car, was discovered by police three days later.

At his sentencing hearing in November 1995, Rochford - the son of an alcoholic father and a mother who is believed to live somewhere in Western Australia - was described by the state prosecutor as showing little compassion for his victim. Justice Henry Wallwork also commented that no one other than Rochford knew what occurred before his inexcusable crime.

Yesterday, police deputy commissioner Chris Dawson said Rochford's conviction and his print being found on a cabinet in the jewellery store had made him a "significant person of interest" in Lawrence's murder. Mr Dawson acknowledged the ongoing and far-from-complete police investigation into Lawrence's killing had been compromised by Rochford's death. He could not say whether police had notified prison authorities that Rochford, placed on suicide watch after being questioned by police but returned to his single cell on Monday after being assessed, was about to be publicly identified.

He also refused to comment on calls for an apology to be made to Mr Mallard, who would have served time with Rochford at Perth's maximum-security Casuarina prison in the 1990s. Mr Mallard, whose conviction was quashed after the High Court found a raft of evidence had been withheld from the defence, was yesterday described by his sister Jacqui Mallard as being "saddened" by Rochford's death. "It is such a sorry saga," Ms Mallard said.

Labor backbencher John Quigley, who on Thursday used parliamentary privilege to call for Supreme Court Justice John McKechnie, the DPP at the time of Mr Mallard's prosecution, to stand down pending the CCC investigation, also described Rochford's death as tragic.

But Mr Dawson said the police investigation would continue and, in deference to Rochford's family, he refused to reveal the result of the police interview with him, a preliminary discussion paper on the case review or further details of Rochford's past. "While this case is of public interest, another family is grieving," he said.

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Another report below:

Wrongly convicted Andrew Mallard shared a small prison section with the man now suspected of murdering Pamela Lawrence in 1994. Mr Mallard was shocked yesterday when he saw a photograph of Simon Rochford, who committed suicide in Albany Prison on Friday morning after being named as the new prime suspect in the brutal killing. "I remember him staring at me in the remand prison when we were both waiting for our trials (in 1994-95)," he said. "The other prisoners would confuse me with him because we were both in there for bashing-type murders. "They'd say, `You're the guy with the body in the boot', and I'd say, `No, I didn't kill anybody'."

Mr Mallard was struggling to come to terms with the latest twist in his ordeal, which started when he was interrogated by police in the days after Mrs Lawrence's murder in Mosman Park. He had hoped the recent discovery that Rochford's palm print was left at the scene would assist in drawing the matter to a close for his family and the Lawrences. The Sunday Times understands the method of Rochford's suicide rules out foul play. He is believed to have bitten his wrists and bled to death.

Mr Mallard is still concerned about being investigated by the police, who attempted to interview him this week on video. And he wants an investigation into why the palm print was not revealed to his lawyers in 2002, despite a subpoena specifically requesting that kind of evidence.

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Saturday, May 20, 2006


PMT, no doubt. How often do abuses like this NOT attract media attention?

Baltimore City police arrested a Virginia couple over the weekend after they asked an officer for directions. WBAL-TV 11 News I-Team reporter David Collins said Joshua Kelly and Llara Brook, of Chantilly, Va., got lost leaving an Orioles game on Saturday. Collins reported a city officer arrested them for trespassing on a public street while they were asking for directions . "In jail for eight hours -- sleeping on a concrete floor next to a toilet," Kelly said. "It was a nightmare," Brook said. "I was in there thinking I was just dreaming and waiting to wake up."

Collins reported it was a nightmare ending to a nearly perfect day. He said the couple went to a company picnic and watched the Orioles beat Kansas City. It was their first trip to Camden Yards and asked two people for directions to Interstate 95 South when they left. Collins said somehow they ended up in the Cherry Hill section of south Baltimore. Hopelessly lost, relief melted away concerns after they spotted a police vehicle. "I said, 'Thank goodness, could you please get us to 95?" Kelly said.

"The first thing that she said to us was no -- you just ran that stop sign, pull over," Brook said. "It wasn't a big deal. We'll pay the stop sign violation, but can we have directions?" "What she said was 'You found your own way in here, you can find your own way out.'" Kelly said. Collins said the couple spotted another police vehicle and flagged that officer down for directions. But Officer Natalie Preston, a six-year veteran of the force, intervened. "That really threw us for a loop when she stepped in between our cars," Kelly said. "(She) said my partner is not going to step in front of me and tell you directions if I'm not."

Collins reported the circumstances got worse. Kelly pulled 40 feet forward parking next to a curb and put his flashers on while Brook was on the phone to her father hoping he could help her with directions. Both her parents are police officers in the Harrisburg, Pa., area. "(Brook's father) was in the middle of giving us directions when the officer screeched up behind us and got out of the car and asked me to step out. I obeyed," Kelly said. "I obeyed everything -- stepped out of the car, put my hands behind my back, and the next thing I know, I was getting arrested for trespassing."

"By this time, I was completely in tears," Brook said. "I said, 'Ma'am, you know, we just need your help. We are not trying to cause you any trouble. I'm not leaving him here.' What she did was walk over to my side of the car and said, 'Ok, we are taking you downtown, too.'" Collins said the couple was released from jail without being charged with anything. Brook is now concerned the arrest may complicate a criminal background check she's going through in her job as a child care worker.

Collins said police left Kelly's car unlocked and the windows down at the impound lot. He reported a cell phone charger, pair of sunglasses and 20 CDs were stolen. Baltimore City police said they are looking into the incident.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

UN looking into appalling parody of justice in Quebec

A bitch of a female (feminist?) judge relied on a female victim's testimony to the exclusion of five other witnesses! And Quebec authorities don't seem to think that they have got anything to compensate

The United Nations is investigating whether a Quebec man should be compensated for being imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Michel Dumont, 46, spent several years in jail for sexually assaulting a Boisbriand woman. He was ultimately acquitted of the crime, and now wants compensation. The United Nations Human Rights Commission is seeking information about Dumont and his conviction from the province.

Dumont says the fact that the UN is showing an interest in his case proves that persistence pays off. He's been arguing his innocence since he was first accused of the crime in 1990. Dumont insists he was convicted even though he had alibis and the victim repeatedly told the courts he was not the right man.

Although the Quebec court of appeal did acquit him of the crime, Dumont says he was never offered government compensation. He hopes the United Nations investigation will rectify that. The province is not commenting.

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Background here:

Two women entered Michel Dumont's life and changed it forever. The first one accused him of rape, and nearly destroyed him. The second refused to believe it, and saved him by proving his innocence. Last week, the Quebec Court of Appeal acquitted Mr. Dumont of the rape conviction that had hung over his head for a decade. The 41-year-old electrician wept at the news, knowing he had spent nearly three tormented years in jail for a crime he didn't commit. "I was waiting for the moment for so long," he recalled in an interview. "They were 10 lost years."

Mr. Dumont's ordeal began in 1990 in Boisbriand, a bedroom community north of Montreal, where Danielle Lechasseur was raped in her apartment after coming home from mass. She turned to police, but they didn't bother visiting her apartment to collect fingerprints or other physical evidence. Then she picked out her assailant from a photograph, which was based on a composite sketch that she said always left her uncertain.

At his trial, Mr. Dumont seemed to have an ironclad alibi: At least five people, including his first wife, testified that they had been playing cards with him the evening of the rape. Yet the judge discarded their testimony. Relying solely on the victim's account, she sentenced Mr. Dumont, a father of two with no criminal record, to four years and four months in jail. He was released for his appeal, but lost it. Crushed, he left to serve his time at the Cowansville Penitentiary in Quebec's Eastern Townships.

In a world where rapists are prison's lowest life form, day-to-day existence was hellish. Mr. Dumont was assaulted and taunted mercilessly. Fearing for his life, he took to eating his meals in his cell. "It was 'You damn pig,' 'You have the face of a rapist,' " he recalls. "I was living with pressure all the time."

He might have been lost, were it not for a chance encounter in 1992. Out of jail during his appeal, Mr. Dumont attended a meeting for separated and divorced people. There, he met a petite mother of three named Solange Tremblay. He spilled out his story and braced himself for the worst. Here was a man convicted by a judge of forcing a woman into her apartment with a knife and raping her. But something in the plainspoken, gentle-mannered man told Ms. Tremblay that he didn't do it. "It was my instinct, my intuition," she says.

Slowly, obsessively, she set out to prove Mr. Dumont wasn't the rapist the courts said he was. A woman who described her occupation until then as raising her children, she began poring over 1,300 pages of court transcripts and police reports. She wrote down inconsistencies by hand. She began to rise in the middle of the night as ideas popped into her head. And she began writing a series of 17 letters to Justice Minister Allan Rock and his successor, Anne McLellan, beseeching them to believe that Mr. Dumont had been wrongly convicted. "I just had to get him out of jail. I wanted him next to me," she says. "And I knew that if I didn't do it, no one would."

With legal costs mounting, she cashed in the $10,000 registered retirement savings plan that she'd scraped together from her last job as a labourer in a lamp-fixture factory. One day, while visiting Mr. Dumont in jail, she proposed through the visitors' partition. They married just before Christmas in the prison chapel, and she dressed in white. "I wanted him to know there was a woman who loved him and was waiting for him," she says.

Meanwhile, the other woman in Mr. Dumont's life was having a change of heart. Only two years after fingering Mr. Dumont as her assailant, she spotted a man in a video store who was "Mr. Dumont's double." Alarmed, she contacted the prosecutor and gave a sworn statement to police. "From that moment on, I started to have doubts," Ms. Lechasseur later recounted. "I was very scared because it became clear . . . that Michel Dumont wasn't the one." The crucial information was supposedly passed on to Mr. Dumont's defence lawyer. Yet inexplicably, it was not raised at his appeal.

Ms. Lechasseur's qualms continued to haunt her. She expressed her doubts about Mr. Dumont's guilt five separate times. Then, in May 1997, a television crew asked to her come along to meet Mr. Dumont as he was being released. She saw him at the prison gate. "I cannot believe that someone with so much goodness in his face could have spent so many years in prison when he wasn't the one, and when I kept saying so," she said.

Mr. Dumont still bore the stigma of his rape conviction, and Ms. Tremblay kept up her campaign to clear his name. Finally, it got results. Last fall, the Justice Minister, Ms. McLellan, referred his case to the Court of Appeal in light of Ms. Lechasseur's repeated expressions of doubt. Ms. McLellan invoked the so-called mercy clause of the Criminal Code, an extraordinary measure of last recourse designed to avoid a miscarriage of justice when all conventional routes have been exhausted. On Feb. 22, the court ruled. The victim's doubts constituted fresh evidence. The man who'd been labelled for 10 years, was innocent.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Releasing Inmates Early Has a Costly Human Toll

A shortage of jail beds in California puts career criminals back on the streets, where they often commit new offenses

Mario Moreno should still have been behind bars the night he climbed into the passenger seat of a stolen car with two fellow gang members. He was carrying a rifle, some cartridges and, in his jacket pocket, a bag of marijuana. "Let's go do this," the car's driver recalled Moreno saying as they headed into the turf of a rival black gang. They drove by a liquor store at 89th Street and Central Avenue in South Los Angeles. Two older black men were standing outside. Moreno, 18, aimed his weapon out the driver's-side window and fired. One bullet killed Darrell Dennard, 53, a grandfather who slept in an alley behind a nearby fish market and got by doing odd jobs. He had just bought a lottery ticket. It was about 9 p.m. on Oct. 11, 2004.

If not for a chronic shortage of jail beds in Los Angeles County, Dennard's killer would have been in jail four more months. Moreno had been convicted of possessing a sawed-off shotgun — a felony. A probation officer called him a "danger to the community," and a judge sentenced him to a year in jail, the county maximum. Six days later he was released into a work program. Since his arrest, he had served a total of 53 days.

Moreno joined more than 150,000 county inmates who have been released during the last four years after serving fractions of their sentences. Thousands, like Moreno, committed violent crimes when they would otherwise have been locked up, even with time off for good behavior.

The large-scale releases started in mid-2002, when Sheriff Lee Baca had to make major budget cuts. Unwilling to lay off patrol officers, he chose to close jails. As a result, nearly everyone now sentenced to 90 days or less is let go immediately. Many others leave after serving no more than 10% of their time, making Los Angeles County Jail sentences among the weakest in the nation. A Los Angeles Times investigation of early releases since Baca's jail closures began found:

* Nearly 16,000 inmates — more than 10% of those released early — were rearrested and charged with new crimes while they were supposed to be incarcerated.

* Nearly 2,000 of those rearrested were released early a second time, only to be arrested again while they should have been behind bars. Hundreds of those people cycled through jail three or more times. One example of the revolving door: A 55-year-old woman was released early in 2002 on an assault charge, only to be rearrested three days later on suspicion of another assault. Over the next three years, she was released early 15 times and rearrested 19 times when she was supposed to be locked up.

* Sixteen men, including Moreno, were charged with murders committed while they should have been in jail. Nine are awaiting trial; seven have been convicted in the homicides.

* More than a fourth of those rearrested were charged with violent or life-endangering crimes, including 518 robberies, 215 sex offenses, 641 weapons violations, 635 drunk-driving incidents, 1,443 assaults and 20 kidnappings.

Many of these inmates probably would have committed new offenses even if they had served full sentences. But the early releases have given career criminals more time on the streets to commit additional crimes, endangering the public. Juvenal Valencia, 21, was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, released early and then cycled in and out of jail twice more after early releases. Prosecutors have now charged him with first-degree murder in a drive-by shooting that left one man dead and five others wounded. He has pleaded not guilty. At the time of the killing, Valencia had two months left to serve for a probation violation.

In recent years, sheriff's clerks have routinely disregarded sentences handed down by judges. In some cases, inmates are freed despite instructions from a judge that they must serve their full sentences. "That puts us all in peril," said Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo. "I think criminals have learned from this that there is a way to beat the system…. For many, a few days in jail has become just a cost of doing business."

Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton, who led the Boston and New York police departments before taking over in Los Angeles in late 2002, said the situation has frustrated officers on the street and made policing harder. "It's an amazing system. I've never seen anything like it," he said. "The police, prosecutors and judges — sometimes even a jury — have made decisions, and you have the ability to arbitrarily undo all of that."

In recent interviews, Baca defended his decision to release inmates early as a "last resort," saying he had little choice but to shut down jail facilities when he had to cut millions of dollars from his budget.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tennessee: Killer dogs' owner may not face charges

Even though he let his vicious dogs roam free, the owner has no responsibility??

The owner of two Franklin County dogs accused of killing a local woman Saturday may face no criminal prosecution because of weak state laws, authorities said. The charge of allowing dogs to run at large, off their leashes, "may be the worst thing that could be charged" in the death of Dianna Acklen, 60, Sheriff Mike Foster said. "The DA will have to make that call. If I had to guess, I don't think any criminal charges will be filed," the sheriff said. His comments came Tuesday, the same day Acklen was eulogized and buried. "There could be some responsibility by the owners if the dogs had a history of violence, but as far as specific charges, it's hard to say at this time. It could be criminal, or it could just be a civil matter. We'll have to wait on the evidence to be looked at and analyzed,'' Assistant District Attorney General Bill Copeland added.

Although Acklen's family said she had complained twice about the dogs' behavior to the owner, identified by authorities as Ronnie Swann of 2982 Knights Church Road, the sheriff's office said no one had ever made an official complaint. The woman, who was well-known as a longtime county library employee and a citizen active in many pursuits, was near the end of the daily route she had traveled on foot hundreds of times since she began walking for exercise about two years ago.

Authorities are unsure whether she was attacked in the road and fled to the house for safety, or if she entered the yard to make another complaint with the owners, who were out of town at the time. Her lifeless body was reported to authorities at 5:23 p.m. Meanwhile, another element in the tragedy came to light Tuesday when authorities said a third dog may have been involved in the death of Acklen, 60. "In fact, that's a good question to be asking - was there another dog there? How do we know there wasn't another dog there and that dog was the primary aggressor?'' the sheriff said.

Emergency workers told James Henry "Bub" Wilkinson, Franklin County rabies control officer, there was a large dog, perhaps a Great Pyrenees, across from the Swann home on the evening of the attack. "I was told he had blood on him,'' Wilkinson said. The chocolate Labrador retriever and its mixed-breed companion are being held together in a cage segregated from other dogs in the small county-run dog pound. The dogs wagged their tails at Wilkinson's presence and offered no sign of aggression. "Sometimes you just can't tell,'' Wilkinson said.

The county animal officer said investigators would return soon to make impressions of the animal's teeth so they can be compared with Acklen's bite wounds. "Eventually, they will be put down. I'm licensed to handle that,'' he said. Meanwhile, as the animals acted friendly, oblivious to the harm they are suspected of causing, family and friends gathered Tuesday afternoon at Moore-Cortner Funeral Home in Winchester to say goodbye. "She was one of the finest people to walk on the face of the earth. I couldn't say enough good things about her,'' said Leon Williams, a former pastor at Acklen's church, Elk River Baptist Church.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Australia: Freedom of information = Freedom FROM information?

What are the police covering up?

Victoria Police has refused to release the criminal record of the man suspected of the brutal murder of two sisters because he is dead and cannot give permission. Police say they do not want to breach the privacy of William John Watkins -- despite the fact he was shot dead days after Colleen and Laura Irwin were fatally stabbed in their Altona North home in January.

The Herald Sun applied to the police Freedom of Information and Privacy Division in February for the criminal history of Watkins, a violent rapist and burglar. Victoria Police refused, citing the Freedom of Information Act.

Acting Supt Lisa McMeeken said in a letter: "As I am unable to ascertain from Mr Watkins his views on the release of such personal information, or gain his consent for the disclosure of the information, I have therefore determined that the release of any criminal history would be an unreasonable disclosure." It adds: "(A section of the FoI Act) serves to continue to protect Watkins' right of personal privacy . . . I do not believe that there are any public interest grounds that require disclosure of any criminal history at this point in time."

Colleen and Laura's father, Allan Irwin, said yesterday the decision to protect Watkins' criminal record was ridiculous. "They know all about us and yet you can't protect your kids against them because you don't know," Mr Irwin said. "It's an absolute joke. You would not want this to ever happen again but the way these people deal with things . . . well, I'd hate to think of it but you'd nearly guarantee it somewhere along the line."

People Against Lenient Sentencing president Steve Medcraft was angered by the police decision. "This is an absolute slap in the face for the family members," Mr Medcraft said. "Give me a shovel and I'll dig Watkins up and ask him myself. "Even though it's too late for Colleen and Laura, there is no reason why that information should be hidden. "The Irwin family's rights should be paramount to anybody else. "They should know the full facts. I find this decision insulting."

The police refusal follows a police edict last year to ban the release of criminals' photographs through FoI after a rapist complained to the privacy commissioner about his mugshot appearing in a newspaper in 2004.

Colleen, 23, and Laura, 21, were found stabbed to death in their blood-splattered flat on January 28. Watkins, their neighbour, allegedly went on the run after the killing and five days later attacked a policeman who had pulled him over on a remote stretch of highway near Karratha in Western Australia. The policeman shot 38-year-old Watkins dead.

Compounding the Irwin family's grief over the double murder was the revelation Watkins was given a short sentence for a rape committed several years before the sisters were stabbed to death.

The Watkins case also sparked calls for the public release of criminals' details in the interest of community safety. The Irwin sisters were apparently unaware of Watkins' criminal past. Privacy Commissioner Paul Chadwick said in February a dead person had no right to privacy under the Victorian Information Privacy Act, but police still refused to release Watkins' criminal history.

The Herald Sun was told to apply through the Victoria Police FoI and Privacy Division, which also claims the release of Watkins' full criminal history could influence pending coronial inquests. But coronial inquests do not involve juries and are decided by a coroner who makes a finding based on evidence presented in court. "The pending inquests will provide a transparent mechanism for the public to be informed of the circumstances surrounding these tragic events," Supt McMeeken said.

Last year, State Ombudsman George Brouwer slammed government agencies for misusing the FoI Act to deny access to information that should be made public. Mr Brouwer said an investigation by his office had uncovered enough evidence to warrant an overhaul of the Victorian FoI Act. He said excessive delays and unnecessary pedantry detracted from open government.

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Another comment:

The extent of William John Watkins' convictions remains shrouded in convoluted privacy laws that, according to Victoria Police, date back to 1982, and effectively allow criminals to dictate terms even from the grave. Watkins remains the only suspect in the frenzied stabbing murder of sisters Colleen and Laura Irwin at Altona North this year. Strong physical evidence linked him to the scene; evidence that had to be forensically matched before an alert was issued. Watkins' guilt will never be tested in court as he is dead -- shot by a West Australian policeman after attacking the officer while on the run.

The Herald Sun has made many attempts to uncover his full criminal history amid debate on the release of criminals' details in the interests of community safety. While it is too late to save the Irwin sisters, it shows the need for people to be made aware of dangerous criminals living in their communities. Arguments by criminals that release of convictions and mugshots might humiliate or endanger them doesn't stack up next to the safety of the innocent.

Victoria Police has refused to provide Watkins' full criminal history under the Freedom of Information Act 1982. The refusal is partly based on the fact he can't be asked for permission, therefore his next of kin could appeal against any release. What is more important: the rights of criminals or the rights of decent members of our community? Who deserves more protection? The answer should be obvious.

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Monday, May 15, 2006


Thousands of miners with chronic chest disease have been paid less than 100 pounds in compensation under a programme that earned their solicitors 20 times as much per case. Newly released details of the 7.5 billion pound scheme, the largest in the world, expose the way in which public money has benefited law firms far more generously than pitmen and their families.

One family, whose father died after spending almost half a century underground, were offered only 7.13 pounds. Yet the law firm that handled their claim has earned 41 million pounds.

In total 293,000 claimants have received money under the scheme, which was set up after the courts ordered British Coal to pay compensation to miners with respiratory disease caused by the inhalation of coal dust. New parliamentary figures show that more than half of them - 166,000 - have received below 2,000 pounds, less than the scheme allows in legal fees for each claim that is handled.

More than 58,000 miners were paid less than 1,000 pounds, of whom almost 4,000 banked a cheque for less than 100 pounds. Yet under the terms of an agreement signed in 1999 by the claimants' lawyers and the Department of Trade and Industry, the legal costs paid to a solicitor after each claim is settled - on average 2,125 pounds - are entirely unaffected by the size of the compensation award.

In a House of Lords written answer to Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract, a former collier, the Government has disclosed that on average each settled claim - including the solicitors' fees - costs the DTI 3,790 pounds. That figure does not include the compensation paid to the miner. Two thirds of claimants - 194,000 people - have received less than it cost the Government to handle their claim.

Dealing with the claims of the 3,949 miners who each received less than 100 pounds cost the taxpayer 15.3 million, of which less than 400,000 went to the claimants. Thirteen law firms have been paid more than 10 million each for their work. Thompsons, a firm of solicitors with a close relationship to the National Union of Mineworkers, has received 83.7 million from the public purse, while Doncaster-based Beresfords, linked to the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM), has been paid 66.7 million.

Last year disclosures in The Times about the financial relationship between the UDM and a number of law firms (not including Thompsons) led to a criminal investigation, which is being headed by the Serious Fraud Office. Malcolm Wicks, who became the Energy Minister last year, is understood privately to have been appalled by the multimillion-pound profits that lawyers have been allowed to reap from the coal health scheme.

David Russell, of Towells, a law firm that has dealt with thousands of claims but has never deducted money from miners' awards, said that the new figures were highly embarrassing for lawyers and the Government. He said: "How can the DTI justify spending 15 million to deliver less than 100 each to 3,949 respiratory claimants? And how can we, the lawyers, justify picking up 2,100 pounds for representing a retired miner who ends up with less than 99 pounds in compensation?"
Lord Lofthouse, 81, who started working underground in 1939, on the day after his 14th birthday and stayed in the mining industry until 1978, has fought for years to win recognition for miners with bronchitis, emphysema and other respiratory diseases. He said that he was disgusted to realise the extent of the fortunes that have been earned by some solicitors handling miners' claims. "They've made colossal amounts of money. Worse than that, some of them have been taking money off the miners' compensation on top of what the Government pays them," he said. "I'm outraged that they would do this kind of thing to sick and diseased mineworkers and their widows."

A DTI spokesperson said that the Government's priority was to "keep the compensation flowing to those miners and their families who haven't yet received their payments". "That is not to say that we accept this scheme is ideal," she said, adding that agreement had been reached for a minimum 500 pounds compensation. This proposal, under discussion for more than two years, has not been implemented.

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Sunday, May 14, 2006


In June of 2001, the city of Los Angeles and the U.S. Department of Justice entered into a consent decree aimed at reforming the Los Angeles Police Department. The Justice Department, under former Attorney General Janet Reno and former Assistant Attorney General Bill Lann Lee, had threatened the city with a lawsuit alleging the LAPD had engaged in "a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or otherwise unlawful conduct that has been made possible by the failure of the City defendants to adopt and implement proper management practices and procedures."

These allegations arose from what has become known as the Rampart scandal, in which a handful of officers at one police station engaged in all manner of truly despicable behavior, including stealing and selling drugs, planting evidence, and, most horrifying of all, shooting and paralyzing an unarmed man, then fabricating a case that would send him to prison in a wheelchair. About a dozen officers were fired from the department or resigned under pressure, and a few, like two of the central figures in the scandal, Rafael Perez and David Mack, went to prison.

The consent decree itself is 90 pages of some of the most arcane language one should ever hope to read, containing 191 individual mandates governing virtually every aspect of LAPD operations. As one would expect of a document conceived by committees of government lawyers, the consent decree's emphasis is on paperwork, paperwork, and still more paperwork, very little if any of which enhances the safety of even a single citizen in the city of Los Angeles. Perhaps I should correct myself by saying that the burdens of the consent decree do in fact benefit one particular niche group: the city's criminals.

The LAPD has diverted millions of dollars and the efforts of hundreds of police officers to the cause of ensuring that the paperwork required by the consent decree is prepared just so. In a city with 9,000 unsolved murders on the books and an untold number of lesser crimes that get virtually no investigative attention, one might conceive of better ways for the city and the police department to expend these scarce resources. Every cop who spends his day in a cubicle preparing or auditing the great mounds paperwork generated by the consent decree is one less cop available to do what the public expects cops to do: go out on the streets and prevent the bad guys from preying on the good guys.

For all the time and money spent over these past five years, it now appears that the consent decree-or some portions of it-will be extended for at least two more years. Michael Cherkasky, the monitor appointed to report on the city's progress to the federal court, says the LAPD is currently in compliance with only 121 of the consent decree's 191 separate provisions. The city claims to be in "substantial compliance" with 149 of these mandates, but even if U.S. District Judge Gary Feess accepts this more optimistic figure it is unlikely that he will bring the consent decree to an end on its scheduled June 15 expiration date.

Left uncompleted is what Cherkasky believes to be the consent decree's centerpiece, a computer database that will track every LAPD officer's personnel history, including complaints, use-of-force incidents, traffic stops, detentions, and arrests. Implementation of this database, known as TEAMS II, is months behind schedule, and those subsystems already in use are rife with technical glitches. Still, lawyers for the city hope to persuade Judge Feess to extend the consent decree only as it relates to those provisions in which Cherkasky has found the LAPD to be out of compliance. Feess will rule on the matter after a May 15 hearing.

No matter how long the consent decree is extended, no matter how many dollars or how many cops are devoted to its implementation, full compliance with its demands may remain forever beyond reach. For one thing, Cherkasky's company, Kroll Inc., has an obvious financial interest in finding the city out of compliance. The firm has raked in $11 million from the city treasury over these five years, and its management surely would like to see this reliable income stream continue for as long as possible.

And, as Heather Mac Donald wrote in City Journal in 2003, Cherkasky may have placed the compliance bar at an impossibly high level:

Full compliance may well be impossible, judging from the August [2003] report of the federal monitor, Michael Cherkasky, who heads the Kroll Associates security firm. A control freak with the most unforgiving interpretation of deadlines, Cherkasky seems unaware that the department sometimes has to tear itself away from report-generation to fight crime. For example, though captains managed to complete required reports on instances of non-deadly force, such as twisting someone's arm to cuff him, within the mandated 14 days 94.3 percent of the time, Cherkasky judged the department out of compliance-a remorseless standard of bureaucratic fidelity that few modern organizations could meet.

Nonetheless, the usual suspects are calling on Judge Feess to continue the consent decree in its entirety. A Los Angeles Times editorial took just that position on Friday. And in an op-ed piece in the Times last Wednesday, Duke University law professor Erwin Chemerinsky and ACLU attorneys Catherine Lhamon and Mark Rosenbaum ignored the costs of the consent decree when they wrote, "There is no reason to let the consent decree lapse, and there are compelling reasons to continue it." They cited what they described as a 40-year pattern of abuses by LAPD officers, which includes " [t]he Watts riots, the fatal shooting of Eulia Love in the 1970s, the Rodney King beating in 1991 and most recently Rampart . . ."

The Watts riots of 1965 were sparked when a suspected drunk driver was arrested by officers from the California Highway Patrol, not the LAPD. And as for the other incidents, even if you accepted the interpretation of the facts least favorable to the LAPD, you are left with a handful of controversies spanning more than 40 years, hardly the stuff of a "pattern or practice" of unlawful behavior. In Los Angeles today, a cop can't even write someone a traffic ticket without having at least a camera or two pointed at him; if there were abuses taking place, surely the Los Angeles Times and others would find great joy in reporting on them

Chemerinsky, et al, also resorted to that hoariest of claims cited by police critics, that of racial profiling. "Initial data from 2002," they wrote, "documented that black and Latino motorists were still nearly three times more likely than white motorists to be asked to step out of their vehicles, four times more likely to be patted down and four times more likely to be asked to submit to a search. Subsequent data in 2005 showed that this pattern continues."

Though Chemerinsky and his ACLU brethren fail to acknowledge it, there is another pattern that also continues, one that just may explain the disparity in the data they find so troubling: Blacks and Latinos are responsible for a far greater share of violent crime in Los Angeles than are whites. Blacks represent 11 percent of L.A.'s total population but commit approximately 40 percent of its murders. Latinos make up 46 percent of the population and commit about half the murders. As of April 29 of this year, there had been more than five times as many violent crimes reported in the largely black and Latino 77th Street Division as in the mostly white West L.A. Division. During the same period, 77th Street had 20 murders while West L.A. had none. There are 19 patrol divisions the LAPD, but more than 40 percent of the city's 143 murders committed so far this year have occurred in the four divisions that cover black and Latino South Los Angeles. These are inconvenient but stubborn facts for our friends in the ACLU. If cops were not stopping and searching blacks and Latinos more frequently than whites, they'd be shirking their duty to protect the innocent, and racial sensitivity and political correctness be damned.

Still, for all the money that's been spent, for all the scrutiny given the LAPD by the federal monitor, the Justice Department, the ACLU, the Los Angeles Times, and so many others, none of them has produced even a bit of evidence that the alleged "pattern or practice" of unlawful behavior in the LAPD extended beyond the dozen or so corrupt officers implicated in the Rampart scandal. Before we pour millions more dollars into the paperwork mill that is the consent decree, shouldn't we ask if the money might be better spent elsewhere?
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Saturday, May 13, 2006

"Justice failed me": Australian rape victim

A young mother abducted at knifepoint and held captive by a serial rapist during a 29-hour cross-country nightmare wants her attacker locked away forever. The 24-year-old Ballarat woman, who was raped repeatedly during her terrifying ordeal, said yesterday that William Craig Forde should never have been free to threaten her life. Forde's latest victim, Jess, told the Herald Sun the justice system shared the blame for what he did to her. Forde, 48, pleaded guilty to 22 counts of rape during a brief appearance in Ballarat Magistrates' Court yesterday. It can now be revealed that he has three previous convictions for rape, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 25 years' jail. Forde served a total of 15 years and 10 months in jail for the three rapes and was most recently released in November.

"It makes me so angry, it really does," Jess said. "Fifteen years for three rapes is appalling. He should be getting that for one, at least. People like this should not be let out to do this to more people. It's not fair. "Why have a maximum sentence if nobody ever gets it? "If what he did to me is not worth the maximum penalty, what is?" Jess said life imprisonment was the only appropriate penalty for someone like Forde.

Jess, whose identity is protected by law, was driven more than 800km through central and northern Victoria after Forde abducted her on February 6, from the shop where she worked in Ballarat, and stole her car. She was first raped in a back room of the shop after Forde bound and gagged her and threatened to cut her throat. Later attacks during her long ordeal, which started at 10am one day and ended at 3pm the next, occurred in the car, in two remote forest clearings, and at a roadside rest stop during the night. Forde told her after driving into the Wombat State Forest that she was "going to be his little whore for a couple of days". He also told the terrified single mother: "The only thing keeping you alive is your body."

Jess told the Herald Sun this week she thought Forde was going to kill her when he took her to the top of the Hume Weir near Albury in the middle of the night. She said she was convinced he would throw her in the water, but was grateful that "at least I'd be washed up one day". "Better than out in the bush, where he'd said I might never be found," she said.

Forde uttered only one word -- "guilty" -- at yesterday's hearing. He pleaded guilty to 22 counts of rape, two of armed robbery, and one each of abduction and unlawful imprisonment. Forde has refused to participate in sex offenders' treatment programs while in jail. The Parole Board has refused five times during his past two sentences to parole him because of his unwillingness to submit to treatment. He was forced to serve his maximum sentence for both his second and third rapes.

Forde's previous victims were a 31-year-old neighbour in Thornbury, a 57-year-old woman who came to collect ironing from where he later lived in Mill Park, and a 13-year-old girl he took for a walk in bush near Whittlesea. His effective sentence for the third rape -- of the 13-year-old -- was no longer than the sentence earlier imposed, by the same judge, for the second rape. Forde's most recent sentence for the third rape, from Judge Barton Stott in 1999, was a maximum of seven years with a minimum of five. Judge Stott's sentence for Forde's second rape was 10 years with a minimum of seven; but this was reduced by one-third with remissions for good behaviour that were then available. The maximum sentence for rape was increased in 1992 to 25 years. But the maximum term has never been imposed. Three Victorian sex offenders -- Kevin Carr, Geoffrey Moffatt and Anthony Carolan -- are serving indefinite sentences.

Before his latest arrest, Forde was living at a Ballarat boarding house. He was released from the Langi Kal Kal minimum-security jail on November 7. He reported to Ballarat police in December, to be recorded as a registered sex offender. Jess saw Forde sitting on a bench outside a shop in Ballarat when she arrived for work on February 6. Police said Forde went back to his room to get a knife, rags and tape, then returned to the shop. He tied her hands and ankles, gagged her, cut off some of her clothes, then assaulted her in the back of the shop. Jess was tied to a chair while he went to get her car. Forde also went to a nearby supermarket and bought half a dozen VB stubbies and offered her a drink, which she refused. He raped her again before she was bundled into the car at knifepoint, her hands still tied, and driven away.

Forde said he was going to let her out in Ballarat North, near her six-year-old daughter's school, but instead drove to bushland near Daylesford, where he repeatedly assaulted her. She pleaded with him to release her because her daughter would be worried she hadn't been picked up after school.

Police were notified in the early evening, when her family and her employer became concerned she had not contacted them. Money was missing from the till and Jess's mobile phone was still there. Meantime, her terrifying journey continued through Guildford, Castlemaine, Bendigo, Elmore and Rochester, to Echuca. Forde then drove along the Murray Valley Highway to Albury, then to the Hume Weir in the middle of the night. He drove back to Wodonga and eventually pulled in to a roadside rest stop near Yackandandah after Jess's car ran out of oil. She was eventually freed about 3pm on February 7, when Forde let her out of the car back in Ballarat, then drove away.

He was caught about an hour later in Maryborough, when a traffic policeman noticed the car's registration label was not current and pulled him over. Ballarat detectives who heard the car check on the police radio rang Maryborough police and asked them to hold Forde.

Jess raised her finger at Forde as she left court yesterday with her mother, sisters and boyfriend. She said outside court she was relieved by Forde's early guilty plea, and grateful for the strong support of her family and friends. Forde was remanded to Ballarat County Court for a sentencing hearing on July 24.

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Crooked West Australian police stood down

See an earlier post here of Feb., 22nd

West Australian Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan has stood down five police officers involved in the original investigation into the unsolved murder of Pamela Lawrence in 1994. The commissioner said today the move was an attempt at good governance, while police examine new and vital evidence in the case. "I am very confident they haven't compromised the inquiry already," Commissioner O'Callaghan said. Ms Lawrence was brutally murdered in her jewellery store in the Perth suburb of Mosman Park. Andrew Mallard, who served 11 years in jail for the murder has always professed his innocence. He was released from jail after a High Court ordered a re-trial which state prosecutors in WA said they would not proceed with, because they feared their evidence was no longer admissible. Police today said they would not comment on their earlier claims that Mr Mallard was still a prime suspect.

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And the W.Australian police finally get off their fat behinds and look for the real offender

Police have launched a nationwide probe into the 1994 murder of a Perth jeweller, after finding significant new evidence. The fresh lead and a new person of interest have been identified by officers reviewing the murder of Pamela Lawrence, after the High Court quashed the conviction last year of Andrew Mark Mallard, 43. Mr Mallard was released in February this year after spending 11 years in jail for allegedly bludgeoning Ms Lawrence to death and leaving her lying in a pool of blood at her jewellery store in suburban Mosman Park.

Today, police Sergeant Graeme Clifford said a new "person of interest" had been identified by officers reviewing the case. "We have located a significant new piece of evidence," Sgt Clifford said. "It is early days in the inquiry and currently it is not possible to draw any further conclusions. "We have detectives in other states talking to people, so this is an Australia-wide investigation."

Mr Mallard's sister Jacqui Mallard said she was heartened by the news. It just shows what we have been saying for 12 years," Ms Mallard said today. "We have been correct that Andrew should never have been found guilty of this crime. "He never committed the crime and he should never have been pronounced the prime suspect." She was concerned it had taken police 11 years to re-examine the case. "We think that this investigation was never conducted in the first place," she said. "But it is really, really great and heartening now that the police seem to be pulling out all the stops to find out who did this terrible thing."

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Thursday, May 11, 2006


Drew Whitley had never met the young woman who approached him outside his mother's modest Braddock apartment yesterday, gently shook his hand and muttered: "God bless you." An examiner scrutinizing his driver's license application the other day thanked him for his perseverance. At a shopping center over the weekend, Mr. Whitley encountered a deluge of well-wishers. "People I don't know walked up to me and told me they are sorry for what happened, and to thank me for standing so strong," he said. "They told me my fight gives people hope." The warm welcomes feel great, but they take some getting used to.

Eight days ago, Mr. Whitley was nearing his 18th year in state prison, where he was serving a life sentence for the brutal 1988 murder of Noreen Malloy, a 22-year old McDonald's restaurant night manager. People weren't so nice to him there. Then he abruptly was set free with intense media coverage -- only the second man in Allegheny County ever to be exonerated by modern-day DNA tests on physical evidence from a crime long ago....

Mr. Whitley said he was able to keep fighting for his freedom because he was innocent, because of his own strong "spirit," and because of the support of his mother on the outside, and several of his friends on the inside.

One of those was Thomas Doswell, who was incarcerated in various prisons with Mr. Whitley before being released last August. Mr. Doswell had spent nearly 19 years in prison until DNA tests showed that he could not have committed the rape for which he had been convicted. "Me and Tommy, we were just fortunate that we had some DNA evidence to test. Believe me, there's a lot of people I know are innocent who are still locked up," Mr. Whitley said.

The path to his exoneration began last year when a judge ordered a round of DNA tests on hairs found on clothing worn by the man who killed Ms. Malloy. She was shot twice outside the McDonald's restaurant near Kennywood Park during an aborted robbery early on a summer morning in July 1988.

After a second set of tests showed that hairs found in the mask worn by Ms. Malloy's killer were not Mr. Whitley's, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. dropped the case.

Twenty-one states and the federal government have a claims process to provide restitution to victims of wrongful convictions, but Pennsylvania does not. A bill to set one up, sponsored by state Rep. Michael P. McGeehan, D-Philadelphia., has languished in the Legislature since last May. "It's crazy," Mr. Whitley repeated. "I keep saying that because it is."

Mr. Whitley yesterday also reached out to the family of Ms. Malloy, whose murder now is listed as unsolved and under renewed investigation by the Allegheny County Police Department. Her family has not chosen to comment on his exoneration. "I got my closure, I got out, but they got to go over it again," Mr. Whitley said. "That has to be double hard for them, especially for the mother. I know it is. They are in my prayers."

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The events that left a bright 22-year-old woman dead and Drew Whitley's life forever changed began on a summer night in 1988 when Noreen Malloy and her late-night staff at the McDonald's restaurant near Kennywood Park finished cleaning up at 2:45 a.m. Ms. Malloy sent one employee to the parking lot to make sure it was safe for the others to leave. Jerome Wilson, who had worked at the restaurant for two days, was waiting outside the back door to start his 3 a.m. shift.

As the employees emerged from the building, a tall, black man wearing a beige trench coat, a dark nylon stocking mask and a felt hat darted from a stairwell holding a gun and shouting, "Don't move!" He grabbed Ms. Malloy by the neck, demanding the "money bag." "I don't have a bag," the frightened woman cried. The gunman fired into the air, causing the others to flee.

She pushed herself away and tried to get into her car. The gunman shot her in the back, grabbed her purse and fled through the vast Kennywood parking lot, leaving Ms. Malloy dead.

In the parking lot, police found the hat, the coat and the mask, all loaded with fragments of hair. They also found two .25-caliber shell casings, a tennis shoe footprint and two Newport cigarette butts. None of the witnesses could identify the killer.

Police eventually found a witness in Mr. Wilson, the new employee, who had said an hour after Ms. Malloy's killing that he had looked directly at the assailant from a distance of 3 feet but did not know who he was. Twenty-six hours later, after repeated interrogations, Mr. Wilson named Drew Whitley as the killer, according to a police report. He said he recognized Mr. Whitley, who lived near him, from his long face, his voice and his pigeon-toed stride. Mr. Whitley was known as a con artist, but few around his home in Monview Heights in West Mifflin considered him dangerous. He said he had never met Mr. Wilson.

The day of Ms. Malloy's killing, Mr. Whitley was scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on a charge of theft by deception. He said he dropped his son off at his mother's house that night and returned alone to his apartment. Mr. Whitley was jailed the next day on a technical parole violation for not reporting the theft charge within 72 hours. He has been locked up since.

Mr. Wilson's story contradicted so much evidence collected in the aftermath of the Malloy killing that police did not immediately file charges against Mr. Whitley, but they compared hair and fingerprints collected at the scene with those of Mr. Whitley. Nothing matched. DNA testing was not available at the time.

Six months later, Gary Starr, a double-murderer on death row, said Mr. Whitley had confessed to the Malloy killing in a conversation at the State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh. Mr. Whitley said he had never met Mr. Starr, and penitentiary records show that Mr. Starr was isolated on death row and would not have had access to Mr. Whitley at the prison. Within a year of Mr. Whitley's trial, Mr. Starr's death sentence was reduced to life in prison, although he had claimed prosecutors promised him nothing in return for his testimony. Mr. Starr has not responded to letters seeking comment on the Whitley case.

On the witness stand, Mr. Wilson was the only person at the scene of the crime to identify Mr. Whitley as Ms. Malloy's killer. But he was unable to keep straight whether the assailant held the gun in his right or left hand, whether his trench coat was long or short or whether he was wearing gloves. At one point, Mr. Wilson said the killer wore a straw hat, not a felt hat, and he mischaracterized its size. Mr. Wilson could not say where Mr. Whitley lived in relation to him, or when he had last seen or spoken with him.

One piece of evidence which damaged Mr. Whitley's case was a speck of blood found on one of his tennis shoes which was of the same type as Ms. Malloy's. Mr. Whitley said the blood came from a cut his son had suffered the previous day, and it has never been tested further.

Dorothy Menges, then a criminalist with the Allegheny County Crime Lab, testified that hairs from the crime scene had "many, many overlapping characteristics" to those of Mr. Whitley, but under questioning from Judge Walter Little, she backed off: "You can't say hair came from Whitley?" the judge asked. "No," replied the crime lab manager. She also acknowledged that saliva from two Newport Light butts found at the scene did not match Mr. Whitley's, nor did saliva taken from the killer's stocking mask.

During closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Radoycis pointed to the hairs in the mask and hat as strong evidence of Mr. Whitley's guilt. Mr. Whitley's attorney told the jury that the hair evidence was obviously inconclusive and that no physical evidence linked Mr. Whitley to the crime. Mr. Whitley was convicted of second-degree murder, which spared him the death sentence but condemned him to life behind bars. "I know that you know in your heart that I did not commit this crime," Mr. Whitley told Judge Little at his sentencing. "I am being railroaded. It is a nightmare. ... I am poor and black, but I am not crazy."

DNA testing came into widespread use in the 1990s, and Mr. Whitley petitioned to have the evidence in his case checked against his DNA. After a six-year fight, Judge Little granted DNA testing, but at that point, the Allegheny County police could find only two of the 41 hairs found in the stocking mask and elsewhere at the crime scene. Police officials said the rest of the evidence had been lost during a flood at its Wood Street headquarters in the mid-1990s. The testing of the two hairs was deemed inconclusive.

Last year, county police found the missing hair samples and notified Mr. Whitley's attorney, Mr. Coffey, who used the 2002 post-conviction DNA law to win a ruling to test the hair. Prosecutors argued that the testimony of Mr. Wilson and Mr. Starr would have convicted Mr. Whitley without the hair evidence, but in the wake of the exoneration of Mr. Doswell, District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. decided not to contest the decision.

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