Thursday, August 31, 2006



ONE YEAR FOR A LIFE IN SCOTLAND

The killer will serve approximately a third of his three year sentence

A knife-wilding chef who killed a teenager outside a takeaway restaurant was jailed for three years yesterday. Boshor Uddin, 41, claimed he caught Jason Mayze, 16 stealing chicken from a container outside the Balti Spice in St Helens. Uddin pleaded guilty to manslaughter. The victim's mother said: "Three years for taking a life is a disgrace."

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FOUL TREATMENT OF CALIFORNIA BORDER PATROLMEN

I am writing to ask for your help and support for two brave U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean of El Paso, TX who were abandoned by their command and hung out to dry in the greatest miscarriage of justice I’ve ever seen. You can learn the specifics of this case that epitomizes injustice at our website, FriendsOfTheBorderPatrol.com, and review media coverage featuring an exclusive article by Sara Carter who was granted this exclusive interview by Border Patrol Agent Ignacio Ramos.

I have personally investigated the entire case, after being contacted by a family member of Agent Ramos in March 2005 one month after an incident that led to criminal charges and convictions of two Border Patrol agents in El Paso, Texas by an overzealous prosecutor. I contend as do a number of Texas Border Sheriffs that they are innocent of any and all criminal conduct, as this was an administrative matter that should have solely ended in a 5-day suspension to all agents that day for not reporting the shooting incident and assault on a Border Patrol agent to the FBI per DHS guidelines. The only agents to suffer have been Ramos and Compean. In fact, when you read my recent testimony on our website as I presented it to the House Judiciary Committee led by Congressman Sensenbrenner, the only thing that was criminal that took place was the conduct of the government.

After investigating the incident, and discussing it with my sources and contacts I was as angry with our government as I have ever been, as these two brave agents put their lives on the line to stop a drug smuggler from succeeding in driving his load of 743 pounds of narcotics into the U.S. For this action, these men were charged with a crime they did not commit and now face a minimum of 20 years in federal prison.

Evidence was prevented from being introduced by the defense after overzealous prosecutor Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Kanof won a questionable ruling from Federal Judge Kathleen Cardone. Her ruling meant that evidence, which included assaults against agents, shooting incidents, and Mexican Military incursions, would be taken on a case-by-case basis. Ultimately, none of these incidents were allowed as evidence to be used by the defense.

The U.S. Border Patrol's El Paso Sector abandoned these agents and hung them out to dry, which at the time was led by Chief Patrol Agent Luis Barker, who has since served as Deputy National Chief of the Border Patrol. In all honesty, the agency is making an example of these two agents because verbal orders to stand down have been ignored. With this case the message has sent shock waves through the Border Patrol, with agents understanding clearly that they could be next. What message you ask, “If you try to secure the border, and tangle with drug smugglers, you could go to prison.” In fact, if you've read the interview I did with the New American Magazine this past May 2, 2006 you are very familiar with Mr. Barker. I discussed him prominently in this article, which you can also read at our website.

To quote many Texas Border Sheriffs I interviewed including El Paso County Sheriff Leo Samaniego, and Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West, "These men should have been decorated for stopping a drug smuggler... these men are not criminals and should not be going to jail."

Friends, this is a dark hour for our nation, because this case is the most disgusting charade and miscarriage of justice imaginable. It's beyond words, and description.

This dangerous precedent benefits narcotic and human smugglers. Mr. Davila, the smuggler you will read about was never charged, or booked though he admitted trafficking the narcotics into Fabens, TX that fateful day. Also, when he was later busted with over 1,000 pounds of narcotics, an indictment was sealed, and later expunged by the government. In fact, questionable details have finally been shed as to how the DHS Office of Inspector General was even contacted, which was by a fellow Border Patrol Agent in Willcox, AZ who is tied to Davila, and not only provided comfort to a known drug smuggler, but even told him what to say in testimony, and arranged for the drug smuggler to get an attorney to sue the Border Patrol.

I was able to arrange an interview on behalf of the family with Sara Carter of the Daily Bulletin who recently met with Agent Ramos, his wife, and father in-law. I am truly grateful that Ms. Carter took time out from an extremely busy schedule on my recommendation to meet with them and hear their story, which is now being published by the Daily Bulletin.

This case is proof beyond all doubt that the Department of Justice and DHS will ignore facts to assist with national administration open border policies and directives, which weaken our national security. Before most people just figured that the open border policies was being used to help facilitate the cheap labor, but never thought that they’d go so far as to help smugglers bring narcotics, humans, and I am certain terrorists into our nation. This prosecution has destroyed the lives of these brave agents, who according to their fellow agents are the guys you want in the foxhole next to you during wartime. The impact on their families has left them completely devastated, while the impact on the agency will be felt for years as agents are terrified of becoming the next Ramos & Compean, the first Border Patrol agents to be convicted and sent to prison for doing their job.

We must band together for these brave agents, my friends Nacho Ramos and Jose Compean, because outside of their families and faith, we're all they have left. They are running out of time, and now is the time to drop everything else and fight for them as they are fighting for their lives. If they lose, their wives lose their husbands, and their children lose their fathers. The agents lose their names, and reputations. We as a nation lose if they lose, and why? What agent in their right mind would ever think to stop a smuggler again knowing they have more rights and are more credible though caught in the act of a crime? Our government betrayed my friends, Agents Ramos and Compean and we must defend them, as they have defended our nation and fought to keep those smugglers and their drugs off our streets.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me by writing to andy@friendsoftheborderpatrol.com and I will forward any comments of support to the agents and their families, who I am in regular contact with. To learn how you can help, or to make a donation to assist their legal defense fund, or to help our expenses as we assist on this case, (you will receive a 100% tax write-off due to our tax-exempt status) go to our website, FriendsOfTheBorderPatrol.com.

We must do all we can to correct their miscarriage of justice so that this never happens to any agent ever again. I warn you, you will be as angry as you have ever been after reading the article by Sara Carter.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006



CRAZY CANADIAN LAW

An 89-year-old man has been left both heartbroken and betrayed after his North York bungalow was stolen from him in the rising wave of title fraud. Paul Reviczky, who fled Hungary in 1957 to escape Communist persecution, is one of the latest homeowners to discover that Ontario law favours banks, mortgage companies and purchasers over victims of fraud. "I was shocked to learn that this could be the law in Canada," Reviczky says. "I fled Hungary to escape lawlessness like this and now my sense of security in Canada is gone."

Gerry Phillips, Ontario's minister of government services, vowed yesterday to change the land-registry system to protect homeowners like Reviczky from title fraud. Reviczky purchased the property at 220 Sheppard Ave. W. in 1980 for $67,500 to generate a rental income that would help pay for the education of relatives back in Hungary. The retired tobacco farmer, who came to Canada 49 years ago with his wife Ilona and his then 3-year-old daughter Marietta, says he felt so strongly about his duty to help out the family he left behind that he specified in his will that the property could not be sold after his death because the income was to be used for their support. Since his wife's death in February 2005, he has lived alone in his home a few kilometres from the rental property.

Reviczky could not believe his ears on June 26 when his neighbour, a real estate agent, told him she had noticed on the computer that he had sold his rental property in May. "So I went back to my office, got the record from the computer and showed it to him," Vivian Ho told the Toronto Star. "His face turned red and I was worried that he was going to have a heart attack."

Police believe Reviczky's most recent "tenants" forged his name on a power of attorney that purported to give a grandson named "Aaron Paul Reviczky" authority to sell the home on his behalf. "I don't have a grandson named Aaron," Reviczky says. "I don't have any grandsons." On May 15, "Aaron Paul Reviczky" sold the property on his behalf for $450,000 to a purchaser named Pegman Meleknia, who took out a mortgage of $337,500. "I did not get the proceeds," Reviczky says.

Reviczky's lawyer, Tonu Toome, says it was "very painful" to have to break the news to Reviczky that he may lose his house forever - even though he was an innocent victim of fraud - because Ontario law recognizes the transaction as valid where the purchaser is unaware of the scam. "I had to tell him that although he would ultimately receive financial compensation for the loss of his home, this would entail legal fees and an application to Ontario's Land Titles Assurance Fund, which could take several years," Toome says. Says Reviczky: "I want my home ... not just some money."

Phillips, who bears responsibility for the province's land titles registration system, says he met last week with 50 representatives of all the communities affected by title fraud - including police, real property and financial institutions - to get advice on how to stem this increasingly prevalent crime. "This is a high priority for our government and I want people to know that we are treating it seriously," Phillips says.

Earlier this summer, several other identity-theft victims in Toronto were also shocked to discover they weren't protected by the law. Susan Lawrence is a North York widow who faces the loss of the 100-year-old Victorian home she had lived in for 30 years - after criminals used publicly available information to sell her house without her knowledge and put a $300,000 mortgage on it.

Elizabeth Shepherd, an actress, lost her furnished Leslieville home to identity thieves, who rented the home and sold it to an accomplice after creating a false Elizabeth Shepherd. The accomplice took out a $250,000 mortgage, defaulted and disappeared. Both women expect to spend years - and money they would rather not spend on lawyers - trying to sort out the mess.

Reviczky had put a "for rent" sign on his property on March 1 after the previous tenants who had lived there for 12 years had gone back to British Columbia. Five days later, he agreed to rent the home to a couple who identified themselves as "Kristina and Adam Skurik." They signed rental papers and handed him $2,500 in $100 bills for first and last month's rent. But the house remained empty. In mid-April, Reviczky says, he was told by Kristina Skurik that the couple had rented the house to someone who was coming from Russia. The last time he ever saw either of the Skuriks was May 13, when Kristina gave him $1,250 in cash and told him the people would arrive "in a short time." "Kristina was a very pretty, quiet girl, about 5 feet, 6 inches, and she appeared very likeable and trustworthy," Reviczky says. A telephone check of listings throughout North America failed to turn up any Kristina or Adam Skurik.

Reviczky is now aware that he allegedly sold his house through the power of attorney that had been notarized by a North York lawyer named Sheldon Caplan, who said in an interview he is unable to discuss the case. Reviczky says he was surprised to see at the bottom of the power of attorney - which Caplan notarized above what appears to be his scribbled initials - a notation that the document was "acknowledged before me this 18th day of April 2006 by Reviczky Paul, who is personally known to me of who has produced Drivers Licence." "I have never retained solicitor Sheldon Caplan," Reviczky said in a statement he prepared for his lawyer. "I do not know him and did not communicate with him."

Toronto lawyer Satwant Singh Khosla, who represented the purchasers - parents who bought the property as an investment for their son - says his clients are "innocent buyers" who have suffered emotionally and financially because of the fraudulent transaction "through absolutely no fault of their own." "It was a straightforward transaction," Khosla said. "We never realized that the power of attorney under which the property was transferred was fraudulent." Khosla says his clients are on the hook for mortgage payments even though they have been unable to access the property because its legal status is in a state of flux.

Reviczky's daughter, Marietta Reviczky-Dolan, who lives in Montana, says people like her father should have the title returned to them and not left with the purchaser. "They (the owners) have invested more than money in it," she says. "It is their past and their lives have been centred around it. It means more to them." Meanwhile, the tiny house remains unoccupied and shows signs of disrepair, its yard often cluttered with garbage. It sits in a state of legal limbo while lawyers attempt to sort out the mess and the police hunt for the criminals and the $450,000 stolen along with Reviczky's heart. Reviczky cannot even enter the home because that could technically be trespassing and police have told him that they will need consent from the new owners to enter the premises.

Toronto lawyer Sidney Troister, an expert on real estate and mortgage fraud, says the Reviczky case is perplexing because "while we can feel sorry for the first owner, we can feel equally sorry for the buyer, who like every other buyer could never be certain that their vendor is the real owner." Troister says Ontario's land titles system is a good system, "except in the event of fraud where it breaks down, and leaves innocent owners and innocent buyers and lenders helpless and without speedy and fair relief." "Until the province can prevent this type of fraud from happening, it must formulate a more responsive and all-inclusive compensation scheme for title fraud," Troister says. "Innocent people, whether it is the innocent owner or the innocent buyer or lender, get hurt because the province does not protect innocent people registering documents in the system."

Ralph Roberts, a Michigan-based expert on mortgage fraud, says inroads will not be made into burgeoning real property and mortgage fraud until more homeowners and legislators become aware it exists. "There is not enough of a public awareness," he says. "People just keep getting dragged into it one after another." Last month, state legislators in Michigan declared war against mortgage and title fraud after FBI disclosures that mortgage fraud losses in the state jumped from almost $9 million in 2003 to $26 million in 2005. Several bills introduced in July contain an arsenal of measures, such as designating millions of dollars for investigation of unlicensed real estate brokers and making mortgage fraud a serious crime punishable by 10 years in prison for a first offence.

Mortgage and title fraud have also taken on a higher profile in Canada recently. Organizations such as the Law Society of Upper Canada have been meeting with their counterparts in the real estate and financial industries, and police authorities, to try and solve the problem. Police forces in Greater Toronto are struggling to cope with a noticeable increase in complaints of title fraud. A report published in March 2005 by the law society says the fraud is often facilitated because the parties to the transaction may never know or actually meet each other in person. "Without due diligence throughout the process, it is easy for fraudsters to pass themselves off and to take advantage of the lack of oversight," the report says. "Mortgage fraud and other frauds relating to title are all on the rise," says Det. Steve Majoran of the Toronto force's fraud and forgery squad. "That's my overall impression."

Majoran advises people renting out their homes to check references and verify backgrounds "as best as you can," heeding gut feelings where an applicant puts you off, and to question offers of cash rent. "You really have to do due diligence these days," he says. Majoran, who cannot discuss individual cases, says title-fraud investigations can be challenging because they involve following a paper trail and tracking back through a scheme to try to determine who committed the crime, "often months after the fact." "It's a total shock to the homeowner because the home has been stolen from under them without their knowledge - and usually without their complicity whatsoever," Majoran says. "I found in a lot of title fraud cases that the person has worked all their life for a property and regards their home as their castle," he says. "To find it's been stolen right out from under them is totally devastating."

Gabriella Toth, who is Reviczky's niece, says she can't understand how anyone could steal an 89-year-old man's home. "These have to be heartless persons," says Toth, a vice-principal at a Toronto high school. "I think he was targeted because he is elderly."

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006



Meet Australia's judge Go-Lightly



A former teacher who had a relationship with a 14-year-old schoolgirl and then threatened her to stay silent has escaped jail after civil libertarian judge Ian Dearden [above] accepted the actions were at the "less serious end" of sexual offences. Attorney-General Linda Lavarch immediately set in train a possible appeal after Steven Peter Quick, 29, walked from Southport District Court, despite pleading guilty to indecently dealing with a child and taking an indecent image.

Judge Dearden said "blind Freddy" could have seen that the relationship, which included Quick filming the girl as he caressed and sucked her breasts, was "a complete no-go zone" and a jail term would normally be imposed. But Judge Dearden, a former Queensland Council of Civil Liberties president, accepted a defence submission that there were "exceptional circumstances" that warranted Quick being given a wholly suspended 18-month prison sentence and community correctional order. These included that the offences were at the "less serious end" of sexual offending, that Quick was "crippled psychologically" by his guilt and had been publicly shamed.

Quick was a maths and science teacher in central Queensland in 2004 when he formed a "close friendship" with the girl. In the September 2004 school holidays, Quick drove the girl to a location near Bundaberg, where he filmed the girl as he sucked and caressed her breasts. When the Crime and Misconduct Commission launched an investigation, Quick rang the girl and told her to lie for him or he would "come back to hurt her".

Calling for at least three months of actual jail time, Crown prosecutor Bob Falconer said Quick had "flagrantly ignored" the trust placed in him. Defence solicitor Bill Potts said while the relationship was "very inappropriate", the schoolgirl had initiated much of the contact and she and Quick had planned to run away to "a happier place".

But Judge Dearden said he accepted a psychologist's report that Quick was "crippled psychologically" with remorse, had no pedophilia tendencies, was unlikely to re-offend and did not pose a danger to the community. Judge Dearden cited a Court of Appeal decision that set a precedent for suspended sentences for indecent dealing offences in "exceptional circumstances". He told Quick the suspended sentence "should not be seen in any way as a lessening of the punishment". A spokesman for Mrs Lavarch said she had asked the Director of Public Prosecutions for a report on a possible appeal against the decision.

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More on judge Dearden

Yesterday was not the first time Judge Ian Dearden has given a controversial soft sentence. In February this year, Brisbane man Brett Ashley Connor appeared before Judge Dearden charged with with possessing 90 child porn images. The judge sentenced Connor to nine months' jail wholly suspended because of mitigating factors including Connor's co-operation with authorities and the lack of apparent distribution of the images.

In March this year, brothers Shammi and Shamal Chand escaped jail in Dearden's court after pleading guilty to savagely bashing an invalid pensioner with a baseball bat. Handing both brothers wholly suspended jail sentences, Judge Dearden said he took into account their own misery following the death of their father, the difficulties Shammi Chand faced supporting his extended family and Shamal Chand's battle with drugs and mental illness.

In August last year, Judge Dearden also said he would "take a punt" on serial fraudster Julia Antonia Villiers who faced court charged with defrauding a Brisbane beauty clinic. Despite previously serving time for stealing as a servant and breaching a subpoenaed sentence, Judge Dearden handed Villiers a 12-month intensive correctional order.

Judge Dearden's appointment to the bench in February last year was criticised by Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg, who questioned how the former Queensland Council of Civil Liberties president could remain impartial.

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Monday, August 28, 2006



POLICE WHO DON'T GIVE A DAMN

Keith Spence wants his Cadillac back. Spence claims he was falsely accused of stealing his own car after he was stopped by police, who sold the vehicle at auction before he could appear in court to clear his name. "I tried to tell them it was my car, but they wouldn't listen," the Baltimore man said.

Police spokesman Matt Jablow said the department is investigating the incident. "We're looking into the circumstances surrounding why the car was sold," Jablow said.

Spence, 28, said police pulled him over in February because the 1993 red Cadillac Eldorado coupe had a cracked rear window. Spence said he and his two passengers were then dragged from the car and arrested by four officers who said the car was stolen. "I was listening to the radio from the back seat of the police car. It said a gray Cadillac sedan was stolen; mine is a red coupe. I guess the officer must have been color blind," Spence told The Baltimore Examiner.

In June, Spence represented himself in court, providing the title and the testimony of the car's previous owner. By then it was too late, however; the car had been sold at auction two months earlier. "I owned the car - I knew it wasn't stolen," he said.

Spence's attorney, Roland Brown, said he is preparing to sue the city. "Not only did the police violate my client's constitutional rights by selling his car before the trial, but the case demonstrates that young black males in this city are blindly targeted by the Baltimore City police," Brown said. The case also raises questions about why a vehicle thought to be stolen would be sold instead of returned to its owner.

Spence said all he wants is the Cadillac he bought with a tax refund. "I loved that car."

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Sunday, August 27, 2006



Shameful Mickleberg case in Australia: Justice still being sought

The case of the forged fingerprint

Two brothers jailed over the infamous 1982 Perth Mint swindle are suing a former government minister over their wrongful convictions. Ray, Peter and the late Brian Mickelberg were convicted in 1983 of defrauding the Perth Mint of $653,000 in gold bullion in exchange for worthless cheques.

Ray, who served eight years of a 20-year jail sentence, and Peter, who spent six years behind bars for the scam, fought for years before a legal appeal was successful and their convictions were overturned in 2004. The success of their eighth appeal was largely due to a confession by corrupt detective Tony Lewandowski, who admitted that detectives, including lead detective Don Hancock, had fabricated evidence.

After their conviction was overturned, the Mickelbergs launched a civil suit against the West Australian government and six police officers involved in their case for an estimated $11 million in compensation. News Ltd reported the Mickelberg brothers were now also suing former police assistant commissioner and Labor minister Bob Kucera over their wrongful conviction. The latest suit comes after the brothers reportedly bought for $5,000 a box of sensitive police documents that were found at Lewandowski's ex-girlfriend's home in Thailand.

Mr Kucera, who was not one of the detectives involved in the case, has been accused of being part of the police conspiracy to support the Mickelbergs' wrongful conviction. Two of the detectives closely involved in the case have since died, Mr Hancock was killed in a bikie car bomb attack in September 2001, and Lewandowski committed suicide in May 2004. Brian Mickelberg had his conviction overturned after nine months jail. He died in a light plane crash in 1986

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Background on the case:

Raymond and Peter Mickleberg made four unsuccessful attempts to have their convictions overturned - three appeals to the Court of Criminal Appeal, at which Mr Lewandowski and Mr Hancock testified, and an appeal to the High Court.

Mr McGinty said Mr Lewandowski had admitted that he and Mr Hancock had fabricated confessions from the brothers, and had lied at the trial and the appeals. He had also admitted that Peter Mickelberg was stripped naked and beaten by interviewing officers during the investigation.

Mr Lewandowski had said he had not come forward earlier because he had not wanted to cross Mr Hancock, who died in a car bombing in what police believe was a payback killing by Gypsy Joker bikie gang members after the murder of a gang member in 2000. Mr McGinty said Mr Lewandowski's belated admission - if it were truthful - would strike at the heart of public confidence in the justice system. "This is one of the most high-profile police investigations we have seen in Western Australia, and if it was found that convictions were obtained by police fabricating evidence, the ramifications are enormous." Mr McGinty has referred Mr Lewandowski's affidavit to the royal commission into alleged police corruption, which is due to recommence hearings on July 1.

The robbery on June 22, 1982, was the most audacious ever staged in Perth - an ingenious swindle which saw 49 gold bars spirited out of the impregnable Mint to a mystery hiding place. Although the evidence against the Mickelbergs was compelling - in particular Ray Mickelberg's fingerprint on one of three fake cheques used to pay for the gold - the brothers insisted from the start that the police had framed them. They said the detectives, led by Don Hancock, had lied at their trial in the District Court, had fabricated confessions by all three, and had planted the damning fingerprint.

It would have been easy for the police to get hold of a mould of Ray's finger, they said. One of his hobbies was casting hands, in brass, plastic, rubber and perspex. There were about 20 of the hands in his Marmion Beach home when the police first arrived, and several were taken away for inspection.

In 1989, 55 kilograms of gold pellets, said to have been from the swindle, were found outside a Perth television station, accompanied by a note protesting the Mickelberg brothers' innocence and claiming that a prominent Perth businessman was behind the swindle.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006



NO JAIL FOR THIEVES IN BRITAIN?

Sounds like British shops are becoming a free cafeteria

Serial shoplifters should never be sent to prison, the Government's advisers on sentencing said. They want judges and magistrates barred from locking up the petty thieves - no matter how many offences they have committed in the past. If their recommendations are adopted, only those who commit violent attacks on staff, work in organised gangs or use children to steal from shops would go to jail. At the moment, the maximum sentence for shoplifting is seven years. The attempt to cut the severity of penalties is being made by the Sentencing Advisory Panel, a Home Office body which provides recommendations on how to deal with offenders. Their plan would mean 13,000 fewer criminals each year would be sent to prisons at a time when jail overcrowding has reached crisis point.

But the suggestion provoked a new row over shoplifters - the most common breed of criminal to appear before the courts - to add to the furore over punishments for murderers, burglars and sex offenders. Retail trade chiefs, who calculate shoplifting adds £1 a week to the average family's bills, said they were "disgusted" with the scheme and called it "a licence to steal".

The panel - which advises Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips and his Sentencing Guidelines Council - said removing the threat of jail from shoplifters was "a radical departure from present practice". It offered a second, less far-reaching, option which would see no shoplifter imprisoned for more than eight weeks. At present the average sentence for a shoplifter in magistrates courts is longer - and Crown Courts send down a typical shoplifter for more than seven months.

The proposals were sent out for consultation among pressure groups and quangos. The panel's final recommendations will, if past practice is followed, be rubberstamped by the Guidelines Council and passed on as instructions to the courts.

The no-jail rule has been proposed despite evidence provided to the panel that more than nine million shoplifting offences are carried out in England and Wales every year. Most are not reported to police. There were 280,461 recorded offences last year, the panel said, and of these fewer than a quarter ended with a sentence in court. Some 14,000 offences are punished with 'fixed penalty' fines similar to parking fines each year. Last year 13,135 shoplifters - around one in five of those found guilty - went to jail.

The panel interpreted Labour's 2003 Criminal Justice Act to mean that persistent offending does not bring tougher sentencing. It also said courts should take into advice from the Council-of Europe - parent body of the European Court of Human Rights - which says a sentence should be 'in proportion to the seriousness of the current offence'. It also suggested that as many as two-thirds of those arrested for shoplifting may be addicted to or using drugs, and many of these are stealing to pay for drug habits.

Since virtually all shoplifters who are jailed are sentenced on the basis of dismal criminal records, downgrading the importance of earlier convictions would have a dramatic impact. Richard Dodd of the British Retail Consortium said: "We are disgusted at the suggestion that shoplifters should not face the possibility of going to jail. It is like offering a licence to people to go into stores and take things without paying." Tory home affairs spokesman Edward Garnier said: "The law-abiding public expect that people stealing from shops should be properly punished, particularly if they are persistent offenders."

The Sentencing Advisory Panel is headed by academic lawyer Martin Wasik, a member of two pressure groups which campaign for fewer criminals to be jailed.

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Friday, August 25, 2006



VIRGINIA FINALLY GETS THE RIGHT MAN

For once. Very often it is too late after a wrongful conviction is reversed. But the guilty cop escapes -- as usual

A convicted serial rapist has been indicted in a 1982 rape and slaying that another man spent 18 years in prison for, at one point coming within days of his execution. A Culpeper County grand jury Monday indicted Kenneth Maurice Tinsley on charges of murder, rape and sodomy in the death of Rebecca Lynn Williams. The 19-year-old mother was found stabbed to death outside her Culpeper apartment. Tinsley, 61, is serving a life term in a Virginia prison for a 1984 rape in Albemarle County and has two rape convictions in Chicago.

Earl Washington Jr. spent more than a decade on death row after being convicted of Williams' slaying and came within nine days of execution in 1985. After DNA testing in 1993 cast doubt on Washington's guilt, then-Gov. L. Douglas Wilder commuted his sentence to life in prison. More sophisticated DNA tests conducted in 2000 prompted then-Gov. Jim Gilmore to pardon Washington. In May, Washington was awarded $2.25 million by a federal court jury that ruled that the mildly retarded man falsely confessed after he was fed details of the crime by a state police investigator.

Tinsley's name emerged only during Washington's civil lawsuit. Washington's attorneys also learned that the Virginia state lab had botched earlier DNA tests. Tinsley's DNA was identified six years ago as matching semen found on the victim. Special Prosecutor Richard E. Moore declined to say why it took six years to obtain an indictment, except to say the latest conclusion was "based in large part on test results not available to any previous prosecutors in this case."

Tinsley is scheduled to appear in Culpeper Circuit Court on Sept. 6. Tinsley was to have a lawyer appointed at that time. Prosecutors have not announced whether they will seek the death penalty. Curtis Wilmore, the state police investigator cited in Washington's false confession, died in 1994. An attorney for his estate has asked the court to vacate the jury's verdict.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006



THREE YEARS FOR MURDER

It seems that nobody cares in Australia

The family of a popular young man who died in an unprovoked attack said yesterday they were "sickened" by a Court of Appeal decision not to increase the killer's sentence. "What you hear is 'how good is the bloody criminal' – don't it make it sick?" the victim's devastated father Roy Markham said outside the court. "The system is rotten, rotten to the core." Court of Appeal president Margaret McMurdo had dismissed an appeal by Attorney-General Linda Lavarch, who wanted to increase the jail sentence for university student Moses Rupert Katia, 19, to 10 years.

Earlier this year, Katia was jailed for eight years with a recommendation for parole after three years when he pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of the Gold Coast concreter, 23. The court was told Katia had drunk 15 rums and cola and was walking with a friend through the city shortly after 5am. They came across Markham, who had passed out, sitting on a bench outside the Embassy Hotel in Elizabeth St. They were seen taking his mobile phone and shoes. Katia returned a short time later, punched Markham and stole his watch before fleeing. Markham died in hospital the next day.

Choking back tears, the mother of Paul Bernard Markham, Pam Markham, said: "I'm tired of being told what a nice person Moses is – nobody in this whole time has said what a nice bloke my son was. He was a delight and I haven't got him any more."

Judge McMurdo said Markham's death in February last year was a stark warning to all in the community about binge drinking. In dismissing the appeal by Mrs Lavarch, who had sought a 10-year jail term for Katia, Justice McMurdo attacked the binge drinking culture which she said could make pleasant and amiable people behave aggressively and out of character. She said Markham was an affable man of good character but had been grossly intoxicated and an easy target for predators. "His intoxication was almost certainly why a relatively minor punch to the head caused devastating vertebral artery rupture and a resultant serious brain injury which led to his death," she said. Justice McMurdo said alcohol abuse was also how Katia – a talented university student of good character when sober – came to rob, steal, assault and kill Markham.

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And NO jail-time for this:

How do you value a life? Susan Harris, whose much-longed-for IVF baby died in her womb after a negligent driver crashed head-on into her car, has thought of little else for 19 months. As the law stood at the time, in January last year, her seven-month pregnancy accounted for nothing. Mrs Harris suffered serious internal injuries and underwent an emergency caesarean but her child, Lars, was stillborn. Although a birth certificate was issued and a funeral held, the child was not considered a living being by the law, as he had not drawn breath.

In May last year, the State Government amended the law so that the killing of a foetus became an aggravating feature, which could attract a 25-year jail sentence. It was dubbed "Byron's law" after the tenacious lobbying of the Government by Renee Shields, who had lost her unborn child, Byron, in a road-rage incident. Two hung juries and one acquittal later, Mrs Harris is in shock that the man accused of injuring her and causing the death of her child walked free from Goulburn District Court on Monday.

Mrs Harris wanted the jury to hear of the grief she and her husband, Tim, and their older son, Jehru, went through, and their renewed grief when doctors told her that her injuries would not allow her to have any more children. The couple had enrolled to adopt overseas when they convinced another clinic to implant the last embryo. "We said, 'This is our last chance, our last hope, and maybe then we can move on' … And look, now I have a five-week-old baby who we've named Byron to remember Byron's law," she said.

As for the most recent trial: "I just felt like the system let us down again. I am really angry with the DPP because they didn't allow me to do a victim's impact statement. My story never got heard," Mrs Harris said. Nathan William Crossley, 26, was accused of causing the accident when he was attempting to overtake a cattle truck near Braidwood in southern NSW.

A spokeswoman for the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions said when Crossley was acquitted by the jury of the dangerous driving charge, and pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm, neither Mrs Harris nor her husband were at court. She said Mrs Harris had given evidence at the trial, and the Crown Prosecutor made sure the court was aware of the severity of Mrs Harris's injuries, and the magnitude of her distress. She said evidence that the deceased foetus was the result of IVF was not legally admissible in the trial. Victims' impact statements could be presented only after there was a conviction. Crossley was sentenced to six months' jail, which was suspended, and was disqualified from driving for two years.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006



A NARROW ESCAPE THANKS TO DNA

A caretaker feared for his life during a violent home invasion that only ended when one of his attackers turned on the other and shot him, the Brisbane Supreme Court was told yesterday. Michael William Weir had to pause to compose himself several times yesterday as he recounted how he was beaten, drugged, and threatened with a gun and knife for hours by two men almost nine years ago.

Weir was giving evidence against Darren Michael Golledge, 39, who has pleaded not guilty to the September 11, 1997, attack and murdering his alleged co-offender Tony Robert Stevens at the Yatala site of the former Bullens' African Lion Safari Park.

The court heard Weir was the caretaker at the 300-acre site but had arranged for Stevens to take on the role for several months while he visited family in Sydney. Weir said the pair had argued several times before September 11 when he was lured to Stevens's home and king-hit from behind by Golledge – a man he had never met before and heard referred to as Fraser during the incident. The court heard Weir was bound with tape, blindfolded, threatened and assaulted for hours before being forced to sign a pledge to leave the property. He was also forced to make a video confessing to being a drug dealer and filming four marijuana plants he had grown hydroponically in his house. He said that after he was taken back to his bedroom, he heard whispering and then a loud gunshot. "I didn't know if it was a warning shot or if they had missed me," he said.

Weir said Golledge then told him he had shot Stevens and he would live if he agreed to dispose of the body. When Weir agreed, he had been told to wait for half an hour before getting off the bed. He had checked that Stevens was dead before going to the front gate of the property, where two council workers called emergency services.

Crown prosecutor Peter Feeney said Weir was initially charged with Stevens's murder after bloodstains were found on his clothes, but the investigation changed focus when improved DNA testing concluded the blood was his own.

The court was told Weir did not see Golledge during the attack, but could recognise his voice as that of his second attacker. Golledge was subsequently arrested and charged. The trial before Justice John Byrne and the seven-woman, five-man jury continues today.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006



NEBRASKA: GOOD PLACE TO BE AN HABITUAL CRIMINAL?

Kevin Holder's rap sheet is 43 pages long, dating back to 1980, and he just got another entry his 226th arrest. Police say they caught him Sunday morning after a brief chase and found burglar tools in his possession. "He's very well-known to Lincoln police officers," Police Chief Tom Casady said. Holder's convictions include criminal mischief, marijuana possession, violation of protection order, assault, resisting arrest, assault on an officer, possession of cocaine. Many were misdemeanors, but he also has been sentenced to at least three prison terms for felonies, including a four-year stretch starting in 1996. "Your average Nebraskan thinks after a prisoner has committed a certain number of crimes (he) will be put away for a long period of time. That doesn't happen," Casady said.

Lancaster County Attorney Gary Lacey said Holder was charged Tuesday with felony possession of burglar tools and prosecutors will urge a judge to treat Holder as a habitual criminal. With another felony conviction, that could result in a sentence of up to 60 years. Holder remained behind bars Tuesday afternoon. Holder's list of arrests doesn't come close to setting a record for Lincoln-Lancaster County. He's No. 40, police spokeswoman Katherine Finnell said Tuesday. A number of people have more than 500 arrests in the city of 226,000 people. The record was held by Edward Rooks, who died in 2004, with 652 arrests.

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Monday, August 21, 2006



BUNGLING BRITISH CRIMINAL RECORDS OFFICE UNREPENTANT

A teacher has told how his career is under threat after he was wrongly branded a crook three times by the Criminal Records Bureau. Richard Adams, a 27-year-old computer specialist and father of three, was mistaken by CRB officials for an offender with a similar name and identical date of birth. The blunder may have cost Mr Adams the teaching post he was due to take up next month and he now fears for his job prospects.

But the CRB remains defiant. A spokesman said: "We make no apology for erring on the side of caution."

Mr Adams said: "My life has been made hell. I have been labelled a criminal three times. "Each time I told the CRB they were wrong and each time I have received a written apology - but they still keep doing it. "The second time it happened, I was flabbergasted. I was told I could not go to the school until the mistake had been officially corrected by the Bureau. "Now it's happened again. If it wasn't so serious it would be a joke."

The new blunder comes three months after The Mail on Sunday revealed how thousands of law-abiding citizens had been labelled as criminals after being confused with real crooks.

But Home Secretary John Reid, to whom the CRB reports, has refused to change the rules to prevent similar errors, despite the public outcry.

Mr Adams's nightmare began five years ago after he successfully applied to be a computer teacher at a centre near Lincoln for youngsters with behavioural problems. The school then told him that the CRB claimed he had been cautioned in 1999 for common assault and had received a conditional discharge for forging a prescription. Mr Adams was fingerprinted and cleared by police. But when he applied to work at Lincoln Christ's Hospital secondary school in 2004, the CRB again sent his employer the same details, claiming he was a forger and a thug.

Now the agency has blundered again after the Aveland High School in Lincoln offered Mr Adams a place as a 20,000 pounds-a-year IT instructor. Meanwhile, said Mr Adams, "the real criminal is walking free".

A spokesman for the CRB said: "This is not about the Bureau making mistakes where there has been a mismatch. "It is because the individual's details are similar or even identical to someone else's conviction data held on the Police National Computer."

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Sunday, August 20, 2006



FBI NOT CONCERNED WITH JUSTICE?

A Justice Department lawyer argued yesterday that the FBI had no duty to share evidence with state prosecutors that might have prevented the wrongful conviction of four men for a 1965 gangland murder in Chelsea. ``We would submit there is no obligation on the part of the FBI to transmit its internal memos to local authorities," said the lawyer, Mary M. Leach, insisting that state authorities -- and not the FBI -- were responsible for the prosecution. The government urged a US judge to dismiss a negligence suit filed against the federal government by Joseph Salvati and Peter Limone , who both spent more than 30 years in prison before they were exonerated in 2000 of killing Edward ``Teddy" Deegan.

The families of Henry Tameleo and Louis Greco, who both died in prison before being vindicated, shouldn't be allowed to sue at all , the government argued . ``I think it's wrong," said Limone, 72, who attended yesterday's hearing with his wife and other family members. He said the FBI should have turned over all of its evidence. Salvati, who attended the hearing with his wife, Marie, let his lawyers speak for him. ``If you have information that people are innocent, you come forward with it," said Salvati's lawyer, Victor Garo, calling the federal governent's conduct in the case ``outrageous."

US District Judge Nancy Gertner took the government's request under advisement, but questioned how the FBI could claim no liability when its agents failed to tell state prosecutors about wiretaps and informant information that suggested the four men were being framed for the slaying by Joseph ``The Animal" Barboza, a Mafia hitman who had turned government witness. After recruiting Barboza as a witness and using him in other trials against local Mafia leaders, FBI agents failed to tell state prosecutors during the 1968 trial of Salvati, Limone, and the others that they had evidence that Barboza was lying to protect Vincent ``Jimmy" Flemmi, who was alleged to be one of Deegan's killers. Flemmi, who died in 1979 of a drug overdose in prison, was the brother of longtime FBI informant Stephen ``The Rifleman" Flemmi, who is now serving a life sentence for 10 murders.

It was revealed in court yesterday that Vincent Flemmi became an FBI informant on March 12, 1965 -- the same day that Deegan, a petty thief suspected of stealing from local mobsters, was gunned down in a Chelsea alley. A state judge overturned the convictions of Salvati and Limone after a Justice Department Task Force investigating the FBI's handling of informants discovered long-secret FBI files that indicated Barboza may have framed the pair, along with the deceased Tameleo and Greco. The documents were not turned over to defense lawyers at the time of the trial.

Boston lawyer Michael Avery, who represents the plaintiffs, argued yesterday that the FBI deliberately withheld information from state prosecutors so the government could continue using Barboza as a witness, and to protect both Flemmi brothers, who were FBI informants. Avery accused the FBI of forming an alliance with Barboza, the Flemmis, and other informants to infiltrate the Mafia that was ``improper, illegal, and immoral," and that state authorities were unaware of. Avery disputed the Justice Department assertion that FBI agents shared some information about Vincent Flemmi's possible involvement in Deegan's slaying with Chelsea police.

While bugging the Providence office of the New England Mafia boss, Raymond L.S. Patriarca, in 1965, the FBI overheard Patriarca giving Barboza and Vincent Flemmi permission to kill Deegan, according to documents filed in court. The FBI had also received information from informants implicating Barboza and other men -- not Salvati, Limone, Greco, or Tameleo -- in the slaying. And when Barboza agreed to become a witness for the FBI, he told agents that he wouldn't say anything to hurt his best friend, Vincent Flemmi. Yet, according to court records, none of that information was turned over to state prosecutors.

Leach argued that Jack Zalkind, the Suffolk prosecutor who handled the Deegan case, conducted an independent investigation and made his own decision to prosecute Salvati and the others. She said the FBI agents did not know Barboza lied. But Gertner said that Zalkind made his decision based on a ``tainted record," without the benefit of information buried in the FBI files that suggested the men were innocent.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006



MORE "LOST" DNA

"Lost" DNA samples usually turn up when someone really looks for them but fortunately in this case that will not have to be relied upon. If DNA can be "lost" from a high-profile matter such as this one, it tells us a lot about how unsatisfactory it is to rely on government laboratories

A man who has fought bureaucracy for 25 years to find out who murdered his brother has now been told DNA data which could nab the killer has been lost. Brian Jones said he and his family had been forced to fight for the truth about his brother Anthony, who disappeared in Townsville in 1982. He campaigned to set up Missing Persons Week to help others find missing relatives and had fought for years to get a death certificate for Anthony. It took two decades badgering authorities before an inquest was finally held, which concluded that an unknown person had murdered the Queenslander.

The final straw came a few months ago when Mr Jones was told Brisbane's John Tonge Centre had lost a DNA profile based on mouth swabs given by his elderly father Kevin. He thought the vital information had been put on police databases six years ago when his father, now 81 and living in Perth, had given it to West Australian police. But inquiries by the Brisbane police missing persons unit found neither the police nor the JTC had any record of the DNA profile.

"The idea was if someone's body was found they could match it with the DNA," he said. "My father had to give another DNA sample. "Dad was happy to do it again, anything that would help my missing brother, but I think it's unfair to impose on an 81-year-old man like that. "It's a breach of trust. People just expect they (police) will process that sort of thing in a normal way and not lose it."

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said the Ombudsman was satisfied with changes the JTC had made since 2001 to prevent similar mistakes. "In July the Health Minister Stephen Robertson made a sincere apology to Mr Jones for any distress caused to him and his family," she said.

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Friday, August 18, 2006



A VERY DUBIOUS CONVICTION

And a coverup underway

Gregory Wright has been on Death Row at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas, for almost 10 years. He is currently awaiting the decision of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal (05-70037) regarding the refusal to grant a Certificate of Appealability by the Texas Courts (No.3:01-CV-0472-K).

Greg maintains that he was wrongfully convicted of Capital Murder in 1997 (F97-01215-PJ). In his latest Appeal to the 5th Circuit (05-70037), Greg's attorneys set out the case that the Texas courts have consistently denied his applications for relief, in spite of clearly documented violations of Constitutional Law and legal practice. Greg, his wife Connie, and supporters, are desperate for help to make people realize the mistakes that have been made and the great wrong that is being done to Greg.

"He is innocent, and we are asking for your help to persuade the authorities to take his appeals seriously," says Greg's wife, Connie Wright. "This would allow access to evidence by his defense team that would help prove his innocence."

This is a complicated case in that Greg was convicted and sentenced as the sole perpetrator of this crime (R51.13-16). He was implicated by John Adams who was later convicted of the same crime (F97-01214-PJ). The same judge and prosecutor were involved in both trials. Adams admitted his guilt in a 911 call, and in front of other witnesses who have subsequently given sworn affidavits to Greg’s attorney. There were two 911 calls made, the first by the man Adams confessed to, the second by Adams himself. Although discussed at Greg's trial, none of this evidence ever reached the jury since the 911 tapes could not be produced by the prosecution. Greg and his defense team were not made aware of the 911 tapes until the first day of trial and when the defense team asked to review the tapes they were told the tapes were “lost.” It is clearly documented in the trial transcript (F97-01215-PJ) that these tapes were obtained by two police officers and delivered to the prosecutor’s office. We know these tapes must still exist somewhere.

Evidence used to convict Greg was:

a) Size 32 waist Umen jeans soaked in the victim’s blood. At the time of the offense Greg wore a size 36, weighed approximately 190 pounds (DeSoto arrest record, State's "x" Exhibits 90) and clearly did not fit into the Umen jeans. John Adams weighed approximately 160 pounds and had a size 32 waist (Testimony of Adams from Adams's trial, (R34.201). Witness statements show that Greg was wearing a new pair of black jeans the night of the murder. The Umen jeans were old and faded. The courts now deny access to the jeans to Greg’s post trial defense team on the grounds of “fishing.”

b) Written statement of John Adams. This statement was entered into evidence at Greg’s trial but Adams was never brought in to court to testify. This was a clear violation of the 6th Amendment. This statement was used in Adams trial and was deemed “self seeking” and “unreliable” by the same prosecutor who used its credibility to convict Greg. The prosecutor’s statements are recorded in Adams’ trial transcripts (F97-01214-PJ).

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Thursday, August 17, 2006



HORNOFF UPDATE

Previous post on Hornoff here

The city of Warwick has reached a settlement Scott Hornoff, the former police detective who wrongfully served six years in prison for murdering a former lover. Hornoff will be paid $600,000 and will receive a work-related disability pension, beginning July 18 of this year.

The settlement was reached yesterday afternoon. Under the terms of the federal court resolution, the city will pay $525,000 out of its legal reserve fund, and the remainder will be paid by the Rhode Island Interlocal Trust, Warwick's insurer.

Hornoff was released from prison in 2002 after Todd Barry confessed to the 1989 murder of Victoria Cushman. He later filed suit in Superior Court against the city of Warwick, seeking reinstatement to the city's police department and, in Federal Court, for an alleged civil rights violation stemming from his wrongful conviction. He asked for $11 million in damages.

"The city is pleased to be able to put this issue behind us and behind Mr. Hornoff,'' said Mayor Scott Avedisian. ``I hope that this bad chapter of city history is finally behind us, and I wish Mr. Hornoff all the best.'' Hornoff's lawyers recently approached state authorities about settling the case, but the Attorney General's Office refused, said Mike Healey, a spokesman for Attorney General Patrick Lynch. Hornoff was undergoing foot surgery today, according to the Associated Press. His wife, Tina Hornoff, declined to speak about the case.

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ELKINS UPDATE

See yesterday's report

Although it's been nearly eight months since Clarence Elkins' name was cleared, the state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction internal database still has him listed as a sexual predator and posts no information about his exoneration. In a highly publicized case, Elkins was freed Dec. 15, 2005, and the state paid him a $1,075,000 wrongful conviction settlement earlier this year.

The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction allows the public to view information and law enforcement to see more details in its offender database via the Internet. The law enforcement portion requires a password. Elkins was promptly removed from the public portion but as of this week, he was still listed as a sexual predator in information accessible to police and prosecutors. Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman Andrea Dean said in an e-mail to the Dayton Daily News, "The information about his sentence being vacated and overturned should have been placed there. We will see to it that it is rectified ASAP."

Elkins said he did not know about the posting and planned to look into it. Elkins had been serving a life sentence for the 1998 rape and murder of his mother-in-law and rape and beating of his 6-year-old niece. His wife Melinda fought for 7« years to clear her husband's name and bring her mother's real killer to justice. New DNA testing proved Elkins did not commit the crimes and pointed to another inmate who is now under investigation.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006




KNOW-ALL POLICE AND PROSECUTORS GET IT WRONG AGAIN

"Uncle Clarence killed Grandma."

That sentence spoken in 1998 by six-year-old Brooke Sutton initiated a seven-year nightmare for Inmate Number A375856, who was convicted of murder and child rape. The nightmare ended on Dec. 15, 2005 when the State of Ohio released Clarence Elkins and agreed to pay him more than $1 million for wrongful imprisonment.

The Ohio Dayton Daily News has been featuring a remarkable series of articles that present the Elkins' case: Murder, then rush to judgment; Traumatized child hid her doubts; 'My God, this thing is horrifying'; and, We can all start to heal.

The series appears at an opportune time. The ongoing 'Duke rape case' and a string of false accusations in the headlines have sparked wide-spread debate on the rights of victims versus the rights of the accused. The Dayton Daily News series reveals this as a false debate. Both victims and defendants suffer whenever the standards of proof required for a conviction are lowered.

In the Elkins case, Clarence along with his wife and two children suffered terribly. But a traumatized and confused child was also brutalized by authorities who did not listen to her doubts but only to what they wanted to hear. Now 14 years old, Brooke has been tortured by having caused her uncle to be imprisoned while her grandmother's murderer walked free. Elkins has forgiven his niece for the nightmare that began on June 6, 1998.

June 6th: Clarence's mother-in-law Judy Johnson is at home babysitting Brooke. She falls asleep on the couch; Brooke is in the bedroom. In the wee hours, a man savagely rapes and bludgeons Judy to death. In the dark bedroom, he also beats and rapes the 51-pound child. When Brooke recovers consciousness, the stunned child phones a neighbor to report "grandma is dead." Then she walks to the nearby house of her best friend and tells Tonia Brasiel, the friend's mother, "Uncle Clarence killed Grandma."

On the same day, Brooke admits uncertainty to a friend of her grandmother and explains why she identified her uncle, "I think it sounded like him." The woman's testimony later carries no weight in court because Brooke repeats to the police, to psychologists and her parents what she believes they want to hear: "Uncle Clarence killed Grandma."

At a crime scene where the murder victim fought strenuously and two rapes occurred, the police cannot find a hair, a fingerprint or a drop of blood to implicate Elkins who has no felony record. Moreover, his wife provides an alibi that is largely supported by witnesses. Nevertheless on June 4, 1999, Elkins receives a stiff sentence with the earliest possible parole date being 2054. People, including the jury, wish to believe Brooke and to punish someone for the unspeakable crime.

Clarence's wife Melinda and his two sons are absolutely convinced of his innocence. For the next seven years, she works without pause to exonerate him and to provide justice for her mother. In the process, she loses her home, is hospitalized for exhaustion, breaks with family members, and steals irreplaceable time from her children.

On Nov. 10, 2001, her crusade leads Melinda to the door of the sister with whom she used to be best friends but with whom she has not spoken for years: Brooke's mother. At her side is Martin Yant, a private investigator specializing in wrongful convictions whose work has already exonerated 10 prisoners. (In his book "Presumed Guilty," Yant states his belief that 10,000 people in America are wrongfully convicted every year.)

The Dayton Daily News reports, "Yant can tick off a laundry list of other problems with the [Elkins] case: sloppy police work, haphazard investigation, authorities rushing to judgment, incomplete forensics. The bloody print left on the doorjamb at Judy Johnson's house was destroyed when police tried to lift it. Other items collected as evidence were never tested for latent prints. Judy Johnson fought for her life, but it doesn't look as if anybody bothered to test her fingernail scrapings."

As the sisters reconcile, Yant is allowed to gently question Brooke. When he asks whether she still believes Elkins is guilty, she immediately replies, "I've always had doubts." Again, Brooke's statement precipitates a chain of events. Other family members become convinced of Elkins' innocence. In May 2002, Brooke recants her testimony but the court rejects her recantation as being caused by family pressure.

Meanwhile, on April 28, 2002, a story in the Akron Beacon Journal catches Melinda's eye. It opens, "Earl Eugene Mann…to stand trial, facing a possible life prison sentence for raping three little girls." Mann, the boyfriend of Tonia Brasiel, has a long history of violent crime but the police had dismissed him as a suspect when they focused in on Elkins.

The path to exoneration that ensues is circuitous enough to be a Law and Order episode. With the assistance of the Ohio Innocence Project and fighting an intransigent prosecutor, Melinda arranges DNA testing that excludes her husband from the crime scene. Nevertheless, on July 14, 2005, Elkins is denied a new trial.

Finally, a state attorney who is pursuing the Republican nomination for governor takes an interest and brings both political pressure and media attention to bear on the case. Only when Mann confesses to the crime does the State of Ohio admit its mistake.

Many morals can be drawn from this case. For example, accusations should not be immediately believed, especially if they are inconsistent or contradicted by evidence. The moral being drawn here, however, is that the original victims of a crime -- in this case, Brooke and her grandmother -- are further victimized when a system does not respect the rigorous safeguards intended to protect the accused. It was not merely Elkins and his family who suffered but also anyone who sought justice. The true beneficiary of the lowered standards was Mann who was free to rape other children while Elkins sat in prison for his crime.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006



Boston Pays $3M in Wrongful Conviction

Follow up to a post here of July 14, 2005. 3 million must have hurt somewhere! If only it were the crooked cops that were hurting but that is too much to expect, of course.

The city agreed to pay $3.2 million to a man whose wrongful conviction in the shooting of a police officer led the city to revamp its fingerprinting unit. The settlement with Stephan Cowans, who was freed in January 2004 after more than six years in prison, equaled what's believed to be the largest amount the city ever paid in a wrongful conviction case.

Cowans, 35, was sentenced to 35 to 50 years in the 1997 wounding of Sgt. Gregory Gallagher after the police department's fingerprinting unit matched him to a print that the shooter left behind on a glass of water. Cowans was exonerated by DNA evidence through the New England Innocence Project, and the fingerprinting unit was shut down. A report found that its officers lacked proper training and were unprepared to do complex analyses.

As part of the settlement, Cowans agreed to drop claims against the city, the Police Department and Gallagher, who had identified Cowans as the shooter, Boston city attorney William Sinnott said.

In March, the city agreed to pay $3.2 million to settle a lawsuit brought by Neil Miller, who served 10 years in prison after being convicted of raping a college student. DNA tests proved another man had committed the crime.

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Monday, August 14, 2006



UNBELIEVABLE LACK OF JUSTICE IN AUSTRALIA

A Victorian teenager who made a bomb that maimed a classmate's mother has been allowed to walk free from court.

The 16-year-old (left) adopted the username "Osama31" to search the internet for bomb-making instructions. And he used the same chemicals that devastated London's transport network last year and that British terrorists have been accused of using in a bid to blow up jet airliners this week.

The Children's Court was told this week that three boys from an outer Melbourne secondary school planned the bombing in September, 2005 - three months after the London Underground bombings killed 56 and injured 700 - after a schoolyard dispute with a female classmate. One of the teenagers has admitted making the explosive, known as Mother of Satan, which two of his friends detonated.

The court heard that the girl was not at her Glen Waverley home when the bomb was detonated, but her mother was maimed by the blast. The woman could have been killed if the security door had not shielded her from the explosion, the court was told. "Had that person come through the door, she probably would have been killed," the magistrate said.

He was shocked by the bomb's size and the level of planning behind the attack. "You've obviously spent many, many hours learning how to make bombs," the magistrate said. "You had trial runs. You don't make bombs in this day and age, particularly bombs of this magnitude." The teenager, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to possessing and manufacturing explosive material.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006



Indulgence for well-connected young drunk-driver in Australia

Being good at sport earns forgiveness for appalling behaviour

An international lawn bowler who ran a red light at 90km/h over the speed limit while drunk and hit another vehicle has walked free from court, after glowing references from a former National Crime Authority chief and a one-time director of the Immigration Department.

Nathan Kane Swincer, 21, was spared a 27-month sentence yesterday, despite seriously injuring another driver while driving at more than 150km/h, with a blood alcohol level of 0.14. Mr Swincer, then 18, was a junior Australian lawn bowls representative.

Former South Australian director of the NCA John Ganley and former diplomat and federal Immigration Department director Neil McCann acted as referees for Mr Swincer before the South Australian District Court. They had met him through the upmarket Somerton Bowling Club, in Adelaide, where Mr McCann is president. McCann and club secretary Frank Elliott spoke highly of Mr Swincer, writing: "We are convinced that Nathan Swincer has learned a truly hard lesson at a very young age in life and that he has a future as an honest and upstanding citizen."

In sentencing yesterday, judge Michael Boylan considered Mr Swincer's contribution to the community [bowling?] his supportive family and his remorse and understanding of the grief and suffering he had caused. "I have taken into account the fact, which is evident from your success at bowling and the reputation you hold, that you have a capacity for self-discipline and determination," Judge Boylan said. "I have taken into account Mr Ganley's evidence ... that you listen to and take advice."

Judge Boylan described Mr Swincer's driving on the night of the accident in October 2003 as "appalling". "You were drunk, you were driving at something like 2 1/2 times the speed limit and you drove through a red light," he said. As a P-plater, Mr Swincer committed an offence just by driving his car after consuming alcohol. The court heard that he had not driven since his accident. Judge Boylan disqualified him from driving for six years.

The judge said the driver of the van, Gregory Sutton, still suffered from injuries sustained in the accident. But Mr Sutton, who had no "deep-seated resentment" towards Mr Swincer, said he should not face jail. "His life will never be the same again," he said. "For all that, Mr Sutton has been extraordinarily kind to you."

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Saturday, August 12, 2006



RAPE BY MUSLIM OK IN UK

Judge says Muslim did not know rape was wrong!

A judge was accused yesterday of appalling insensitivity towards women after allowing a sex attacker to avoid jail on the condition that he write a letter of apology to his victim. Judge Jeremy Roberts said that Prashant Modi, 33, a millionaire’s son who had led a “sheltered life” in India, had been faced with a confusing situation after three attractive young women fell asleep in his hotel bedroom this year.

The introverted businessman had been “led into temptation” after the women, all Swedish and in their early twenties, had agreed to go back to his hotel for some food after a night out in Central London, the judge said. He told the Old Bailey that, under normal circumstances, Modi could expect a jail sentence of up to eighteen months but that he was instead being given a six-month suspended sentence. He would also have faced a stiffer sentence had one of the victim’s friends not awoken and started screaming during the attack. By then Modi was half-naked, had removed the victim’s jeans and knickers and was lying on top of her.

Describing Modi as unfamiliar with Western culture despite regular trips to Britain and four years spent as a student in the United States, {Oull the other one!] Judge Roberts told the court: “I regard the facts of this case as being exceptional. I am satisfied that to jail you would be inappropriate and unjust. “You were previously of exemplary character. By Western standards — and I am not trying to imply Western standards are wrong — Mr Modi is unsophisticated.”

He added: “Within three days, you will write a letter of apology and the Crown Prosecution Service will find out if she (the victim) wishes to receive it.” Modi was also placed on the sex offenders register and ordered to pay £28,543 prosecution costs.

Sexual abuse counsellors and social workers said that the judge’s decision beggared belief. One of those in court said afterwards: “I have never heard of such a thing. He presented the defendant as the victim.” Yvonne Traynor, chief executive of the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre in Croydon, one of the biggest rape crisis centres in Britain, said: “This is absolutely ludicrous. What does this say about women? How valuable are we that you can attack a woman and then get away with it by just sending a letter? I am horrified.” She added: “To think that a woman can get over being attacked and having a man attempting to rape her by receiving a letter is laughable. It shows no insight into women’s feelings whatsoever.”

Sasha Wass, QC, for the defence, said that Modi, who travelled frequently to Britain to promote his father’s oil business, had met the three women through a friend, and they had all been out together before. Two had slept in his hotel room before and nothing sexual had taken place, she said, describing her client as shy, polite and geeky. On January 29, one girl suggested that they go to a nightclub in the West End, where they drank champagne and vodka. When the girls suggested eating, Modi —“always the gentleman” — offered room service at his hotel, as restaurants were closed. After eating, the girls fell asleep and there was nowhere for him to sleep except next to the girls in his bed, Miss Wass said. She added: “It was a situation he had never come across before. I am told in India it is not heard of. Mr Modi was simply unable to know how to behave. Not surprisingly, he was aroused.”

After sentencing Modi, Judge Roberts said: “I suspect that this situation of having three women asleep in his bed and sofa would have been somewhat confusing. It was, of course, that situation that led him into temptation.” He added: “I don’t suppose it occurred to any of these four people that there was anything dangerous in going back to the hotel room. There is no suggestion that he lured them back with any dishonourable intentions. All four were affected by alcohol. It is unfortunate that having had their food, the women did not go home.”

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Friday, August 11, 2006



THE CRIME THAT 120 BRITISH DETECTIVES COULD NOT SOLVE

Read the first article below and then read the much more revealing short article following. Bear in mind that the over-riding qualification for being a British policeman these days is political correctness. The real police of the past who have not yet got out of the force are rarely in charge of anything significant now. The vastly bungled operation which ended up with the killing of an innocent Brazilian electrician by London police was led by an outspoken Lesbian -- and you can't get much more politically correct than that

After six years and three trials, Gloria and Richard Taylor finally saw justice done for their son Damilola yesterday when two brothers were convicted of killing the ten-year-old boy. The couple walked from the Old Bailey leaving Danny and Ricky Preddie, two teenage street robbers with a long history of violence, facing possible life sentences after being found guilty of manslaughter.

The jury took little more than six hours to reach their verdict. Damilola bled to death after being stabbed in the thigh with a broken bottle on a South London street in November 2000. Yesterday, as the verdicts were announced, Ricky Preddie, 19, shouted at the jury: "You are corrupt. You are nothing." His 18-year-old brother tried to calm him down but Ricky Preddie was taken out of court surrounded by a dozen prison officers. The brothers will be sentenced by Mr Justice Goldring this month.

Throughout the commotion Mrs and Mrs Taylor sat quietly at the back of the court. They have attended almost every day of the three different trials surrounding their son's death. Yesterday, as he left court, Mr Taylor said: "No verdict can return our son to us. It is a great comfort that justice has finally been done for Damilola. We pray his gentle soul can now rest in peace."

The case has cost an estimated 16 million pounds and left question marks over the efficiency of the once highly respected Forensic Science Service. Within an hour of the verdicts the Home Office announced a review by a QC into the service and how key bloodstains, which should have convicted the two brothers five years ago, were missed. Commander Dave Johnston, the head of Scotland Yard's murder teams, said: "I am dismayed the evidence has not been found sooner. Clearly the forensic issues raised will cause us to look at other cases."

Neither the Taylors nor the police know why Damilola died. One of his friends told police that he thought Danny Preddie may have come off worse in a fight with Damilola, who had come to Britain only a few months earlier from Nigeria. Detectives believe that Damilola was surrounded by a gang of youths in Blakes Road, Peckham, as he made his way home from an after-school club at Peckham library.

A small green beer bottle was broken, leaving a shard of glass which was used to "juk" (stab) Damilola in his left thigh.

The Preddies were prime suspects and they were the first to be arrested. Danny Preddie should have been on a supervised 24-hour curfew. His brother was being supervised by the local social services. But the brothers, who were 12 and 13 at the time, were released without charge because there was not enough evidence.

More here

A real cop gets results:

The conviction of Damilola Taylor's killers is a triumph for a detective who understood that only science could pierce the wall of silence around them. In November 2000 Detective Superintendent Nick Ephgrave had been a senior officer in Peckham for four years. He knew the estate where Damilola died and he knew of the Preddie brothers.

But within hours of Damilola's death the case had been assigned to a murder squad of 120 detectives as Scotland Yard tried to atone for the failures of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. Mr Ephgrave could only look on as the investigation foundered on a lack of credible evidence. Two years later, the day after the first trial ended, he was placed in charge of a new investigation.

Having worked as a medical physicist before joining the police, Mr Ephgrave hoped forensic science advances might supply a breakthrough and, in March 2004, he received the results he had been looking for: a laboratory confirmed that blood stains on a shoe and a shirt belonging to the Preddie brothers were from Damilola. "I was extremely surprised, pleased and apprehensive at the same time," Mr Ephgrave said. "That was the point when I could go to the Taylor family and say, `We have the beginnings of a case here'."

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So a crime that 120 dumb political police could not solve was rapidly busted wide open by just one scientifically aware local policeman



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Thursday, August 10, 2006



DELINQUENT POLICE FORCE IGNORES A COURT ORDER

The corruption goes right to the top in the police force of the Australian State of New South Wales

As Kim Hollingsworth, one-time prostitute, stripper and student police officer, tried again to be admitted to the NSW police force, the Commissioner of Police had to hand her barrister a damaging report into sexual high jinks at Goulburn's Police College. Ms Hollingsworth, 40, is seeking to have the NSW Commissioner of Police dealt with for contempt. She also wants to be re-employed with more than six years' back pay.

In a day of legal argument at the NSW Industrial Relations Commission yesterday, the report, by the retired judge Barrie Thorley, was among 100 pages of documents produced on subpoena to Ms Hollingsworth's legal team. The Thorley report is understood to give details of a college environment of heavy drinking and sexual and racial harassment. It coincides with the Ombudsman's report last week of instructors having sex with students, offering better marks for sexual favours and offenders not being properly disciplined.

Ms Hollingsworth, who was a stripper at police functions before being accepted into police training - and whose modelling video showing her topless on an ad for SBS TV was shown around at the police recruitment branch after her interview - attracted "unwelcome" approaches from other students during her time at Goulburn in 1995. This prompted the college's sexual harassment officer to assemble students and spell out the sexual harassment policy. It was only after Ms Hollingsworth reported a detective who asked for help in setting up a brothel that she formally revealed her previous occupation as a prostitute. One of the two senior officers directly involved in the decision to "terminate" her was then assistant commissioner, now Police Commissioner, Ken Moroney.

Ms Hollingsworth said she hoped to be re-employed. "It's always been my dream. It's been [a long time] but my passion for the police service hasn't ended." Yesterday's hearing concerned a 1999 Industrial Relations Commission order that Ms Hollingsworth be reinstated as a student officer. But the order was not carried out. The commission heard that the position "student police officer" no longer existed. Ms Hollingsworth's barrister, David Patch, said the police commissioner had "extremely wide powers" to appoint anyone to any position in the force.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006



POLICE BULLSH*T

Bullsh*it is the preferred police way of covering up negligence

New South Wales Police have defended waiting two months to reveal details of a vicious gang rape at one of Sydney's most popular tourist attractions. Police this week revealed that a 19-year-old girl was approached by five men, aged in their 20s, as she walked along Darling Walk on June 8 about 6.30pm (AEST). Four of the men raped the girl in toilets near the Chinese Gardens at the end of Liverpool Street, while the fifth man kept watch.

Detective Inspector Jon Alt today said details of the rape were not released for operational reasons. "It's been a very protracted investigation, every investigative avenue has been followed, and we believe that this stage is the appropriate time to go public and seek the assistance of the public in our investigation," Insp Alt said. Insp Alt said a conversation took place between the men and the young woman before she was lured into the public toilets. He also said the rape took place over a "shortened time frame", but would not confirm reports that it lasted up to one hour.

Police have established Strike Force Avenel to investigate the assault, along with the Child Protection and Sex Crimes Squad. Insp Alt said police had spoken to a few witnesses but appealed for anyone with information to come forward to officers. "It's obviously a brazen attack, anyone who can conduct any type of attack where there's people around is very brazen, and it's also cowardly," he said.

Insp Alt said police believe the attack was an isolated incident and did not know of any similar attacks in the area. "We believe this is a one-off incident, there is nothing to suggest and we have no information on any other related incidents," he said. "Darling Harbour is a heavily populated area with a lot of people and well-lit, we don't believe there is any cause for extra concern." Insp Alt said police continued to patrol Darling Harbour and had reviewed security footage of the area where the attacks took place.

He said the young woman was recovering well after the incident. "She was the victim of a sexual attack and that for anyone is an absolutely traumatic incident to go through," he said. He said the attackers, who were from a mix of ethnicities [???] , were wearing white overalls and were carrying backpacks at the time of the attack. Police were investigating whether or not the men were tradesmen. "If anyone who was involved in the attack can help us with our inquiries, or wishes to speak with us, they can contact ourselves personally or the City Central police and we would be more than happy to talk to them, and have them assist us with our inquiries," he said.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006



N.C. proud home of the nation’s first innocence board

When Gov. Mike Easley, a former prosecutor and attorney general, signed the bill creating the first innocence commission in the United States, it was, as the governor said, a moment that should make all North Carolinians proud. The eight-member panel will be appointed by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court and the chief judge of the state Court of Appeals. It will examine innocence claims by individuals who can provide new evidence that hasn’t been considered in court. If five or more commission members agree there is evidence of potential innocence, the case will be sent to a panel of three Superior Court judges. A unanimous decision by the judges will be required to overturn the conviction. The panel will begin accepting claims in November.

The need for such a safeguard became glaringly obvious as a result of two high-profile cases in recent years. Darryl Hunt served 18 years in prison for the 1984 murder of a Winston-Salem newspaper employee before DNA evidence exonerated him in 2003. He was later pardoned by Easley. A jury acquitted Alan Gell, a death row inmate, in 2004 when he was retried for a 1995 killing. The retrial came after it was revealed that prosecutors withheld key evidence.

Both men lost years of their lives for crimes they didn’t commit. That such a miscarriage of justice could happen is horrifying and calls for a greater measure of insurance that adequate safeguards exist to prevent it from recurring. The innocence commission provides another level of security that those who are wrongly convicted will have an opportunity to clear their names if they can produce evidence that wasn’t considered at trial.

The commission will even hear cases of prisoners who originally pleaded guilty, but they must wait for two years to submit their claims. The state’s district attorneys opposed the final bill because it included this provision, but anyone who is familiar with the court system knows that the pressure to plead guilty to get a reduced sentence could easily lead an innocent person, fearful of conviction and a far harsher punishment, to accept a plea bargain. In fact, such deals were offered to Darryl Hunt, but he steadfastly maintained his innocence and refused opportunities to plead guilty in exchange for reduced time in prison including a plea bargain in 1990 that would have released him for time served.

The creation of an innocence commission demonstrates a commitment to getting it right. That protects not only those wrongly accused, it protects us as citizens from having the state commit a heinous miscarriage of justice in our name.

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Background to the Gell case (report from 2004)

What the prosecutors did in the first Alan Gell trial is criminal. An investigation into this matter should be launched and heads should roll if it is found that evidence was deliberately withheld from Mr. Gell's first trial.

News Editor Cal Bryant covered the questions pretty succinctly in his column Tuesday, but this is so outrageous it needs to be rehashed. Bryant covered the trial and has spoken with most of the people involved. Here are the questions he (and I) would like answered:

"Did the state waste their time and effort, not to mention taxpayer's dollars, in their pursuit of Gell as the triggerman, even though there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime? Did criminal investigators stop short of completing their inquiries into the murder after assuming Gell's guilt prior to his arrest? What happens to Crystal Morris and Shanna Hall after they are released from prison? According to the new jury, it's apparent they didn't believe the testimony of these two girls. Doesn't that break their plea bargain to 'provide truthful testimony?' Can they be subject to a trial? Are they covering for someone else? Who did kill Allen Ray Jenkins?"

Indeed, who killed Allen Ray Jenkins is the question we and his family will apparently not get answered. Some still believe Gell committed the murder, but how could he when so many people saw Mr. Jenkins alive well after Gell was incarcerated for an unrelated crime?

There is a great deal that stinks about this case, but we'll never find the source of the malodor because Attorney General Roy Cooper has closed the case.

Case closed? Based on evidence presented at the new trial, Gell didn't commit this murder. All Cooper and the state has is the word of two girls who had a great deal to gain by saying someone else committed the murder.

They're going to be out of jail this time next year unless, as Bryant suggests, their deal with prosecutors be torn up based upon the new innocent verdict - a verdict which was correct and proper and, frankly, unavoidable based on the testimony of forensics experts and the dozen or so folks who saw Jenkins alive days after he was supposed to have been murdered.

How can Cooper possibly justify not launching an investigation?

Not only should an investigation be launched into who killed Allen Ray Jenkins - an investigation that would start with the state tearing up the plea agreements with the state's two witnesses - but one should also be launched into the conduct of the prosecutors on the case.

But, as Bryant points out, there are politics involved.

The governor should step in and order the attorney general to reopen the case. Ooops, that's not likely to happen, is it? Guess who was attorney general when Gell was convicted in kangaroo court (no offense intended to the judge, jury, defense attorneys, and Bertie County court personnel involved in the first trial)?

That right, former Attorney General Mike Easley, currently the governor of our great state, was in charge of the prosecution team assigned to convict Gell. That's right, the prosecutors were sent from Raleigh to convict Gell, not to seek justice for the brutal murder of Mr. Jenkins.

You reckon he'll admit that his people withheld critical evidence - very nearly causing an innocent man to be executed? If he puts ethics, morals, integrity and justice ahead of political and personal ambition he will call for a thorough investigation into prosecutorial misconduct and the murder of Allen Ray Jenkins.

If that means some now prominent Democrats - including the governor and attorney general - get embroiled in an embarrassment, so be it.

Justice is supposed to be blind. A jury has now weighed ALL the evidence and found the state's case against Mr. Gell untenable. He is innocent. Will justice in this case be pursued?

Sending an innocent man to death row by withholding evidence is not just lamentable, it is unconscionable. It is criminal. Yet, nothing is being done to seek justice. The people of North Carolina have spent thousands of dollars to convict a man the prosecutors knew could not be found guilty if all the evidence were presented. The people of North Carolina spent hundreds of thousands of dollars holding a man in a death row jail cell for four years who should not have been there.

And then the people of North Carolina spent several more thousand dollars to try a man for a murder no sane jury would convict him of given the evidence.

This is a far more important issue than the harm done to Alan Gell. It is even far more critical than finding the person or persons who murdered Allen Ray Jenkins.

What has been done here strikes at the very heart of our judicial system. When prosecutors utilize the power of the state to seek a conviction rather than to seek justice, we are all put at risk. We rely on our law enforcement and judicial officials to put aside what they believe so that justice can prevail. When the system breaks down - as all systems sometimes do - it must be fixed.

Cooper's refusal to pursue this matter further means he's leaving the system broken and in shambles.

This is an outrage not only to ordinary citizens, but most especially to the fine men and women serving this state in the judicial system. Integrity, honesty and ethics define nearly everyone associated with law enforcement and the court systems. In the Roanoke-Chowan area - including Bertie County - some of our best and brightest serve as judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, deputies, bailiffs, court reporters, etc.

Every one of these fine people is now tarnished by Cooper's refusal to seek justice because of political considerations. The Bertie County Courthouse was used as a kangaroo court nearly a decade ago and, even though Gell got a second chance, it is still stained by the reprehensible actions of a team sent here from Raleigh.

Until the truth about all aspects of this case is revealed in the full light of day, that stain remains.

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