Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Cleared Bridgewater pair win full payout

Two men wrongly convicted of murdering 13-year-old newspaper boy Carl Bridgewater in Wordsley, West Midlands, are appealing against "living expenses" deducted from compensation. Michael Hickey and his cousin, Vincent, had their convictions quashed in 1997. They spent 18 years in jail after being convicted in 1979 for the shooting of Carl in 1978 at Yew Tree Farm. The Home Office-appointed assessor Lord Brennan QC awarded Hickey 990,000 pounds and Vincent 506,000, subject to an appeal ruling of 25 per cent deductions.

The cousins are appealing against a Court of Appeal ruling that the Independent Assessor was entitled to make a 25 per cent deduction from compensation for loss of earnings made to victims of long-running miscarriage of justice cases to reflect the necessities of life which they would have had to buy from their wages had they been at liberty.

It is contrary to justice and common sense for the Home Office to deduct "living expenses" from compensation paid to men who spend years in jail because of miscarriages of justice, the House of Lords was told on Monday. Barrister Philip Engelman told five Law Lords: "It is revolting to the ordinary man's sense of justice to have a wrongfully convicted person effectively being asked to pay for his board and lodgings during the time he was incarcerated." Mr Engelman said the deductions added "insult to injury" to men who had spent years in jail because of a miscarriage of justice.

The Home Office is trying to benefit from something which had been imposed on the men, he told the panel of Law Lords headed by Lord Bingham. "We say that there should be generous compensation as a matter of domestic law and international law and it is an antithesis of such generosity to deduct from the men the costs of their accommodation."

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Background excerpt below. The pair were jailed on the basis of evidence fabricated by police -- police who were, of course, never brought to justice for their deeds. The real murderer has never been found

For the evidence which eventually led to the men's release showed tampering on a criminal scale. Mr Molloy always claimed that he had been tricked and intimidated into signing a false confession. He was shown a confession that one of the other co-accused, Vincent Hickey, had allegedly signed. The new evidence produced to the Court of Appeal showed that the Hickey "confession" had been forged by policemen from the No 4 Regional Crime Squad.

The evidence arose out of an "Esda" test on Mr Molloy's confession, which revealed the imprint of the forged signature written on the page above. Since Mr Hickey was several miles away in another police station, being questioned by different detectives, the confession could not have been genuine. Mr Molloy's claim that he had been shown this forgery was never believed in the many reviews of the case since 1978.

Tragically, the Hickey signature was discovered in 1990, but until two weeks ago nobody realised its significance. Great credit should go to Jim Nichol, solicitor to the men, who decided to go back over all the evidence in preparation for their latest appeal. Mr Molloy's confession was always crucial to the case against all three men since there was no forensic evidence linking them to the scene, no murder weapon and no witnesses.

The West Midlands Serious Crime Squad, which included the detective who falsified Mr Hickey's signature, was wound up in 1989 after evidence came to light of other fabricated confessions and planted evidence in 23 cases during the 1980s.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007


The decayed British cops of today don't care much about anybody or anything -- but woe betide you if you try to help yourself!

After police showed little interest in investigating a burglary at his home, Dr Otto Chan decided to take action himself to retrieve the stolen property. He pinned up posters around his neighbourhood offering a reward for anyone who returned the computers, Christmas presents and priceless family photographs. So the 50-year-old radiologist was astonished when officers threatened to arrest him – for attempting to buy stolen goods. Police said he had breached the Theft Act by promising in the posters that there would be ‘no questions asked’.

Dr Chan, who has never been in trouble with the law, said last night: ‘It is ridiculous. ‘The police couldn’t even be bothered to send an officer to see me about the burglary but as soon as I try and get my own property back they are straight on the phone warning I could be prosecuted.’ The ordeal began when Dr Chan, a father of six, returned from a two-week holiday in France on December 30. In the early hours of New Year’s Eve as the family slept, thieves smashed through the back door of his home in Belsize Park, North London. They grabbed three computers worth more than 3,000 pounds and a pile of unopened Christmas presents. The heist was especially heartbreaking because the laptops contained hundreds of precious photographs of his wife Zaide, 35, their children and his grandchild, as well as the text of more than 150 lectures on radiology.

Dr Chan said the Metropolitan Police did not send a single uniformed officer to investigate the crime, although a forensics expert paid a visit to dust for fingerprints and DNA evidence. But when he started putting up the posters, he claimed the police suddenly developed an interest in the case. He said: ‘When my wife and I discovered the burglary, we rang the police and they didn’t want to know. ‘Five hours afterwards, after complaining, they sent a single forensics expert round, but they said no police officer was available to investigate thefts or break-ins. ‘I was astonished because we are close to three police stations. ‘The forensics person was very nice but they effectively told me, “I wouldn’t hold your breath for your belongings”.

‘I didn’t hear anything else from them and I was appalled. ‘I have lost ten years of family photos and 20 years of work. It has been heartbreaking. ‘I put out an advert offering a reward on railings, in streets and even on trees locally. ‘I was offering a huge reward, no questions asked. ‘Then a couple of weeks later I got a phone call from the police warning that I could be prosecuted for trying to buy stolen goods.

‘I said that they had not done very much to get my things back. ‘They said that they had everything under control, but I pointed out to them they had not even come round to take the serial numbers of the computers.’

Under section 23 of the Theft Act 1968, it is illegal to advertise rewards for return of goods stolen or lost using words to the effect that no questions will be asked. Anyone convicted faces a fine of up to 100 pounds and will get a criminal record.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: ‘Police explained that any reward should be organised with police liaison to ensure no offences would be committed inadvertently by the victims. ‘Forensic officers have attended the venue and we await the results of this visit.’

The Mail revealed this month how the Met was refusing to send officers to burglaries if the culprit had fled the scene – instead dispatching civilian ‘scenes of crime’ staff to examine for signs of a break-in. Senior officers claim this actually improves detection rates because potential clues such as fingerprints or DNA evidence are retrieved sooner.

Dr Chan’s case is the latest in a series of bizarre police investigations. A pub landlady from Somerset was investigated by police last June for inciting racial hatred. Her ‘crime’ was to devise a St George’s Day celebration featuring children throwing homemade arrows at the dragon on a Welsh flag. In early 2006, the crown prosecution service was forced to drop public order charges against an Oxford University student for calling a mounted policeman’s horse ‘gay’. A police spokesman later said that the remarks had been ‘offensive to the policeman and his horse’.

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Monday, January 29, 2007


Northwestern University's Center for Wrongful Convictions has filed an appeal of Alan Beaman's murder conviction and 50 year prison sentence for the strangling and stabbing death of ISU student Jennifer Lockmiller in 1993.

Attorney Karen Daniel says she's never seen a case with more circumstantial evidence that wound up in a conviction. She thinks the high court might also consider the face the appeals court justices differed 2-to-1 when they twice considered the case and that there was a very strong dissent from the opposing justice who said the conviction should be thrown out.

Daniel says a key detective also withheld information about a time-line test using an alternativedriving route from Normal to Rockford that would have made it impossible for Beaman to have been in town to commit the murder of his former girlfriend.

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Now, I need to admit my bias. I went to high school with Alan, sat behind him in Geometry and English, talked with him on occasion, and always thought of him as upbeat, smart, kind and slackful. While Derf wrote of his creepy experiences in high school with Jeffrey Dahmer, my interactions with Alan were the exact opposite; Alan was the kind of guy who was into bands like They Might Be Giants, The Cure, had a focus on theater production; he seemed to have a pretty stable life. If I'm not mistaken, Alan was voted "Most School Spirit" in our graduating class.

Right now, Alan is serving a 50 year sentence for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Lockmiller -- convicted in a case for which the prosecutor admits there was no physical evidence, no eyewitness, and no confession linking Alan to the crime. In addition, evidence giving Alan an alibi several hours away from the scene of the crime at his parents' home and other evidence pointing to another potential suspect was neglected in his initial trial. In spite of all of this, Alan lost his original appeal, and the Illinois Supreme Court had previously refused the reopening of his case.

I was mortified, reading newspaper accounts of the original trial (not on the web, since it occurred in the mid-90's), at the way that Alan's character was questioned -- arguments between him and his girlfriend that seemed normal and reasonable for any fading college relationship were being used to vilify him and provide the prosecutors with a motive, similar to the way the prosecution used involvement with Wicca and heavy metal music as the focus of the argument against the West Memphis Three. I'm concerned that the Discovery Channel documentary on Alan's case, referenced in my first link and airing this Saturday, will do the same and go for sheer sensationalism.

The huge number of exonerations of the innocent in Illinois over the past 20 years is rather frightening, so frightening that Governor George Ryan -- previously in favor of capital punishment -- called a moratorium on the death penalty in 2000 after more people on death row had been exonerated than put to death

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Sunday, January 28, 2007


I was stunned when I read that Gary Steven Krist, who buried Barbara Jane Mackle alive for over three days in Georgia in 1969, not only was released after serving 10 years of a life sentence, but was pardoned so that he could get a medical degree. What in the world is wrong with the justice system?

Other than the O.J. Simpson fiasco, this is just the most horrendous miscarriage of justice I have ever seen. How any court or prison system could let this man out after 10 years, much less pardon him so that he could study medicine, is the craziest thing I have ever heard.

He practiced medicine in Indiana before his license was revoked in 2003 as a result of lying about disciplinary action received during his residency. Would you want to have as your physician someone who had kidnapped and buried a girl alive?

In March 2006 Krist and his stepson were arrested after Georgia police found an underground drug lab for manufacturing cocaine buried beneath a shed on his property, so, obviously, he is still into "burying" things. They were arrested on a sailboat off Alabama's coast with over 38 pounds of cocaine (about $1 million worth). On May 16, 2006, he pled guilty to drug smuggling, and on Jan. 19 he was sentenced to more than five years in prison. God help us all.

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Gary Steven Krist regards himself as the Einstein of crime. But Albert Einstein, with his measly theory of relativity, was a one-trick pony by comparison. Krist's criminal accomplishments are far more diverse-grand theft auto, prison escape, fraud, kidnapping for ransom and, most recently, cocaine importation and illegal immigrant smuggling.

He began by stealing cars before he could legally drive them. He had been incarcerated in three different states by age 18. He broke out of prison in California and fled across the country, where he managed to live under a pseudonym while working at two prestigious universities.

Next came his magnum opus, the "perfect crime" he planned while still a callow stripling. In one of the most audacious and notorious crimes of the 1960s, at age 23, he kidnapped a young heiress in Atlanta and buried her alive in an underground capsule he had designed. While the country held its breath, Krist and his mistress sidekick extracted a $500,000 ransom from the woman's father, a Florida real estate magnate and friend of President Nixon. Miraculously, the young woman survived a harrowing 83 hours underground.

But Krist wasn't as clever as he thought. His getaway plan collapsed, and he was apprehended after a dragnet pinned him down on a Florida mangrove island. Krist narrowly escaped a death sentence and was sent away to prison - "for life," according to the judge's decree. But life was short in those days.

Krist pulled one of the great flimflams in American prison history by convincing a gullible Georgia parole official that he was rehabilitated. Vowing to become a missionary, Krist waltzed out of prison after barely 10 years of confinement for a sickening crime that could have cost him his life.

His missionary work didn't pan out. Although it took awhile, Krist's path inevitably led back to crime. In the spring of 2006, a police greeting party was waiting at a dock near Mobile, Ala., when Krist returned from a two-month trip aboard a rented sailboat. Authorities found 38 pounds of cocaine on board, as well as four illegal South Americans who had paid handsomely for passage to the United States. An investigation revealed that he had been selling the cocaine in Georgia-the state that naively gave him the free pass out of prison years ago. And in an eerie echo from the kidnapping case, Krist had constructed an underground cocaine-processing lab at his home near Auburn, Ga.

Now 61, he has pleaded guilty to multiple federal offenses and faces another life sentence. His next departure from prison may be in a pine box. Gary Krist lacked education, family direction, motivation, money and a moral compass. But he never lacked self-confidence.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Britain: Man convicted of Oki murder innocent, says legal expert

A legal expert who has spent months investigating the murder of South Korean language student Jong Ok Shin says the man jailed for her death is innocent. Barry Loveday, reader in criminal justice studies at Portsmouth University, is convinced Omar Benguit is innocent and has been the victim of a major miscarriage of justice.

Jong Ok Shin, affectionately known as Oki to friends, was stabbed three times in the back as she walked along Malmesbury Park Road, Charminster, on July 12, 2002, following a night out with friends.

Benguit was jailed for life in January 2005 after being convicted of the murder of Oki and was told he would have to serve at least 20 years before being considered for parole. Unusually, it was the third time he had stood trial accused of her murder after two previous juries had failed to reach a verdict. In July 2005 he appealed against his conviction but three judges at the Court of Appeal rejected his bid. A petition to the House of Lords was also refused.

Benguit's family have fought tirelessly to clear his name and have now sought the help of Mr Loveday. He was asked to review the case on behalf of the family, who have gained access to a large number of evidential files. He spent several months investigating the murder and has prepared a 17-page report outlining the reasons why he believes Benguit was wrongly jailed for murder. He believes he should be released and the Oki murder inquiry reopened. "I am genuinely of the view there has been a serious miscarriage of justice here and nothing I have read or heard would change my opinion of it. "I think the whole thing is bizarre. The key witness in the case was a prostitute whose extraordinary version of events is just not believable."

He said her claims of being gang-raped were discredited by a jury and Benguit's co-defendant Nick Gbadamosi, who was charged with rape of the main witness and assisting a murderer, was also cleared by a jury. Mr Loveday added: "The case against Omar Benguit is simply not credible and is not backed up by any forensic evidence. "Shortly before she died, the victim said her attacker was wearing a mask but the key witness makes no such mention of a mask. "I am deeply troubled by this case. I believe the real killer was not caught and that he still poses a threat to women in the area."

The family will now send Mr Loveday's report to Dorset Police and the Criminal Cases Review Commission. Superintendent Phil James, of Dorset Police, said: "Clearly Mr Benguit has been found guilty by a jury in the crown court. I have asked for a copy of Mr Loveday's paper and as yet he won't release it to me. I couldn't comment any further." Benguit's case has now been taken on by the Miscarriage of Justice Organisation (MOJO) which believes it is one of the most serious miscarriages of justice they have come across.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Porn pop-ups may land teacher in prison

A substitute teacher in Norwich, Conn., faces up to 40 years in prison because of pornographic images that popped up on her classroom computer in 2004. Several students at Kelly Middle School in Norwich saw the images appear. The teacher, Julie Amero, was convicted by a jury earlier this month on four counts of risk of injury to a minor. She is slated to be sentenced on March 2 in Norwich Superior Court. The prosecution insists that Amero actively visited the sexually explicit Web sites, Assistant State's Attorney David J. Smith told the Norwich Bulletin.

Others, however, argue that Amero's conviction and the penalty she faces are a travesty of justice. Her lawyer, and several computer security experts, say that Amero was the victim of spyware and Web sites that were programmed to display an incessant stream of pop-ups, including explicit ones. "We analyzed the activity log and noted that there were spyware/adware programs installed on the hard drive," W. Herbert Horner, a computer consultant who testified for Amero, wrote on a blog published Monday. Horner said he wasn't allowed to deliver full testimony during trial. "If there is an appeal and the defense is allowed to show the entire results of the forensic examination in front of experienced computer people, including a computer literate judge and prosecutor, Julie Amero will walk out of the court room as a free person," he wrote.

Security experts who were not part of the trial have also come to Amero's defense. One of them is Alex Eckelberry, chief executive of antispyware company Sunbelt Software. "It's clear that we have a miscarriage of justice here," he wrote on his company's blog. "The forensic evidence and expert testimony showed clearly that after a visit to, someone went to a site about hair styles which loaded a javascript that spawned pop-ups." Eckelberry also penned an editorial for the local paper in Norwich. Amero's attorney is planning an appeal after sentencing, the newspaper reported.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007


OKLAHOMA CITY -- A man who spent 15 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit has settled with the city for $4 million over botched testimony by a police chemist. The City Council approved a resolution Tuesday admitting no liability in the settlement of a federal lawsuit filed by Jeffrey Todd Pierce, who was released from prison in 2001 based on DNA testing.

The testing showed sperm and hairs taken from the scene of a rape at an apartment complex could not have been his. The police chemist, Joyce Gilchrist [above], testified in 1986 that hair left by the rapist was "microscopically consistent" with Pierce's hair. Gilchrist was fired in 2001 after investigations of her work in a number of cases. An FBI report found that Gilchrist misidentified hair and fibers in at least six criminal cases and gave testimony that went beyond what her science showed. Gilchrist's attorney, Melvin Hall, did not immediately return phone messages Wednesday.

Pierce's attorney, Clark Brewster, also did not immediately return phone message for comment Wednesday. Councilman Pete White said the settlement was good for taxpayers and also fair to Pierce. "The city could have been hit for much more," White said. "This guy was wronged, there's no two ways about it. He had no record at all. He was completely clean. He was an innocent man."

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Background on the Pierce case:

The Jeffrey Todd Pierce case began on May 8, 1985 when a woman temporarily residing in Oklahoma City was raped. Events involved and the actions of various parties involved were detailed in a Daily Oklahoman news report dated 5/06/01 and titled, Report expected to clear convict

On May 8, 1985, she was leaving to go to work when she noticed a man looking at her who quickly disappeared into the bushes. She thought the man was holding a yard tool, so she assumed he worked at the apartment complex.

When she returned to her apartment about noon, she discovered a window had been broken and the apartment was in disarray. Her attacker appeared from another room, threatening her with a knife and overpowering her.

The victim thought her attacker was the same man she had seen outside her apartment earlier that day. Pierce was a groundskeeper at the apartment complex and working the day of the attack.

Up to this point the details of the incident as reported in the referenced article would suggest that the apartment groundskeeper was a likely suspect. However, the following casts grievous doubts:

The patrol officer who first responded that day pointed out Pierce to the victim while she was sitting in the squad car. He asked her if there was any possibility Pierce was the attacker. She replied, "I don't think so."

Keep that "I don't think so." in mind as you read the remainder of this web page

A detective wrote in a police report two months later that it was his "personal feeling" that the rapist was a maintenance man or groundskeeper.

Pierce, who had no prior criminal history, was arrested 10 months after the attack when the victim did identify him from a photo line-up as the rapist.

On the day of the attack when asked if Mr. Pierce was the attacker, the victim stated "I don't think so.". Two months later a police detective's "personal feeling" dictated it was a maintenance man or groundskeeper and eight months later still the victim decides she was wrong originally and it was Mr. Pierce that raped her. The referenced news report went on to indicate

Pierce, then 24, was tried in October 1986 before DNA analysis technology existed. He was identified as the assailant by the victim, who told jurors, "I will never forget his face." Pierce had two witnesses who said he was at lunch with them when the rape occurred.

How does one get from "I don't think so." to "I will never forget his face." without "help", lots of help? And just what party or parties supplied that help? Further quoting that Daily Oklahoman report

Gilchrist testified at the trial that 28 scalp hairs and three pubic hairs from the crime scene were all "microscopically consistent" with Pierce's hair. Jurors were told Gilchrist spent six days making the hair comparisons.

Prosecutor Barry Albert drove home the importance of the hair evidence in closing arguments, telling jurors the odds would be "totally astronomical" for Gilchrist to have made a mistake.

When Mr. Pierce's appeals attorney pointed out to the Oklahoma Appeals Court that Gilchrist had refused the trial judge's order to turn hair samples over to an independent lab for testing, the Oklahoma Appeals Court ruled that Gilchrist absolutely violated that order but refused to order a new trial. The court said the defense had an "equal obligation" to make sure the order was obeyed.

A conviction which in hindsight resulted in the following comment from Mr. Roy D. Orr, one of the Pierce jurors:

"I feel like I was part of a scam. The evidence wasn't correct and we counted on the police department and forensic specialists to be honest and truthful, and that wasn't the case".

"I feel like everyone was done an injustice, especially Jeffrey. He was very young. His wife was very young and they had little babies. Where would he have been if this wouldn't have happened?"

On August 29th, 2001 both the Tulsa World and the Daily Oklahoman carried reports of an announcement from Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation revealing the evidence used to falsely convict Jeffrey Todd Pierce matches the DNA profile of a prison inmate now serving 45 years for rape and robbery. The fact that the statute of limitations has expired on the crime for which Mr. Pierce was falsely convicted likely means the real culprit will likely never be charged with the crime for which Mr. Pierce spent 15 years in prison.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007


But is often not done

Dallas County's emergence as a national leader in DNA exonerations of wrongfully convicted men raises fresh questions about the quality of justice the court system has dispensed over the past three decades. Whether 12 innocent lives were shattered because of honest human error or overreaching by prosecutors remains to be determined. Craig Watkins, the county's new district attorney, said last week that he would investigate.

But, ironically, the high number of exonerations would not have occurred had Dallas County not had a policy of preserving - sometimes for more than 20 years - the biological evidence required for genetic testing. Dallas has had more DNA exonerations than any other county in the U.S. - 12 since 2001, according to the Innocence Project, a New York-based nonprofit legal clinic dedicated to freeing those wrongfully convicted. The county accounts for half of Texas' 24 DNA exonerations, the group said. By comparison, Illinois has had 26 DNA exonerations and New York state 21.

The latest example of new DNA tests overturning old cases came last week for 50-year-old James Waller, who was convicted of raping a 12-year-old boy in 1982 - a crime he said he never committed. State District Judge John Creuzot apologized at Waller's hearing and said he anticipated one more DNA exoneration in his court.

Barry Scheck, the New York attorney who co-founded the Innocence Project, said Dallas County's rate of wrongful convictions was "very, very high," but he could not explain the reasons for it. "It could be something as simple as we find the evidence more here," Scheck said after the hearing. "I suspect other cities could have numbers that high if we could find other evidence," he added. The lack of evidence available for testing around the country is routinely cited by advocates as one of the biggest obstacles to winning exonerations. More than half the time, evidence has been lost or destroyed.

But with the district attorney's backing, Dallas County's forensic lab long ago established a policy to maintain evidence indefinitely. The policy existed for at least a dozen years before state law lengthened the time biological evidence had to be retained. Dr. Tim Sliter, chief of physical evidence at the county-run Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences, estimated his lab has at least seven freezers full of rape kits and other biological evidence, each containing 10,000 samples dating to the early 1980s. The lab has a policy of never consuming a sample in a DNA test, and it never destroys evidence. "It's basically just good practice," Sliter said.

John Rolater, who until recently handled post-conviction DNA applications for the district attorney's appellate section, said the approach to evidence was "keep everything forever" in case it might be needed for a retrial. "It was more of a law enforcement motive, but it turns out to benefit everybody," said Rolater, now an assistant district attorney in Collin County.

Ten of the 12 Dallas County convictions invalidated by DNA occurred in or before 1989, when the first exoneration in the country took place in Chicago. No state or local law enforcement agency is required to keep statistics on how often evidence has been available for DNA testing by those convicted. Records of the Texas Department of Public Safety, which conducts the bulk of post-conviction DNA tests around the state, show that Dallas County cases accounted for 26 of the 112 tests processed since 1999 - twice the number of more populous Harris County. The DPS statistics do not explain the differences in numbers between counties.

Including work by private labs, 32 Dallas County cases have undergone post-conviction DNA testing, the district attorney's office said. Twelve produced exonerations, nine affirmed the defendant's guilt, and six are pending. Tests in five cases were inconclusive. The cases where testing was ordered represent about 7 percent of the 464 applications submitted to Dallas County felony court judges since passage of a 2001 law that allowed for post-conviction genetic analysis.

To be granted a test, the law requires a convicted person to prove that identification was an element in his or her case, that evidence for DNA testing still exists and that the evidence, if known at the time, would have prevented the conviction. Defense attorneys have complained that the law places too heavy a burden of proof on those convicted and that prosecutors routinely object to testing requests, which can effectively delay action, sometimes for years.

David Dow, director of the Innocence Network at the University of Houston Law Center, estimated thousands of felons have applied for genetic tests but said less than 100 of those applications have been granted by the courts. "It's not that a lot have been denied," Dow said. "A lot of these cases sit there, and there's nobody there to move them." Dow characterized the 12 DNA exonerations in Dallas as a "staggering" number. But he would not predict a larger number of wrongful convictions in Dallas County than any other jurisdiction. It's just that in Dallas "the evidence exists, and the judges are ordering testing," he said.

The dozen Dallas County convictions overturned by DNA over the past six years involve sexual assault or murder cases prosecuted between 1981 and 2000. A common thread in each is an eyewitness identification corroborated by little or shaky forensic evidence and no DNA test. According to Scheck, eyewitness identifications are a crucial factor in about 75 percent of all wrongful convictions overturned by post-conviction DNA evidence. Nine of the cases were prosecuted during the last four years of Henry Wade's legendary tenure as district attorney, which ended in 1986. His office had a national reputation for hardball tactics, high conviction rates and stiff punishment pleas. Critics often alleged that Wade's prosecutors prized conviction rates over their oaths to uphold justice - a charge the DA's office routinely denied.

The first in a series of nationally publicized, non-DNA exonerations - the case of convicted robber Lenell Geter - came to light during Wade's final year in office. That case was soon followed by those of Randall Dale Adams, a convicted cop killer, and Joyce Ann Brown, a convicted robber. All were prosecuted under Wade and involved witness testimony that was later discredited.

Randy Schaffer, a Houston defense attorney who represented both Adams and Waller, contended a win-at-all-costs attitude of prosecutors is coming back to haunt Dallas County. "The pool of applicants (for DNA testing) is that much larger because there were so many dirty prosecutions," Schaffer said.

Wade's successors, John Vance and Bill Hill, worked as prosecutors in his office and openly admired the folksy, cigar-chewing icon known as "The Chief." Both continued many of Wade's policies but vowed not to tolerate outlaw prosecutors. Two DNA exonerations occurred on Vance's term; one was on Hill's. Toby Shook was an assistant under all three men. He conceded that some prosecutors could be close-minded and that many believed in eyewitness identifications. But the Dallas office was not that different from most other prosecution offices, he said. "I never knew of anybody that would willingly try to prosecute innocent people," said Shook, who left for private practice after losing the district attorney's race.

Watkins, who became the county's first black district attorney when he was sworn in Jan. 1, has never worked in the office. He campaigned on a pledge to restore credibility to the prosecutor's office. Watkins was present in court last week when Waller was exonerated, as well as on Jan. 2 for the DNA exoneration of Andrew Gossett. He apologized to both men, an act that veteran observers of wrongful conviction cases called unprecedented.

He, too, wonders how many more wrongful convictions may surface. "When you look at the facts of all the folks exonerated, you have to question whether past administrations had the best interests of the citizens in mind," he said. "I would hope that they did, but it may have been that they were overzealous." Watkins said he plans to have the 12 exonerations reviewed to see if any patterns emerge. If they do, he may order a broader review of cases where DNA evidence could have made a difference in the outcome. Jeff Blackburn, another of Waller's attorneys and a director of the Texas Innocence Project, said he is encouraged by Mr. Watkins' apparent willingness to give serious consideration to requests for post-conviction DNA tests. "I think if you are wrongly convicted, Dallas is a good place to be," he said.

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More on the Waller case:

A man who served more than 10 years on a rape conviction received an apology today from a judge. James Waller is the 12th Dallas County man in 5 years to be proven innocent through DNA testing. "On behalf of any and every public official in office at that time, I want to apologize to you," Judge John Creuzot spoke those words to 50-year-old Waller. Waller spent half of his life paying the price of a horrible crime he didn't commit.

"We are here to enter into the record, and make known to the world, the results of state of the art DNA testing, which proves that he is actually innocent," Waller's attorney, Nina Morrison, said. Attorneys with the Innocence Project presented the Dallas County judge with DNA testing that exonerates Waller as the rapist of a 12-year-old boy in 1982. "I just want to thank God that the Innocence Project took the time out to hear my case," Waller said.

Waller served nearly 11 years of a 30 year sentence, followed by another 13 years of strict probation as a registered sex offender. His life scarred by the false accusation, Waller told the courtroom he was not angry. "I just wish and pray that the kid would know who did the crime and know he made a mistake," Waller said.

"He made this identification by the eyes and by voice," attorney Barry Scheck said. "It was a very weak case to begin with." Scheck's Innocence Project offered the expensive DNA testing that cleared Waller. That's the 12th Dallas County man they've exonerated in just five years. With his family around him, Waller accepted a hug from the judge before beginning a new life at 50. For a man who lost so much time, his dreams are simple. "Find me a nice place to live and hopefully get married again," Waller said. "It's a new year and I'm a whole new person."

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Just one crime in every hundred now leads to the offender being caught, charged and punished by the courts, latest statistics reveal. The Home Office's own figures showed crime on the rise last year and more criminals being caught by police, yet the numbers being sent before the court dropped sharply by eight per cent year-on-year.

Opposition critics blamed the dramatic rise in the use of 'summary justice' - instant fines or cautions and warnings handed out by the police - and accused the Government of creating an 'arbitrary' justice system, letting off hundreds of thousands of criminals with punishments no tougher than a parking ticket.

In the year to June 2006 the British Crime Survey measured 11,016,000 offences against adults living in households in England and Wales - up from 10,912,000 in 2005. However an analysis by independent statisticians - accepted by the Home Office - shows that the British Crime Survey counts only a third of all crimes as it ignores all offences against businesses including shoplifting, 'victimless' crimes such as drug possession and any offences committed against under-16s.

The number of criminals caught and dealt with by police rose by six per cent year-on-year from 1,428,000 to 1,516,000. Yet the number of offenders charged and sent before the courts - magistrates or crown courts -fell by eight per cent from 453,000 to 423,000. More than 80,000 court cases were dropped or discontinued due to suspects or witnesses failing to show up, and the number actually sentenced in courts dropped five per cent from 317,000 to 306,000 - less than one per cent of the estimated 33million-plus crimes each year. Most were given fines or community punishments and the number sent to jail fell from 80,000 to 76,000 last year.

Meanwhile soaring numbers of crimes were diverted into the 'instant' justice system. The use of police cautions or on-the-spot fines rose by more than 200,000 year-on-year. Ministers are encouraging greater use of these rapid punishments even for relatively serious crimes such as shoplifting, to avoid clogging up the courts and to ease the prison overcrowding crisis. The police also tend to favour instant punishments as they involve less red-tape than a criminal prosecution but still count as 'solved' crimes, helping them meet Home Office targets.

But critics claim the policy represents an increasingly soft approach which merely encourages repeat offending, while up to a third of fines are never paid. The number of fixed penalty notices handed out by police is rising fast with 146,481 in the year to March, more than double the previous year's total of 63,639.

Ministers faced fierce criticism recently for extending the use of 80 spot fines - introduced four years ago - to cover shoplifting offences up to a value of 200 pounds. Since the law on cannabis was relaxed three years ago police have stopped arresting most users and instead given them a warning - which counts as a 'detected' offence but carries no criminal record. Last year 66,000 cannabis users received such warnings instead of being charged, up from just 39,000 a year earlier.

Numbers of Penalty Notices for Disorder - spot fines for yobbish and anti-social behaviour - have also rocketed to 110,000 in the year to March, up from just 49,000 a year earlier. And the use of cautions by police as an alternative to bringing charges rocketed by 22 per cent 327,000 year-on-year.

Cautions can be handed out for burglary, assaults and possessing Class A drugs. Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, said: 'It is bad enough that so many people are committing crimes, it is outrageous that so many people are getting away with it. 'Labour have consistently undermined our criminal justice system by effectively decriminalising many crimes. 'The solution is to simplify and reform our criminal justice system so people can be properly and effectively punished, not to arbitrarily divert offenders into a system where serious crimes are punished with the equivalent of a parking ticket or warning note.'

Crime levels have begun rising since John Reid took over as Home Secretary in May - bringing to an end more than a decade of gradual falls. Muggings, low-level violence and drug possession are all on the rise after the Government relaxed the laws on drinking and cannabis, and scrapped a high-profile robbery crackdown.

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Monday, January 22, 2007


Vivid evidence of what is implied by: "We're from the government and we're here to help you". Bureaucratic imperatives swamp all sense, compassion and justice

Yvonne Coulter is on a high. Her teenage daughter, Tammy, has been arguing with her younger brother and the house is filled with excited shrieks. Their mother beams with pride. 'I asked them to help with the drying up and they started flicking each other with the dish towels. I watched them play-fight and just couldn't stop smiling. I thought: "This is the way it is meant to be." ' While most mothers would be admonishing teenagers for such noisy horseplay, Yvonne is loving every minute.

Seventeen years ago, when she was just 17 herself, the baby daughter she adored was wrenched from her by Social Services after bumping her head in an accident. Gauche, unworldly and terrified, Yvonne found herself trapped in a bureaucratic nightmare - forced to watch as her healthy and happy child was taken first into foster care and then adopted. But incredibly, after years of searching, Yvonne - a mother of three - has finally been reunited with her eldest daughter. Now a teenager, Tammy has chosen to leave her adoptive parents and live with Yvonne at her home in Ironville, Nottinghamshire.

Yvonne, 34, says: 'I can't stop touching her because I can't believe she's come back to me at last. 'When we walk down the street, we link arms and I keep thinking: "This is Yvonne Coulter and her teenage daughter." I'm so proud. 'I spent years missing her and worrying about her - wondering what her favourite food was, or how it would feel just to hold her little hand in mine. I used to look at her younger brother playing in the room, and wonder how they would get on. 'For years, I could only dream of being a normal family. Now we are together at last.'

Yvonne discovered she was pregnant 18 years ago, shortly after leaving school. She says: 'My boyfriend, Glynn, was my first love, but the pregnancy was unplanned and our relationship was already breaking up. When I told my parents, my dad calmly gave me the options. 'He said I could keep the baby, have a termination or have the baby adopted. The minute he mentioned adoption, I knew I could never face giving my own baby away. 'I chose to keep the baby, and although Glynn and I split up when I was four months' pregnant, mum and dad supported me.'

On March 16, 1989, Yvonne gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Cheri-Louise, and says: 'The second she was put in my arms, I felt an enormous rush of love. She was so beautiful - I couldn't believe she was mine. 'I stayed awake all night, gazing at the tiny baby beside me. I told her how pretty she was, how loved she was and I remember saying: "Mummy's always going to be by your side." '

Yvonne returned to the four-bedroom home she shared with her father Trevor, a factory worker, and mother June, a laboratory worker, and her younger sister. A close-knit family - Yvonne's parents have been married for 36 years - they helped her move into a council house four miles away when baby Cheri-Louise was a few months old. Yvonne says: 'It was tough being a young, single mother and at times I did struggle. I kept in touch with Glynn but he was only a teenager himself. I went from being a normal young teenager to an adult overnight and often I was exhausted. 'But my parents visited every day, and I adored my daughter. Motherhood just came to me naturally.'

But in October 1989, seven-month-old Cheri-Louise had an accident which was to change their lives for ever. 'I had a couple of friends around for a cup of tea one evening - a girlfriend I had known for years, and her boyfriend,' says Yvonne. 'Cheri was sitting in a bouncing baby chair. I went to fetch her bottle, and she leaned forward, tipping the chair. 'Almost in slow motion, she fell and bumped her cheek. She howled for a few moments, but then calmed down. There was a bruise on her cheek, and I kept waking throughout the night to check she was OK, but by morning she was fine.' A few days later, however, came a knock on the door.

'It was lunchtime, and I opened the door to find a middle-aged man in a suit,' says Yvonne. 'He said he was a social worker, and that there had been an anonymous call saying I may have caused injury to my child. 'To this day I don't know who rang Social Services, although recently an old friend said they'd always suspected another young mum who had desperately wanted a baby girl, but had given birth to a boy. I've no idea if this is true, as I barely knew her. 'I showed the man Cheri's cheek and explained the accident, but he said an appointment had been made for the baby to be examined by a GP. 'I was mystified, but I agreed to go to the surgery. I had been raised to respect my elders and this man was so authoritative that I just agreed to do as he said.'

That afternoon, the baby was stripped, examined and weighed by a GP, who declared her well-nourished, well cared for and above average weight. The social worker asked for a referral letter for the hospital, but the GP refused,' says Yvonne. 'I was told to leave the room, and five minutes later the social worker strode out. He was carrying a letter of referral to Derby Children's Hospital. 'The social worker drove me to the hospital in silence, and I remember shaking with fear. It was seven in the evening and I hadn't eaten since breakfast.

'I was crying so much I couldn't speak'

'A paediatrician took Cheri into a cubicle to examine the bruise on her cheek. I was told to leave and I staggered down the corridor to find a payphone. I rang home, and when Dad answered the phone I was crying so much I couldn't speak. 'When I returned to Cheri, the social worker said that a safety order had been placed on my daughter. If I tried to leave the hospital with my baby, I would be charged with kidnapping. 'I had been at the hospital for only half an hour - it all seemed like a hideous dream. Then the police arrived and I was taken to the station for questioning.' Yvonne was questioned for nearly eight hours - still with no food. She says: 'I had a drink, but I felt physically sick. The police decided that no charges would be brought against me.'

Yvonne's parents drove her home and, after a sleepless night, she returned to her daughter's ward next morning. 'I packed her a lovely little outfit to bring her home in, and almost ran into the ward. 'Cheri was sitting in her cot, crying. When she saw me she stuck her arm between the bars trying to reach me. I ran to her and hugged her, trying not to let her see that I was crying, too.' Yvonne stayed with her baby daughter for the rest of the day, joined by her parents.

'Finally, a female social worker walked in and said coldly that my daughter had been placed into foster care, and it was best if I leave,' she says. 'I started screaming: "I haven't done anything wrong." My mum and dad began to cry, but the woman was unmoved. I had to kiss Cheri goodbye, and my parents half-carried me out of the ward.' As she awaited a court hearing to decide her daughter's future, Yvonne was allowed to visit her baby each week at the foster carer's house.

'Cheri was always thrilled to see me, and I honestly thought it was just a matter of time before she came back to me. In those days, no one dared question authority. This was the era of the Cleveland child abuse scandal, when 95 children were wrongly taken from their homes. 'My parents kept telling me that the judge would see sense, and she would be returned.' Meanwhile, Yvonne found herself pregnant again, the result of a brief relationship. 'The baby was due in January 1991, but when I was eight months pregnant, Social Services told my solicitor they would put a place of safety order on the baby once it arrived,' she says.

'Within hours of that phone call, I had gone into premature labour.' Nineteen hours later, baby Cameron was born - not breathing. As doctors fought to resuscitate him, an extraordinary scene unfolded. 'I was lying on the hospital bed with my legs in stirrups and my body uncovered as the doctors and midwife tried to resuscitate my baby in a corner of the room,' says Yvonne. 'The door burst open and a paediatrician rushed in. Behind him came a male social worker, who walked to my bedside and tried to hand me papers, saying an order had been placed on my baby. I screamed and the doctors ordered him to leave the room as my baby was raced to the intensive care unit.' When Yvonne was taken in a wheelchair to see her son later that night, she refused to leave his side. 'I sat in a chair for three days, refusing to leave him. When I wanted to go to the toilet, I wheeled the incubator in with me, in case anyone tried to take him,' she says. On Christmas Eve, Yvonne returned to her parents' home with her baby.

Days later, Social Services made a court application for the baby to go into foster care. The judge rejected their case, giving Yvonne full parental rights. Now, she had to await a further court case to regain her daughter, still in foster care. But Social Services suddenly denied her access to the child. 'I had been seeing Cheri four times a week and bringing her to my parents' home each weekend,' says Yvonne. 'But in November 1990, a month before Cameron was born, we were suddenly told that access was being stopped. We actually had Cheri for the day when I was told. She was 17 months old and when I cuddled her for the last time and smelt her sweet little head, she still had her unmistakable baby smell. 'I buttoned up her little pink coat and told her that Mummy loved her - and then watched as they drove her away. It felt as if I was being ripped in two.'

Social Services delayed several court appearances, claiming files were not prepared, and when the case was finally heard in September 1992, two years had past. Cheri was by then three-and-a-half and Cameron - the brother she had never met - was a healthy and happy 21-month-old. 'The social worker claimed Cheri had been living with pre-adopters for the past 18 months and had bonded with them,' says Yvonne. 'I was stunned - it was the first time I had heard the term "adopters". 'Three hours later, the judge gave his verdict. He said: "Miss Coulter, if I return your daughter home, you will be a stranger to her. I am now freeing your child for adoption." 'It was the only reason he gave for not returning her to me, and I couldn't believe he could do it. 'I can't even remember the journey home - but I knew I had to be strong for Cameron, in case they decided to take him, too.'

With bitter irony, a new social worker declared herself happy with Yvonne's parenting skills, and Cameron's file was closed eight weeks after his sister was adopted. 'Surely if there were any doubts about my fitness as a parent then Cameron's file would have remained open?' says Yvonne.

'I was always too scared to smack Cameron'

'But it was impossible to have a normal life. I was always too scared to smack Cameron, and if he ever bruised himself I would race him to the GP. Each year on Cheri's birthday I would write her a card telling her how much I loved her and how much I missed her, and I have kept each one of them over the years. 'I hated birthdays and Christmas, because I felt such an aching loss. 'If a family moved into the area with a girl around Cheri's age, I would find myself staring at her, wondering if she was my little girl. 'I thought of her every day. As I ate lunch, I would suddenly start wondering if she enjoyed her school dinners. 'I wondered what colour was her favourite, how she liked her hair, what music she was into and if she looked like me. 'Most of all, I wondered what she knew about me - or if she thought I had abandoned her.'

Eleven years ago, Yvonne moved in with Paul, an exhaust fitter, and in July 2001, their daughter Kelis was born. Meanwhile, Yvonne launched the support group Unity Injustice to help other parents in the same situation. Just after Cheri's 16th birthday, Yvonne placed a message on the Genes Reunited website. 'I put her name, age and details of where she was born, saying that I hoped she was well and that I was looking for her,' she says. 'A year later, on the morning of January 17, 2006, I switched on my computer and suddenly found myself staring at an e-mail from my own daughter. 'Her name was now Tammy, she was happy, but she wanted to hear from me and left a mobile number. 'I burst into tears and it actually took me three hours to calm down enough to call. 'My hand was shaking so much I could hardly dial. When she answered the phone, I said "It's Mum here," and started to cry.

'She wept, too, but we spoke for about an hour. She told me she had enjoyed a middle-class upbringing in Sutton-on-Trent, about 35 miles from where I lived. 'She had always felt incomplete, and had been told her biological father had run off, and that as a baby she had always been in ambulances. I told her that she had never been in an ambulance and that Glynn and I were still friends. 'Tammy said she couldn't wait to meet me, so we arranged to see each other the next day. 'I couldn't sleep that night because I was so excited. I was also terrified in case I wasn't what she expected. 'We met near her home and as soon as she walked towards me I recognised her. We cried so much it was about ten minutes before we could even speak.

'I told her how she had been stolen from me - and she told me that her adoptive parents didn't know she had found me. She wanted to meet her biological father, too. He was thrilled when I rang him, and two days later, all three of us met. 'Within weeks, Tammy's adoptive parents discovered that she had been seeing us, and they were probably angry and hurt. 'Tammy didn't contact us for weeks and it was agony, because I just wanted her to be happy. 'I told her that I loved her and she didn't have to choose between us. But in July 2006, the phone rang and it was Tammy. She said simply: "I've made my decision. Can I come home?''' The following day, Tammy moved in with Yvonne, Paul and her younger brother and sister.

'We discovered we are so similar in many ways. We share the same mannerisms, we like the same clothes, we have the same shoe size and we both love the same food, especially curry,' says Yvonne. 'When we go out I love it when people say that we look alike. 'We also went back to visit Tammy's original foster mother, who gave me a bunch of flowers and told Tammy: "You should never have been taken. You should have been home with your mum." That meant so much to me.'

Tammy - studying health and beauty at college - says: 'I knew that my birth mum had kept my brother, and I always wondered why she had kept him and not me - it was so upsetting. My best friend saw Yvonne's message on Genes Reunited, and meeting Mum was the happiest day of my life. I waited eight weeks before telling my adoptive mum, and she turned her back on me. 'Then they stopped me using the internet and my mobile phone was confiscated to stop me having contact with Yvonne. 'So I finally decided to leave home and move in with my birth family. Since then, I can see the relationship between my mother, brother and sister and I can't help feeling as though I've missed out, no matter how much I fit in now. 'As a baby, I had a bruised cheek - and it cost me and my mother our future together.'

Yvonne, meanwhile, is busily making up for lost time. She says: 'This Christmas, I bought her so much because I wanted to make up for all the years I've missed. I treated her to a pretty manicure case, make-up, clothes and tongs for her beautiful hair. 'I spoil her rotten. That's what daughters are for, isn't it?' Mother and daughter are now taking legal action against Derbyshire Social Services.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Australia: Serious criminals enjoy 'love' visits -- and more

Plastic surgery, snooker competitions, overnight romantic liaisons and family getaways are among perks being enjoyed by violent Victorian criminals. Victims groups are outraged by the luxuries given to dangerous offenders, including murderers and pedophiles. The Sunday Herald Sun has previously revealed inmates enjoying taxpayer-funded golf and juvenile offenders receiving free ski trips and visits to McDonald's.

Sources have revealed Marngoneet Correctional Centre, near Lara, allows selected prisoners to enjoy conjugal visits under Corrections Victoria's family visits program. The jail, which opened last year to house inmates considered at "moderate to high risk of reoffending" -- has two well-appointed units for conjugal visits. One flat has two bedrooms and self-catering facilities to allow criminals to enjoy family getaways, a source said. "It has two bedrooms and they get their own kitchen -- it is just like a granny flat," a source said.

The other unit has one bedroom and is designed for prisoners without children to enjoy quality time with their lover. The conjugal visits were justified by authorities as a way to help inmates avoid becoming institutionalised, the source said. "It is all about maintaining relationships," the source said. Prisoners had to meet a set of behaviour standards to be eligible to enjoy a romantic night.

Victorian prisoners have also enjoyed up to $100,000 worth of plastic surgery at taxpayers' expense. Ten inmates have had a nip and tuck operations in the past three years. The procedures cost between $1000 and $10,000 each. The Department of Human Services, which cares for Victoria's inmates, approved the procedures, but could not explain why each was ordered. A spokesperson said it was "mostly" plastic surgery to repair injuries to hands and faces. The Sunday Herald Sun understands the majority of those treated had been slashed in knife fights.

Corrections Victoria also revealed that overflow waste water from the Barwon Prison sewerage treatment plant was used on the prison grounds. Only kilometres away in Lara and Geelong, sporting fields have been left bare by the drought.

Crime Victims Support Association spokesman Noel McNamara, who said he had visited prisons and seen inmates playing snooker, said Victoria's jails were like holiday resorts. People Against Lenient Sentencing president Steve Medcraft said it was unfair offenders lived it up while victims were left to live with the trauma of the crime. Corrections Victoria did not comment on the family visits program

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Saturday, January 20, 2007


Snappy dresser accepted as an expert

A man who said he was a forensic scientist and offered himself as an expert witness to solicitors had bought his masters' degree and doctorate over the internet, a court was told yesterday. Gene Morrison, 48, who lived in Hyde, Cheshire, called himself Dr Morrison and trailed the letters PhD and BSc after his name. In advertisements in the Solicitors Journal he boasted that he had been offering a first-class "objective and professional" service to the legal and insurance professions since 1977. But a jury at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester was told that Mr Morrison had no expertise in the fields and that his qualifications from "Rochville University" in America could be bought for $1,398 (709 pounds).

Neil Flewitt, QC, for the prosecution, said: "The services offered by the defendant were used by solicitors dealing with criminal, civil and family proceedings and also by insurance companies and private individuals. It is the prosecution case that the defendant frequently misrepresented his qualifications and his ability to deliver the services offered by his company, the Criminal & Forensic Investigations Bureau." Mr Morrison faces 23 counts of obtaining a money transfer by deception, obtaining property by deception, perverting the course of justice and perjury. The jury was told that he denied all but two counts.

Mr Flewitt said Mr Morrison was employed in 2002 by a firm of solicitors in Birmingham, which wanted to challenge evidence offered by a qualified expert that their client, Darren Knuckey, was an armed robber who had been picked out by CCTV at a petrol station. Younis Khan, a solicitor for Ahmed Solicitors, asked Mr Morrison if he had the technical expertise to carry out the job. Mr Morrison wrote to the firm subsequently claiming that he was an expert in facial mapping and quoting a price of 1,850. The job was given the approval of the Legal Services Commission.

Mr Flewitt said: "Although the defendant had indicated to Ahmed Solicitors that he was able to provide the report that they required, the reality was that he did not have the expertise to produce the report himself." He turned instead to Walter Baynes, the proprietor of a visual presentation company called Piglet Productions, to carry out the work. In an initial and then full report, Mr Morrison allegedly passed off Mr Baynes's work as his own. Mr Baynes charged 443 pounds for the work while Mr Morrison's bill was 998. In his report Mr Morrison, it was said, claimed falsely that he had academic qualifications in television imaging analysis from Salford College of Technology dating back to 1977 and had attended Home Office seminars.

Mr Flewitt said: "In presenting Walter Baynes's report as if it was his own, the defendant has misled Ahmed Solicitors into believing that they were in possession of an authoritative report in support of their client's defence. "In the event, no harm was done because the prosecution elected not to pursue the allegation of robbery against Mr Knuckey." The Knuckey case, said the barrister, was only one of a series of cases that he would outline to show how Mr Morrison operated his bogus business.

Mr Flewitt said that Mr Morrison had produced three certificates from Rochville University, but "Rochville University has no physical existence. There are no buildings and there is no teaching. All you neeed is access to the internet, a little imagination and, of course, enough money to pay for your chosen degrees."

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Friday, January 19, 2007


Wouldn't it be just dandy to have the kid of one of these irresponsible cops stabbed?

A woman charged with stabbing her nine-year-old neighbour seven times has been allowed to return home on bail. The woman, 29, attacked the boy with a pocket knife last Sunday just after 6.30pm, police said. Department of Human Services authorities are now with the woman, who is autistic, and her family to assess if she should be moved following an emotional appeal from the boy's father.

The boy was stabbed three times in the chest, one narrowly missing his heart, three times in the back, puncturing one of his kidneys, received a wound to his hand and lost a litre of blood.

The woman lives across the road from the victim's Brunswick West home and was initially allowed to return home without charge due to "extenuating circumstances regarding her mental ability", Victoria Police spokesman Sen Const Leigh Wadeson said. The woman was sent home after being deemed mentally unfit for questioning. However police confirmed this morning that she had since been charged with intentionally causing injury and recklessly causing injury and has bailed for a future date.

The boy came home from the Royal Children's Hospital yesterday afternoon after requiring surgery, his father 'Ray' said. Along with having to cope with his physical injuries, the single father said his son was living in fear knowing his attacker was just across the road. "He looks out the window and looks back, he's a bit scared," he said. "When he was in the hospital he was having nightmares and although he wanted to come home in a way, in another way he was was a bit reluctant."

Ray said he was angry the woman had been bailed to be allowed to return to her housing commission home opposite their block of flats. "I just can't believe she's out," he said. "I would have thought she would be in hospital or a psych ward or something."

Health Minister Bronwyn Pike said the Department of Human Services had only been told of the incident this morning, which is why they had been slow to act. Ms Pike said something had gone wrong in the way the matter had been handled by the police. "While I'm not blaming the police... the police did what they could when the incident occured but unfortunately they rang the child protection line," he said. "The tried several agencies and often in these very complex cases it;s not clear what kind of support this person needs."

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U.K.: Stalker death coroner slams bureaucracy. Says it is no solution

A police culture of “bureaucracy and blame” that hinders officers in their fight against crime was condemned by a coroner yesterday. At the end of an inquest on a beautician shot dead by a stalker at Harvey Nichols, Paul Knapman, the Westminster Coroner, said that police were constantly required to tick boxes and fill in forms. He said a never-ending paper trail had been created in forces merely to prevent lawyers from blaming and humiliating an officer involved in an investigation.

He made his comments as he ruled that Clare Bernal, 22, was unlawfully killed when Michal Pech shot her four times in the head as she worked at a perfume counter. The former Slovakian soldier, who was high on cocaine, then turned the gun on himself. He had been jailed earlier for stalking the beautician.

Dr Knapman said that police could not have prevented her murder, and any mistakes made in assessing the danger Pech posed were “not serious”. He said: “Here is the mischief — the present-day infection of the requirement to have more and more paper trails and computer trails. These result in assertions I hear all the time in this court by lawyers, who say to policemen, or doctors, or prison officers, ‘Because no record of doing something exists, you didn’t do it’. But far better to use your brain and think, rather than tick boxes and sign at the bottom.”

He praised PC Bibi Shah, who handled Miss Bernal’s complaint that Pech was stalking her. He said that although she did not formally record the threat that Pech posed, she was “very assiduous”.

Pech served more than a week in jail after breaching an order banning him from going near Miss Bernal. The former security guard had bombarded her with text messages and threatened to kill her. For four months he did not approach Miss Bernal, but in September 2005, shortly before he was due to be sentenced for stalking her, he shot her dead.

The inquest was told that officers had failed to fill in a form to assess the risk Pech posed. Dr Knapman said that he would write to the Metropolitan Police to urge it to stop officers recording investigations merely because there could be a complaint.

After the inquest Miss Bernal’s mother, Tricia, said that the police had failed to assess properly the risk that Pech posed to her daughter. Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, said: “I am appalled by the coroner’s words.”

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Conviction fiasco wrecks British crime drive

ALMOST half of the offenders caught by police are getting away without being punished by a court, according to an independent study which exposes as a sham Tony Blair’s pledge to be tough on crime. In the past year 624,000 of the 1.327m offences “brought to justice” were “non-convictions” — dealt with by cautions, summary fines or official warnings, to boost the clear-up rate.

The 75-page report, by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London, concludes there have been no “significant improvements” in law and order under Labour, and Britain remains “a high crime society”.

The report, published in association with The Sunday Times, assesses the boosting of spending on criminal justice by over a third in real terms over the past decade, to £22.7 billion this year.

It claims Britain spends proportionately more on criminal justice than any other western country but that “there has not been a significant step change” in outcome. It dismisses Labour’s manifesto claims that it has made Britain a safer place as “overstated and at times misleading”.

From 1998-99 to 2004-05 the police received a 21% real terms increase in funding, with even larger rises for the probation service (160%), the crown courts (116%) and the Crown Prosecution Service (44%).

Yet the report shows:

  • Court convictions as a proportion of offences “brought to justice” have fallen. The absolute number of convictions has also fallen.

  • Nearly half (47%) of the 1.327m offences “brought to justice” in 2006 were “non-convictions”.

  • Robberies have risen and murders are up by more than a third, from 600 in 1997 to 820 last year.

  • Street muggings and the proportion of prisoners reconvicted remain stubbornly high, showing Labour’s promises to curb them have all been missed.

  • Labour’s claim that crime as a whole has gone down is “highly misleading”. Official statistics, such as the British Crime Survey, exclude murder, rape, sexual assault, crimes involving children and other serious offences.

  • Crime was already falling fast when Labour came to power, making it easy for ministers to set a target — to cut crime by 15% — which seemed bold but was “based on existing trends continuing regardless of government action”.

    The report concludes: “The extra money for relentless reform has not resulted in a significant improvement in outcomes, with crime remaining high and the proportion of crimes dealt with being extremely low.”

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  • Wednesday, January 17, 2007

    Australia: No significant penalty for habitual drunken driving

    A motorist who crashed into a parked car and then got busted for drink driving for the sixth time has walked free from court. Leo Baden Brakey blew 0.143 -- almost three times the legal blood-alcohol limit -- in June last year and should not have been driving with any alcohol in his system.

    The North Hobart man's punishment -- a six-month suspended sentence, $500 fine and three-year licence disqualification -- has disappointed road safety advocates. RACT chief engineer Doug Ling said: "If they get off lightly, there is not much deterrent, not much reason for people to change their habits. "The current penalties are probably adequate enough, so long as they are applied by the courts."

    Earlier this week, Road Safety Task Force chairman Paul Hogan said serial offenders should be subjected to the "full force of the law". "These people should not be allowed on the road," he said.

    The Brakey case in the Hobart Magistrates Court yesterday comes amid calls for tougher penalties for serial drink-drivers, including confiscating their cars. Figures released this week showed a third of drink-drivers caught in southern Tasmania in a Christmas-New Year blitz had been busted before. Magistrate Michael Hill suspended Brakey's prison sentence on the condition he did not offend under the Road Safety Act for three years. He said Brakey, 52, had a substantial record for a variety of offences stretching back 30 years but his behaviour had improved in the past decade. But he noted his last drink-driving offence in 2000 had, "unfortunately" for Brakey, been remarkably similar to the latest offence. In 2000, Brakey blew 0.22 and ran into the back of an occupied car.

    On June 12 last year, police were called to Murray St at 2am and found Brakey slumped against a fence. He had abandoned his written-off car in the path of oncoming traffic after crashing into a parked car around the corner in Harrington St. Prosector Rebecca Lancaster said police noticed the disability pensioner's slurred, slow speech, red eyes and a strong smell of alcohol. He recorded a blood-alcohol level of 0.143 despite having a restricted licence, which meant he should not have had any alcohol in his body when driving. Brakey pleaded guilty to one count each of driving a motor vehicle while exceeding the prescribed alcohol limit, driving without due care or attention, and failing to comply with conditions of a driver's licence and the duties of a driver involved in a crash.

    His lawyer, Steve Chopping, said Brakey had gone to the Republic Bar in North Hobart to escape a neighbour, who constantly yelled abuse. "He could not face the abuse," Mr Chopping said. "Foolishly, he made the decision to drive home." He said Brakey had being going through a particularly bad and stressful period. His father had died and his wife had "done a runner" with their son. Mr Chopping said Brakey had since changed his habits, been co-operative with police, passed liver function tests and had alcohol counselling. "This is the last time he intends to appear in court," Mr Chopping said.

    Mr Hill said Brakey's fifth drink-driving offence had been in 2000 and fourth in 1989. He said the three-year licence suspension given to Brakey was the maximum possible.

    Opposition justice spokesman Michael Hodgman, who was run over by a truck driven by a drink-driver when he was eight and almost died, would not comment on individual cases. But he said he was very concerned about any case of a person being convicted for a sixth time of a drink-driving offence, and particularly where that person's ability to drive had been seriously impaired. He said strong deterrents needed to be set for drink driving and repeat offenders, especially in light of the appalling number of recidivists caught during the Christmas period.

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    Tuesday, January 16, 2007


    This time at the highest level

    A mother who won the right to an inquest into the murder of her son faces a rare challenge by the Lord Chancellor. Christine Hurst has already won the backing of the High Court and Court of Appeal for an inquest into the stabbing of her son, Troy, in 2000. But Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Lord Chancellor, has applied to join today’s appeal to the House of Lords against that decision, arguing that if the ruling is upheld it will clear the way for dozens of old inquests to be reopened.

    Mr Hurst, a decorator, was 39 when he was killed in May 2000 in Muswell Hill, North London. His neighbour, Albert Reid, stabbed him. Mrs Hurst believes that her son’s death was entirely avoidable and that the police had failed to take steps to protect him, even though Reid had been the subject of 52 complaints about his threats and harassment and had a history of mental illness. An inquest was opened soon after Mr Hurst’s death, but immediately adjourned under section 16 of the Coroners Act because Reid had been charged with murder. He was eventually convicted of manslaughter on July 16, 2001, and William Dolman, the coroner, had to decide whether there was “sufficient cause” to reopen the inquest. He declined, saying that the issues had been aired at the trial.

    Mrs Hurst, 62, who lives in Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire, lodged a High Court challenge, insisting that the inquest was necessary to explore what she maintained were the systemic failings and in particular the lack of police protection that gave rise to her son’s death. Reid was known to the police, she said, having previously stabbed her former husband. She added: “If the police had acted, they could have saved my son’s life.”

    She won first in the High Court and then again in the Court of Appeal, where the judges rejected appeals by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, the coroner and the London Borough of Barnet. The judges ruled that, when coroners exercised their discretion under the Coroners Act over whether to hold an inquest, they were bound by the duty imposed by the European Convention on Human Rights to investigate unexplained deaths.

    Now Lord Falconer, whose department has responsibility for the coroners’ service in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, has sought leave to intervene in the final appeal to the House of Lords. His lawyers argue that if Mrs Hurst wins then a large number of other inquests might need to be reopened, putting a strain on the system. They also argue that the issues “have far wider significance than the circumstances of the present appeal”.

    Fiona Murphy, solicitor for Mrs Hurst, said that she had been trying since 2000 to establish the true circumstances leading to her son’s death. “She has been opposed at each stage by those state agencies that will likely be criticised in the event that she defends this appeal.” Mrs Hurst said: “I am disgusted at this attempt by the Government. They have behaved appallingly. My son’s death was entirely preventable — and now they want to stop me ensuring that the failings that led to his death are publicly aired.”

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    Monday, January 15, 2007

    U.K.: Murder conviction quashed after 14 years

    A 36-year-old man who spent more than 14 years of his life in jail for the murder of a retired science teacher has been freed by Britain's Court of Appeal after judges ruled his conviction had been "unsafe". Andrew Adams, found guilty of shooting dead 58-year-old Jack Royal in Newcastle in 1990, had always maintained his innocence. Mr Adams said he had been deprived of a fair trial by incompetent defence representation and because the prosecution had failed to disclose evidence.

    His appeal lawyers also argued the original trial judge had made summing-up errors and that the jury were given inadmissible evidence. Three Appeal Court judges ruled that individually the criticisms and failures did not warrant the conviction being quashed but that taken together they did. "We are quite satisfied that, taken together, cumulatively they were sufficient to render the verdict unsafe," said Lord Justice Gage.

    Speaking outside court, Mr Adams said he was delighted to be free, but angry that he had ever been convicted. "I feel bitter that my original trial lawyers let me down so badly. At the time I was charged I was 21 years old. I turned to them for help and assistance which I did not get in the way I ought to have done," he said. He said his joy on being released was tinged by sadness. "My one great sadness about today is that my (late) mum cannot be here to share this moment with me."

    The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said they would not seek a retrial of Mr Adams because if he were re-convicted he would be released almost immediately because of the jail time he has already served. A CPS spokesman said that during the appeal hearing it was clear that witnesess had experienced "great difficulty in remembering events" which would also pose problems for any retrial.

    Northumbria Police, the force responsible for investigating Mr Royal's murder, said it was too early to say whether they would reopen the case. "The Court of Appeal has made its decision and we accept that. We will not be making any further comment until we have had the opportunity to study the court's findings in detail," Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Bolam said.

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    Sunday, January 14, 2007

    The Duke rape hoax is redolent of past decades' phony child-abuse cases

    No one could have imagined, when the story began last March, how soon and completely that bit of shorthand--"the Duke University scandal"--would be transformed. Scarcely 10 months after, the term is now almost universally understood as a reference to the operations of Michael Nifong, the Durham County district attorney, whose abandonment of all semblance of concern about the merits of the rape and assault accusations against three Duke University students was obvious from the first. So was his abundant confidence while broadcasting comments on the guilt of the accused. He seemed a man immune to concerns for appearances as he raced about expounding on the case against the accused lacrosse players and calling them hooligans. He would hear nothing by way of concern from Duke administrators (seven months into this affair, the university president did find an opportunity to mention the accused students' right to a presumption of innocence)--and certainly none from the politically progressive quarters of the Duke faculty who lent their names to an impassioned ad thanking everyone who had come out to march in protest against the rape and assault of the exotic dancer; 88 faculty members signed it, among them such Duke luminaries as Alice Kaplan, author and student of fascism, and Frank Lentricchia, literary critic.

    Unable to take part in the ad signing, Duke's administrators nonetheless found ways to identify with its spirit. Soon after news broke of the Duke athletes' alleged brutish sex crimes against a black woman, the administration undertook a well-publicized campaign targeting the entire lacrosse team for offensive behavior. President Richard Brodhead was, it seems, barely able to recover from the shock of his discovery that a party thrown by male jocks could occasion heavy drinking. And related loutish behavior. Not to mention a stripper. Lacrosse was suspended for the season, and the team coach, Mike Pressler, was shortly after forced to resign. Mr. Brodhead in due course reinstated the team, but on probation, and with conditions, i.e., no underage drinking and disorderly conduct, and no harassment. The members of other Duke organizations, sports teams included, which had sponsored parties where alcohol flowed freely and which had featured strippers--an informal count reveals at least 20 known to have done so--no doubt understood that they faced no similar disciplinary action. The reason for the moral-cleansing program devised for the lacrosse team could scarcely have been missed.

    Mr. Nifong's confidence that he had nothing to fear from establishment opinion or from the leaders of the great university as he bounded about making hash of the rules of justice--prime among them the accused's right to a presumption of innocence--proved justified. And might have remained so longer but for the catastrophic effects of the accuser's unraveling stories.

    Mr. Nifong is no anomaly--merely a product of the political times, a prosecutor who has absorbed all the clues about the sanctified status now accorded charges involving rape, child sex-abuse and accusations of racism. Which has in turn ensured their transformation into weapons of unequalled power. Like others before him, the DA quickly grasped the career possibilities open to him with such a case and proceeded accordingly--denouncing racism, and the rape and assault of a helpless black woman, and the Duke athletes guilty of these crimes in every media interview available to him (and they were many).

    For all the public shock and fury over his behavior, there is little that is new or strange about Mr. Nifong. We have seen the likes of this district attorney, uninterested in proofs of innocence, willing to suppress any he found, many times in the busy army of prosecutors claiming to have found evidence of rampant child abuse in nursery schools and other child-care centers around the country in the 1980s and throughout most of the '90s. They built case after headline-making case charging the mass molestation of small children, and managed to convict scores of innocent Americans on the basis of testimony no rational mind could credit. Law officers who regularly violated requirements of due process in their effort to obtain a conviction, they grasped the special advantage that was theirs: that for a prosecutor dealing with molestation, and wearing the mantle of avenger, there was no such thing as excess, no limits to what could be said of the accused. In court, rules could be bent, any charges presented, and nonexistent medical evidence proclaimed as proof positive of the accusation.

    In his role of avenger of a young black woman alleged to have been brutalized by white males, Mr. Nifong proceeded with similar assurance. His was a crusade. Who but enemies of the good would object? Confronted with hard questions about his evidence, whether from the defense or the press, Mr. Nifong answered that these challenges were all designed to intimidate the rape victim. More than once the DA suggested, as criticisms of his case multiplied, that he was himself a victim of the press. He could have had little complaint, last summer, about the New York Times, which provided its own reports on the Duke story. It maintained that that the DA's case had been distorted by the defense and that there was, in fact, a body of evidence that supported the decision to take the case to a jury. A close study of this work's wondrous logic, and of its body of evidence, should provide rich material for students of the press for years to come.

    The jury to which Mr. Nifong played--the black population of Durham--duly helped re-elect him. This could not prevent his case of rape and abuse against the three Duke students from coming undone, thanks in part to his own heedless behavior but mainly to the accusing dancer herself, whose shifting stories and checkered past could not be hidden.

    Mr. Nifong had, of course, nothing like the advantages of nursery school prosecutors: endearing 4- and 5-year-old witnesses clutching teddy bears, who came to court to recite lies they had been cajoled into inventing, about how the accused had raped and stabbed them, cut off the legs of animals--the kinds of charges mounted, against elderly Violet Amirault of Massachusetts and her adult children Cheryl and Gerald, proprietors of the respected Fells Acres Day School. Many like them were caught up in the era's whirlwind of accusation and sensational trials invariably leading to conviction, on which ambitious prosecutors built careers. Almost all those cases would ultimately be thrown out by appeals courts, most of the time not before those convicted had served long years and paid with the ruin of their lives.

    Mr. Nifong's case has come undone long before any trial, fortunately for the three Duke students charged. They have had, nevertheless, a powerful taste of what it means to have been named and despised as perpetrators of abhorrent sexual crimes. I could go to prison for 30 years, Reade Seligmann, one of the accused, told the late Ed Bradley during a "60 Minutes" interview last October--and "for something that never happened"

    Neither Mr. Seligman nor the other accused Duke students will ever have to contend with a punishment like the one meted out to Gerald Amirault, who was sentenced to a 30- to 40-year term for something that never happened--atrocious sex crimes that never took place, of which there was no physical evidence, or anything resembling a credible allegation. What did it matter that the child's testimony that resulted in Gerald's conviction had claimed rape with a large butcher's knife--one that had magically left not the slightest injury? The jury's most important duty was, the prosecutors informed them, to believe the children and show that they honored their testimony. The same young witness also testified that Gerald was accompanied by a green, silver and yellow robot, R2-D2, from "Star Wars."

    What did it matter, either, that special judicial hearings about the Amiraults' prosecution had concluded that it was a travesty, that a tough panel of former prosecutors, the Governor's Board of Pardons, had virtually declared Gerald Amirault innocent and voted for commutation of his sentence--or that he was finally granted parole nearly three years ago, after nearly 18 years' imprisonment?

    He was almost immediately classified by Massachusetts's Sex Offenders Registry Board as a Level 3 offender. The kind, that is, deemed the most dangerous and most likely to re-offend. This bizarre classification, the board made clear, had to do with the number of counts of sex abuse charged to him--and the fact, too, that he continued to deny guilt. He now has to wear a large tracking device around his ankle, and obey a curfew confining him to the house from 11:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day. He has, not surprisingly, been unable to find a job. He is sustained, as ever, by the unstinting devotion of his family, and he grieves now mainly for the loss of the chance he had dreamed of in prison--of earning a salary and finally lightening the burden his wife had carried, uncomplaining and alone, during his years in prison. (He has recently been advised of pending legislation that will require him to pay $10 a day for the global positioning tag on his leg, that tracks him.)

    The accused Duke students can be grateful that the case against them has collapsed, and that Mr. Nifong now confronts a serious ethics complaint filed by the North Carolina State Bar. They will never have to face anything like the malignant force which descended on the happy and ambitious Amiraults in 1984, and turned their lives to dust. But Reade Seligmann, David Evans and Collin Finnerty have this year had a look into an abyss that has claimed many others, and that is never less than terrorizing. It is a piece of their Duke education they are unlikely to forget.

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    Saturday, January 13, 2007


    And it's normal procedure in SF. Who says that? City officials! Given their well-known far-Left soft-on-crime attitudes, I believe them. Criminals are just "misunderstood", don't you know?

    Members of a renowned choral group from Yale University were attacked outside a New Year's Eve party in San Francisco, sending several of them to the hospital. Now the police department is coming under fire for its handling of the case. This does not look good for the city. Yale sends its popular singing group, The Baker's Dozen, on a holiday concert tour. And San Francisco sends the young men away bloody, bruised, and several of them seriously injured.

    Laura Aziz sent her son, Sharyar, off on a concert tour with one of Yale University's singing groups -- he came to San Francisco over New Year's. This is how the 18-year-old returned to New York last week. Sharyar Aziz, Yale University Student: "Besides any bruising or scrapes to the face, the main injury that I suffered was I broke my jaw in two places." Laura Aziz, Sharyar's Mother: "It was shocking. It didn't make any sense. It still doesn't make any sense."

    The Baker's Dozen are a 58-year tradition at Yale. They've put out two dozen albums and toured the country, with appearances at the White House and Los Angeles Lakers games. When their winter tour brought them to San Francisco, retired police officer and department lawyer, Reno Rapagnani, arranged a New Year's Eve party at his home in the group's honor. Reno Rapagnani, Retired SFPD Lawyer: "I had given strict orders to my daughter that if anything got out of hand that the party would be over."

    The trouble started at midnight after The Baker's Dozen sang "The Star Spangled Banner." Witnesses say a few local young men didn't appreciate the attention the Yale students were getting, made fun of their conservative dress and began taunting them and making threats. Leanna Dawydiak, Hosted Party: "They had something here special that these other fellas obviously didn't have and that irritated them."

    Witnesses say 19-year-old Richard Aicardi was the most aggressive. Sharyar Aziz: "'You're not welcome here,' he called a few members of the group, whether it was fag or homo, very, I would say, juvenile taunting." Aicardi took out his cell phone and called in reinforcements. Reno Rapagnani: "He said, 'I'm 20 deep, my boys are coming.'"

    One of the vehicles that brought the attackers was captured by surveillance camera at a church across the street. As The Baker's Dozen left the house, they were ambushed -- five, six, seven assailants attacking each member. Their injuries ranged from scrapes, black eyes, a badly sprained ankle to concussions.

    The most seriously injured was Sharyar Aziz. He was rushed back to New York for reconstructive surgery -- his jaws wired shut for eight weeks. He'll forever have two titanium plates in his face. The varsity squash player will miss the season, now underway. He's trying to remain positive. Sharyar Aziz: "I can't just look back at that incident and be depressed for the next two months. I have to learn to deal with what's been given to me."

    What especially concerns the Aziz family -- when police arrived, they detained four of the attackers who were identified by members of The Baker's Dozen, but officers did not make an arrest. And a full week later, they still haven't made an arrest. Whitney Leigh, Gonzalez & Leigh Law Firm: "That doesn't seem to comport with traditional police practices and as a result, at least at this point, there's several violent youths or young men, actually, who are out on the street and shouldn't be." Police investigators didn't even bother to photograph the injuries to The Baker's Dozen. The couple who held the party that night took pictures. Leanna Dawydiak: "Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems as a citizen in San Francisco that something should be done a little more than has been."

    Police spokesman Neville Gittens defends the handling of the case. Neville Gittens, SFPD Spokesman: "What you want to do is you want to have a complete, thorough investigation. So the officers responded, the fight was abated and now an investigation is ongoing."

    The couple who hosted the party wonder whether the authorities are moving slowly because of the family involved. Rich Aicardi and two of his brothers who were involved in the incident are the sons of prominent San Francisco pediatrician Eileen Aicardi. The I-Team met with Eileen Aicardi and her sons last night. They invited us into their home in the shadow of Coit Tower, but later declined to be interviewed. Rich Aicardi did not want to have his picture taken.

    The incident threatens to be another black eye for the City of San Francisco. Mayor Gavin Newsom wouldn't address it when we caught up with him late this afternoon. There has been movement since we began investigating this story Friday night. Police interviewed Richard Aicardi on Sunday. Officials at Yale, by the way, issued a statement this afternoon saying they hope the "perpetrators will be apprehended and prosecuted."

    Report here

    More details:

    Police arrived and the dispatch sheet obtained by the I-Team shows they detained Sacred Heart graduates Brian Dwyer, Marino Peradotto, James Aicardi and Michael Aicardi. They apparently did not detain their brother, Rich Aicardi. Police let all the suspects go.

    Dean Johnson, ABC7 Legal Analyst: "Police can arrest anytime that they believe have probably cause to believe a felony was committed." Former San Mateo County prosecutor and ABC7 legal analyst, Dean Johnson, explains. Dean Johnson: "They should have let the suspects sit in jail overnight and if these suspects are entitled to bail, if they're essentially good kids who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, if they have no records, if they're no danger to society, the judge on the afternoon arraignment calendar can sort all of that out later."

    It especially troubles Johnson that the police failed to take photographs of the injuries. The couple who owned the home where the party took place took these pictures. And it bothers him that police failed to interview the victims.

    Now, 10 days later, investigators are demanding that the young men pay their way back to San Francisco to be interviewed. One investigator told a parent, "the kids are affluent, so they can afford it." The Baker's Dozen's attorney says it's ridiculous. Whitney Leigh, Gonzalez & Leigh Law Firm: "The notion that the police should now put the burden on the families or on these kids to fly back to San Francisco, a place they're now afraid to come to frankly, doesn't seem to make any sense to me."

    Also today, a development that the police and mayor's office may not welcome -- former San Francisco prosecutor Jim Hammer has joined the team of attorneys for The Baker's Dozen. Whitney Leigh: "He's got such great detailed expertise and knowledge, particularly about how the San Francisco criminal justice system is supposed to work."

    We caught up to Chief Heather Fong this evening outside the police commission meeting. She defended her officers not arresting the suspects the night of the attack. Heather Fong, SFPD Chief: "When they detained them, they identified those individuals, and when the officers tried to get information as to specifically what did the individuals do, where were the injuries, if there were injuries, there were no individuals who provided additional information." But members of The Baker's Dozen tell the I-Team they did identify the suspects and were available just a few doors down the street and that the police knew that.

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