Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Australia: Stalker free to teach

What do you have to do to be regarded as dangeous? Kill someone? Is there no requirement for teachers to be of good character?

A high school teacher who was sacked after allegedly sending inappropriate text messages to a female student and who then took revenge by stalking his principal with a series of threatening emails, is free to resume his teaching career. The Queensland College of Teachers was due to fight Robert James Harris's return to work in the Court of Appeal this month, but it has since abandoned the challenge. The decision has cleared the way for Mr Harris, who was initially struck off in 2005, to regain his registration. He was a former physical education teacher at Robina State High School on the Gold Coast.

He came to the attention of police and the Crime and Misconduct Commission and Education Queensland officers in 2002 when a 17-year-old athletics student complained he had sent her abusive text messages after she sought a new coach. She also said she had received messages from Mr Harris with a sexual connotation while he was her coach but they stopped. Mr Harris was never charged over the SMS allegations but was dismissed in 2003 over them and alleged subsequent SMS and written contact with the girl and her family.

Later, he sent multiple threatening emails to his female principal, resulting in a conviction for stalking in April 2005. In one email he told the woman his "life's ambition is now to destroy you and your family"; in another he warned her if he didn't get a job she would "die bitch like me a slow death you ignorant incompetent bitch". Mr Harris, who was sentenced to two years' probation for the stalking but had no conviction recorded, successfully appealed his deregistration in the Brisbane District Court in September last year. Judge Hugh Botting found that while the emails were inexcusable, they were uncharacteristic.

The Courier-Mail yesterday repeatedly requested an interview with Queensland College of Teachers director John Ryan but was told he was unavailable. In a five-line statement, Mr Ryan said the college's board had "reluctantly" withdrawn their appeal after taking "comprehensive legal advice". A spokeswoman from the college declined to answer specific questions about the case yesterday, including whether Mr Harris was currently registered to teach or whether they would be taking any further action. A search of their public register of teachers showed no record of Mr Harris.

Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens Association president Brett Devenish said he believed the average parent would have concerns about the case. "He has legal rights but students have also got a legal right to be safe in their learning environment," he said. An Education Queensland spokesman said Mr Harris was not currently employed in a Queensland state school. He said anyone who applied to teach in a state or non-state school was subject to a rigorous screening process. Mr Harris could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

Report here

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

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Incredible reasoning. Cops are within their rights to suborn witnesses??

A judge has dismissed an exonerated prisoner's claim that investigators and a prosecutor violated his civil rights by framing him in a murder for which he spent 17 years on death row.

Joseph Amrine accused a prosecutor, two investigators and a deputy sheriff of violating his civil rights, conspiracy and malicious prosecution for the investigation that led to his 1986 conviction for the stabbing death of another inmate at Missouri State Penitentiary. He had been serving a sentence for robbery, burglary and forgery when the stabbing occurred.

Amrine was freed in July 2003 after the Missouri Supreme Court overturned his conviction and death sentence, finding that no credible evidence remained from the trial to support the conviction.

In his 2004 lawsuit, Amrine alleged that three former inmates were promised "significant benefits" by investigators if they testified against Amrine, and were threatened if they did not.

In her dismissal order on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey wrote that she found parts of the murder investigation against Amrine irregular and troubling, but he had no grounds to sue.

"Even if the police had conducted as thorough an investigation as Amrine alleges they should have, there still would have been probable cause for his prosecution," Laughrey wrote. "His trial was not rendered fundamentally unfair by any recklessness in the investigation."

Report here

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

Monday, February 26, 2007


They are trying to ignore the corruption of their police and justice system

The city of Boston has spent at least $250,000 fighting a lawsuit filed by a man who the courts determined was wrongly convicted of murder. NewsCenter 5's Pam Cross reported that after 15 years in prison, Shawn Drumgold said the city owes him.

Drumgold may be free, but he's living under a cloud. The Boston man was convicted and served 15 years for a 1988 murder. Darlene Tiffany Moore, who was sitting on a mailbox, was shot during a gang battle. "Patience is perseverance -- so I try to take that on," Drumgold said. Three years ago, patience paid off. Drumgold was released after the district attorney's office agreed the case should be overturned. Critics said the police pressured some witnesses to implicate Drumgold and kept others from coming forward.

Drumgold is suing the city, which has not offered a settlement. "They can't wrap their minds around the concept that their police officers engaged in egregious misconduct and Shawn didn't do it," said attorney Rosemary Scapicchio.

Laid off from his construction job, Drumgold moved his family from one apartment to a less expensive one, but the family eventually became homeless. "Then it was to the shelter. It was devastating for me and it sent me into a depression. That is one of the hardest things that I have had to deal with since I've been home," Drumgold said.

On Friday, the mayor's office said they'd like a quick resolution, but they don't set court dates. "They think they can prove that he did do this crime, which is just so outrageous in light of the fact that the district attorney's office dismissed the complaint against him and agreed there wasn't any evidence," said Scapicchio. "I need to be exonerated and I do need to be compensated. That is the issue here. Someone has to take the responsibility so it doesn't happen to somebody else," Drumgold said.

Report here

Some background from 2003:

The mild-mannered Drumgold said he's not bitter or angry about his 15-year sentence that ended after a judge vacated his conviction last week. The judge ruled Drumgold did not receive a fair trial for the 1988 murder of Darlene Tiffany Moore, a 12-year-old caught in gang crossfire. "I'm innocent, still innocent," said Drumgold.

Although Drumgold said he is not looking for an apology, his lawyer is. Defense attorney Rosemary Scapicchio is incensed that the district attorney will not apologize or exonerate her client.

"There are police officers out there who intimidated, coerced and fed witnesses into wrongfully implicating Shawn. Not a thing will happen to them unless there is an investigation in this case," said Scapicchio.

"I believe things should have been done, but there's no malfeasance, no malice. Things should been done," Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley said on Thursday.

Scapicchio and others are calling on the governor to appoint a commission to investigate the case and other wrongful convictions. "How does a man spend 15 years in jail for a crime he did not commit? Everyone wants say 'So What?' The DA is accountable, the police are accountable," said Scapicchio.

In the meantime, Drumgold plans to move on and adjust to a new life with his wife and 15-year-old daughter, and adjust to the many changes around him.

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

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Australian police negligence

The key suspect in one of the state's most baffling unsolved murders is in jail for a different murder. Anthony Apps, 31, executed a friend, Christopher Lamb, in 2003, shooting him in the back of the head at a Maclean farmhouse.

Today, The Sun-Herald can reveal that, despite being at the top of the police list of more than 100 "persons of interest" in the slaying of Lee Ellen Stace, Apps was never questioned about her murder. A shortage of local detectives on the North Coast at the time was allegedly so severe there was simply no one to do the job.

Yesterday, Lamb's elderly mother, Betty, said her 42-year-old son may have lived had Apps been pursued. "He should have been jailed well beforehand," Mrs Lamb said from her Yamba home. "He was always in trouble. When they picked him up he was already due to appear in court on an assault charge. "You always think that it's never going to happen to you. "But it did and we've sure had a trying time the last three-and-a-half years, that we haven't had our son."

Peter Stace told The Sun-Herald he was aware Apps had lived "up the road from us" when his 16-year-old daughter went missing in September 1997. "He was a bad bit of news and if he's behind bars, that's where he should be."

Stace was hitch-hiking in Yamba when last seen, her remains were found in a shallow beach grave about a month later. After waging a lone investigative battle for the past six years, Grafton detective Tony King handed his brief on the the Stace homicide to the NSW coroner's office last week. In it, he is understood to have identified Apps as Stace's most likely killer. Yet before King's arrival the case had been one of more than a dozen in the area allowed to languish for years due to a chronic shortage of investigators, confidential police files show.

Retired Coffs Harbour investigations manager Gary McEvoy said his former command had been staff-poor for so long, it had become a "parking lot" for unsolved crimes. The former senior sergeant said he spent three years filing "basically the same" monthly status report, because nothing ever changed.

Report here

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

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Britain: DNA errors lead to murder case review

Hundreds of murderers, rapists and other serious criminals may have escaped prosecution because forensic scientists failed to test properly for DNA evidence for five years. More than 2,000 cases are being urgently reviewed - including that of Rachel Nickell, the former model murdered on Wimbledon Common - after the Forensic Science Service admitted that it might have missed crucial evidence. The service, which carries out most DNA tests for police forces in England and Wales, expects to recover DNA in at least 200 cases where it had said that none existed.

The Times has learnt that chief constables believe that the total could be higher. The failure involves the processing between 2000 and 2005 of "low-copy-number" tests, used to identify microscopic quantities of DNA.

The Association of Chief Police Officers wrote to all police forces yesterday asking them to carry out a review of their serious crime cases. This is likely to include all unsolved serious crimes since 2000 where no DNA samples were found. It could include the murder of Margaret Muller, 27, an American artist, who was stabbed after going jogging in Hackney, East London, in February 2003.

Tony Lake, the association's expert on the use of forensic science, admitted that there was a huge amount of work to be done to find out how many cases could have been affected. Mr Lake, the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire, added: "Are we anxious? Are we concerned? Yes, of course we are. We have to establish whether there are offenders out there who could have been caught previously."

The blunder relates to cases where the Forensic Science Service analysed tiny samples of blood or saliva for a DNA profile. As a result of advances in testing techniques, it was possible, from 2000, to find this DNA evidence in very small traces of body fluids. The service was apparently using this low-copy-number technique, but for five years was applying it in a different way. This meant that its scientists failed to locate evidence that private forensic laboratories could have picked up. The failure is the most damaging mistake in the history of the service.

Problems with the tests were identified last summer when Scotland Yard reviewed evidence on the murder of Ms Nickell, who was stabbed 49 times and sexually assaulted in front of her son in July 1992. The Forensic Science Service said that it had not found any positive results when it carried out the low- copy-number tests in 2001 on material from the scene. But in a review of the case last year a private company discovered DNA. Detectives may now charge a convicted sex killer with the murder.

John Reid, the Home Secretary, has demanded a report from the service by the end of the week. David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, said that it was an incredibly serious matter. "It opens up the prospect for a large number of miscarriages of justice," he said.

The Forensic Science Service said that it gave Scotland Yard a report on the problems last October, which was passed to the association. Home Office ministers were alerted and the association sent a senior forensic scientist to tour every laboratory in the country to check working practices.

Report here

Bogus forensic scientist jailed in Britain

A conman who passed himself off for more than three decades as a forensic scientist has been jailed for five years. Gene Morrison, 48, of Hyde, Tameside, offered himself as an expert witness and gave evidence in civil and criminal trials, including rape and drink-driving cases. In fact, his qualifications had been bought, in part, over the internet. In some cases he subcontracted work to experts but in others he simply cut and pasted material gleaned from the internet. He was found guilty at Minshull Street Crown Court of 22 counts of perjury, perverting the course of justice and obtaining money and property by deception.

Morrison advertised his Criminal & Forensic Investigations Bureau on a website and in the Yellow Pages. Police have been forced to examine hundreds of cases on which he worked, looking for miscarriages of justice.

Report here

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

Friday, February 23, 2007

British cop rebuked for arresting grandmother over ‘lost’ ball

A policeman has been given a reprimand after arresting Angela Hickling 56, after a neighbour claimed she failed to return a football. He was obviously drunk with his powers and should be dismissed for that

A policeman who arrested a grandmother for failing to return a football that a neighbour claimed had landed in her garden has been given a reprimand.

Angela Hickling, 56, was taken to a police station, questioned, fingerprinted and made to provide a DNA sample as part of a theft investigation after Christopher Salisbury complained that she had stolen the ball by refusing to return it. Mrs Hickling watched in disbelief as officers searched her garden and the surrounding land and checked inside her home. She thought that her ordeal was over when the officers failed to find anything — but instead she was taken away and questioned for an hour and a half. Two days later police officers contacted her again to tell her that the investigation had been discontinued because of a lack of evidence.

Mrs Hickling, of Heanor, Derbyshire, later made a formal complaint about her treatment during the incident in August last year. Yesterday she said that Derbyshire Constabulary’s decision to issue a reprimand to the constable, whose name has not been released, was nothing more than a “slap on the wrist”. She has now contacted the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Mrs Hickling said: “The officer’s behaviour was too severe for me to let this go. I know he is not going to lose his job, but he should be made to explain his actions before the Chief Constable — and I also want an apology.”

A report on the officer by Superintendent Debbie Platt, of the Derbyshire force, said that he “had not met the standard expected under the code of conduct”. It upheld Mrs Hickling’s complaint and said that the PC should receive “formal management advice” — a punishment that Mrs Hickling says is unsatisfactory. She said: “The whole episode was a farce. I was flabbergasted. It was unbelievable that police would waste their time over such a trivial matter. “Why mess about over a football when there are burglars breaking into people’s homes, people selling drugs and pensioners being mugged?”

Police officers arrived late at night at the house where Mrs Hickling lives with her husband, John, and two of their children, Sheryl, 21, and Haydn, 14. When Mr Hickling, 60, answered the door the officer told him: “I’ve come to arrest your wife.”

The constable told them that Mr Salisbury believed his son’s football had been stolen after landing in the Hicklings’ garden, and began his search. After her arrest on suspicion of theft, Mrs Hickling was driven to the force’s headquarters in nearby Ripley to be questioned and fingerprinted. She said: “They took a mug-shot, fingerprints, DNA — it was terrible. I had to control my feelings, as I knew it was just an abuse of his power.”

Derbyshire police refused to comment yesterday, but a spokesman said that at the time of the incident the force had a duty to investigate all criminal complaints. Mr Salisbury, who bought the bungalow next to the Hicklings’ home in 2005, has since emigrated to Australia.

Report here

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

Thursday, February 22, 2007


In the end, there wasn't one hair of evidence against James Driskell. Now, a former Ontario judge who examined the Winnipeg man's wrongful murder conviction is calling for a Canada-wide audit of criminal cases that featured microscopic hair comparisons - and an independent review of cases involving the Crown attorney who prosecuted Driskell.

There were apologies all around today to Driskell, 48, who was wrongly convicted in 1991 of murdering Perry Harder, his former partner in a "chop-shop" operation. Flawed science and the suppression of evidence relating to the credibility of two key Crown witness were largely to blame for the 13 years, one month and seven days Driskell spent behind bars, Patrick LeSage, former chief justice of Ontario's Superior Court of Justice, said in a wide-ranging report released today from a commission of inquiry.

His findings were unambiguous. "What happened in this case is just plain wrong," LeSage said in concluding the conduct of four Crown prosecutors fell below professional standards and that Winnipeg police officers - including the city's former police chief, Jack Ewatski - failed to disclose pertinent evidence "before, during and after Driskell's trial."

James Lockyer, one of Driskell's lawyers, said the most significant aspect of the report is "the likelihood that we're going to get a chance to examine more potential wrongful convictions." LeSage recommended that Manitoba justice officials arrange an independent, external review of cases if anyone prosecuted by George Dangerfield, the lead Crown lawyer in the Driskell case, comes forward claiming to be wrongly convicted.

Though "a dedicated hard-working Crown attorney," Dangerfield, now retired, prosecuted four other homicides that involved issues of faulty hair comparisons or undisclosed evidence, LeSage said. One was the notorious case of Thomas Sophonow, tried three times for a 1981 murder he didn't commit.

LeSage also spent considerable time in his report dealing with a thorny, emerging problem for the justice system: How to help innocent people regain their standing in the community. The issue has taken on huge significance in the case of Steven Truscott, whose lawyers are asking the Ontario Court of Appeal to issue a formal declaration of his innocence. The Driskell inquiry was told that findings of "guilty" and "not guilty" may be an inadequate response to the phenomenon of wrongful convictions and that factually innocent persons - as well as the public - may need a more formal and official means of exoneration.

LeSage expressed reservations about a proposal calling for the use of "innocence hearings," at which a wrongly convicted person, once a conviction is set aside, could attempt to prove factual innocence on a balance of probabilities and obtain a judicial declaration to that effect. But the problem may require "new and creative ways of thinking," said LeSage, who recommends that federal, provincial and territorial ministers look for solutions.

In his report, LeSage also strongly discourages the practise adopted by justice ministers in several cases of wrongful conviction - including Driskell, David Milgaard and Gregory Parsons - of "staying" the charges, which merely "suspends" the proceedings and drapes the innocent with a "residual" taint.

In the Driskell case, Harder died from two gunshot wounds to the chest. The Crown's theory was that Driskell killed him because Harder was going to testify against him at a trial for possessing stolen auto parts, though Driskell's lawyer said the charges were going to be withdrawn. The case hinged on testimony from two key witnesses, Reath (Ray) Zanidean and John Gumieny, and evidence that three hairs that allegedly came from Harder were found in Driskell's van. DNA tests in 2002 established Harder was not the source of the hairs and they in fact came from three people.

Meanwhile, the jury was "seriously misled" about Zanidean's motivations for testifying, LeSage said. Zanidean claimed he overheard Driskell plot and confess to the murder. He was backed up at the trial by Gumeiny. Leading up to the trial, Zanidean had been negotiating for immunity on an arson charge laid after he allegedly burned down his sister's house in Saskatchewan. He had also been given tens of thousands of dollars and had his mortgage arrears paid off by Manitoba justice officials. Winnipeg police arranged to have the Saskatchewan arson charge dropped but did not formally advise Zanidean before trial.

There was no paper trail documenting the negotiations, but all players understood implicitly there was a deal, LeSage said. "The rationale was that since no explicit promise or favour was given the witness prior to his testimony, he would not be contaminated and not testify in return for awards granted."

As for the hairs, LeSage said he is "concerned" problems in Driskell's case "are not unique to his case or unique to Manitoba." Before Driskell's first-degree murder conviction was quashed in 2005, the Manitoba justice department reviewed murder cases in that province which featured hair comparison evidence. The results "have been disturbing," LeSage said. In four cases, including Driskell's, the hairs came from multiple sources - none from the source alleged at trial. A recent study of FBI hair comparisons found errors in 11 per cent of cases. Hair comparison evidence played a key role in the case against Guy Paul Morin.

With advances in DNA testing , the RCMP has abandoned the practise of visual hair examinations and the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto has largely phased it out, the inquiry heard. What's not known is how many people may still be behind bars, convicted on the basis of a dangerous "science."

Report here

Further comment here. Excerpt:

"Police and prosecutors involved in the 1991 James Driskell wrongful conviction withheld evidence from the defence, conspired to mislead the jury and allowed a star witness to commit perjury, a judicial inquiry into the case has concluded.

Inquiry commissioner Patrick LeSage, in a scathing 187-page report released Thursday, apologized to Driskell and strongly suggested Driskell be compensated for his 13 years behind bars."

Responding to those remarks, Manitoba Attorney General Dave Chomiak announced the province would be making a $250,000 "good-faith payment" to Driskell while negotiating a larger compensation agreement.

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

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Massachusetts crime lab botched 27 DNA results

Nearly twice as many as state found earlier

An administrator at the State Police crime laboratory mishandled DNA test results in 27 sexual assault cases, nearly twice as many as state officials' most recent count, according to a nearly completed internal review. In his first interview on the problems at the lab, Kevin M. Burke, the state's new public safety secretary, said yesterday that the DNA computer database administrator, Robert E. Pino, failed to tell law enforcement officials of DNA matches in 23 sexual assault cases. During the time Pino did not report the matches, the statute of limitations expired in the cases. Despite hope expressed by some district attorneys that they could prosecute some of those cases, Burke said they cannot be pursued.

In the four other cases, Pino prepared letters for law enforcement officials that presented apparent matches, even though they were near-matches between DNA evidence found at crime scenes and the genetic profiles of close relatives of convicted felons, Burke said. Neither the FBI nor the State Police perform searches for familial DNA links, he said.

Frederick R. Bieber, a medical geneticist at Brigham and Women's Hospital who coauthored an article in the journal Science in May on familial searches, said he knew of no Massachusetts or FBI regulations that prohibit administrators of DNA databases from making such searches. They are a controversial crime-fighting technique that has been used to solve a few homicides and other crimes in the United States and United Kingdom. Critics say that relatives not involved in any crimes can be unfairly targeted by investigators.

State officials had previously said that the four cases involved false matches, but Burke said yesterday that Pino had violated agency practices by making familial searches. Burke said investigators do not know why Pino let the statute of limitations run out on nearly two dozen matches, while conducting familial searches. "It's certainly a fair question, but it's one we don't have an answer to," said Burke, who served as Essex district attorney for 24 years and was appointed public safety secretary last month by Governor Deval Patrick. "It's only an answer he can give."

Neither Pino nor his lawyer, Michael J. O'Reilly, could be reached for comment yesterday. Pino's union has said that an overworked staff at the lab was partly responsible for any problems, but Burke denied that staffing levels were a factor. Colonel Mark F. Delaney, superintendent of the State Police, suspended Pino with pay Jan. 11 and the next day announced that he had begun an internal investigation of Pino in mid-November. Initially, the State Police said Pino bungled results in at least 10 cases and several weeks ago revised the number to 15. Delaney also asked the FBI last month to begin its own review of the state's Combined DNA Indexing System to determine whether the problems with DNA test results might be more widespread. In addition, Burke's office is seeking bids on Feb. 23 for as much as $300,000 for an outside consultant to do a top-to-bottom review of the crime lab

Yesterday, Burke said that the State Police review is almost complete and that he doubted it would find that Pino had mishandled more cases. Burke said that while it was alarming that Pino's lapses had made it impossible to prosecute suspects in 23 unsolved sexual assault cases, , none of those individuals had been arrested for serious crimes since the statute of limitations had expired. "The most serious offense committed by any one of those people was a stolen vehicle," said Burke, who said he could not legally identify any of the potential suspects.

He also said that none of the four relatives identified through the familial searches had been arrested. He said Pino mailed only two of the letters, one to the Middlesex district attorney and one to Boston police. Burke also said that the internal review had found no evidence that any of Pino's supervisors were at fault for his lapses. "He was in complete control of the process as the CODIS administrator," Burke said. "It's difficult to imagine why he would make the kind of errors he made."

One prosecutor has told the Globe he fears that the problems could damage juries' confidence in DNA evidence. And William J. Leahy , chief counsel for the state public defender agency, said the growing number of mishandled cases cannot help but make jurors skeptical. "Jurors aren't scientists," he said. "Jurors aren't going to say, 'Well, they're screwing up, but it doesn't influence this case.' "

But Burke stressed that the lab's mishandling of test results does not mean that the science of DNA evidence is flawed. "We're not implicating the quality of the testing or the tests themselves," he said.

Leahy said he wrote Burke's office last month seeking specifics about the cases that have been mishandled and has not received a reply. He said he is writing nearly 1,000 private lawyers who are appointed to represent indigent defendants to alert them to the potential DNA problems. "We're just accepting the assertion that mistakes in unnamed cases have caused no harm, and that's hardly satisfactory," he said.

State Senator Jarrett T. Barrios , who co- chairs the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, said the increase in mishandled cases makes it more urgent that the committee holds public hearings into problems at the laboratory. He said he hoped to schedule the hearings within weeks but would not do so until the FBI completes its audit of the lab. The FBI, which is focusing on 622 matches that have been made since 2001, has provided no timetable. "There are enormous implications to the failure of the State Police crime lab in this instance, not the least of which is the potential for innocent people being convicted," Barrios said

Report here

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

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Australia: Rapist was exploited by friends, court told

A BRAIN-DAMAGED man who repeatedly raped a 15-year-old girl will be imprisoned for three years, a court has ruled. But her friends who drugged her, failed to help her when asked, and one of whom also raped her have so far escaped prosecution, a judge said.

The man, Kaisar Shlimon Malik-Kheyou, suffered frontal lobe damage in a car accident more than 10 years ago. His barrister, Graham Turnbull, had told Parramatta District Court at a sentencing hearing in December that Malik-Kheyou was manipulated by others and seen "as a cash cow" after an injury payout.

In July 2001 the victim and two of her friends were visiting his house. The girl had rejected Malik-Kheyou's advances on previous days, Parramatta District Court Judge Roy Ellis found. The girl had asked to go home, but her friends did not wish to leave. She was tired, then her friend came into the room and offered her a tablet, saying: "This will wake you up". She became sleepy, tired and weak and could not resist Malik-Kheyou. He raped her four times that night. An antipsychotic drug was later found in her system.

When her friend's boyfriend also wanted to have sex with her, the victim asked her friend to help her, but the girl said: "Just let him do it."

Judge Ellis ruled that Malik-Kheyou, who was considered unfit to plead, understood his wrongdoing when he repeatedly forced himself on the stupefied girl. But he said "he was not fully aware of the consequences of his conduct". "[He] was clearly used and exploited by a number of others [all of whom have avoided prosecution to date] … There is no doubt that the offender will be very vulnerable within the NSW prison system … he will be inevitably subject to various types of exploitation and he will have significantly greater difficulty coping with incarceration than the average inmate." Malik-Kheyou was sentenced under mental health laws and will be reviewed regularly by the Mental Health Review Tribunal, which could order an early release.

Report here

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

Monday, February 19, 2007


Testimony as tainted as this should never even be presented at a trial. It is a disgrace to California that such corrupt deals are still being done. One can only hope that the jury will disregard such nonsense

A California pastor who sold his congregation's church to buy an expensive car will avoid further jail time by agreeing to testify in a murder case. San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Bernard J. Garber sentenced Randall Radic, 54, of Ripon to 16 months in prison.

However, Radic already spent six months in jail and won't have to serve the remainder of the sentence if Garber believes the former pastor is telling the truth when he testifies in the upcoming murder trial of Roy Gerald Smith. Radic's sentencing was delayed nine times while prosecutors and Radic worked out the deal that kept him out of prison.

Prosecutors say Radic met the murder defendant in jail and is one of two witnesses who have incriminating evidence suggesting Smith killed Mary Morino-Starkey, 46, who disappeared in June 2005. Her body has still not been found.

Radic was in jail last year awaiting trial for secretly selling the First Congregational Church and its rectory, and pocketing the proceeds to buy himself a new $102,000 BMW car and a laptop computer.

Report here

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

Sunday, February 18, 2007


They can't even get fingerprint evidence right

SCOTLAND'S most senior lawyers have issued a blistering warning that confidence in the country's criminal justice system is in danger of draining away following the Shirley McKie fingerprint scandal. The 600-year-old Faculty of Advocates, which represents Scotland's QCs, said there was now a crisis of confidence in forensic experts, with the impression that their work was "unprofessional", "unreasonable" and "unacceptable". The Faculty is demanding ministers agree to a full public inquiry into the matter, to root out bad practice and restore confidence in the courts.

The comments, the first the full Faculty has made since the McKie affair began, will provoke fresh concern over dozens of convictions in Scotland where fingerprint evidence has been used to send people to jail. Last week, a report by a Scottish Parliament committee concluded there remained "significant weaknesses" in the way fingerprints were assessed. Now, the QCs say they fear many convictions based on fingerprint evidence may be unsafe and are warning the affair will trigger a deluge of appeals.

The latest turn of events comes a full 10 years after McKie, a former Strathclyde police officer, was wrongly accused of having visited a murder scene in 1997 after a print found near the body was mistakenly identified as hers. She was subsequently charged for committing perjury after denying in court that the print was hers. Last year, after being acquitted, she was awarded 750,000 pounds in damages by ministers who conceded there had been an "honest mistake". The affair snowballed after a secret report by police chiefs concluded there had been a "criminal cover-up" to frame McKie in the case.

MSPs said last week it was not appropriate for them to pass judgment on any criminality involved. However, the report has opened fresh concern about the general levels of competence within the service. The Faculty of Advocates' comments were made to the Justice 1 Committee but were only published for the first time last week.

On the McKie case, vice-dean Valerie Stacey QC declares: "The issue is that some evidence and circumstances suggest that this is not a dispute between experts on whether or not a print matches, but rather suggests that the work of the SCRO [Scottish Criminal Records Office] is not only unprofessional but unreasonable or unacceptable." She adds: "In this context, the Faculty is very concerned at the risk of a lack of confidence in expert evidence of fingerprint identification, forensic evidence generally and indeed the criminal justice system as a whole. It is our view that in order to restore confidence and move on from these events a public inquiry is necessary."

The Faculty is scathing of evidence from SCRO officers during the parliamentary inquiry, when it was admitted that experts would not tell outsiders when there had been a dispute among them about a print. Instead, defence counsels have been told to accept prints as 100% bona fide. Stacey concludes: "Without a full inquiry into these events, then defence challenges are now likely to be made or attempted [into fingerprint evidence] as a matter of course." Maggie Scott, former chair of the Faculty of Advocates Criminal Bar Association added: "They will have great difficulty in getting convictions on fingerprint evidence now because of the awareness in the public that it isn't a science."

Campaigners said the claims by the Faculty showed the case had far greater implications over and above the details of the McKie case. Her father, Iain McKie, said: "In our case, there were two wrong fingerprints. We are asked to believe that there were no other mistakes in any other case apart from that. "I think we should be reviewing every fingerprint case over the last 20 to 30 years."

Former SNP MSP Mike Russell, who has campaigned on behalf of the McKie family, added: "It strains credulity to suggest that this is a single case. None of the issues from the Shirley McKie case have been cleared up. The truth is that politicians, prosecutors and police are scared and afraid of decisions being questioned."

But ministers have defended their stance, saying checks were made on the SCRO to find whether there was a systematic failure. The inquiries concluded that all other identifications the SCRO had processed in the year before the McKie case were correct. They also point out that there have been only two cases in the past 10 years where a case has had to be dropped by the Crown because of unsafe fingerprint evidence.

The fresh row comes as it emerged the four fingerprint experts at the centre of the affair may be due for a lucrative severance payment next month. Hugh Macpherson, Fiona McBride, Anthony McKenna and Charles Stewart originally identified McKie in 1997, and defended their case in front of MSPs last year. Union representatives say negotiations are under way for a severance deal between them and the newly-formed Scottish Police Services Authority, which takes over the fingerprint service on April 1. A Unison spokeswoman said: "It is impossible for anybody to understand the stress they have been under." She added: "We will support them if they don't leave. If they do leave, it will be through their own choice."

Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson said she would give "careful consideration" to the committee's findings. "In doing so, I want to re-state my clear commitment to ensuring that the Scottish Fingerprint Service provides a world-class service," she added.

Report here

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

Saturday, February 17, 2007

MD: Mistakenly extradited man has "day in court"

A Nashville man who was misidentified as a wanted felon, detained for three weeks and then extradited to Maryland was finally given a pass by local justice system Tuesday. But Tommie Lee Simpson came just as close to being put back in jail Tuesday on the driving without a license charge that started his bizarre journey to Maryland and back.

The Davidson County District Attorney’s Office was set Tuesday to prosecute Simpson if he failed to appear for court, or if he failed to show proof that he had either obtained a valid license or completed eight hours of community service. “The District Attorney’s Office is not the one who made the original mistake, so we decided to take care of it on the docket when it came up on the docket,” said Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Schwartz.

Simpson never came to court Tuesday. But, at the end of the day, the District Attorney’s Office decided it prudent to retire Simpson’s case rather than take further action. With the case retired – as opposed to dismissed – prosecutors may reopen it at their discretion. “Given the circumstances, having his case retired seems appropriate,” Schwartz said.

The 35-year-old Simpson took an unusual route through the Davidson County Criminal courthouse after he was pulled over for having an expired temporary tag and arrested for driving without a valid driver’s license.

First, Simpson, who was pulled over on Dec. 15 by Vanderbilt University Police on his way home from work at the University’s medical center, was taken to the Nashville Metro Police Department. Then, in a bizarre case of mistaken identity, Simpson was extradited to Maryland after the name Tommie Lee Simpson, along with a similar – but not the same – birthday came up in the criminal information system used by Metro Police as having an outstanding warrant for third-degree sexual assault in Maryland. Simpson, though, spent three weeks over Christmas and New Year’s detained in the Metro jail awaiting his extradition.

After Maryland authorities came to Nashville to retrieve Simpson and take him back to the east coast, they began the booking procedure, which included taking Simpson’s fingerprints. Upon feeding those prints into their computer system they quickly realized the Simpson they had was not the Simpson they wanted.

Metro Police acknowledged that its fugitive unit failed to take Simpson’s fingerprints. According to the official explanation given by the department, because Simpson did not “vehemently protest” Metro’s claim that he was a wanted man in Maryland, and his general description matched that of the man with an outstanding warrant in another state, they felt obligated to go ahead with procedures to extradite him.

Upon learning they had been given the wrong individual, the Montgomery County (Md.) Sheriff’s Department took Simpson to a homeless shelter. Simpson soon vanished altogether, according to an account given by Montgomery County Sheriff Raymond Kight.

On Jan. 11 – some 27 days after his initial run in with Nashville authorities – Simpson finally made it back to town, having taken a Greyhound bus back to Nashville.

At a press conference held the day after he returned, Simpson said he was just happy the incident was finally over.

Report here

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

Friday, February 16, 2007

Georgia couple catches neighborhood speeder ... a cop

So the couple are in the wrong!

A Bartow County couple is fighting back against neighborhood speeders. Lee and Teresa Sipple live at the bottom of a steep hill outside of Rome and say most motorists ignore the posted speed limit and zoom by their house, endangering them and their 2-year-old son. But now, fighting back could land them in jail. Lee and Teresa Sipple have an upcoming court date to see if they will be arrested for messing with a cop.

“My little boy, I don’t, I don’t want him hurt,” Lee Sipple told Channel 2. Lee and his wife, Teresa are tired of neighborhood speeders. “Not that I’m going to teach my child to play out in the street but when they come off that hill, they’re just cooking! I mean, I’ve got people going 50 and 46, a 42, a 37,” explained Lee.

How does Lee know their actual speed? He went out and purchased a radar. “I’m not trying to get the folks in trouble per se, I’m just trying to slow them down and if they see the radar, they may slow down – but it hasn’t happened yet,” Lee said. So Lee took it one step further. “I mean, and I figured, well as much as I hate to do it…” He and his wife spent $1,200 on cameras that capture the evidence. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” said Lee. “It’s not something I can make up. You can sit here and watch it work, as a car goes by.” Lee has three different cameras trained on the street to catch local speeders red-handed. “Video evidence – same thing as the red light cameras – and I can grab it, print it, send it, e-mail it…” Lee said.

Lee says his most surprising catch yet? A neighbor who ought to know better. “Kennesaw police officer, you know, coming down the hill and running 34 miles per hour in a 25 mile an hour zone.” And Lee says it happens quite often. “Oh, I’ve caught him going 42, 37, going up the hill, down the hill, all kinds of speeds.”

The Kennesaw officer is named Richard Perrone – he declined our request for an interview. Kennesaw police say they’ve talked with the Sipples, but can’t interfere in another county’s business. “We continue to talk to the officer to continue to find out his side, but it’s ultimately going to come down to Bartow County. It’s their jurisdiction for them to investigate it and enforce the traffic laws in their jurisdiction,” said Officer Scott Luther.

Turns out, Bartow County did get involved, when their deputy knocked on the Sipple’s front door. “Lo and behold, she’s there trying to figure out if she’s going to arrest me or not for harassing him,” said Lee. That’s right. Perrone is seeking a warrant in Bartow County Court to have Lee and Teresa locked up for stalking.

“I was under the impression that I wasn’t supposed to be scared of the police, but this officer…he’s trying to poke at me, trying to intimidate me, trying to harass me,” Lee said. “I live here, I can’t retreat, I can’t go no further back. I mean, what am I to do?”

According to the warrant affidavit filed by Officer Perrone, he says the Sipples did harass him by sending his employer multiple e-mails in an effort to get him in trouble. Kennesaw Police say they are investigating and have counseled Perrone before for improperly flashing his badge at the Sipples. A judge will hear Perrone’s stalking application February 14.

Report here

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

Thursday, February 15, 2007


A witness has revealed she gave false evidence under threat of being charged with a murder conspiracy

On August 10 last year, the NSW Labor member for Illawarra, Marianne Saliba, met her constituent Roseanne Catt, who is campaigning for compensation for the 10 years she spent in jail for conspiracy to murder her husband and other offences, which were quashed in 2005. At Ms Saliba's suggestion, they met at Cafe J in Shellharbour. As they were talking, Ms Saliba saw a woman approach and tap Ms Catt on the shoulder. "Mum, I thought I would never find you again," the woman cried as she hugged Ms Catt. The woman was the cafe's chef, Tracy Taylor.

Ms Taylor later told the Herald she was overjoyed to see Ms Catt, whom she had called "Mum" as her own mother died when she was five. "Roseanne gave me a job and taught me to cook when I left school," she said. At that time they both lived in Taree. But Ms Taylor was afraid Ms Catt would not talk to her now, because they had not met since Ms Taylor gave evidence for the Crown in the 1991 trial in which Ms Catt was convicted of attempted poisoning, conspiracy to murder and other offences against her former husband, the Taree mechanic Barry Catt. Ms Taylor later told the Herald about the circumstances in which she gave her evidence, and in December she signed an affidavit, which Ms Catt has forwarded to the Attorney-General, Bob Debus.

It states: "Parts of the evidence I gave at the trial are not truthful. I went along with the police because I was frightened. I am very sorry for any harm that was caused but I had no one to help or advise me."

At the time of Ms Catt's arrest in 1989, Ms Taylor, then 24, had moved to Queensland. The first she knew of it was when two detectives arrived at her home at Ingham in 1990 and took her to the police station. "They said I was a prostitute and that Roseanne was the madam and that I was the one who kept the guns," her statement says. "I said I knew nothing about guns. I had never seen Roseanne with a gun. They also said I was going to be charged with conspiring to murder Barry Catt." She adds: "I was threatened into signing a statement that was not mine. I was terrified . I feared for my life and my baby's life."

Like many other witnesses, her evidence was not a major part of the case but supported the Crown contention that Ms Catt had tried to poison Mr Catt. She says her false evidence included that Ms Catt had encouraged her to baffle and confuse Barry Catt into making admissions of sexual abuse.

In his 2004 report to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal, the Acting District Court judge Tom Davidson found a detective and others may have framed Ms Catt on the attempted poisoning charge. This conviction was among six of eight quashed.

Sending Ms Taylor's affidavit to Mr Debus on February 1, Ms Catt wrote: "This is compelling fresh evidence that . there has been a grave miscarriage of justice, where witnesses were forced to give false evidence." Last week the Herald asked Mr Debus what action he proposed to take. He is yet to reply.

Ms Taylor said when she met Ms Catt at the cafe, she knew nothing of what had happened, including the quashing of her convictions. Had the Crown contacted her, she would have been prepared to give evidence for Ms Catt at the appeal. Last October Ms Saliba told Parliament of the dramatic meeting between the women. She called for authorities to compensate Ms Catt for the "horrific injustice".

Report here

MO: She honked at cops, got hit by stun gun, convicted

A 69-year-old woman who was shocked with a stun gun after she honked her car horn at a police car has been convicted of resisting arrest for sparking a quarrel with officers. But a Circuit Court jury refused to send Louise Jones to jail, fining her $650 instead. Jones' attorney, Basil North, said he might appeal. ''We don't think she should have been convicted of anything,'' he said.

On June 15, 2004, police officers Cory Le Moine and Ryan VanDeusen responded to a domestic disturbance call near Jones' home. The officers were cruising the street slowly, watching for trouble. Jones was in her car behind the police vehicle when she honked her horn and pulled into her driveway. Police, spooked by the horn, parked and questioned Jones, leading to a scuffle after they threatened to write her a ticket. The stun gun of one of the officers discharged, according to testimony.

The trial was Jones' second. She and her husband, 78-year-old Fred Jones, who tried to break up the scuffle, were convicted and sentenced to probation in Municipal Court. Both appealed, and charges against Fred Jones were dismissed. Louise Jones was granted a retrial in Circuit Court.

Report here

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

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

One law for us, another for you

The stench from the legal prosecution of Matt Bandy continues and desperate hacks for Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas are doing their best to smear Matt. Several times people have commented about how easy it is for unwanted and unknown images to appear on one’s hard drive. And the question has come up what the prosecutors do if it happened to them, their family or their allies. Now we know.

The full force of the law was used against Matt Bandy. He faced a compulsory, 90 year minimum sentence in prison because nine images were found on his computer and representatives of Andrew Thomas’ office said he put them there willingly. In reality there are half a dozen ways minimum that images can end up in your computer files without your consent or knowledge.

But when it was discovered that Don Lafrenier, who had been with Sahuarita, Arizona police department, had 17 images, defined as child pornography, on his lap top what did the authorities do?

Remember Lafrenier was a full grown adult when his case arose and Matt Bandy was a 16 year old kid. So surely they went after Lafrenier with more force and authority than they did to this kid. Add onto the case the fact that Lafrenier had been a public official, an officer of the law, and you’d think that they would really throw the book at him. They didn’t. They did nothing. I’m not saying they were wrong here. I’m merely illustrating the difference of how the law treats one of their own and how they treat the serfs, I mean the average person.

Lt. Ryan Young of the the local police explained why the Attorney General decided not to prosecute Lafrenier. I quote how it was reported by the Grass Valley (AZ) News.

The decision not to press charges was made by the Attorney General’s office, which typically does not press charges unless there is evidence that someone with pornographic images actively used those images, Young said. That’s because Internet users can find unwanted images, including pornography, “popping up” on their screens, and even if they delete the images, a record of that image will remain in their computer, Young said.

The justification is partially reasonable and partially not. First, this is what happened to Matt Bandy yet he was prosecuted and faced what amounted to life in jail. And if Lafrenier had been prosecuted he would have faced a minimum term of 170 years in prison. Arizona is bonkers folks. One man recently received a 200 year sentence for 20 photographs he downloaded from the internet, or is alleged to have downloaded. And Arizona courts ruled the sentence is neither cruel nor unusual. I suggest it is cruel, it is unusual and it is insane.

People ought to be outraged but the moment someone whines: “What about the kids?” the public goes into a hypnotic stupor and chants “more prison time, more prison time.”

So police officer Lafrenier was facing the potential of 170 years in prison. But charges are dropped because the District Attorney says people can’t necessarily be held responsible for images found on their computer. Andrew Thomas says they can and tried to send Matt Bandy to prison for life.

But Bandy was no police officer. He wasn’t “one of the boys” and we know law enforcement looks out for one another. So how do you find a difference between the case of Lafrenier and the case of Matt Bandy? You need something to justify throwing the book at the kid and looking the other way for the cop. And the key is found in the phrase “actively used” the images.

What is meant by active use? The local press explains this means “categorized, saved to a compact disc or e-mailed to others.”

Does that necessarily make sense? Some does and some doesn’t. If someone e-mails an image to a friend then they know the image is there. But one’s computer can become part of a zombie network used by hackers to send out e-mails. So e-mails go out from your computer and you are not aware of it. Active use for sure but not your active use. Can the cops tell the difference?

What I assuming here is that they are saying is that the cop's computer had images and it but it doesn’t appear he moved them around. Therefore they conclude he didn’t know they were there. In Matt’s case the images went into the system and sat in a file that was on a CDRom. So that is considered “active use”.

I think they were clutching for a way to save the cop, crucify Matt and justify both. The distinction between the two cases (while both are in Arizona they had different prosecutors but I am sure the prosecutor knew of the Bandy case) is nebulous at best.

Now that this DA has conceded that images can end up on a computer without one’s knowledge can their be evidence of active use and the owner still be innocent?

The answer is yes. As already noted the individual running the zombie network can plant images in a file on your computer and then use your computer to send them to others. In fact if it were being used for such purposes you would assume that active use of the images is more of an indicator of innocence than of guilt.

Consider two cases. Computer A is part of a zombie network. Why is it part of a zombie network? So the controller of the network can use it! Computer B is not part of a network and thus not used actively. The images are not sent to anyone. At least when it comes to zombie networks it would seem that active use is more likely to be found with the innocent person than with the guilty person.

In Matt’s case the images were buried in a file that was buried in a file, in another file for several layers deep which was found on a CDRom. How could this happen, ask the the law crowd, without intent?

Very easily in fact. One can join groups which where the members send out images. Now often anyone can post to that group. The group might be images from mainstream films or it might be legal, adult erotica or anything in between. One person posts a message to that group which contains 20 images and five of them might be questionable. No one asked for the questionable images nor did they know they were coming.

You open your e-mail and find a message with 20 images. If you are a group member five or six other people might have sent multiple images as well, all legal. You might have 100 images. You are in rush and put all these images in a folder without necessarily viewing them first. They are now in the folder and you wish to later go through them and throw out anything you don’t want. You are still unaware of the content of the suspect images.

A few days later you realize your holding folder is getting full. You’ve been throwing these excess images into the folder for a couple of weeks. And the computer is running slow. So you decide to dump things to a CD for storage to free up computer space. Now you could have a few thousand images to inspect. But if you had trouble inspecting 100 images you are not likely to sit down and spend some hours going through thousands of files. So you drag all the files onto the CD and copy them. And then you throw out the original and leave the CD around for “later”.

You received the image but didn’t see it. You put it in one folder still without looking at it. You now stored that folder on a CD without going through that folder. But in moving it twice you “actively used” the image and would be guilty under the Lafrenier principle. Meanwhile a cop, for instance, could download the images, view them numerous times but never move them and his use is "inactive". He is considered innocent and you are considered guilty.

But this can also happen in ways where you didn’t make an effort to subscribe to a group. The zombie controller places images in storage inside a sub-sub file on your computer. You don’t know it is there. You move some files onto the disk to make room. Before you do that you don’t inspect every folder and ever sub folder within every folder. You just copy the whole lot over. And you may delete the originals keeping them on on disk. You are now an “active” user of the file you didn’t know existed and have never seen.

It is recommended that you back up the content of your computer regularly. That means you copy the contents of your disk onto disks and store them to replace things just in case the system crashes and destroys data you need. When you back up your system you back up all the files including the files you don’t know about. Once again you have become an “active” user of files which you didn’t know existed.

On the surface the distinction between the two cases sounds plausible. But with only a few seconds consideration you realize the differences are not substantive at all.

Perhaps what is really happening is old as time itself. The political class that rules always feels there is one set of rules for the plebes and another set for themselves. Prosecutors and cops are on the same side, that is why they so often cover up for each other. Law is for the common folk who need to be controlled not by the social elite who are the controllers.

This not rare. The average American is herded into social security. Congress exempted themselves from the system. A political candidate can spend millions of his own funds to win election. If you are a millionaire and want to fund his opponent you can’t do it. You are a plebe and he is one of the masters of the realm.

Since there is a great deal of discretionary power the DA in the Lafrenier case decided not to prosecute. It was a police officer. Andrew Thomas was ready to crucify Matt Bandy but he was just a kid. He wasn’t one of the rulers. This sounds far more likely to be the reason Officer Lafrenier was ignored and Matt Bandy was run through the wringer -- and is still being run through the wringer by Thomas’ close assistant, Rachel Alexander.

Report here

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

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


A rare but long overdue move

The wrongful imprisonment of Andrew Mallard for almost 12 years for a murder he did not commit is to be examined by a special commissioner. Mr Mallard was cleared last year of murdering Perth jeweller Pamela Lawrence, who was bludgeoned to death in 1994.

WA's Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) has begun investigating allegations of misconduct by police and prosecutors involved in Mr Mallard's case. Attorney-General Jim McGinty said today he would appoint a special commissioner to oversee the investigation. ``Andrew Mallard spent 12 years in jail for a crime that police now admit he did not commit so there are important questions of legal principle and integrity that must now be answered,'' Mr McGinty said. ``The appointment of a special commissioner to focus solely on this inquiry will ensure that no stone is left unturned in this terrible tale of injustice.'' Mr McGinty said he hoped it would be the final chapter for Mr Mallard and the family of Ms Lawrence.

Mr Mallard was convicted in November 1995. He appealed his conviction without success and a subsequent petition for mercy was declined. However, the case went back to the Court of Criminal Appeal in 2002 after new material was submitted and made it to the High Court in 2005 where his conviction was quashed. Mr Mallard was released from jail last year just months before a police cold-case review found sufficient evidence to implicate convicted killer Simon Rochford in Ms Lawrence's murder. Rochford committed suicide in Albany Prison in May 2006, a week after police questioned him about Mrs Lawrence's death. The CCC hopes to begin its public hearing into the Mallard case within the next five months.

Report here


Award for wrongly accused fireman

A firefighter who accused police of injuring him as he was wrongfully arrested for drug dealing has been awarded 15,000 pounds in compensation. John James, 37, of Oldbury, West Midlands, was arrested and handcuffed while queuing in a restaurant with his six-year-old son. The Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue worker said he suffered numerous injuries in the incident.

A West Midlands Police spokesman said the officer involved had resigned. In a statement the force said: "The police officer involved in this case resigned prior to any misconduct considerations. "The matter is not in dispute and a compensation order has been made."

Mr James' solicitor said he had been queuing with his son in a McDonald's restaurant in June 2004 when he was accused of drug-dealing. He had his arm twisted behind his back and was forced to his knees before being taken away. He was held in custody for an hour. Several days after his release he had to be treated in hospital after collapsing.

He said: "I couldn't believe the treatment I received. "The police officers were informed a black man was selling drugs from a blue car in the car park of McDonald's. "I was in the queue waiting to be served, standing with my son, when I was approached by the policeman intent on arresting me." The firefighter denied any wrongdoing and the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case a year later. Mr James said he wanted to highlight the fact there "are small pockets in the police force which think they are above the law".

Report here

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

Monday, February 12, 2007


Two Border Patrol agents who testified against two co-workers convicted of shooting a drug smuggler will be fired for changing their stories about events surrounding the shooting, according to documents obtained by The Sun's sister newspaper, the Ontario-based Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

Sources inside the Border Patrol also say Oscar Juarez, a third agent who testified against Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, resigned from the agency last month shortly before he was to be fired.

All three agents gave sworn testimony against Ramos and Compean for the U.S. Attorney's Office, which successfully prosecuted the shooting case in March. The three agents were given immunity in exchange for their testimony despite changing their accounts of the incident several times. "When you give deals to witnesses like immunity, the government usually gets the testimony (it wants)," said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, a former judge and prosecutor. "This case is a perfect example."

Documents for their proposed removal were issued to Border Patrol agents David Jaquez and Arturo Vasquez on Jan. 29, and were signed by both agents. Jaquez and Vasquez could not be reached for comment. Their terminations take effect Feb. 28.

The removal document for Vasquez shows that the agents changed their stories several times between their original interviews with investigators from the Homeland Security Department's Office of Inspector General and their appearances in court. According to the removal document, Vasquez originally told investigators that Compean made a radio call warning of a possible narcotics suspect who had tripped sensors at the Texas-Mexico border while driving a van toward Fabens, a small town 30 miles southeast of El Paso.

"On March 18, 2005, and on May 11, 2005, you provided different statements to DHS OIG investigators regarding your knowledge of the February 2005 shooting incident," Vasquez's proposal for termination states. "Specifically, you said in the March 18, 2005, statement that you heard radio traffic by (Border Patrol Agent) Jose Compean that there was a 10-46 (apprehended narcotics case) in progress in the area. You testified in court on February 24, 2006, and admitted that your March 18, 2005, statement regarding a 10-46 in progress was inaccurate."

Compean said he was watching an area along the Rio Grande at about 11 a.m. Feb. 17, 2005, when sensors on the border went off. When the van driven by smuggler Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila eventually tripped the sensors again just before 1 p.m., he said he radioed for backup.

The termination proposal also noted Vasquez told prosecutors that Compean used an expletive to describe Aldrete-Davila when the smuggler threw dirt in his eyes during a tussle before the shootings. Vasquez's sworn statement of March 18, 2005, contains no mention of an expletive. Vasquez also said that when he opened the door to the van, he couldn't smell the nearly 800 pounds of marijuana in the vehicle, contradicting statements made by other agents on the scene, according to trial testimony.

In trial transcripts of Vasquez's testimony obtained by the Daily Bulletin, Vasquez tries to explain why he lied to investigators. "So this statement, your March 18 statement, would be inaccurate," asked Stephen Peters, co-counsel for Ramos, on Feb. 24, 2006. "On that part, yes," Vasquez replied. He explained that he wasn't sure why he thought Compean called for backup while pursuing a narcotics suspect, and did not directly answer Peters' question as to why other agents went to Compean's aid.

Jaquez's original statements to investigators and his testimony at trial also contain several contradictions. "On April 15, 2005, you provided false statements during your interview with DHS (Office of Inspector General) investigators regarding the February 17, 2005, shooting incident," his removal document reads. "You told DHS OIG that when you asked (Agent) Compean what had happened, he never mentioned the shooting incident to you. On February 27, you testified in court and admitted that you gave two different statements to DHS OIG investigators."

According to DHS Office of Inspector General investigation memos written less than a month after the shooting, all nine of the agents at the shooting scene, including two supervisors, knew about the shooting and failed to report it. However, a Homeland Security Report of Incident written in November and released this week contends the nine agents were unaware of the shooting and were not responsible for reporting it.

Ramos and Compean were convicted of shooting Aldrete-Davila in the buttocks, violating his civil rights, and attempting to cover up their actions by tampering with evidence at the shooting scene.

In October, Ramos and Compean were sentenced to 11 and 12 years, respectively, in federal prison. They began serving their sentences last month, Ramos in Mississippi, Compean in Ohio.

Report here

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

Sunday, February 11, 2007


PC Timothy Dunning, from Thames Valley Police, left court this week after being acquitted of a single charge of dangerous driving. He has a further trial for drink-driving to come. An ordinary motorist who admits that they failed to stop for the police and is accused by officers of speeding, giving a false name and being obstructive would expect to be penalised. That same driver would also fear for his motoring future if found to be allegedly twice the drink-drive limit.

Last night, motoring groups were bemused and angry that PC Dunning did not face other charges. In a further twist to the case, the jury at Reading Crown Court was told that PC Dunning was a man of good character. After the jurors retired to consider their verdict, Alex Verdan, the court Recorder, turned to PC Dunning's defence counsel and asked if it was correct that the officer had no previous convictions. Barrister Robert Meikle then revealed that PC Dunning had a speeding conviction and been disciplined for using alcohol while on duty. He said: "There is one speeding matter and another disciplinary matter."

The jury was not recalled and they returned two hours later to pronounce the 44-year-old officer as not guilty of dangerous driving. After the trial, motoring groups questioned why PC Dunning had not faced charges of obstruction or failing to stop. They pointed to comments made by PC Dunning's barrister, who told the jury: "You may consider that in the small hours of the morning Mr Dunning behaved like a complete goodness knows what. I imagine that some of you may use more colourful words in your mind. "What on earth was he doing? A serving police officer failing to stop and leading them on a merry dance around the countyside."

But he went on to explain: "You are not trying him for failing to stop, you're not trying him for excess alcohol, you are not trying him for exceeding the speed limit. He wasn't even charged with exceeding the speed limit."

Last night Paul Smith, the founder of the Safe Speed road safety campaign, asked: "Is this cockup or conspiracy?" He said: "Why was he not charged with the other offences which, on the face of it, sound as if they would have easily been proved in court? Most drivers would surely have found themselves in a different position." Kevin Clinton, head of safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, added: "We and the public have the right to expect the police to set the right example in the way they behave as drivers and if they drive badly or break the law, they are treated in exactly the same way as other drivers by the police and the courts."

During the trial, the court was told that PC Dunning was spotted driving his van at 2am at high speed near his home in Milton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire, in March last year. Marked police cars gave chase with their blue lights flashing and sirens sounding. PC Robert Stubley, who was driving one of the vehicles, told the jury how PC Dunning refused to stop. Another officer, acting Sergeant Peter Reid, said that the police car reached 80mph at one point in the pursuit.

Giving evidence, PC Dunning said that he failed to stop because "it would have caused me embarrassing or potentially embarrassing conversations". The jury was told that PC Dunning, who has been suspended on full pay for almost a year, had earlier drunk two pints of Guinness when out for a meal and a measure of whisky at a friend's house. He maintained throughout the trial that he had not driven dangerously and said that he felt fine to drive.

After the trial, a spokesman for Thames Valley Police said: "The charges are a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service." A spokeswoman for the CPS told The Times: "Dangerous driving is a serious offence and it encompasses the actions of the police officer. We felt it was the appropriate charge." PC Dunning still faces a charge of drink-driving to be heard at a magistrates' court at a later date.

Report here

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

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A chance that justice may be done

(Post taken from Classically Liberal)

For the first time in a long time I have a small feeling that justice just might be possible in some cases in America when cops go out of control.

I have posted several times on the police killing of Kathryn Johnson, here and here.

The basics are that drug cops in Atlanta attacked the Johnson home claiming that it was a center of drug trafficking. It was instead occupied by a terrified 92-year-old grandmother who suddenly found strange men breaking down her door. She pulled a gun and shot in self-defense. They killed her in return though she only managed to wound the attackers. Too bad!

Once it was determined that there was no drug sales going on there at all. The woman defended her home from what appeared to her to be armed attackers. The police lied in obtaining a warrant. They lied about what happened throughout. And Kathryn Johnson died because of those lies.

Now something very rare has happened. The typical response of the police and local officials to cover up police lies and allow these “legal” killers to escape justice. But prosecutors in Atlanta deserve applause.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that DA Paul Howard “will seek criminal charges, including felony murder, against three Atlanta narcotics officers involved in a botched drug raid”. Please note that it is not the botched part that makes them criminals per se it is the fact that they lied to the get the warrant and acted illegally. The officers are charged with felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, burglary and making false statements and violation of oath. Hallelujah! They deserve it.

The indictment names Gregg Junnier, Jason R. Smith and Arthur Tesler specifically. All three were involved in the murder of Kathryn Johnson. And it was murder. Read the previous posts for clarity on what happened.

The indictment notes that the officers claimed an informant purchased drugs at the home earlier on the day of the raid. It also notes that was a lie and that no such thing had taken place. DA Howard says he “will not rest until every person responsible for [Johnson’s] death is held accountable...”

That has police worried. Legal experts say that “if the warrant to enter Johnston’s home was based on deceit, all actions that occurred after police broke down the door could be considered criminal.” Now that is troubling to drug cops in particular who routinely lie.

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

Friday, February 09, 2007

Conviction in Balancio slaying overturned

An unscrupulous prosecutor and withheld evidence again

NEW YORK - Former District Attorney Jeanine Pirro's office withheld "very serious" evidence that could have pointed to another killer in the high-profile Louis Balancio slaying, a federal judge ruled in overturning the murder conviction of Anthony DiSimone. Judge Charles Brieant ordered reputed Tanglewood Boys gangster DiSimone freed from prison, but stayed his release for 20 days so prosecutors could appeal. The office of current District Attorney Janet DiFiore said yesterday that it would do so in an effort to get a new trial.

Last year, DiFiore's office offered DiSimone a new trial in the 1994 slaying after admitting prosecutors improperly withheld 52 boxes of evidence from the defense in 1999. But Brieant said the misconduct was so severe that prosecutors shouldn't get a new trial because the withheld evidence "has raised very serious issues of actual innocence, clearly arising to the level of reasonable doubt." The Monday decision, coming a day after the 13th anniversary of the stabbing, stunned the parents of the 21-year-old victim.

"There was never any question about guilt," said his father, former Yonkers Councilman Jeffrey Balancio. "The whole question was around a process technicality, and it appears Brieant has just thrown everything overboard. It just doesn't make any logical sense to me at all."

Pirro did not return a telephone call seeking comment, nor did lead DiSimone prosecutor Clement Patti, now a lawyer in private practice in White Plains. Relatives of DiSimone contacted him at Green Haven state prison in Dutchess County, to inform him of Brieant's decision. DiSimone's lawyer, David Feureisen, said he was "very pleased" and "hopeful he will be released." "Prosecutors clearly did not follow the rules," he said.

Feureisen accused Pirro's office of failing to turn over more than 300 pages of evidence, including the police statement of a Yonkers man named Luvic Gjonaj, who told police that his cousin, Nickoun Djonovic, admitted that he stabbed Balancio during the Feb. 4, 1994, melee outside the former Strike Zone bar on Central Park Avenue in Yonkers. "It's too much evidence, in my opinion, to believe this was just an oversight," Feureisen said. The prosecutor is required to turn over such materials, known as "Brady" evidence, to the defense.

The judge, however, said he's not concerned whether the withholding of information by Westchester prosecutors was "willful and intentional or merely unthinking and highly negligent." "It is not a function of this court to punish the prosecutors for their misconduct ... but rather to see that justice is done in the case," Brieant wrote in his decision.

DiSimone, 40, the son of a reputed Lucchese crime family captain, was accused of repeatedly stabbing Balancio during a brawl. He disappeared after the killing, along with Djonovic. Following an international manhunt, DiSimone walked into a Yonkers police precinct in November 1999 and surrendered. A year later, a jury found him guilty of second-degree murder, under the theory he showed a "depraved indifference" to human life. He was cleared, however, of intentionally killing Balancio.

He was sentenced to 25 years to life. In December 2005, Brieant tossed out the conviction, citing a 2004 precedent by New York's highest court. The state court ruled that a defendant could not be legally convicted of a reckless murder charge when prosecutors present a slaying as being deliberate. Brieant did not free DiSimone at that time, freezing any action pending an appeal by the Westchester District Attorney's Office.

Late last year, DiFiore's office acknowledged it improperly withheld evidence in the trial and submitted an affidavit agreeing to DiSimone's request to have his conviction declared invalid due to legal error. "We are doing these things, Your Honor, out of a sense of fairness and justice," Assistant District Attorney Valerie Livingston said at the time. Her office wants a retrial, as does the victim's family.

The father, Jeffrey Balancio, said "the whole point was that, worst case, there would be another trial because of this technicality. But just to have him throw his hands up and say, 'Heck with it, throw it all overboard and just overturn the ruling,' seems unconscionable."

Former prosecutor Bennett Gershman, a professor at Pace University Law School in White Plains, said Brieant's ruling had seriously tarnished Pirro's reputation as a crime fighter. Gershman, a longtime Pirro critic, called the violation of DiSimone's rights "as outrageous an example of prosecutorial misconduct as there is." "They deliberately denied the defendant a fair trial, that's what it comes down to," he said. "It doesn't get any worse than this, and I say that not just because it's Jeanine Pirro." Gershman said the case could also be compared to the recent DNA exoneration of Jeffrey Deskovic, who said Pirro refused to review his claims of wrongful conviction in a Peekskill rape and murder. "This shows that she's not a professional prosecutor. It shows that she's about winning at all costs and breaking the rules to win," he said.

Brieant's ruling joined a string of recent setbacks for Pirro, who lost last year's race for state attorney general after abandoning a brief, gaffe-plagued challenge of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Yesterday, U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said an investigation sparked by Pirro's attempt to eavesdrop on her husband was continuing; on Tuesday, a television industry executive revealed that programmers had passed on plans for Pirro to host a daytime reality show called "Celebrity Jury." Brieant's ruling in favor of DiSimone wasn't the first time he overturned a guilty verdict in a Westchester slaying.

In 2001, the judge threw out Paul Cox's manslaughter convictions for stabbing Lakshman Rao Chervu and Shanta Chervu in 1998, ruling that prosecutors breached religious privilege by forcing Cox's fellow members of Alcoholics Anonymous to testify against him. But that ruling was reversed on appeal and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Report here

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

Thursday, February 08, 2007


They don't think that their history of wrongful convictions requires any remedial effort

Criminal defense attorneys say an Illinois report is undermining nationwide efforts to reform what they call deeply flawed police lineup procedures where witnesses view suspects standing together in the same room. The attorneys filed a lawsuit Thursday that seeks to force several Illinois police departments to release data used for the 2006 report that criticizes a new method, in which witnesses are shown potential suspects one at a time. "There's a concerted effort to use Illinois to thwart reforms around the country," said Scott Ehlers, of the Washington D.C.-based National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which is the plaintiff in the lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court. The NACDL says most studies have concluded the new methods are superior.

The Illinois report, however, is being widely cited by supporters of the status quo as they fight bills in several states to revamp the old lineup procedures, Ehlers said. "Inevitably, police and prosecutors come to hearings and they say, 'But look at Illinois. Illinois said the reforms don't work,"' he said.

Advocates of the new method say police and prosecutors favor the traditional lineup, not because it's better, but because it's less cumbersome and time-consuming. Messages seeking comment from the agencies that provided data for the report were not returned Thursday.

The MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law filed the lawsuit on behalf of the NACDL. It names the superintendent of the Chicago police, the chiefs of the Evanston and Joliet police departments and the director of the Illinois State Police as defendants. The lawsuit alleges that repeated requests for the report's underlying data and protocols have been refused or ignored. "If they're going to justify this flawed system, then the least they owe to us ... is an opportunity to look at the data so we can assess the validity of what's being found here," said attorney Locke Bowman, of the MacArthur Justice Center.

The city attorney for Joliet said he was surprised by the legal action, saying his department had responded to all requests to disclose information related to the report. "We are unaware there are any remaining issues involving their request," Jeff Plyman said. "No information was held back as far as I know." Messages left for the city of Evanston's legal department and for the general counsel to the superintendent of the Chicago police were not returned Thursday. The Illinois State Police had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit and so officials could not comment on it, said spokesman Lt. Scott Compton.

At least 50 people in Illinois are known to have been wrongfully convicted due to erroneous identifications made under the old lineup procedure, said Rob Warden, of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. "But cases we've identified are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg," he said.

The lawsuit follows a yearlong pilot program that began in 2004 and involved police from Chicago, Joliet and Evanston. In the program, potential suspects were brought before witnesses one at a time, and the process was overseen by officers who did not know which one was the actual suspect.

The subsequent report, compiled by the participating agencies and submitted to the Illinois legislature in March, raised questions about the accuracy of the sequential double-blind method. It also said this newer method often caused investigative delays and was difficult to execute. "The data collected shows that the sequential double-blind method led to a lower rate of suspect identifications as well as a higher rate of known false errors," the report concluded.

Report here

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

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Epileptics are not supposed to drive. Police coverup of details does not inspire confidence

No charges will be filed against a motorist whose vehicle struck and killed a 6-month-old girl outside a Longs Drugs store in Auburn last summer. The Placer County District Attorney's Office made the decision in the case involving Douglas Scott Jones, 43, of Auburn, who on Aug. 24 lost control of his sport-utility vehicle, hitting a baby stroller carrying Paige Luthi of Colfax. The baby's 28-year-old uncle and his 10-year-old daughter also were hit by Jones' Toyota 4Runner and suffered injuries.

Steve Dragland, supervising deputy district attorney, said his office could not go forward with prosecution against Jones. "It was a horrible tragedy," he said Friday, "But it was not a prosecutable criminal case." Elaine Luthi, the baby's mother, declined to comment.

The District Attorney's Office reviewed the case for months after receiving a 30-page report about the accident from the California Highway Patrol. "We could find no evidence of malice or bad judgment or speeding or reckless driving on the part of Mr. Jones," Dragland said. He would not discuss Jones' medical history.

Shortly after the accident in the Auburn Village shopping center at Highway 49 and New Airport Road, several witnesses said it appeared Jones may have had a medical problem while driving. A day after the accident, CHP Officer Maury Kane said Jones' mother told investigators that her son had a 30-year history of epilepsy.

Acting on CHP recommendations, the state Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Jones' driver's license pending a medical review. The license remains suspended, the CHP said.

Report here

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

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Strangely antique interview recording method -- ideal for "verballing" -- recording things that the accused did not say

The Libby trial finished for last week on Thursday with the start of the cross examination of FBI agent Deborah Bond, the interrogator who first questioned Libby. The cross examination revealed that Bond was hostile, that she had neglected to fully incorporate into her notes of the interview important portions of his testimony, most especially some matters that Libby's counsel had specifically asked be included. These were:

o Libby's statement at the initial interview that he had been unable to review his own notes;

o that his memory of the events was imperfect;

o that he was offering up just his present sketchy recollection; and

o that he could be more precise after he'd had an opportunity to review his notes.

(Neverthess, even in that initial interview when he was relying solely on his recollection he said he believed the Vice President had told him on about June 12, 2003 that Wilson's wife worked in counter proliferation.)

In his second interview, after he'd had an opportunity to review his notes, he volunteered to the FBI again that he'd first heard about Joseph Wilson's wife on June 12, 2003, when the Vice President told him. (I do not have transcripts of the trial testimony but there are summaries of the testimony provided by Firedoglake

Just One Minute trial mavens note that in the counts of the indictment relevant to the FBI interviews, once again the prosecution has far overstated the evidence in the indictment. We are also learning that the FBI still relies on the antique and inaccurate method of recording these interviews: the hand written notes of the interrogator, instead of videotapes. This process is surely inadequate and subject to bias.

This lack of an actual video or even audio recording of the interview is certainly going to appear more significant as the cross examination proceeds. This method of interview recording by interrogator's hand is also under fire in the Hamdania court martial, where the defense had put into evidence interview notes taken by members of the Naval Criminal Investigation Service at direct odds with affidavits sworn by those who provided those interviews.

At one time, before the more aggressive prosecution of those accused of making false statements to investigators, this technique with all its flaws may have escaped the scrutiny it deserved. The Libby case is a rare case, seemingly outside the Department of Justice practice: a case where he prosecution is seeking to convict on "lies" not made about any criminal conduct.

Azaghal, one of my favorite commentors and one most knowledgeable about law enforcement procedures and practices observes:

Fitz[gerald's] distillation of Libby's Russert related testimony bears little resemblance to his actual testimony. It sounds to me more like a man trying to provide as clear as possible an account of what transpired months previously to the best of his recollection, not someone trying to confuse. Given that he corrected his initial statements to the FBI, I don't see what interest of justice is served in pursuing him with a perjury or obstruction or false statement prosecution. The correction it seems to me obviates any obstacle to the investigators; therefore it's abusive to prosecute on such flimsy grounds. I should add, that in circumstances in which a witness has been directed by his superiors to cooperate and not assert his constitutional rights, the prosecutor should definitely take into account the entire sum of the witnesses testimony, the cumulative effect and merit of the information he provides--has it assisted the investigation overall.

After all, even cooperating and immunized witnesses like Fleischer offer testimony that conflicts with other witnesses who have no reason to lie (Dickerson, for example), and there's no apparent reason why Fleischer should lie about anything--his recollection, like that of virtually everyone, is fallible. From what I've seen of Libby's testimony and from the FBI's testimony about his correcting his initial statements it seems absurd for the prosecution to claim that the meat of his testimony and statements to investigators was an attempt to derail an investigation. And that's especially true given what we know about the predication of the investigation--information that Fitz[gerald] concealed from courts of review, thus depriving these courts of information that could well have affected their decision regarding the disclosure of journalistic sources. In a situation like this, when the prosecutor doesn't exactly have clean hands himself, it's doubly abusive for him to bring such charges.

Do we really want a situation in this country in which, whenever the FBI comes knocking, the citizenry's first reaction is to lawyer up and assert their 5th amendment rights for fear of being prosecuted for any inaccuracies in what they might say? I doubt that the FBI itself wants that to happen, but the excesses of prosecutors like Fitz[gerald] and Comey will lead toward that becoming more the norm than it is."

Indeed, that is my advice to all of you under the present circumstances, should you ever be questioned in an investigation: Lawyer up, unless the FBI gets honest and uses videotapes or prosecutors stop such nonsense.

And the next time there's a president who agrees to the appointment of such a "special special prosecutor" and demands the cooperation of all officials and staff with it, everyone working for him should resign and take the Fifth. Working in the White House is hard, thankless, underpaid work. It is too much to ask that one should also agree to be a pinata for an unsupervised, unreasonable, utterly abusive proceeding like this. This is precisely why Star Chambers were abolished.

Report here

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