Monday, April 30, 2007

Why are these a**holes ever released?

A man who told police he was disciplining his girlfriend's sons over chores when the situation escalated pleaded not guilty Friday to fatally stabbing the boys and sexually assaulting their 13-year-old sister. The bodies of the boys, ages 12 and 14, were found at their home early Thursday, around the time their mother was arriving home from her job at O'Hare International Airport. They had been stabbed repeatedly with a steak knife.

Brian Gilbert, 36, a convicted sex offender, is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and sexual assault. He pleaded not guilty Friday and ordered held without bail. A message left with his public defender, Kristina Yi, was not immediately returned.

Gilbert went to the apartment to return a cell phone and bus pass that the mother had lent him when he decided to discipline the boys about cleaning up, Deputy Police Chief Michael Shields said. He allegedly became angry and struck the older boy with a barbell and stabbed him, authorities said. Prosecutors said Gilbert had put the bodies in a closet and had started to clean up the blood when the woman arrived home. She told authorities she became alarmed when she found Gilbert, whom she had been dating for only a few weeks, outside her apartment. Gilbert told her the children were missing and they left to search for them, prosecutors said.

Around that time, the daughter "was able to loosen the ties around her hands and fled the apartment, half naked, letting out a scream as she was running down the street to a nearby gas station," prosecutor Luann Snow said in court. The mother and Gilbert heard the scream and Gilbert, "realizing there was a surviving victim, told the mother he was going to call the police, something was wrong and he left," Snow said.

The mother found a nearby officer and followed police into the home. "I saw my youngest slumped in the side of a closet in the living room," the mother said. "I saw my baby boy." The girl, who was stabbed in the neck, was in good condition at a hospital Friday.

Gilbert could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder. The Associated Press is not identifying the mother and sons in order to protect the identity of the daughter, the alleged victim of a sex crime. Gilbert was convicted in 1998 of the predatory criminal sexual assault of one of his family members, Shields said. Police spokeswoman Monique Bond had said earlier that the suspect was a registered sex offender.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Canadian man should be acquitted: Attorney General

Crooked pathologist again: Mullin-Johnson conviction in niece's death `cannot stand'

The case of a Sault Ste. Marie man convicted of killing his four-year-old niece is likely a miscarriage of justice, Attorney General Michael Bryant said Friday in urging Ottawa to expedite a review he said should result in William Mullins-Johnson's acquittal. The Ontario government filed papers Friday to support Mullins-Johnson's request for a review of his conviction by the federal justice minister, Bryant told CP. "The Ontario Crown's position is that the conviction in this case cannot stand, and that Mr. Mullins-Johnson should ultimately be acquitted by the Ontario Court of Appeal,'' Bryant told the news agency.

"We've obviously come to this position based on a full review of the case including new expert evidence. The expert reports provided by the chief coroner's office have significantly undermined the forensic evidence at trial relating to the circumstances surrounding Valin Johnson's death.''

Mullins-Johnson spent 12 years in prison for the murder of his niece Valin, 4, after pathologist Dr. Charles Smith concluded the girl was sexually assaulted and strangled. The conviction was upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada, but he was released from custody in Sept., 2005, after evidence surfaced that Smith had lost tissue samples capable of showing Valin died of natural causes.

Mullins-Johnson appealed for a review by the federal justice minister, claiming his conviction was a miscarriage of justice. Bryant said Friday he had communicated to Ottawa that referring the case to the Ontario Court of Appeal, in the hopes of acquitting him, would be the right thing to do. "It's true, I'm taking the unusual step of providing this information as quickly as possible,'' said Bryant. "I'm doing it because we are dealing with this extraordinary circumstances that flows out of the chief coroner's report with respect to the pathology reports of Dr. Smith.''

The province has called a public inquiry into Smith's work after an expert panel questioned the pathologist's findings in 20 cases, 12 of which resulted in criminal convictions and one of not criminally responsible. The federal justice minister can either order a new trial, refer the case to the Ontario Court of Appeal or decline to offer any remedy to Mullins-Johnson. Bryant said he wants the justice minister to refer the case to the court. "Out of respect for the process, I'm saying it's in the hands of the federal minister of justice to decide what to do with the Crown's position in Ontario,'' he said. "But out of respect for Mr. Mullins-Johnson, and in an effort to assure Ontarians that we're willing to move forward as quickly as possible to address allegations of miscarriages of justice, I am providing people with that information as soon as I'm able to do that.''

Report here. See post of 23rd for more on the pathologist concerned.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Some justice for woman murdered by arrogant Georgia cops

They were as crooked as a dog's hind leg

Two police officers pleaded guilty Thursday to manslaughter and other charges in the shooting death of a 92-year-old woman during a botched drug raid at her home last fall. Officer J.R. Smith, who also agreed to resign from the police department, told a state judge that he regretted what had happened. "I'm sorry," the 35-year-old said, his voice barely audible. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter, violation of oath, criminal solicitation, making false statements and perjury, which was based on untrue claims in a no-knock warrant obtained to enter Kathryn Johnston's home on Nov. 21. Former Officer Gregg Junnier, 40, who retired from the Atlanta police in January, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, violation of oath, criminal solicitation and making false statements under the plea deal. Both men are expected to face more than 10 years in prison.

In a hearing later in federal court, both pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to violate a person's civil rights, resulting in death. Their state and federal sentences would run concurrently, and both men agreed to help investigators with their probe into the activities of Atlanta narcotics officers.

The charges followed a Nov. 21 "no-knock" drug raid on Johnston's home. An informant had described buying drugs from a dealer there, police said. When the officers burst in without warning, Johnston fired at them, and they fired back, killing her. Fulton County prosecutor Peter Johnson said that the officers involved in Johnston's death fired 39 shots, striking her five or six times, including a fatal blow to the chest. Johnston fired only once through her door and didn't hit any of the officers, he said. That means officers who were wounded likely were hit by their own colleagues, he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Yonette Sam-Buchanan said Thursday that although the officers found no drugs in Johnston's home, Smith planted three bags of marijuana in the home as part of a cover story officers concoted.

A third officer, Arthur Tesler, who is on administrative leave, was charged with violation of oath by a public officer, making false statements and false imprisonment under color of legal process. His attorney, William McKenney, said Tesler expects to go to trial. Tesler, 40, is "very relieved" not to face murder charges, McKenney said, "but we're concerned about the three charges."

Both Smith and Junnier could have faced up to life in prison had they been convicted of murder. The murder charge was reduced to manslaughter as part of their pleas, and prosecutors agreed not to pursue the burglary and assault charges. Now, Junnier will face 10 years and one month and Smith 12 years and seven months. No sentencing date was immediately set.

The case raised serious questions about no-knock warrants and whether the officers followed proper procedures. Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington asked the FBI to lead a multi-agency probe. He also announced policy changes to require the department to drug-test its nearly 1,800 officers and require top supervisors to sign off on narcotics operations and no-knock warrants.

To get the warrant, officers told a magistrate judge that an undercover informant had told them Johnston's home had surveillance cameras monitored carefully by a drug dealer named Sam. After the shooting, a man claiming to be the informant told a television station that he had never purchased drugs there, leading Pennington to admit he was uncertain whether the suspected drug dealer actually existed.

Pennington said Thursday that the entire episode "has been a very painful five months for the police department." The Rev. Markel Hutchins, a civil rights activist who serves as a spokesman for Johnston's family, said the family was satisfied with Thursday's developments. "They have never sought vengeance. They have only sought justice," he said.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Scotland: Court review amid fears of a miscarriage in rape case

It appears that his main offence may have been a "disrespectful" attitude

A former professional golfer will have his conviction for rape reviewed at the High Court amid concerns he may have suffered a miscarriage of justice, it was confirmed yesterday. Graham Gordon was sentenced to five years in 2002 after he was found guilty of raping a woman he met in a nightclub in Aberdeen. After his initial appeal against the conviction was thrown out, he took his case to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Yesterday, the commission confirmed it was referring the case back to the High Court in Edinburgh amid concerns there could have been a miscarriage of justice. A judge will now have to decide whether to quash Gordon's conviction. Gordon, from Aberdeen, claims the Crown failed to disclose information to the defence during his trial at the High Court in Stonehaven. He also alleges Grampian Police failed to disclose certain information to the Crown and the force's officers did not carry out proper investigations. A commission spokesman said it believed in respect of these three grounds that there "may have been a miscarriage of justice".

The spokesman added: "The commission has also uncovered, during its investigations, new evidence that was not available at the time of Mr Gordon's trial, the absence of which the commission also believes may have led to a miscarriage of justice." Gordon lodged seven other grounds justifying the referral of his case, which were not accepted by the commission. They included claims that the clarification of the law of rape between the alleged offence and his trial made his conviction "unjust and oppressive". Gordon also alleged there was insufficient evidence for his conviction and "material misdirection" by the trial judge.

During the trial, the court heard Gordon had raped the woman, a mother-of-two, at his home in Bridge of Don, Aberdeen, in August 2001. He had met her in Franklin's nightclub in the city earlier that evening. The jury heard how Gordon had told detectives he had had sex with at least 32 women in just three months.

During his trial he admitted grabbing a woman police officer's bottom and asking her what she did with her uniform at weekends, just weeks after the rape. He was jailed but freed on bail pending the outcome of his appeal but he was sent back to prison when it failed.

His attitude in a serious criminal inquiry was later described by prosecutor Alan Turnbull, now himself a High Court judge, as "arrogant, belittling and disrespectful". Gordon has always denied the charge and his family have been campaigning since his conviction to try to prove that the police investigation was flawed.

A police spokesman said: "Grampian Police acknowledge the decision by the commission to grant leave to Mr Gordon to appeal his conviction in this case. In these circumstances it would be inappropriate to make any further comment."

Gordon's mother, Lilian, who is trying to clear her son's name, refused to comment on the appeal, but said: "My son was in prison for a crime he didn't commit and who wants to listen to a convicted rapist and his family pleading his innocence?"

Last year the commission was asked to review 165 cases. However, only three were referred back to the court.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Another "Satanic child abuse" accusation

Such accusations are almost always eventually shown to be fabrications -- often fabricated by hostile social workers

Three women teachers were among six people arrested yesterday accused of sedating and sexually abusing children as young as 3 at a school near Rome. The teachers — two of whom are grandmothers who had taught at the school and at Sunday school for decades — are said to have part in the repeated abuse of 15 children aged 3 and 5 for a year, filming them in sexual acts with satanic overtones at the teachers’ homes and in a wood. The others arrested were a female caretaker, a former producer of children’s programmes for the state television station RAI, and a local petrol pump attendant. The television producer is married to one of the arrested teachers.

The alleged abuse — in the town of Rignano Flaminio, 25 miles (40km) north of Rome — came to light when some of the children began describing their “games” to their parents. They drew pictures of a “man in black” who wore a hood and drank his own blood, and said they had played a game in which “a wolf chases a squirrel and eats it”. They were warned that if they told their parents about the “games”, they would be “taken away from their mothers by devils”. If the truth were to come out and they were asked who had taught them to perform sexual acts, they were to say “my father”.

The parents also reported bruising and swelling around their children’s genital areas and that they had returned home from school in a confused state. Police say that the children were given tranquillisers and told they were sweets.

The six face charges including kidnapping, indecently assaulting minors, obscene acts and group sexual assault. Police had to protect the teachers from angry parents as they were taken away, with one shouting: “May you rot in jail for ever.”

Ottavio Coletta, the Mayor of Rignano Flaminio, said that the town of 8,000 people was enveloped in “a poisonous climate of hatred and vendetta”, and Father Erri Rocchi, the parish priest, said he still believed the teachers were the victims of “malicious tongues”. He said that the women were church-goers and taught at Sunday school. Pasqualina Pellegrino, a former teacher at the school, also said she could swear on the innocence of the teachers and the caretaker. “I simply do not believe they could have done this,” she said.

Some parents, however, complained that the mayor and the school authorities had initially failed to take their suspicions seriously, and the school had not suspended the teachers even after the inquiry began ten months ago. “They accused us of trying to ruin the lives of respectable people,” one said.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Britain: Another false rape accusation causes great suffering

And the liar gets just a slap on the wrist -- which is at least something compared to the NOTHING that Crystal Gail Mangum got for the great harm she caused to America's Duke university lacrosse players. False rape accusers should get the same penalty as that to which they expose those whom they accuse

An Asian taxi driver told yesterday how his life had been ruined by false allegations that he had raped a white teenage girl in his vehicle. Aftab Ahmed, 44, of Allerton, Bradford, lost his home, livelihood, reputation and found his family relationships and marriage under strain in the 14 months it took for the lies of his 17-year-old accuser to be exposed in court. The teenager, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was sentenced at Bradford Magistrates’ Court to a four-month detention and training order after admitting perverting the course of justice.

It emerged that, far from assaulting his fare, the taxi driver had gone out of his way to ensure that the extremely drunk and disorientated girl got home safely and had somebody to look after her.

District Judge David Thomas told her: “You repaid that kindness by alleging that he had raped you. The consequences were disastrous for Mr Ahmed, who was arrested in front of his family.” The blonde girl made the claim against the taxi driver in January last year after a night of drinking in Bradford with her sister and friends.

Mr Ahmed, who has a degree in political science and once worked as a police officer in Kashmir, told how a group of girls negotiated a 13 pound fare to take the drunken girl home to Baildon, north of the city. He gave her sister his registration and name before driving off. The trip, which should have taken 15 minutes, took three quarters of an hour because she vomited over the seats six times and Mr Ahmed was forced to stop repeatedly. Unable to find her home address, he had to knock on doors and ask for directions. At one stage, he stopped a bus to ask the driver. He also phoned the girl’s sister to tell her that she was in a poor state of health, that he was worried about leaving her at home alone and said that he would leave her in the care of neighbours.

Mr Ahmed insisted that he had done his best to look after her but once home she dialled 999 and told police she had been raped. Several hours after he returned to work Mr Ahmed was arrested. Duncan Wilcock, for the prosecution, said that the girl took officers to a remote spot on Baildon Moor where she claimed that the rape had taken place. The court was told that the girl had initially made the allegation because she had felt a pain in her groin area and had assumed that she had been raped. As soon as she sobered up, she realised her mistake but continued with the pretence.

Mr Wilcock said: “Mr Ahmed was arrested the same evening in front of his family and endured a degrading, full medical examination, and denied the allegations during interview. He was released on police bail but had his taxi licence revoked.” After six weeks police were satisfied that the allegations against Mr Ahmed were false but it was not until last month that the accuser admitted she had been keeping up a lie.

Mr Wilcock said: “These allegations have had a profound effect on Mr Ahmed and his family. He is no longer prepared to work as a taxi driver in the evenings for fear of other allegations against him. His wife is taking tablets for depression and it has affected his position within the community.” Edward Renvoize, for the defence, told the court that his client had made the allegations not out of malice, but naivety and immaturity. She was deeply remorseful.

But the judge told her: “Sorry does not put matters right.” After the hearing Mr Ahmed said he had been forced to sell the semi-detached home he shares with his wife, Amber, 32, and twin 11-year-old daughters because he could not afford the mortgage. He has been ostracised by former friends, relatives and fellow Muslims.

“During the ordeal I had my taxi badge taken away, which meant I could not work. We fell into arrears with the mortgage and the house is now sold because we cannot afford to live here any longer,” he said. “When my twin girls asked me where I had been when I returned from the police station I had to tell them I had been on a long fare. I hated lying to my children and have finally been able to explain what really has gone on. “The accusations have destroyed my family. It has impacted on myself, my wife and my children. To be accused of rape is the most serious crime in my religion of Islam. It is seen as worse than murder, because we are told to honour women and that they are sacrosanct. “Four months is not long enough for what that girl has put me through. Her lies have destroyed my life and I feel I will never recover from what has happened to me and my family. The whole thing has been hell.”

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

DNA acquittal again

DNA trumps false identification again

A man convicted of rape in 1982 has become the 200th person in the US to be exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence, the man's lawyers said.

"I want to get on with my life ... have a life," said Jerry Miller, 48, after an appearance in Cook County Circuit Court where a judge tossed out his conviction at the request of prosecutors.

The New York-based Innocence Project, which has pursued such cases, said Miller's case marked the 200th DNA exoneration since 1989. Miller, it said, served 24 years in jail. The 200 people exonerated by DNA evidence served a total of 2,475 years in prison for crimes they didn't commit, it said. "They are just the tip of the iceberg. Nobody truly knows how many innocent people are in prison. "Only a small fraction of cases involve evidence that could be tested for DNA, and even among those cases, evidence is often lost or destroyed before it can be tested," the group said.

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Another report:

Attorneys for the Innocence Project used DNA testing to prove Miller did not commit the 1981 rape. The Innocence Project says the DNA matched Robert Weeks, who is already being held in Cook County Jail for similar crimes. "We were not only able to exonerate an innocent man but the person who committed the crime was apprehended," said Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, and Miller's attorney.....

The Innocence Project works to help the wrongfully convicted. Scheck said Miller is the 200th person to be exonerated post-conviction because of DNA evidence. "What went wrong that allowed a totally innocent man with no criminal record, who had just finished a four year hitch in the armed forces to come out and immediately go in for 25 years for a crime he didn't commit?" said Peter Neufield, co-director of the Innocence Project. "We have to get the answer to that question or there will be too many Jerry Millers in the future."

Miller was paroled last year but was under house arrest, wearing an electronic monitoring device on his ankle. Adjusting to life on the outside was difficult. "When I first got out, my cousin asked me to put gas in the car. I stood there 10 minutes. I still didn't know what to do," Miller said. After the court hearing, authorities removed the ankle bracelet that had been monitoring Miller's movements - his final step toward true freedom.

Miller celebrated at a downtown steak house with his extended family, where he enjoyed much more than a meal. "I just walked downtown, free, a normal person, a citizen like everybody else," Miller said. Miller also enjoyed hugging his nieces and nephews for the first time. For 25 years, he was considered a sex offender and was not allowed around children.

For his trouble, the state will automatically give Jerry Miller just less than $200,000. He might file a civil rights lawsuit as others have, to try to win a bigger monetary judgment.

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The background:

On Sept. 16, 1981, the 44-year-old victim went to the roof of a parking garage at 506 N. Rush St. at about 9:30 p.m., heading home from work. According to evidence at Miller's trial, the woman was about to get into her car when a man came up behind her and shoved her inside.

The man threatened to kill her if she looked at him, she testified. She said the man beat her, robbed her, then forced her into the back seat and raped her. The attacker then forced her into the trunk and tried to drive out of the parking garage, according to testimony.

A parking lot attendant recognized the car when it pulled up to the exit and asked the driver if it was his. The man said it was, but the attendant was suspicious and ordered him to back up. When another attendant approached, the man got out of the car and fled.

The victim began banging on the lid of the trunk. The attendants heard her cries, found a set of keys on the floor of the car and rescued the woman, according to their testimony.

Shown an array of photos at a hospital, the victim said she could not positively identify her attacker. The parking lot attendants and the victim provided a description that was used to create a composite sketch.

Miller became a suspect because, days before the crime, Chicago Police Officer Kenneth Fligelman had stopped him in the 500 block of West Armitage Avenue for allegedly "looking" into parked cars, according to court records. Miller was not arrested at the time.

When the composite sketch was circulated in the Police Department, Fligelman believed it looked like Miller and brought him in for a lineup, where the two attendants identified him as the attacker. At the time, Miller had never been convicted of a crime and he was working as a cook after completing a 31/2-year hitch in the Army. Now retired, Fligelman said in an interview, "He matched the composite. My partner and I, when we saw the composite at roll call, we remembered him."

At trial, the attendants identified Miller. The victim said she thought Miller looked like her attacker, even though the attacker was described as having a few days' growth of facial hair and Miller had a full goatee.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Canada: Pathologist's mistakes exposed; Dr. Charles Smith erred in 20 child-death cases

But his errors were ignored by those who were in a position to do something about them

The forensic pathologist whose errors helped put a Kingston woman behind bars for nearly two years made mistakes in another 20 suspicious child-death cases he handled over a 10-year period, an international panel of experts concluded. Because of the mistakes by Dr. Charles Smith, more than a dozen people may have been wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit. One person remains behind bars.

"Errors in 20 pediatric forensic pathology reports over 10 years is totally unacceptable," Attorney General Michael Bryant said at a news conference at Queen's Park yesterday where the province's chief coroner revealed the findings of five renowned pathologists who reviewed 45 child-death cases handled by Smith between 1991 and 2002.

One of those cases involved Louise Reynolds, a Kingston woman who was accused of murdering her seven-year-old daughter, Sharon, in 1997. The murder charge was eventually withdrawn after Smith's conclusions proved wrong.

Bryant said he is moving swiftly to maintain confidence in the justice system. "I will do everything in my power to set it right," he said. The province will now review all of Smith's work performing autopsies for the province, beginning in 1981. It's unknown how long that review will take. Smith has said he performed more than 1,000 autopsies. He was considered a leading expert in Canada on child abuse and child homicide. He lectured widely, mentoring colleagues and training police officers how to investigate suspicious child deaths.

Bryant said he has appointed Justice Patrick Lesage, former chief justice of Ontario's Superior Court of Justice, to review the procedures of Crown prosecutors in handling forensic material. Lesage also will guide a criminalconviction review committee that will investigate all cases where a miscarriage of justice is alleged. "We have to get to the bottom of this," Bryant said. Bryant said Crown attorneys have been assigned to handle 13 questionable cases where there were convictions and "restrictions of liberty." In most cases, the convicted person has now been released from jail or prison, although in three or four cases, the person still faces some restriction. In one case, the accused was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

In all of the cases, Crown lawyers will provide information to defence counsel and decisions will be made about how to proceed. It could result in a number of steps, he said, such as applications to introduce fresh evidence or applications to the federal justice minister to review a case.

Dr. Barry McLellan, the chief coroner, also said he has passed information about Smith's performance to the professional body that disciplines doctors, the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons. "The appropriate information has been passed on," McLellan said. Smith is practising in British Columbia, according to online registration information held by the college.

McLellan said he was surprised and concerned by the findings of the review, which he ordered in 2005. The review began after a number of child-death cases that hinged on Smith's work collapsed. Smith was the director of Ontario's pediatric forensic pathology unit at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. "If there's been one wrongful conviction, that's a terrible thing," McLellan said. He said the review findings in each of the 45 cases is being passed on to the families of those affected, wherever possible, and lawyers.

Peter Wardle, the lawyer who represents Louise Reynolds, said he hasn't yet received the report but expects to receive it soon. "I've been told what it says," Wardle told the Whig-Standard in a telephone interview last night. "It says that the people who did the review did not agree with Dr. Smith's conclusions." Smith concluded that Reynolds stabbed Sharon to death with scissors or a knife. Wardle represents Reynolds in a civil lawsuit against Smith and Kingston Police.

Reynolds was charged with second-degree murder, largely because of Smith's opinion. He later changed his opinion after other forensic experts concluded a pit bull terrier inflicted most of Sharon's injuries. Reynolds, who no longer lives in Kingston, spent nearly two years in custody awaiting a trial that did not take place.

Wardle said yesterday's revelations help the civil case. "It helps us in the sense that I think it's going to be pretty hard for Dr. Smith to now say that in any of these cases that he did a good job," the lawyer said. A Peterborough woman who was wrongly accused of murdering her daughter, based on faulty work by Smith, also is suing him.

Top criminal lawyers said the findings mark an unprecedented dark day for the administration of justice. "In nine [cases], there is a likely miscarriage of justice," said James Lockyer, who spoke at Queen's Park after McLellan and Bryant. Lockyer represents William Mullins-Johnson, who spent 12 years in prison, convicted of murdering his four-year-old niece, after Smith concluded the girl was sodomized and strangled. Other experts have since concluded she died of natural causes. Mullins-Johnson, who is free on bail awaiting a review of his case by the federal justice minister, attended yesterday's news conference. "Something was made of nothing and my life was taken from me," said the tall, soft-spoken man.

He was asked what he would say to Smith. "It's on your head," he said, turning to walk away from several dozen reporters.

Lockyer said the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted also is concerned about two additional cases where Smith was involved, beyond the nine where it believes a miscarriage of justice took place. In one of those other cases, Smith provided advice and "his opinion permeated the case." None of the cases have been identified.

The association is demanding a public inquiry. "It is our position that only public scrutiny can potentially protect the interest of the citizens of this province from future failings," noted defence lawyer Brian Greenspan said. Greenspan noted that in many of Smith's cases, parents were led to believe their infants and children were murdered. "It may well be that the deaths of these infants and children may well have been accidental," he said.

Bryant said a public inquiry is still a possibility, depending on conclusions reached by Lesage, who will work with a senior pathologist. Wardle said he thinks there will have to be a public inquiry at some point to explain how Smith's colleagues and superiors failed to see or stop his errors. "How did he function for so long?" Wardle wondered. "He was protected by some people." There were warning signs as early as 1991, Wardle noted, when a judge in Timmins criticized Smith for concluding a one-year-old died of shaken baby syndrome. Ten defence experts contradicted Smith. "We knew his work was flawed in our case and we've known for some time that it was flawed in other cases, but it really is extraordinary that it's gotten to this point," Wardle said.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007


A 15-YEAR-OLD boy has admitted bashing and raping an 83-year-old grandmother - even as she prayed to God. The terrified woman was so convinced she was going to die in the vicious attack on August 23 last year she prayed: "Lord God, into your hands I command my spirit", the Supreme Court heard yesterday.

The boy approached the woman on a Bendigo walking track after drinking four or five bourbon and cola drinks, and said: "I think you can help me". When the woman tried to hand over money, the boy kissed her aggressively, dragged her to the banks of a nearby creek, and raped and bashed her, the court heard. The woman begged for mercy, screaming 'Help lord Jesus, help lord God, help me", but the boy told her: "I'm going to f--- you till you die". Despite the woman's pleas, her attacker continued bashing her, biting her on the breast and gouging her eyes. The horrific attack ended when a passing cyclist and the victim's daughter responded to her screams. They discovered the woman lying nearly naked on the muddy banks of the creek with a badly bruised face.

The boy, who cannot be identified, pleaded guilty to rape, making threats to kill, assault and intentionally causing serious injury. In an interview with police two days after the attack, he admitted he would have killed the grandmother had he not been caught. When asked why he launched the savage attack, he said: "I don't know. That's the thing, I don't know why." He told police: "I do stupid things when I'm drunk."

The woman was severely bruised and had cuts on her face and body. She now has heart problems. Despite her ordeal, in her victim impact statement she wrote that she hoped her attacker received "mental, moral and spiritual help". She also wrote that she would pray for him.

The boy's barrister, Gerard Mullaly, said his client was "overwhelmingly immature" and "unable to control his impulses". "He just lives in the immediate moment and doesn't consider the consequences of his actions," he told the court.

Three years ago, the boy, from central Victoria, was found guilty in a Children's Court of four counts of rape and one of attempted sexual penetration of a child under the age of 16. He was released on a 12-month supervision order without conviction. Yesterday, a Supreme Court judge remanded him in custody for sentencing.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007


An associate of the convicted gang rapist Bilal Skaf was acquitted of gang rape, six weeks after the outspoken Crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen was barred from the case because a court ruled she might be seen as biased. Ms Cunneen who had prosecuted the accused, known only as MG, three times over six years was replaced by a new prosecutor, Lou Lungo, who only had a few weeks to prepare for the trial. Yesterday the accused was found not guilty of taking part in the gang rape of Miss C in August 2000.

The ruling banning Ms Cunneen, which can only now be made public, is the latest in a series of perceived slights against the prosecutor. A court found that because of comments she had made about the case she might not be sufficiently fair or detached to prosecute the case.

The retrial jury did not know MG had been convicted of the four offences against Miss C in 2003, but that this conviction was overturned on appeal because certain evidence should not have been allowed. The jury was also not told MG was already serving at least 15 years in prison for his participation in two other gang rapes, along with Bilal Skaf and others. His sentences are still subject to appeal.

Ms Cunneen had been the prosecutor in the Skaf cases and in MG's earlier trials. But in March the Court of Criminal Appeal granted a stay of the retrial until another prosecutor was appointed. The court ruled on the basis of comments Ms Cunneen had made after MG's first trial and a much-publicised speech at Newcastle University in which she mentioned his case. "If Ms Cunneen were to prosecute [MG's] trial, justice would not been seen to be done," the court ruled.

The court found Ms Cunneen had "deliberately or without sufficient reflection" breached rules for barristers and prosecutors by speaking about one of her current cases. The rules were designed to guarantee the integrity of the criminal justice system. Any breach "may diminish public confidence in that system", it said. The court said Ms Cunneen had implied in her speech that MG was guilty even though his appeal was still pending. This displayed "partiality" and a "lack of detachment" and "potentially compromised her capacity to fairly prosecute" the case.

In the Newcastle speech, in March 2005, Ms Cunneen had said: "Perhaps it is time for us to consider whether public confidence in the courts is now being eroded by the perception that the pendulum has swung rather too far in the direction of the protection of the rights of the accused."

The decision to replace Ms Cunneen also caused MG's alleged victim, Miss C, to pull out from giving evidence at the retrial, which was scheduled to start on February 5. After several delays, including the attempt to remove Ms Cunneen from the case, Miss C told police: "I am sick of getting ready to go to court when I am promised it will definitely go ahead and it is called off again because of the defence. "This incident and the subsequent trials and now retrials have had a devastating effect on me personally and I can not go on any longer having to go to court, remember and relive it and be subjected to harrowing questions by defence barristers."

Ms Cunneen declined to comment yesterday, but her boss, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Nicholas Cowdery, QC, said he had "complete confidence" in her and Mr Lungo.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

California: Judge wipes out wrongful conviction for Foley

A "clever" prosecutor works a great evil

Kenneth Wayne Foley's long road to vindication and justice ended in court Thursday when a wrongful burglary conviction that had cost him more than 11 years in prison was erased with the help of prosecutors and steadfast defense attorneys. In a hearing that took less than a minute, Judge Ray Cunningham vacated the 1995 conviction as Foley stood beside attorneys who crusaded for his release - his original trial attorney Steve Nakano and Linda Starr, of the Northern California Innocence Project - and prosecutor David Angel, who re-investigated the facts and determined Foley was innocent. "Mr. Foley, you are discharged of this matter," Cunningham said. "Good luck to you." With that, Foley, 38, walked out the court doors, no longer haunted by the conviction.

Asked what he thought the moment Cunningham wiped the conviction off the books, Foley replied: "That it's finally over. I've been so long with it, with the hopeless feeling when you're inside (prison) ... I got my fresh start and I'll be OK." Foley, who was released from prison in September, has been splitting his time between the South Bay and Manteca, where he's been living with one of his sisters. He currently is a truck driver, but said he hopes to go to college, perhaps to major in business administration.

The re-examination of Foley's case came in the aftermath of the Mercury News series, "Tainted Trials, Stolen Justice," which examined questionable conduct by prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges that led to wrongful convictions.

In 1995, Foley was accused of burglarizing a truck parked at a lot in Campbell. It started when Mashelle Bullington let a man she only knew as "Luke" use her Pontiac Firebird while trolling for recyclables. Bullington accompanied him but said she fell asleep. When she awoke, they were at a parking lot in an industrial area of Campbell and Luke was breaking into a truck owned by Robert Buck, according to Bullington.

Buck, who was inside an office, was awakened by noise and looked outside a window to see a man rummaging in his truck. He grabbed a .22-caliber revolver, went outside and confronted the burglar. At that point, Buck would tell authorities he believed Bullington was pointing a gun at him - an allegation she denied. Her account was confirmed by the district attorney's investigation years later. Buck let the pair go and reported the incident to police, providing them with the Pontiac's license plate number.

Police traced the plate to Bullington. Later that day, Foley would borrow the Pontiac and get a citation for making an illegal turn. Officers learned that Foley had a prior record for burglary. They provided separate photo lineups of Bullington and Foley for Buck, who picked them both out as pair he confronted. An investigator hired by Nakano eventually identified Luke Gaumond as the actual burglar who was with Bullington.

Despite the possibility he could be charged with robbery or burglary, Gaumond testified he broke into the truck - not Foley. Gaumond, who was never charged, also said Bullington was not armed. But Deputy District Attorney Charles Slone went ahead with the prosecution of Foley and a jury returned a verdict of guilty. Foley was sentenced to 25 years to life.

During the trial Slone said he was "physically sickened" by the lies told by the defense and that a "fraud is being perpetrated" on the jury to save Foley from a third strike and a long sentence. The judge found Slone had crossed the line into misconduct at times during final arguments but it did not stop the conviction. As years passed, a persistent Gaumond contacted Nakano asking what could be done to free Foley. After the publication of the Mercury News series, Nakano called then-Chief Assistant District Attorney Karyn Sinunu, who then assigned Angel to re-examine the case.

Angel's work cast doubt on the conviction, leading then-District Attorney George Kennedy and Judge James Emerson to write the state Department of Corrections, recommending that Foley be resentenced. Foley, who by then had been in four state prisons, was released late last year, pending the resentencing. Instead prosecutors dropped the charges at the urging of the Northern California Innocence Project, which filed a writ of habeas corpus asking Cunningham to vacate the conviction because of new evidence.

In court documents, Angel said Buck now acknowledges Bullington did not threaten him with a gun. A person who spoke to Buck shortly after the incident said Buck told him she had "pointed her finger" at Buck. However, the district attorney's office said it cannot confirm defense assertions that Slone concealed evidence that would have helped establish Foley's evidence.

"Mr. Foley spent a long time in prison," Angel said, "but there is hope and satisfaction in that the system eventually was able to bring the truth to light." Gaumond, expressed relief Foley is finally clear of the charges. "I've been saying since Day One: It wasn't Kenny," Gaumond said. After the hearing, Foley admitted he still harbors anger over the wrongful conviction, but he is also grateful the district attorney's office reopened the case. "This district attorney's office is pretty honorable and noble because I'm sure a lot of offices around the country would probably sweep this under the rug," Foley said. Foley has received congratulations from friends in prison, and also some advice. "They all just tell me to be good and don't come back," he said. "It's a worthless existence in there."

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Australian baby-torturer gets only 16 months

A father of nine will spend about 16 months in jail and his wife was given a six-month suspended sentence for assaulting and neglecting their threeyear-old son, leaving him physically scarred, malnourished and developmentally retarded. David Jason Ogier, 38, admitted burning the small boy with a cigarette lighter, pulling off a fingernail with pliers, rubbing chilli power on his back until it blistered, kicking him with steel-cap boots and slapping his head repeatedly. The offences took place in Cranbrook between October 2005 and January last year.

Belinda Marie Ogier, 33, admitted failing to protect her son, denying him food, letting him get seriously sunburnt, leaving him unsupervised near a swimming pool causing him to nearly drown and failing to seek medical assistance when required. They also pleaded guilty to breaching a 12-month community based order imposed just a month earlier for assaulting another son, aged 11, who was almost choked, slapped and punched in the head so hard his ears bled.

Police prosecutor Sgt Dave Murphy told Narrogin Magistrate's Court yesterday that Mr Ogier had shown no empathy, little remorse and appeared indifferent to the welfare of his children. "These are seen as despicable acts," he said.

Defence lawyer Shane Rebbeck said Mr Ogier had suffered similar violence from his father, including having his arm nearly broken and seeing his sister belted so hard blood was splattered on a wall. A degenerative hip disease caused him a lot of pain, reducing his tolerance levels and harming his relationship with his family. Mrs Ogier's lawyer, Arthur Paternoster, said she was saddened and ashamed by the events. She was having counselling and treatment for depression.

Magistrate Elizabeth Hamilton described the offences as a "gross breach of trust between a small child and his parents". Ms Hamilton said pre-sentence reports showed Mr Ogier had acted the same way as his father had towards him - providing them with everything materially but failing to give them a loving and safe home. She jailed Mr Ogier for a total of 31 months backdated to February 15 when he was taken into in custody and made him eligible for parole. She also fined him $1800 for stealing offences.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Don't think a good defense attorney matters? Think again

Years ago, I appeared on "The Ricki Lake Show" in an episode about persons who had been freed on appeal after being wrongfully convicted of crimes. As a former criminal prosecutor with the Cook County State's Attorney's Office in Chicago, I was there to represent the "prosecution viewpoint" (whatever that might be), along with the leader of New York's Guardian Angels representing the "victims' viewpoint."

The other guests consisted of innocent persons whose convictions had been reversed, their appellate lawyers, their parents and a reporter who had helped vindicate a father wrongfully convicted of murdering his young daughter. As I approached the set, I wondered what I could possibly say that would ward off the hoots of the audience, especially given that I was just as appalled by wrongful convictions and prosecutorial abuses.

The point I decided to make was simple: For better or worse, we have an adversary legal system that relies for its proper operation on having competent lawyers on both sides. In every case I knew about where an innocent person had been convicted, there had been an incompetent defense lawyer at the pretrial and trial stages.

The reaction of the others on the stage with me was stunning. The former defendants all began nodding their heads while their lawyers, who represented them on appeal but not at trial, sat sullenly beside them. Afterwards, some parents even came up to shake my hand.

The crucial importance of defense lawyers was illustrated in reverse by the Duke rape prosecution, mercifully ended last week by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper's highly unusual affirmation of the defendants' complete innocence. Others are rightly focusing on the "perfect storm," generated by a local prosecutor up for election peddling to his constituents a racially-charged narrative that so neatly fit the ideological template of those who dominate academia and the media. But perhaps we should stop for a moment to consider what saved these young men: defense attorneys, blogs and competing governments.

Our criminal justice system does not rely solely on the fairness of the police and prosecutors to get things right. In every criminal case, there is a professional whose only obligation is to scrutinize what the police and prosecutor have done. This "professional" is a lawyer. The next time you hear a lawyer joke, maybe you'll think of the lawyers who represented these three boys and it won't seem so funny. You probably can't picture their faces and don't know their names. (They include Joe Cheshire, Jim Cooney, Michael Cornacchia, Bill Cotter, Wade Smith and the late Kirk Osborn.) That's because they put their zealous representation of their clients ahead of their own egos and fame. Without their lawyering skills, we would not today be speaking so confidently of their clients' innocence.

These lawyers held the prosecutor's feet to the fire. Their skillful questioning at pre-trial hearings revealed the prosecutor's misconduct that eventually forced him to give up control of the case and now threatens his law license. They uncovered compelling exculpatory evidence and made it available to the press; they let their clients and their families air their story in the national media.

There is no rule book for what prosecutors call "heater" cases like this one. Navigating the law, politics and publicity in such case is an art not a science. These fine lawyers displayed all the skills and tenacity that made me want to be a criminal trial lawyer after watching the television series, "The Defenders," when I was 10 years old.

Do you suppose that lawyers like these gained their skills only representing the innocent? Criminal lawyers are constantly asked how they can live with themselves defending those guilty of serious crimes. The full and complete answer ought to be that, because we can never be sure who is guilty and who is innocent until the evidence is scrutinized, the only way to protect the innocent is by effectively defending everyone.

As a prosecutor working "felony review," when I was in a Chicago police station at 3 a.m. deciding whether to approve charges, I had to evaluate the evidence as if I were a defense attorney. Where is the murder weapon? Where are the proceeds of the robbery? How credible are the witnesses? How was the identification of the accused conducted? In this way, the mere prospect of a competent defense attorney scrutinizing the evidence in the future provides a powerful deterrent to pursuing weak cases even before anyone is charged. Thanks to defense lawyers defending the innocent and guilty alike, prosecutors generally win their cases because they avoid weak cases they may lose. (After the charging stage, a prosecutor's ability to avoid losing at trial by plea bargaining weak cases is a serious, but separate and complex issue.)

Paradoxically, the system's overall accuracy makes defending the truly innocent all the harder. While knowing that mistakes do happen, the accuracy of the system leads everyone, including defense lawyers, to assume that anyone who is charged is probably guilty. After all, they usually are. Notwithstanding the legal "presumption of innocence," in a system that generally gets it right, there is a pragmatic presumption of guilt.

Consequently, effectively defending the innocent usually requires the ability to prove your client's innocence. And that's not easy. Further, because representing the guilty consists mainly of negotiating pleas or knocking holes in the prosecutor's case, defense lawyers do not always develop the skills needed to effectively defend the truly innocent or, as important, know when to deploy them. Defense lawyers become as skeptical about their clients' claims of innocence as everyone else, if not more so. All this contributes to inadequate defense lawyering, which thankfully did not occur here.

Good lawyering alone, however, was not enough to free the Duke players. While the "mainstream" press largely swallowed District Attorney Mike Nifong's narrative of racial oppression, the blogs--especially history professor Robert "K.C." Johnson's blog Durham-in-Wonderland ( the means by which the public could learn about the fruits of the defense's efforts. (Mr. Johnson's own difficulty in 2002 obtaining tenure at Brooklyn College over ideologically-motivated opposition was chronicled on this page by Dorothy Rabinowitz, who also, true-to-form, came to the defense of the Duke Lacrosse players.)

Finally, without the competing governing powers of the North Carolina state bar, the Attorney General's office, and potentially the U.S. Justice Department, there would simply have been no one in authority to rein in this prosecutor. It is worth noting, to those who champion political accountability as the highest form of legitimacy, that District Attorney Nifong was elected by, and presumably "accountable" to, his constituents. Nevertheless, his power needed to be checked by competing government agencies and a free press.

Rather than praising the defense lawyers, some of the same folks who whooped in support of Mr. Nifong's efforts are now bemoaning that it was the supposed wealth of these students' parents that enabled them to mount so effective a defense. Never mind that draining all their savings and putting them in debt is an additional injustice resulting from this wrongful prosecution. Of course, as my grandfather used to say, "rich or poor, it's nice to have money," but this case shows that wealth is no defense to public ruin. Sometimes it even invites it.

Let us not be distracted all over again. The difficult problem of innocent defendants typically arises in run-of-the mill cases where prosecutors acting in good faith have no reason to doubt their guilt. It results in part from the pragmatic presumption of guilt, which leads to inadequate defense lawyering, an indifferent press and an oblivious public. There are no easy solutions to this. But refraining from ridiculing lawyers in general, and criminal defense lawyers in particular, would be a nice start, and one that lies within the power of everyone reading these words.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Texas: Domestic violence registry will harm innocent men

House Bill 3958, sponsored by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio), will set up a domestic violence offender registry similar to the Texas Sex Offender Registry. Castro is correct to identify domestic violence as an important issue; however, there are serious problems with the way law enforcement and the judicial system handle domestic violence. These problems will cause many innocent men to be ensnared by this bill.

HB 3958 would set up a central database containing information on anyone who has been convicted or “received a grant of deferred adjudication” for a family violence offense on three occasions. The three conviction requirement is defensible, but the inclusion of deferred adjudications - which are analogous to plea bargains - is a major problem.

Like many states, Texas has adopted aggressive arrest procedures on domestic violence calls. While politically popular, many of the architects of these types of policies are increasingly concerned that they have led to widespread abuses.

For example, Greg Schmidt, who created the Seattle Police Department’s domestic violence investigation unit in 1994, says that police officers are often encouraged to make arrests “in petty incidents, often where the abuse is mutual or it is unclear who the aggressor was.” Moreover, Schmidt has concluded that the policies and the political climate that surround them pressures officers to see men and only men as the offenders, even though research shows that women comprise a significant minority of those who commit domestic violence.

Former Dallas Police Department patrol officer Paul Stuckle, now a criminal defense attorney in Plano, believes that these policies often lead Texas police to make arrests based only on the alleged victim’s statements, and that officers often fail to complete a fair and thorough investigation.

The highly publicized case of former major league baseball player Scott Erickson has come to symbolize the problems with aggressive domestic violence arrest policies. Erickson called the police during an altercation with his girlfriend in July of 2002. According to The Associated Press, the Baltimore, Maryland police concluded that Erickson’s girlfriend Lisa Ortiz: initiated the fight by hurling objects; decided to come back twice after Erickson carried her out of the apartment; repeatedly kicked the apartment door; caused Erickson two minor injuries, one of them to his pitching arm; and herself suffered no injuries. Nonetheless, the police arrested Erickson. Afterwards Ortiz publicly stated that Erickson, who did not pursue her either time after carrying her out, “has never been physically abusive toward me.”

Erickson and his legal team did manage to get the charges dropped, but most men aren’t so fortunate. Many Texas District Attorneys follow “No Drop” policies in domestic violence cases, pursuing marginal cases which ordinarily would be dropped for lack of evidence. Without a strong criminal case, prosecutors often try to intimidate defendants into accepting seemingly harmless deferred adjudications. Most men in these situations lack the money and resources to wage a long legal battle, and accept deferred adjudications, often without realizing that they cannot be expunged.

Inclusion on the domestic violence offender registry will be ruinous to some men’s careers and reputations. The list will contain the person’s name, photograph, date of birth, last known address, physical description and their offenses. Many of the men who will be placed on the registry are noncustodial fathers with child support obligations, and the registry will make it much more difficult for them to get and keep jobs.

In addition, the list would be applied retroactively. Men who agreed to deferred adjudications in previous years did so without knowing that their decision not to fight their case in criminal court would place them on a domestic violence offender registry for life.

The bill’s requirement of three cases does provide a safeguard of sorts. Yet once the registry is created, it is very possible that future legislation will lower the requirements for inclusion to two or even one case. It is also possible that men with domestic violence restraining orders will be placed on the list, even though these restraining orders are granted to almost all who apply, with little judicial review. The bill may also be amended to require the state to pass out flyers with all the man’s information on it to every household within a mile of his house, just as is done with the Texas Sex Offender Registry. Many deferred adjudications are not fair findings of wrongdoing, and should not be treated as such. HB 3958 will harm many innocent men.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Development in the Kathryn Johnston case

There's news from Atlanta, Georgia, where 88-year-old Kathryn Johnston was shot dead by police during a botched drug raid on her home. The warrant the police used to raid Johnston's home was apparently based on bogus information, raising the possibility of murder charges against the officers involved in the incident.

To escape a murder trial for his role in the raid, former narcotics officer Gregg Junnier has apparently reached a plea deal with federal and state authorities. The deal opens up the intriguing possibility that Junnier could end up testifying against his partners in uniformed crime.

It's rare that prosecutors go after police officers for their misconduct in botched raids. But then, it's rare that police leave behind as their victim a little old lady who can't be construed in any reasonable way as a threat to the public welfare. More often, the body is that of a relatively healthy man who has had a brush or two with the law that leaves wiggle room for officers to claim they feared for their lives.

But reports of such lethal and near-lethal incidents have been piling up as the frequency of paramilitary-style police raids has increased. With some police departments now using SWAT tactics to serve warrants for even minor transgressions, it's inevitable that tragic results will ensue.

So keep an eye on the Kathryn Johnston case. More developments are likely to be forthcoming -- and it may help change the way law-enforcement officers go about their business.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Nasty Georgia cops misuse immigration law

On a Canadian woman who was LEGALLY in the country

Cheryl Kuehn still breaks down in tears when she remembers the “outrageous” conditions she endured for more than 11 hours in a Georgia detention centre after being arrested for speeding and running a stop sign. Kuehn, who just completed the first year of her master’s degree in social work at Carleton University, is demanding an apology from state officials. The governor’s office and the Glynn County Detention Center, the jail in which she was held, are each running their own investigations into the incident.

“It was a very terrifying experience,” she said in an interview while on vacation in Daytona Beach, Fla. Kuehn, 23, said she “felt like a criminal” and feared for her safety when she was hauled to the jail April 7. She said her mug shot was taken, she was fingerprinted, and was forced to strip down and put on used underwear and a navy blue prisoner’s uniform. She waited several hours in a freezing common holding room until she was moved to a shared cell, where she was greeted with jeers and stares from inmates banging on the walls of surrounding cells, she said. “When I went in there, it was the scariest thing ever,” she said. Paranoid, she said she laid awake the entire night until her release.

Even though Kuehn had a valid passport, and her husband, Scott, gathered the $222 US to post a bond for her release within three hours of her arrest, Kuehn was told she couldn’t be set free until officials with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency conducted an immigration check to ensure she was legally in the country.

Georgia police and detention centre officials have maintained that it is protocol to detain foreigners for traffic offenses. A controversial new state immigration law, which does not come into effect until July 1, also requires immigration checks for people charged with a felony or drunk driving. But Kuehn was not charged with either offence, and the investigation has already revealed that the jail received the information needed for her release by about 7:30 p.m. — long before she was released the following day at around 5 a.m. “They’re still investigating where the ball was dropped,” she said, “but it was dropped.”

Glynn County Sheriff Wayne Bennett, who ordered the internal review at the detention centre, said in a press release April 11 that his office had “no control” over the delay in Kuehn’s release. “Common sense should have dictated to the jail supervisor that the release of Ms. Kuehn on bond should not have been delayed on such minor vehicular traffic offenses,” he said in the statement. The office is now taking “corrective action,” the release stated.

Before the arrest, Kuehn was driving to Florida to visit in-laws with her husband, her brother-in-law and a friend to celebrate handing in her last paper. After taking a wrong exit along I-95 outside Brunswick, Ga., Kuehn said she made a U-turn and was about to park in a restaurant lot when, at about 5:20 p.m., she was pulled over by a police car. After the officer wrote her a citation for speeding and failing to stop at a stop sign, he told her she would be taken into custody and released only after bond was paid.

Kuehn said she was shocked. “I was walking over to the passenger side and he was like, ‘Hold up, you’re coming with me,’” Kuehn remembered. “I was nervous during the whole thing and so finally I just broke down crying, holding on to my husband.” When she began crying and told the officer she was afraid of him, Kuehn said he threatened to handcuff her if she did not go with him. “I can’t even explain what the fear was like to be in that situation,” she said. “No one ever read me my rights, no one ever told me anything.”

Kuehn said she has received dozens of messages of support from family, friends and the public. “It just seems like everyone’s outraged. I think people are realizing the U.S. has taken it a step too far in what they’re doing,” she said. Kuehn’s father, Randy Durksen, wrote letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and MP John Baird asking for action. Durksen said he was contacted by Baird, who promised he would raise the issue with Michael Wilson, the Canadian ambassador to the U.S., during his trip to Washington, D.C., next week. “I want our government to get the written apology and assurance from Georgia that this was an unlawful detention, it was a misinterpretation of this new statute, that it should never have been done, and it won’t happen again,” Durksen said.

He said that when his daughter called him, it was “traumatic” to hear her sobbing over the phone about what was happening to her in jail. “If this happened in Canada, their government would’ve gone ballistic on ours,” he said. Kuehn said the laws need to be changed and Georgia police must start treating people with respect. “I don’t think anyone should have to go through this,” she said.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Getting away with murder is easy in Australia

BY HIS own admission, Jonathon James Little was already "pissed off" when he crossed paths with fellow late-night reveller David Stevens in Fortitude Valley's Brunswick Street Mall in December 2005. Little was talking on his mobile phone – having a heated argument with his girlfriend – as he ambled down the noisy restaurant and pub district when 26-year-old Stevens appeared beside him.

Little, 20, had never seen the older man before but for some reason Stevens directed a comment towards him. Little told police he didn't remember the details except that it was some "smartarse alec thing". The consequences were fatal.

Little says he snapped and lashed out, punching Stevens once in the face. The impact knocked Stevens to the footpath but that was not enough for a seething Little, who later admitted to police he had a problem controlling his anger. According to one witness, he lined up an unconscious Stevens like he would a football and kicked him between the head and shoulder. He fled but was arrested a half hour later.

Little appeared shocked when he was told by police a few hours later that Stevens' brain injuries were so serious he was on life support. He cried the next day when he heard Stevens had died – and he faced life in jail for murder.

But an even bigger shock was reserved for the victim's family late last month when a jury hearing the case against Little found him not guilty: not just of murder, but also of the alternative charge of manslaughter. The result means Little is now free and can never be retried over the attack.

His acquittal has caused outrage in some sections of the community, but it is not the first time a murder case – that to a layman would appear to be open and shut – has ended in acquittal in Queensland. In February, Gold Coast baker Paul Joseph Haydon, 52, was found not guilty of murder and manslaughter despite admitting to killing his estranged partner Amanda Falconer in macabre circumstances in July 2004. Falconer had taken out a domestic violence order against Haydon just days before her death because of threats he had made against her children. She was alone at their former shared home at Oxenford when Haydon called in unannounced and the pair argued. Haydon claimed she came at him with a knife and that he accidentally stabbed her in the chest during a struggle.

When he realised he had killed her he didn't call for help but bundled her body into his car, set fire to the house and drove for 16 hours to Grafton in New South Wales with her body strapped in the car's front passenger seat. He then crashed the vehicle over an embankment in a failed suicide attempt. The jury deliberated for four hours before returning with not guilty verdicts to murder and manslaughter. The result stunned Falconer's grieving family, in the light of Haydon's bizarre behaviour.

In both cases, lawyers for the men argued death was an unintended outcome and the result of an accident. Accident is a regularly used defence in murder trials – and operates on the theory that the accused person and an ordinary person in their position could not have foreseen death as an outcome of their actions. In Little's case – that he or an ordinary person could not have predicted death as the result of his attack on Stevens.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Big payout at long last in evil Chicago

Suborned testimony again

Two men wrongfully convicted in the 1986 rape and murder of a Rush University medical student will split an $8 million settlement in their lawsuit against the city. Larry Ollins and Omar Saunders were to each receive $4 million in the settlement, approved Wednesday by the City Council.

Alderman Ed Smith called the case a tragedy and said the money can't make up for the time the men spent in prison. "Nothing pays like having your life intact without a blemish," he said. The agreement follows settlements with two other men also wrongfully convicted in the case. In 2003, the city settled with Calvin Ollins, Larry Ollins' cousin, for $1.5 million. And in December, the city approved a $900,000 settlement with Marcellius Bradford.

All four men were arrested in the slaying of Lori Roscetti, 23, who was abducted on Chicago's West Side, raped and beaten to death in October 1986. In 1988, Saunders, Calvin and Larry Ollins were sentenced to life in prison; Bradford received a reduced sentence for agreeing to testify against Larry Ollins. All were exonerated by DNA tests in late 2001, and were pardoned the next year by then-Gov. George Ryan.

At the City Council meeting where the settlement was approved, Alderman Tom Allen said he served as Saunders' defense attorney at his criminal trial. Allen said when he recently looked through the case file, he saw that he had filed a motion asking for DNA testing to be performed. The motion was denied. "The criminal justice system did finally work," Allen said. "It was through DNA evidence that these gentlemen finally got their lives back."

In 2004, Eddie Harris and Duane Roach pleaded guilty to raping and killing Roscetti. Officials have said DNA testing confirmed the two men committed the crime.

Jenny Hoyle, spokeswoman for the city's law department, said there were a number of reasons Saunders and Larry Ollins will receive much more money than their former co-defendants, including the fact that the amount was recommended by a federal mediator. Also, she said, the two were only charged in the slaying of Roscetti after they were implicated by Bradford and Calvin Ollins in their confessions to Chicago police. Bradford and Calvin Ollins have said their confessions were coerced.

Also Wednesday, the City Council approved, without discussion, a $5.25 million settlement with the estate of a paralyzed Chicago man who was shot and killed when he did not obey police orders to get out of his car. City officials agreed to the settlement after a federal court jury in February found Officer Anthony Blake liable for the August 2003 shooting of 20-year-old Cornelius Ware.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Duke lacrosse-player abuse charges dropped at last

But the false rape accuser gets off free. That's one way Britain is more just. The British system has locked up a couple of such liars recently. But this liar is black so I suppose that gives her special privileges. Such liars should get the same sentence to which they expose the men they accuse

The sex abuse case against three former students of a top US university accused of attacking a black woman at a party finally collapsed today, with North Carolina's top prosecutor saying the three lacrosse players were railroaded by a district attorney who ignored increasingly flimsy evidence in a "tragic rush to accuse". In a blistering assessment of the case, Attorney-General Roy Cooper dropped all charges against the three members of Duke University's lacrosse team at Raleigh Durham , all but ensuring that only one person in the whole scandal will be held to account: Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong.

"This case shows the enormous consequences of overreaching by a prosecutor," Mr Cooper said. Mr Cooper, who took over the case in January after Mr Nifong was charged with ethics violations that could get him disbarred, said his own investigation into a stripper's claim that she was sexually assaulted at a team party found nothing to corroborate her story, and "led us to the conclusion that no attack occurred." "There were many points in the case where caution would have served justice better than bravado," Mr Cooper said. "In the rush to condemn, a community and a state lost the ability to see clearly."

In the US, the case has stirred furious debate over race, class and the privileged status of college athletes, and heightened long-standing tensions in Durham between its large working-class black population and the mostly white, mostly affluent students at the private, elite university. The woman attended nearby North Carolina Central University, a historically black school; all three Duke players are white.

At today's often-bitter, I-told-you-so news conference, the three young men and their lawyers accused the news media and the public of disregarding the presumption of innocence and portraying them as thugs. "It's been 395 days since this nightmare began. And finally today it's coming to a closure," said one of the cleared defendants, David Evans, his voice breaking at one point. "We're just as innocent today as we were back then. Nothing has changed. The facts don't change." Defence attorney Joe Cheshire said: "We're angry, very angry. But we're very relieved."

Mr Nifong was out of town and could not immediately be reached for comment. But his lawyer, David Freedman, said: "If further investigation showed this boys were innocent, he would be in agreement with what the attorney-general's office decided to do."

Evans, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty were indicted last northern spring on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual offence after the woman told police she was assaulted in the bathroom at an off-campus house during a team party where she had been hired to perform. The rape charges were dropped months ago; the other charges remained until today. The attorney-general said the eyewitness identification procedures were unreliable, no DNA supported the stripper's story, no other witness corroborated it, and the woman contradicted herself. "Based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, we believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges," Mr Cooper said.

He said the charges resulted from a "tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations." "I think a lot of people owe a lot of apologies to a lot of people," Mr Cooper said. He offered no explanation for why the stripper told such a story and would not discuss her mental health. However, he said no charges will be brought against her, saying she "may actually believe" the many different stories she told. "We believe it is in the best interest of justice not to bring charges," he said. The accuser's whereabouts were not immediately known. The Associated Press generally does not identify accusers in sex-crime cases.

Portraying Mr Nifong as a "rogue prosecutor," Mr Cooper called for the passage of a law that would allow the North Carolina Supreme Court to remove a district attorney where justice demands it. Mr Cooper declined to say whether he believes Mr Nifong should be disbarred, saying it would not be fair to pass judgment before he goes on trial before the state bar in June.

At the news conference with his former teammates, Finnerty said: "Knowing I had the truth on my side was really the most comforting thing at all throughout this last year." Seligmann thanked his lawyers for sparing him from 30 years in prison for a "hoax" and complained that society has lost sight of the presumption of innocence. "This entire experience has opened my eyes up to a tragic world of injustice," he said.

The case was troubled almost from the start. DNA failed to connect any of the athletes to the 28-year-old stripper. One of the athletes claimed to have ATM receipts and time-stamped photos that provided an alibi. It was also learned that the stripper had levelled similar gang-rape allegations a decade ago, and no charges resulted. Then, in December, Mr Nifong dropped the rape charges after the woman said she was no longer certain she was penetrated.

Mr Nifong came under furious criticism from the community, the university and members of the bar for pressing ahead with a case that they said seemed pitifully weak. The district attorney withdrew from the case in January after the North Carolina bar charged him with making misleading and inflammatory comments to the media about the athletes under suspicion. The bar later added more serious charges of withholding evidence from defence attorneys and lying to the court. Among other things, Mr Nifong called the athletes "a bunch of hooligans" and declared DNA evidence would identify the guilty. He was also accused of withholding the results of lab tests that found DNA from several men - none of them lacrosse team members - on the accuser's underwear and body.

Duke suspended Seligmann, 21, and Finnerty, 20, after their arrest. Both were invited to return to campus this year, but neither accepted. Evans, 24, graduated the day before he was indicted. In the uproar over the allegations, Duke cancelled the rest of the team's 2006 season, the lacrosse coach resigned under fire, and a schism opened up on the faculty between those who supported the athletes and those who accused them of getting away with loutish frat-boy behaviour for too long. The team resumed play this year.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Texas disgrace

The issue of wrongful convictions is back in the spotlight this week, first on Monday when a local arson case was highlighted on a national news show, then on Tuesday as four men testified before Texas lawmakers about the years they spent in prison for crimes they didn't commit.

The legislative hearing focused on a package of bills that would help people who have been wrongfully convicted. The legislation is being pushed by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, who is the chairman of the board of the Innocence Project, a New York-based organization that works to free those who are wrongfully imprisoned. So far, 198 people have been exonerated nationwide, according to the Innocence Project. Texas leads the nation with 27 DNA exonerations.....

Speaking in favor of the legislation were four wrongfully convicted men who spent a total of nearly 50 years in prison. One of them was James Giles, who had been exonerated the day before. Before Monday's recommendation from a Dallas County prosecutor and a judge, he had spent 10 years in prison and 14 years on parole for a rape he did not commit.

Giles said he supports the boost in compensation for the wrongly convicted. He held up the blue sex offender registry card he carries in his wallet to show that, even though he's been out of prison, he sometimes struggled to find a job and has shouldered the burden of his conviction long enough. "It's something a person can never get back,'' Giles said. "Humiliation.''

Christopher Ochoa, who was wrongly convicted of murder in 1988 after he gave police a confession that he says was coerced during interrogation, also spoke. He said Texas, with its reputation as a law-and-order state, should take the lead in finding ways to avoid more wrongful convictions.

The issue of wrongful convictions is also being presented to a national audience this week. CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360 degrees news show is looking at several cases with claims of wrongful conviction, including one from Central Texas. The defendant in that case was Cameron Todd Willingham of Corsicana. Prosecutors said he set a 1991 fire which burned down his house, killing his three young daughters. Willingham maintained his innocence, however, even in the minutes leading up to his execution in February 2004.

Local attorney Walter M. Reaves Jr. believed in Willingham's innocence and tried to get his execution halted by presenting an updated analysis of the fire. The investigative techniques that officials relied on at the time have been shown to be "junk science," he said. Although the argument did not save Willingham, Reaves promised him just before his death that he would keep fighting to clear his name. That vow has resulted in Reaves testifying before state lawmakers and working with the Innocence Project on the case.

Reaves said he didn't know the case was going to be featured on the CNN show, but he added he is glad it continues to attract attention. Reaves noted that one of the people interviewed during the segment was John Lentini. He is considered one of the nation's leading fire investigators and heads up a panel of arson experts put together by the Innocence Project.

The group is trying to bring the issue of faulty fire science to light and have many old cases re-examined, Reaves said, especially because many people convicted in those cases remain in prison. In the past, Reaves has lamented that Willingham might not ever be cleared because fire science involves a certain amount of subjectivity, as opposed to other forensic tools, such as DNA. But now, Reaves said, he thinks a pretty airtight case can be made for Willingham's innocence using the opinions of Lentini's panel. "When you have all of the leading arson experts in the country reaching the same conclusion, it's pretty close to definitive," Reaves said.

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More on the Giles case:

Both the Dallas County District Attorney's office and Giles' Innocence Project lawyer, Vanessa Potkin, told the court they had evidence showing Giles was innocent of the 1982 gang rape of a Dallas woman. It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, said Assistant Dallas County District Attorney Lisa Smith.

A man who pleaded guilty to the gang rape, Stanley Bryant, implicated two other men in the crime: a James Giles and a Michael Brown. DNA evidence linked Brown and Bryant to the crime, Smith and Potkin said. Brown was never tried and died in prison after being convicted of another gang rape.

Police eventually arrested James Curtis Giles, who lived 25 miles away and did not match the description of the attacker given by the rape victim, Potkin said. Giles was about 10 years older and had gold teeth. Investigators ignored another man with a similar name: James Earl Giles. That Giles lived across the street from the victim and had previously been arrested with Brown on other charges, the attorneys said. He died in prison in 2000 while serving time for robbery and assault.

The victim recently acknowledged some doubt as to whether James Curtis Giles was among the rapists. One witness also recently identified the other man, James Earl Giles, in a photo lineup, Smith said.

The DNA evidence that linked Brown to the crime was one factor that helped convince the district attorney's office to investigate James Curtis Giles' claim of innocence, especially because of Brown's "overwhelming connection" to the other James Giles, Potkin said.

Giles, who is black, would be the 13th Dallas County man since 2001 exonerated by DNA evidence, the most of any county in the nation. It would be the third exoneration since District Attorney Craig Watkins took office on Jan. 1 pledging to free anyone wrongfully convicted. Watkins, the state's first black district attorney, took over an office with a history of racial discrimination, including a staff manual for prosecutors that described how to keep minorities off juries.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Australia: How not to protect the community

Determined DUI offenders such as this should be locked up for a long time -- not immediately be set free to endanger people again

Ronald James Kyle was jailed in 2005 because of drink-driving offences. Yesterday, he was back in court after recording a roadside blood alcohol reading of .243 last Saturday. The 43-year-old was charged with unlicensed driving, driving while under the influence of alcohol and unlawful use of a motor vehicle. The Brisbane Magistrate's Court was told that among Kyle's extensive traffic history was a two-month prison term in 2005 for drink driving.

But Kyle, from Springfield Lakes, was granted bail yesterday despite police prosecutors arguing that he had "absolutely no regard" for public safety. "He was pulled up on Easter Saturday and he is driving around (drunk). The community must be kept safe," the prosecutor said. "His history shows he does not have trouble getting access to a vehicle and I don't want to be driving down the road with my family and come across this fellow. "There is no great pause in-between the (extensive traffic) offences, he is going to go out and get himself written off with alcohol and no bail conditions are going to stop him, the risk is there. "It is incumbent upon me on behalf of the community to stop this fellow getting on the road, he just does not seem to care. The only sentence available to court has to be jail."

The court was told that Kyle's father loaned the vehicle to his son's de facto to run errands on a strict condition that his son not be allowed to drive. However a domestic argument on Easter Saturday led to Kyle driving the car.

Magistrate Walter Ehrich granted bail to Kyle because he had had a full-time job since February, he does not own a car, and his girlfriend may "take him back". Mr Ehrich made the decision despite asking Kyle's legal aid duty lawyer, "what are we going to do if he has another fight with his de facto" and "how are we going to keep him off the grog" and stating that "I would like him to go back to prison (for the drink driving)". The magistrate also noted that Kyle's history was "against him".

Kyle was one of the 340 motorists charged with drink-driving, by Easter Sunday, over the Easter holidays. Kyle repeatedly told the court from the dock that he does not intend to drive and that he no longer owns a car. "The people who I work with are going to pick me up at my front door and drop me off," Kyle said. "I have not got no more cars, I usually have cars of my own but now I don't have a car."

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Crooked New Zealand cops

The concern to get a jury trial mentioned below stems from the reputation of the NZ elite for protecting one-another. The allegation by an Australian judge that they used an "orchestrated litany of lies" to conceal the truth about a plane crash will not soon be forgotten

Conflicting stories over the actions of a police officer who arrested and pepper sprayed an innocent man, have emerged as the matter comes before a court. Six years ago police broke into Michael Gregory's home, emptied a can of pepper spray into his eyes, and arrested him for crimes he didn't commit. The charges were later dropped.

His father Stan has spent tens of thousands of dollars on civil proceedings against the officers to fight the "miscarriage of justice", because police refuse to lay criminal charges. Now, documents obtained by the Herald on Sunday have revealed discrepancies in the story of the officer at the centre of the case. Constable Thomas Gollan first said he had entered the house through a window, resulting in an altercation with Gregory and the use of the pepper spray. The police defence to the Gregorys' civil case now says Gregory resisted arrest at the window, so Gollan sprayed him.

According to a disciplinary report filed to the Police Complaints Authority, officers investigating a burglary in Papakura followed a police dog to Gregory's house in the early hours. Gregory, who spoke to Gollan through his bedroom window, refused to open the front door without a search warrant or permission from his father - which he is entitled to do.

The disciplinary report said: "Constable Gollan has then entered the window, resulting in a verbal and then physical altercation between him and Michael Gregory, which then resulted in the use of OC spray." Gregory was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault, aggravated burglary, burglary, resisting arrest, obstruction of justice and assaulting a police officer. Nine weeks later the charges against the then 21-year-old were withdrawn and another man was charged - but only after his father Stan hired a private detective to investigate.

The disciplinary report concluded:

* The arrest of Michael Gregory was unlawful.
* Any physical evidence obtained at the scene was inadmissible in court.
* The use of OC spray was unnecessary.
* The detention of Gregory was unlawful.

The report criticised officers for a lack of leadership, and for not investigating the burglary professionally. But the police defence now tells a different story about the pepper spraying. Defence statements say that Gregory resisted arrest at the window, so Gollan pepper-sprayed him and then climbed through the window, wrestled Gregory to the ground and handcuffed him. Crown Law opposed the PCA report being used as evidence in the civil case, and declined to comment when contacted by the Herald on Sunday.

"As a father, it has been like having a living cancer inside watching Michael not being able to fully understand why the legal system in our country has been so determined to look after its own," Stan said.

And despite the case dealing with abuse of police power, Gregory has been denied a trial by jury, as Associate Judge Doogue ruled that only a judge could handle the points of law being argued. But Auckland University law professor Dr Bill Hodge said a jury has an important, even constitutional, role in testing the rights of citizens against the powers of police. "In my opinion, the pleadings are not even borderline difficult." Lawyer Colin Henry is taking the case to the Court of Appeal citing a recent British judgment that the inquest into the death of Princess Diana be decided by a jury.

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