Thursday, January 31, 2008

Drugs, Sex & Rock `n Roll: Cops Across the Land Seduced by Drug War

Lately the news has been filled with stories of law enforcement officers accused of violating the very laws they swore to uphold and the sacred trust of those they swore to protect.

* NYPD has been rocked by a corruption scandal involving the midnight crew of the Brooklyn South Narcotics Division. Accusations include: stealing drugs, using drugs to pay informants, sex with prostitutes and informants.

* In Santa Fe, New Mexico one of the two former members of the SFPD narcotics squad charged by federal agents last year has pleaded to one felony count of theft of $5,000.00.

* In McAllen, Texas Carlos Landin Martinez, a former police commander in Mexico was just found guilty on charges from his assistance of the Gulf cartel's smuggling operations.

* And, in what has to be a tragic comedy of errors, 23-year old Carsten Douglas, a detention center guard, has been accused of smuggling pot into the jail after being blackmailed by inmates who stole his handcuff keys.

When I compare the NYPD scandal to Officer Douglas' SNAFU, I almost feel sorry for Douglas. As for a department with a history of scandal that precedes the events that made Frank Serpico famous and nearly cost him his life I hope justice is served - this time, at least.

There is so much that can be written about how narcotics assignments can seduce officers with so much temptation in so many ways. Perhaps, another time, the economy cries out for a focus on the financial impact of corruption. Oh, yes, these incidents represent a tremendous waste of taxpayer money and criminal justice system resources.

Add salaries of personnel - narcotics officers, administrative personnel, prosecution staff, public defender staff, lab tests, evidence processing and storage, court costs, etc. - for the initial investigations. Then add the costs associated with internal investigations. Now add the costs of prosecuting the officers of all ranks. Add the costs of reviewing all the cases made by the officers, the costs of incarceration of previous defendants who may be freed, the proceedings to determine whether defendants will have their guilty verdicts overturned, the new prosecutions in instances where prosecutors think they can overcome taint of corrupt officers, add the costs associated with jurors and jury duty (both to the state and to the individuals), and then you might have an idea of how much corruption costs taxpayers.

In New Orleans they are asking if they can afford the cost of the drug war in an economy damaged by Hurricane Katrina. I think citizens and taxpayers across the globe, but especially here in the U.S.A., should be asking a similar question, Can we as a society afford the war on drugs?

Report here

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Your Password Or Your Life

I need to discuss with the reader the concept of bleed-over. In the War on Drugs, this is a concept where lousy constitutional law from the drug war moves into other law enforcement areas and vice versa. In this case, I read a story about child pornography and some terrible law that the U.S. Attorney's Office is seeking to put in place that, frankly, scares the hell out of me.

The summary is this: the government is prosecuting a man in Vermont it suspects of having child pornography on his computer. However, he has a directory on his computer that is labeled Z which is encrypted with PGP technology. There are no back doors into it - only a password will open it. Government investigators ordered the suspect to open it. He has refused to give them the password. A federal judge has already ruled that ordering the man to open the drive could potentially lead to self-incrimination, and the judge will not compel him to open it. The government has appealed...guess why? Once again, the terrorist boogeyman raises his head. Terrorists could use PGP to conceal their plans, and thus national security concerns should trump the individual's constitutional rights.

And just how long do you think it will be before a DEA agent tries to compel a drug dealer to open the hard drive on his computer to obtain evidence? Sorry to say, but I am siding with the pervert on this one. And I do not care how many barbs are thrown at me for this.

That amazing document, the Bill of Rights, was designed to stand the test of time. And every person - I do not care who you name - has a fundamental right not to be a witness against himself in a criminal proceeding under those same rights. I do not care what you say - if you cannot see that the government will only get the Z drive info by having this pervert in Vermont enter his secret password, and if you cannot see that this will create a situation where this person is being a witness against himself - I cannot help you.

The one key point that everyone forgets in this modern, fast-paced age is that if the constitutional rights are impinging law enforcement in its efforts to fight terrorists, perverts, etc., etc., there is a way to get more favorable rules for cops. It's called amending the Constitution. Simply get it amended and change the rules on self-incrimination.

Aha! you might say, Changing the Constitution is incredibly hard and takes a long time. And I would agree with you...but you know what? THAT IS THE DAMN WAY IT WAS DESIGNED TO BE! DEAL WITH IT! It is not impossible, just difficult. If everyday Joe Blow has to follow the laws, government prosecutors should, too.

I hope the U.S. Attorney's Office in Vermont drops this tactic to get the goods on the guy. This stinks. Prosecutors not only have a duty to get convictions, but they have a higher duty to do substantial justice. Stepping all over a defendant's self-incrimination rights is not doing the people's business.

Report here

Australia: Less than a year in jail for this trash?

AN unlicensed motorist broke a police officer's arm after leading him on a high speed chase through Brisbane, a court has been told. Sean William Burdon, 28, was today sentenced to three years jail and disqualified from driving for four years after the dangerous incident on August 7, 2006.

The Brisbane District Court was told the chase began when Burdon stole a car from outside a home at Bribie Island, north of Brisbane, about 2.30am (AEST). After almost running down the car's owner, Burdon led police on a 35km journey from Bribie Island to the inner-city suburb of Fortitude Valley. The court was told he reached speeds of 140km/h during the chase, ran numerous red lights and repeatedly swerved onto the wrong side of the road, narrowly avoiding hitting a police car.

He was briefly slowed but didn't stop when police scored a hit with road spikes. The spikes blew out at least two tyres, sending sparks flying as Burdon struggled to retain control of the car.

The court was told his journey ended when he ploughed into gates at the Brisbane RNA showgrounds. Police attempted to wrestle Burdon from the car when he came to a stop, with one officer sustaining a broken arm during the violent struggle. Burdon today tendered a letter to the court apologising for his behaviour, saying he had "rediscovered" himself since the offence. He pleaded guilty to five offences including dangerous operation of a motor vehicle with a circumstance of aggravation and assault or obstructing a police officer.

Judge Hugh Botting reactivated a previous suspended sentence for property offences and also sentenced him to three years jail for these latest offences. He will be eligible for parole in November.

Report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Lying British traffic cops defeated

A lorry [truck] driver has won a David and Goliath court battle after three police officers claimed he used his mobile phone behind the wheel. Anthony Jones faced a 60 pounds fine after being told he had been spotted using the phone as he drove. But Mr Jones, 41, from Denton, knew he was innocent and spent 2,600 pounds to collect the evidence he needed to clear his name and fight the fine in court. His defence team used a tachometer report - which records the movement of his lorry - and a list from his mobile provider to prove he was not on the phone at the time.

After this was revealed to magistrates in Tameside, they cleared him of the offence and also said the 2,600 he had spent would be paid back. The court heard how the officers had stopped the skip-lorry driver in Ashton town centre last May. All three claimed they had seen him holding something to his ear, but could not be sure it was a mobile phone.

Information from Mr Jones's mobile provider showed he was not on the phone at that time and the tachometer showed that the lorry was stationary. Mr Jones took the case to court after refusing to pay the fine on `principle'. He and his wife Debbie revealed later that it could have ruined them. "There were times when I felt like packing it in and paying up," said Mr Jones. "But it was a matter of principle. I had done nothing wrong and I was not guilty. I'm an honest guy."

He said not everyone accused of using a phone at the wheel would have been as fortunate as him, as a friend had helped by putting up the money to get the reports and, as a lorry driver, he also had the tachometer chart. "Not everybody would have had that," he said. He said: "This has cost taxpayers like me money that it shouldn't have done. The whole thing has been a nightmare and shouldn't have happened."

Magistrates heard the officer in charge had failed to take data from the phone, so the prosecution had to rely on the memories of the three officers. Defence solicitor Carl Millar said: "It was clear that the case should not have reached the courts. The prosecution had to prove without any doubt that Mr Jones was on his phone. "They clearly didn't do that."

Report here

Nightmare in Lima, Ohio

It has been 220 years since the Bill of Rights. Our nation's founders would be disappointed with what we have done to their legacy in the last 40 years with the war on drugs. By its very nature, the war on drugs is a war on the Bill of Rights. That was most evident in what occurred in Lima, Ohio, on Jan 5, 2008.

Prior to the war on drugs, law enforcement executed search warrants with police officers dressed in their normal, readily recognizable uniforms. They knocked on the front door and announced their presence and purpose. They then waited for someone to come to the door. Only if it was clear that someone was attempting to evade, was present and refusing to open the door, or no one was home did they force entry.

Today, police on narcotic search warrants are dressed in black SWAT uniforms, often wearing ski masks, looking more like military commandos than officers out to protect and serve. Without warning, they set off stun and flash grenades and simultaneously break out windows, knock down doors and burst in with automatic weapons at the ready. As many as 40,000 such raids occur each year in the U.S. bringing unnecessary violence and provocation to small time nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom were guilty of only misdemeanors. These raids have resulted in hundreds of needless deaths and injuries, not only to drug offenders, but to bystanders, children, police officers and suspects later found to be innocent. See

In Lima, Ohio, police used similar tactics where they knew children were present. The results were that an unarmedTheika Wilson, a mother of 6, was killed and her 1 year old child, held in her arms, seriously wounded. Both were shot by police who had rushed into the home to insure that no one destroyed any evidence, small as it may be.

Chief Garlock said that these dangerous situations occur "when a high risk search warrant is executed." This was not a high risk search warrant because of some small time drug user, part time drug dealer, who had a small amount of cocaine and marijuana. This was a dangerous situation because the police were uniformed, equipped, trained, and expected to act as if this was a war on people; which is exactly what the war on drugs has become. The Chief and the Mayor offered their condolences. The nation shrugs and Mrs. Wilson and her baby are chalked up as collateral damages in this war.

Milton Friedman said in 1990 that "Every friend of freedom . . . must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the U.S. into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence." His nightmare became a reality in Lima, Ohio.

Since the war on drugs began, drugs are cheaper, stronger, more plentiful, there is more police corruption, our prisons are cramped with inmates convicted of simple possession, and we are killing innocent civilians at an alarming rate. As we did with alcohol prohibition, it is time for the friends of freedom to begin a national debate and admit that the war on drugs is a failed policy.

Report here

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Another example of Fascistic American law enforcement

An outrageous immigration story... It shouldn't need intervention from a Congressman to get a bureaucracy to behave decently and competently

Thomas Warziniack was born in Minnesota and grew up in Georgia, but immigration authorities pronounced him an illegal immigrant from Russia. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has held Warziniack for weeks in an Arizona detention facility with the aim of deporting him to a country he's never seen. His jailers shrugged off Warziniack's claims that he was an American citizen, even though they could have retrieved his Minnesota birth certificate in minutes and even though a Colorado court had concluded that he was a U.S. citizen a year before it shipped him to Arizona.

On Thursday, Warziniack finally became a free man. Immigration officials released him after his family, who learned about his predicament from McClatchy, produced a birth certificate and after a U.S. senator demanded his release. "The immigration agents told me they never make mistakes," Warziniack said in an earlier phone interview from jail. "All I know is that somebody dropped the ball."

The story of how immigration officials decided that a small-town drifter with a Southern accent was an illegal Russian immigrant illustrates how the federal government mistakenly detains and sometimes deports American citizens. U.S. citizens who are mistakenly jailed by immigration authorities can get caught up in a nightmarish bureaucratic tangle in which they're simply not believed. An unpublished study by the Vera Institute of Justice, a New York nonprofit organization, in 2006 identified 125 people in immigration detention centers across the nation who immigration lawyers believed had valid U.S. citizenship claims. Vera initially focused on six facilities where most of the cases surfaced. The organization later broadened its analysis to 12 sites and plans to track the outcome of all cases involving citizens.

Unlike suspects charged in criminal courts, detainees accused of immigration violations don't have a right to an attorney, and three-quarters of them represent themselves. Less affluent or resourceful U.S. citizens who are detained must try to maneuver on their own through a complicated system. "It becomes your word against the government's, even when you know and insist that you're a U.S. citizen," Siulc said. "Your word doesn't always count, and the government doesn't always investigate fully."

Officials with ICE, the federal agency that oversees deportations, maintain that such cases are isolated because agents are required to obtain sufficient evidence that someone is an illegal immigrant before making an arrest. However, they don't track the number of U.S. citizens who are detained or deported. "We don't want to detain or deport U.S. citizens," said Ernestine Fobbs, an ICE spokeswoman. "It's just not something we do." While immigration advocates agree that the agents generally release detainees before deportation in clear-cut cases, they said that ICE sometimes ignores valid assertions of citizenship in the rush to ship out more illegal immigrants....

The attorneys said the chances of mistakes are growing as immigration agents step up sweeps in the country and state and local prisons with less experience in immigration matters screen more criminals on behalf of ICE. ICE's Fobbs said agents move as quickly as possible to check stories of people who claim they're American citizens. But she said that many of the cases involve complex legal arguments, such as whether U.S. citizenship is derived from parents, which an immigration judge has to sort out. "We have to be careful we don't release the wrong person," she said.

In Warziniack's case, ICE officials appear to have been oblivious to signs that they'd made a serious mistake. After he was arrested in Colorado on a minor drug charge, Warziniack told probation officials there wild stories about being shot seven times, stabbed twice and bombed four times as a Russian army colonel in Afghanistan, according to court records. He also insisted that he swam ashore to America from a Soviet submarine. Court officials were skeptical. Not only did his story seem preposterous, but the longtime heroin addict also had a Southern accent and didn't speak Russian.

Colorado court officials quickly determined his true identity in a national crime database: He was a Minnesota-born man who grew up in Georgia. Before Warziniack was sentenced to prison on the drug charge, his probation officer surmised in a report that he could be mentally ill. Although it took only minutes for McClatchy to confirm with Minnesota officials that a birth certificate under Warziniack's name and birth date was on file, Colorado prison officials notified federal authorities that Warziniack was a foreign-born prisoner.

McClatchy also was able to track down Warziniack's three half-sisters. Even though they hadn't seen him in almost 20 years, his sisters were willing to vouch for him. One of them, Missy Dolle, called the detention center repeatedly, until officials there stopped returning her calls. Her brother's attorney told her that a detainee in Warziniack's situation often has to wait weeks for results, even if he or she gets a copy of a U.S. birth certificate.

Warziniack, meanwhile, waited impatiently for an opportunity to prove his case. After he contacted the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, a group that provides legal advice to immigrants, a local attorney recently agreed to represent him for free.

Dolle and her husband, Keith, a retired sheriff's deputy in Mecklenburg County, N.C., flew to Arizona from their Charlotte home to attend her brother's hearing before an immigration judge. Before she left, she e-mailed Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. After someone from his office contacted ICE, immigration officials promised to release Warziniack if they got a birth certificate. After scrambling to get a power of attorney to obtain their brother's birth certificate, the sisters succeeded in getting a copy the day before the hearing. On Thursday, however, government lawyers told an immigration judge during a deportation hearing that they needed a week to verify the authenticity of Warziniack's birth record. The judge delayed his ruling.

"I still can't believe this is happening in America," Dolle said. Warziniack began to weep when he saw his sister. "They still don't believe me," he said. Later that day, however, ICE officials changed their minds and said that he could be released this week. They said they were able to confirm his birth certificate, but they didn't acknowledge any problem with the handling of the case.

The officials blamed conflicting information for the mix-up. "The burden of proof is on the individual to show they're legally entitled to be in the United States," said ICE spokeswoman Kice..... [What an arrogant heap Soviet of sh*t! Guilty until proven innocent! They should deport HER -- to Russia]

In the end, Sanguinetti said, ICE is responsible for making sure that it detains and deports the correct person. Her prisons flag hundreds of prisoners a month as foreign-born, but can't possibly verify the information, she said. "Could it happen again? Sure," Sanguinetti said. "But we would hope that ICE during their investigative process would discover the truth."

Rachel Rosenbloom, an attorney at the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Boston College who's identified at least seven U.S. citizens whom ICE has mistakenly deported since 2000, believes that the agency should set up a more formal way of handling detainees when they appear to have valid claims of U.S. citizenship. At the very least, she said, ICE could release people such as Warziniack on bond while waiting for immigration judges to hear the cases. "It's like finding innocent people on death row," Rosenbloom said. "There may be only a small number of cases, but when you find them you want to do everything in your power to make sure they get out."

Report here (Via Immigration Watch International)

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Another corrupt drug conviction

How come very dubious testimony from known criminals is so often used to convict innocent citizens?

A woman wrongly convicted by the federal government, with help from a drug informant who lied, served 16 months in prison before she was released with no home to return to and a 3-year-old daughter who didn't recognize her. Defense attorneys say a street-smart but dishonest informant and a federal agent working without oversight manipulated the system to convict Geneva France and dozens of others.

``They stole the truth,'' France said. ``I don't think I'll ever trust people again. It's too hard. I don't know how a human being with a heart could stand up there and lie about another person. They stole part of my life.''

France, 25, was convicted of being a drug courier - a conviction that prosecutors now acknowledge was built on lies. A judge released her in May. Her case was part of an extensive operation to stem the flow of drugs in Mansfield. Federal prosecutors in Cleveland charged her and 25 others from Mansfield in 2005, based on the work of informant Jerrell Bray and Drug Enforcement Administration agent Lee Lucas. Twenty-one people were convicted.

U.S. Attorney Greg White has admitted that there are major problems with the case. Federal prosecutors were expected to ask a judge Tuesday or Wednesday to throw out the convictions of 15 men imprisoned in the same tainted investigation, including the case against a man serving 30 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge John Adams told attorneys Tuesday that he hopes to have the men out of prison by Feb. 1. "This does not happen, it just does not happen,'' said federal public defender Dennis Terez. ``But what the prosecutors did was the right thing.''

White declined comment Tuesday on the status of the cases. ``There's an investigation going on in looking at the relationship with Mr. Bray and these cases,'' White said. ``That's being conducted by the Department of Justice. We are looking at the matter of how we address the fundamental fairness of prosecuting these defendants. We're going to do what's right.''

Most of the men had pleaded guilty to drug charges, but prosecutors said they lack the evidence needed to convict them if the cases were to go to trial.

In recent weeks, a special federal prosecutor and an investigator spent hours listening to France, hoping to determine how a massive drug investigation, spearheaded by the DEA, became a debacle. France said she believes her trouble began when one of her friends introduced her to the man the friend dated - Bray. He scared France immediately, bragging about how he could stuff her in a trunk, take her to Cleveland and no one would ever hear from her again. He also asked France out for a date. She refused.

At 6 a.m. Nov. 10, 2005, federal agents pounded on her door. She opened it, and authorities burst in, placing her youngest daughter, Leelasha, on the couch as they searched for drugs. They found nothing. ``I didn't know what to think,'' France said. ``I was getting my children ready for school when all of a sudden people start screaming, 'Where are the drugs?' There were no drugs.''

France had never been in trouble. In court, she refused a plea agreement of three or four years in prison, went to trial and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Bray, acting as informant for the DEA, and Lucas said they bought more than 50 grams of crack cocaine from her about 2 p.m. Oct. 25, 2005, a time when France said she was braiding a friend's hair. No surveillance photos, which are standard in tracking drug dealers, were taken in France's case. It was her word against Lucas'.

"There he was, this big DEA agent who had worked in Bolivia, and there I was, this woman from Mansfield,'' France said.
France spent time in prisons in West Virginia and Kentucky and earned 12 cents an hour cleaning. For every three hours of work, she earned enough money to pay for one minute of talking to her daughters on the phone. ``I thought I was going to be in prison for 10 years, and I just gave up,'' she said.

Finally, in May, the case unraveled. Bray got in a fight while selling marijuana on Cleveland's West Side and shot a man. Stewing in jail, Bray admitted that he lied about France, saying she never sold any drugs and shouldn't be in prison. On June 29, federal prosecutors asked a judge to release her immediately.

France walked out of federal prison with $68 and a bus ticket. Her landlord had evicted her from the rental during her incarceration, and everything she owned had been tossed on the street. It was unsettling seeing her children, Kyelia, 8; Kateria, 6; and Leelasha, 3. Her older children loved her, but they couldn't understand why she was gone. Her youngest daughter didn't recognize her and wouldn't go near her.

Lucas, the DEA agent, has declined to speak about the case. Bray has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for perjury and violating civil rights related to the Mansfield cases. He is cooperating with the U.S. Justice Department's internal investigation of the case. His attorney, John McCaffrey, has urged a detailed look into how the DEA handled Bray.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Felonious massage

There are lots of unfortunate things about the untimely death of Heath Ledger, but what strikes me as especially unjust is the fact that the woman, Ledger's masseuse, who found the actor and notified authorities and his friends of his death may be in hot water because of her role in the case. Check out this passage from the New York Times:
The police said that all five witnesses - Ms. Solomon, Ms. Wolozin, and the three guards summoned by Ms. Olsen - were cooperating with the authorities.

The police said they could not immediately say if Ms. Wolozin was a licensed masseuse. There is no Diana Wolozin listed in the state database of licensed massage therapists. It is a felony to practice massage without a license in New York.

A felony? As if it wasn't ridiculous enough to require people to seek government permission to rub customers' backs, the Empire State actually charges non-compliers with felonies. Ms. Wolozin may face some pretty severe consequences because she chose to draw attention to herself by doing the right thing rather than simply walking away.

If Ms. Wolozin is really digging her knuckles into the sore muscles of her clients without benefit of a state-issued piece of paper, and if authorities choose to make an issue of the matter, she may lose her right to vote (at least temporarily), to own firearms, to hold a liquor license (you need government permission to sell booze, too) and face other restrictions. And that's in addition to any time served.

Despite spurious claims about protecting the public from incompetents and charlatans, occupational licensing laws have long had more to do with creating barriers to entry into trades and professions and so shielding existing practitioners from competition. That's a fairly well established fact among economists, and a point largely acknowledged by most people, at least when they talk about trades outside of such designated priesthoods as medicine and law. As Professor S. David Young of the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD) has written:
A careful analysis of licensing's effects across a broad range of occupations reveals some striking, and strikingly negative, similarities. Occupational regulation has limited consumer choice, raised consumer costs, increased practitioner income, limited practitioner mobility, and deprived the poor of adequate services-all without demonstrated improvements in the quality or safety of the licensed activities.

Why have states required licensing of so many occupations if the results are so counter to consumer interests? Participants in any regulatory process must have a reason for getting involved. Because the number of potential political and legal battles is large, people tend to concentrate on those battles in which their personal stake is high. Because their per capita stakes in the licensing controversy are so much greater than those of consumers, it is professionals who usually determine the regulatory agenda in their domains. Crucial licensing decisions that can affect vast numbers of people are often made with little or no input from the public. If such a process serves the public interest, it is only by happenstance.

With licensing laws representing such bold-faced abuses of state power for private gain, it's especially unconscionable that violating licensing restrictions can have such profoundly dire results as imprisonment and loss of rights. Yes, Heath Ledger's death is unfortunate -- but the peril in which Diana Wolozin now finds herself may be the most underappreciated part of the matter.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

What did these kids do wrong?

Another instance of the chonic abuse of authority in America

Two British teenage holidaymakers have suffered a horrific ordeal after being taken to an orphanage by New York social workers when their mother was struck down by pneumonia. Yvonne Bray said she was too ill to wave goodbye to daughters Gemma, 15 and Katie, 13 who were told by the American authorities they could not stay with their mother at the Queens Medical Centre hospital in Harlem, as they were minors.

Instead the two were taken to an orphanage and, after being searched, were questioned about whether they had been abused, if they were members of gangs or had suicidal tendencies. They were stripped and issued with a uniform of one-size plain white T-shirts and elasticated jeans before being spilt up and given a medical examination. They then posed for a mug-shot and were told they were not allowed to leave the orphanage before being shown to a glass-walled room for 12 to 15-year-old girls.

Katie said the frightening experience was "like being in a cage". She said: "It was a bit scary as the staff were constantly looking in at us. "I tried to go to sleep, but every time I opened my eyes, someone was looking right at me."

After Ms Bray - from Appledore, north Devon - was in hospital for two days, she was told she would have to remain there for a further three but was so worried about her children she discharged herself to try and get them back. The 39-year-old was forced to walkk through the streets of New York's notorious Queens district in her pyjamas before she was able to find a taxi.

"I was so cross," she said. "I didn't sign anything saying they could be examined or interrogated - they even asked them if they had been raped. "They had to shower in front of strangers, what they went through would be a breach of anyone's human rights, let alone two girls on holiday."

Ms Bray returned to the hotel and after making a number of phone calls spoke to a woman who said that she had the kids and was about half-an-hour from the hotel. "I was so relieved. We'd only been apart for a matter of days but it seemed like forever." Now Ms Bray said she will be writing to the authorities to complain and to add insult to injury she has received a letter saying she is now "under investigation". "I am so angry they have had to be put through this ordeal," she said. "And then they have the cheek to send out this letter. "It seems like a standard letter because the children have been entered into the child care system. It says I am now under investigation, they can't have even known who they were."

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Michigan: Still a little bit guilty?

A lawyer for a Lansing man wrongfully convicted in the slaying of a Lansing Community College professor wants to make sure his client isn't again charged in the case. But Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III tells the Lansing State Journal he wants to preserve the "unlikely" option to reinstate charges against 30-year-old Claude McCollum. A Jan. 29 hearing is scheduled.

McCollum was convicted in 2006 of murdering 60-year-old Carolyn Kronenberg in 2005. Authorities threw out the conviction in October "without prejudice," meaning charges again could be brought. McCollum's lawyer wants the language changed to "with prejudice," making it more difficult to charge him. Police say another man is responsible.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Australia: Another stupid mental health defence accepted -- and a violent young guy has learnt that he can get away with smashing someone in the face with a bottle

99% of people who suffer unhappy life events don't go around committing crimes. Such events are clearly therefore no defence for crime

The family of a teenager glassed in the face yesterday slammed the community service order given to his attacker as "soft". David Macdonald, 19, was left physically and mentally scarred after Jordan Sloane attacked him with a bottle during a fight at a hotel in Sydney's North Ryde last January.

Prosecutors had called for the maximum two-year jail term for Sloane, 20, who was convicted of malicious wounding. In sentencing Macdonald, Magistrate Robert Williams yesterday told Downing Centre Local Court that the use of a bottle, aimed at the victim's head, warranted a prison term. However, he sentenced Sloane to 400 hours of community service, accepting that he suffered post traumatic stress after his parents died when he was aged 16 and had good prospects for rehabilitation.

Outside court, Joanne Macdonald said her son's attacker received "a very soft sentence. It's not giving the right message to the public". The victim's father, Trevor Macdonald, asked: "When are they going to put their foot down and deliver a sentence appropriate to the crime?"

The violence broke out at the Ranch Hotel after Mr Macdonald asked Sloane's girlfriend, a former classmate, to dance. Sloane took exception and confronted Mr Macdonald. Both men threw punches before Sloane - who claimed he was defending himself - swung a vodka bottle at Mr Macdonald's face. Mr Macdonald, who is now studying overseas, suffered cuts and a broken nose, undergoing plastic surgery. Doctors removed five pieces of glass from his face.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Lax oversight found at some forensic labs


Charges of negligence and misconduct at some police forensic-evidence labs remain unchecked because of lax oversight allowed by the Justice Department, an internal audit concludes.

Critics say the gaps raise questions about the accuracy of DNA evidence used to convict or clear suspects in criminal cases.

The audit, released Friday, found that the Justice Department doesn't require allegations of wrongdoing at state and local police labs to be reported to independent investigators. Moreover, 34 percent of independent investigators charged with overseeing the labs lacked the authority, ability or resources to do so, according to the report issued by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Child rapists repeatedly set free in Australia

The "sickening" lack of justice for child rape victims, even after courts find their attackers guilty, has left children's advocates despairing. Some say this apparent disregard for abused children could embolden child sex predators and discourage victims from seeking justice. Fewer than a third of rapists convicted of abusing children aged over 10 see the inside of a jail cell. Of the handful who are imprisoned, the sentences average just two years.

Figures obtained by The Sunday Age from three Sentencing Advisory Council reports show that men aged over 40 who rape minors - especially those in their care - are more likely to be sent to jail than younger offenders, but many still escape prison terms. If the rapist is aged under 20 and the victim is over 10, the rapist is almost certain to walk away with a community-based order. The figures come in the wake of comments by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Jeremy Rapke, who accused judges of being insensitive to child sex victims' suffering after Justice Michael Kelly ridiculed the impact statement of a man who was raped as a 13-year-old by a 24-year-old male.

The figures relate to a five-year period from June 2001, when a total of 307 people (including 11 women) were convicted of raping children aged under 16. Fewer than half, just 141, were sent to jail. But a breakdown of the figures reveals a wide variation in sentencing patterns depending on the victim's age. Victoria's County and Supreme Court records show that of the 193 people convicted of raping children aged 10 to 16, just 60 were jailed; 39 received wholly suspended sentences.

Childwise chief executive Bernadette McMenamin said the low sentencing rate for sex crimes against children over 10 showed many victims were being treated as adults by the courts. "Child sexual abuse is child sexual abuse," she said. "No matter what the age or age difference. You are still a child and people fail to recognise that - it is still childhood." The abuse of an older child could sometimes have a more devastating impact.

Another report, on the sentencing of rapists of children under 10, revealed higher imprisonment rates, with 59 of the 86 rapists being sent to jail. The third report examined the treatment by the courts of adults who raped children in their care, authority or supervision. It showed judges were least tolerant of predatory teachers, foster parents, youth workers, sports coaches, religious ministers and health professionals, with 22 of the 28 who were convicted being sent to jail.

But children's advocates say the overall low imprisonment rates will not deter child sex abusers. They fear they will instead discourage victims and their families from reporting child rapes - the vast majority of which never make it to court. Australian Childhood Foundation chief executive Joe Tucci said the low imprisonment rate was appalling. A Royal Children's Hospital study of 106 children who were sexually abused, showed charges were laid in just 12% of the cases, and only five resulted in prosecution, he said. "Without convictions and punishment it reinforces for these children what these perpetrators have told them 'You are to blame, you made me do it because you didn't say no the first time'. It's sickening. We fail our children all the time," Mr Tucci said.

Sentencing Advisory Council chairman Professor Arie Freiberg said an offender's age seemed to determine whether they were jailed. He said the heaviest sentences were dealt to adults in positions of authority or care. "It's as much about breach of trust as it is the sexual offence," he said. "These children are not only unable to consent, but the age group is so significantly different . there can be no excuse that she was my 'girlfriend'."

Former prison chaplain Father Peter Norden said jail was no place for young sex offenders because it linked them with recidivist sex criminals. Instead, health, social and educational interventions worked best in rehabilitating young offenders. Childwise will release a booklet next month to help parents recognise potential predators.

Source (Via Australian Politics)

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Lawyer finally speaks up

Crooked prosecutor exposed -- witness "coached". An American judicial system was consciously prepared to take the life of a man without warrant

For 10 years, Leslie P. Smith, a Virginia lawyer, reluctantly kept a secret because the authorities on legal ethics told him he had no choice, even though his information could save the life of a man on death row, one whose case had led to a landmark Supreme Court decision. Mr. Smith believed that prosecutors had committed brazen misconduct by coaching a witness and hiding it from the defense, but the Virginia State Bar said he was bound by legal ethics rules not to bring up the matter. He shared his qualms and pangs of conscience with only one man, Timothy G. Clancy, who had worked on the case with him.

"Clancy and I, when we were alone together, would reminisce about this and more or less renew our vows of silence," Mr. Smith told a judge last month. "We felt that there was nothing that could be done." But the situation changed last year, when Mr. Smith took one more run at the state bar's ethics counsel. "I was upset by the conduct of the prosecutor," Mr. Smith wrote in an anguished letter, "and the situation has bothered me ever since."

Reversing course, the bar told Mr. Smith he could now talk, and he did. His testimony caused a state court judge in Yorktown, Va., to commute the death sentence of Daryl R. Atkins to life on Thursday, citing prosecutorial misconduct.

It was in Mr. Atkins's case that the United States Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that the Constitution bars the execution of the mentally retarded. But Virginia continued to pursue the death penalty against him, saying he was not mentally retarded. If Thursday's decision stands, that issue may never be resolved. Mr. Smith had represented Mr. Atkins's co-defendant, William Jones. In a tape-recorded debriefing session with prosecutors on Aug. 6, 1997, Mr. Jones told his version of the 1996 killing of Eric Nesbitt, whom the two men had robbed and forced to withdraw money from a bank machine. The crucial point was who had shot Mr. Nesbitt. Under Virginia law, only the triggerman was eligible for the death penalty.

"As he began to describe the positions of the individuals and the firing of the shots," Mr. Smith said last month, referring to his client, a prosecutor "reached over and stopped the tape recorder." According to Mr. Smith's testimony and a memorandum he prepared soon after the debriefing, the prosecutor, Cathy E. Krinick, said, "Les, do you see we have a problem here?" The problem was that Mr. Jones's account did not match the physical evidence. "This isn't going to do us any good," Ms. Krinick said, according to Mr. Smith.

For 15 minutes, Mr. Smith said, prosecutors coaxed and coached Mr. Jones to produce testimony against Mr. Atkins that did match the evidence. They flipped over a table and pretended it was a truck. "We used a chair, or something like that, to simulate the open door," Mr. Smith testified, "because only one of the doors on the truck would open."

When the tape was turned back on, Mr. Jones's story bolstered the case against Mr. Atkins as the triggerman. The Atkins defense did not learn of the coaching session for a decade, when Mr. Smith was freed from his ethical obligation not to prejudice his own client's case. Mr. Jones was sentenced to life in prison, and his case is concluded.

Ms. Krinick, now in private practice, did not return a call seeking comment. Nor did the commonwealth's attorney for York County, Eileen M. Addison. It is not known whether the state intends to appeal. In a court filing last year, Ms. Addison, who also attended the debriefing, called Mr. Smith's account "false and libelous" and said her office "adamantly denies" it. But there are only about an hour and three-quarters of material on the audiotape, even though a detective announced that it started rolling at 4:16 p.m. and stopped at 6:16 p.m.

In the court filing, Ms. Addison said the judge, Prentis Smiley Jr. of the York County Circuit Court, was not free to entertain a motion based on prosecutorial misconduct because Mr. Atkins's case was before him only on the question of mental retardation.

Mr. Smith has a modest legal practice, working alone. "I do criminal work, civil work, real estate," he testified last month. He said he understood the reasoning behind the state bar's initial advice. "It certainly practically would have put in jeopardy all the things that had been done or that we had done for our client," he testified last month.

Mr. Smith wrote to the bar again in March, this time emphasizing that his client's case was over. A lawyer there would not give him an answer in writing, Mr. Smith said, but told him over the phone that he could "come forward and make known what had gone on at the meeting." Mr. Smith did not name the lawyer. James McCauley, the state bar's ethics counsel, was out of the office on Friday and did not respond to a voice mail message seeking comment.

Ronald D. Rotunda, who teaches legal ethics at George Mason University, said the rules in Virginia were murky about what lawyers in Mr. Smith's position could do. But if the bar's initial advice was correct, Professor Rotunda added, "there is something wrong about the law, particularly if you are talking about execution or years in prison."

Richard G. Parker, a lawyer at O'Melveny & Myers in Washington who represented Mr. Atkins along with Joseph A. Migliozzi Jr., praised Mr. Smith. "He had no dog in this fight," Mr. Parker said. "Les Smith brooded on this and came out and said something to do the right thing."

Executions in Virginia usually occur within seven years of the imposition of a death sentence, legal experts there said. So in a typical case - without the intervention of the Supreme Court - Mr. Atkins would be dead by now and Mr. Smith's revelations would have done him no good.

In a brief interview, Mr. Smith said he did not think he should speak about his experiences because "there may be another forum for me to testify in." He added, a little cryptically, "I did what I have done." At a hearing last month, Mr. Smith was asked whether "the concerns you've been thinking about for 10 years have been addressed in your own mind?" "Yes," he said, "in that whatever went on is going to be exposed and someone will have made a decision about what went on. But I was also prepared to keep quiet had the bar come back with an opposite answer in March."

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Cleared of rape, Indy man sues over delay in prison release

Extraordinary negligence by all concerned. And the original conviction was based on eyewitness identification from someone who was half-blind!

Harold David Buntin keeps his anger in check, but the worst kind of frustration persists after he served 13 years for a rape that DNA evidence proved he didn’t commit. He served two of the years after a judge cleared him. Now Buntin, 38, is suing Marion Superior Court for mishandling the May 2005 ruling that should have set him free but instead sat inside his file in storage, unseen by nearly anyone. Buntin also has sued an Indianapolis attorney hired by his family to handle his appeal. Carolyn Rader is accused of leaving him in the lurch while he waited for the ruling.

“Somebody should be held accountable,” he said. “I lose 11 years of my life over something I didn’t ever do, and you turn around and cheat me out of two more years? “I’m not mad, but somebody’s liable. … I think I’ve got a case.” He is seeking unspecified damages, but state law could limit any award if he prevails against the court.

His wrongful detention lawsuit against Criminal Court 5, filed Friday in Marion Superior Court’s civil division, also names the clerk, the county and the state of Indiana as defendants. His lawsuit against Rader has been pending since August. Judge Grant Hawkins, who presides in Court 5, declined to comment Tuesday, and a phone message left at the office of the city’s attorney, the corporation counsel, was not returned. Rader also did not return a message.

When Hawkins ordered Buntin’s release in April, he apologized. He and Master Commissioner Nancy L. Broyles, who had issued the 2005 ruling, explained in a written notice at the time that the decision was never entered into the court’s record or sent to the defendant or prosecutors. Either a bailiff failed to follow handwritten instructions, the notice says, or a deputy clerk did not fulfill her duties.

The case stems from the rape and robbery of a 22-year-old clerk at a dry cleaners in 1984 on Indianapolis’ Northside. Three months later, after at least one false lead, the victim saw a man she thought was her assailant inside the former Atlas Supermarket across the street. Police arrested Buntin, then 15. Buntin insisted he was in Texas at the time of the assault. But during the trial, prosecutors showed Buntin had the same blood type as the rapist — DNA testing was not widely used then — and relied on the testimony of the victim, who had impaired vision and hearing. Buntin fled before the trial was over. The jury convicted him in absentia of rape and armed robbery. Police in Florida arrested him in an unrelated matter in 1994, and the fugitive was brought back to Indiana to serve a 50-year sentence.

In prison, he earned two associate’s degrees and worked to win his freedom. He hired Rader in 1999, according to one of the lawsuits. Later, two DNA analyses showed his sample did not match material thought to have come from the rapist. After a court hearing in early 2005, he waited for Broyles’ ruling. And waited. He wrote at least five letters to the court, the lawsuits say, and more to his attorney. When Rader responded, Buntin said, she urged patience. Family members called the court, but the computer system showed there had been no ruling yet. “I couldn’t believe it,” Buntin said, and he remembered thinking: “This doesn’t make no sense, like there’s some kind of conspiracy. This shouldn’t happen. … I was exonerated by DNA.”

Finally, Buntin filed a “lazy judge” complaint, prompting Hawkins and Broyles to review the case and retrieve the file from court archives. Rader has filed a response to Buntin’s suit, which charges she was negligent and breached her duty. Rader’s filing says the claims are groundless, and any damages were caused by the judges or court staff.

Buntin, who goes by his middle name, David, is working in construction on the side while he recovers from a shoulder injury and looks at his options. He is living in a house on Indianapolis’ Westside with his girlfriend, who has stuck with him for nearly a decade, he said. He declined to name her. He frequently visits three siblings and other extended family members who live in Indianapolis.

There are no limits on damages if he prevails against Rader, but the state Tort Claims Act would cap any judgment for him against a government agency or official at $300,000. “That’s for a jury to decide,” said Michael Sutherlin, an Indianapolis attorney now representing Buntin in the lawsuits. Buntin said he hasn’t decided whether to file a federal lawsuit seeking compensation for a wrongful conviction. Larry Mayes, who spent 19 years in prison for a rape in Hammond before DNA evidence exonerated him, was awarded $9 million by a jury in 2006; that verdict is on appeal. “I’m just taking it a day at a time,” Buntin said. “I’ve got a few applications in here and there. We’ll see what happens.”

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Rogue hospital

A construction worker claimed in a lawsuit that when he went to a hospital after being hit on the forehead by a falling wooden beam, emergency room staffers forcibly gave him a rectal examination. Brian Persaud, 38, says in court papers that after he denied a request by NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital emergency room employees to examine his rectum, he was "assaulted, battered and falsely imprisoned."

His lawyer, Gerrard M. Marrone, said he and Persaud later learned the exam was one way of determining whether he had suffered spinal damage in the accident. Marrone said his client got eight stitches for a cut over his eyebrow.

Then, Marrone said, emergency room staffers insisted on examining his rectum and held him down while he begged, "Please don't do that." He said Persaud hit a doctor while flailing around and staffers gave him an injection, which knocked him out, and performed the rectal exam.

Persaud woke up handcuffed to a bed and with an oxygen tube down his throat, the lawyer said, and spent three days in a detention center.

A request by the hospital to dismiss Persaud's lawsuit was denied by Justice Alice Schlesinger, who ordered a trial to start March 31. Hospital spokesman Bryan Dotson said, "While it would be inappropriate for us to comment on specifics of the case, we believe it is completely without merit and intend to contest it vigorously."

Persaud's lawsuit, filed in Manhattan's state Supreme Court, seeks unspecified damages. A judge dismissed a misdemeanor assault charge against him.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Australia: Mickelbergs finally get a compensation payment

Peter and Ray Mickelberg say their $1 million compensation payout for being framed for the Perth Mint swindle is not enough to cover their losses. The Carpenter Government yesterday awarded $1 million in compensation - the largest payment in the state's history - to the two brothers, who were wrongly jailed for almost a decade after they were framed by police for the notorious 1982 Perth Mint swindle. Attorney-General Jim McGinty said police actions were "a perversion of the system of justice of the worst kind" and no amount of money would make up for what happened.

But the payout was criticised by Peter Mickelberg, 50, and his brother Ray, 62, as insufficient to cover the debts they accumulated during a decades-long fight to clear their names. Ray Mickelberg told The Australian they owed at least $1.2million. He said the ex gratia payments of $500,000 each were effectively gone without even acknowledging millions of dollars in lost assets, ruined careers and pain and suffering that resulted from the fit-up. He was furious also that no compensation was offered to the children of a third brother, Brian, who has since died, but was also wrongly convicted and jailed for nine months. Peter Mickelberg spent more than eight years in jail and Ray more than six.

Their convictions were quashed in 2004, 15 years after they were released, after detective Tony Lewandowski, who has since killed himself, admitted police fabricated evidence. Another corrupt officer exposed by Lewandowski, Don Hancock, was killed in a car bomb attack carried out by a bikie gang member in 2001.

Despite the brothers' anger yesterday, Mr McGinty said the payments brought to an end the State's involvement, following $658,672 they received to cover the costs of two appeals.

The Mickelberg brothers were convicted of defrauding the mint of $653,000 in gold bullion by issuing worthless cheques. After his arrest, Peter was stripped, beaten and forced to sign a false statement by the two corrupt officers. The pair failed in a series of appeals over decades because police continued to provide false evidence.

The extraordinary case even involved more than 58kg of bullion being dumped at the Seven Network's Perth studios in 1989, shortly after Peter's release, in an apparent attempt to implicate him. It was later shown to be South African gold that was not related to the case.

Ray Mickelberg said he and Peter were forced to agree to the $1 million payout after Mr McGinty told them to take it or leave it. "In the end, we had no choice," he said. The pair criticised the decision to have taxpayers foot the bill. They said the money should have been seized from the superannuation funds of the corrupt officers.

Angry WA Police Union president Mike Dean has labelled as "incompetent and irresponsible" the record $1 million payout to Peter and Ray Mickelberg announced yesterday. The state police union was also on the warpath after Mr McGinty confirmed the brothers were free to continue civil claims against police allegedly involved in their case. The Government initially tried to force the brothers to drop civil action against the seven former officers in return for the ex-gratia payments but failed. The civil action was initiated 18 months ago, and includes claims against the estates of the two dead officers, Lewandowski and Hancock. The terms of the $1 million ex-gratia compensation payout for wrongful conviction and jailing over the infamous 1982 Perth Mint Swindle does not prevent the brothers from taking further civil action against former police officers. They include former assistant commissioner and current Labor MP Bob Kucera.

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Big payoff for the appearance of regret

MARINKO Curkovic "felt as if he had killed his own child" after running over three-year-old Jessica De Andrade in his garbage truck. But as the truck driver was handed a nine-month suspended jail term yesterday, the girl's father said he could never know the agony her family suffered. "Today Marinko Curkovic will be with his family, while Jessica will not,'' grieving father Rui De Andrade said. "He has had his licence cancelled for two years; my daughter had her life cancelled forever. "He claims to be suffering emotionally from the ordeal. He has no idea what pain and suffering is, and the sentence my family's left with.''

Jessica was thrown from her mother's arms and killed after they were hit by the truck on a pedestrian crossing at Alexandria last July. The lights were green for both traffic and pedestrians, but Curkovic failed to keep a proper lookout. The father-of-three pleaded guilty to negligent driving causing death.

Mr De Andrade and his wife, Somsri Phongsuphawech - who is still on crutches after receiving serious injuries in the accident - cradled a photograph of Jessica as Curkovic, 43, was sentenced in Downing Centre Local Court.

Defence barrister William Barber argued the accident site, at the intersection of Botany Rd and McEvoy St, was a notorious black spot. He said RTA records showed there had been another fatality at the intersection, plus 55 accidents in which people were hurt between 2002 and 2006. But Chief Magistrate Graeme Henson said Curkovic turned onto Botany Rd "without regard for public safety''.

Jessica's parents wiped away tears as Mr Henson spoke of the "catastrophic'' effects of her death, saying: ``In modern society we are conditioned to believe that the natural order of life means that children do not pass from this earth before their parents.''

But he also observed that Curkovic and his family had been "severely traumatised'' by the tragedy. Psychological reports revealed Curkovic now suffered from anxiety and depression, with "intensive feelings of guilt that he, as a father, has caused a child to lose her life and a mother to lose her daughter''. "He felt as if he had killed his own child,'' they said. Mr Henson took the driver's mental state into account during sentencing.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Scotland: 'New evidence' in Jodi murder appeal

LAWYERS for teenage killer Luke Mitchell believe there is new evidence regarding two suspects which could persuade appeal judges that he suffered a miscarriage of justice at his trial. It is alleged the two men have been put in the frame for the 2003 murder of 14-year-old Jodi Jones and that the evidence against them is as compelling as the case the prosecution presented against Mitchell. One of the men is said to be a drug addict with a fascination for injuries, and the other has been linked to the murder scene by DNA.

The Crown's initial reaction to the claims was to question the significance of the evidence and whether, if it had been heard by the jury, it would have made any difference to the majority guilty verdict returned. Mitchell, 19, is serving a minimum of 20 years under a life sentence for murdering Jodi in June 2003. He was also 14, and the pair had become lovers. Her body was found in woods at Roan's Dyke path, a shortcut between her home in Easthouses, Dalkeith, Midlothian, and Mitchell's house in Newbattle.

Jodi's throat had been slit and her body mutilated. The injuries bore some resemblance to those depicted in paintings by the rock star Marilyn Manson of Elizabeth Short, known as the Black Dahlia, a Hollywood starlet murdered in 1947.

Mitchell's appeal against his conviction, and the length of his sentence, is due to be heard in February. His defence team is led by Donald Findlay, QC. A preliminary hearing took place yesterday at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh to check whether the case was ready to proceed. Mitchell sat a few feet in front of his mother, Corinne Mitchell. Jodi's relatives, including her mother, Judy, were ushered in by a different door and seated at the opposite side of the court from Mrs Mitchell. The defence counsel, Jane Farquharson, said an additional ground of appeal had been lodged, based on new information disclosed by the Crown. She added: "It is still work in progress and there are outstanding inquiries on behalf of the appellant being pursued."

Ms Farquharson submitted that the appeal hearing should begin as planned on 5 February, when formal legal issues in connection with the new ground of appeal could be addressed. John Beckett, QC, the advocate depute, agreed that the timetable should remain unchanged. He said of the new ground of appeal: "Having looked at such material as is available, it is very likely the Crown will be arguing that the new evidence... would lack the significance necessary to demonstrate that its absence from the trial occasioned a miscarriage of justice."

In the ground of appeal, it is stated the case against Mitchell was entirely circumstantial and the Crown had been unable to indicate any direct link between him and the murder scene. The new information, from witnesses who came forward at a late stage or as a result of other lines of police inquiry, related firstly to a student at Newbattle Abbey College who was "untraceable" until he attended voluntarily at Dalkeith police station in December 2006.

The second man did not come forward during the murder investigation as having been in the area. At that time, a condom was found close to the scene, but DNA could not be matched to anyone on the DNA database. However, in October this year, a sample from the man produced a match.


LUKE Mitchell has put forward several grounds of appeal which, it is contended, show that he suffered a miscarriage of justice when he was found guilty in January 2005 of murdering Jodi Jones. His lawyers say there was insufficient evidence to convict him. There was no eyewitness and "a total absence of forensic evidence."

While they accept there was circumstantial evidence capable of demonstrating that he could have committed the murder, they maintain it was not enough to allow the jury to conclude his guilt was proved beyond reasonable doubt.

Another reason involves the identification of Mitchell because one witness had been shown a series of photographs in which Mitchell, had a much brighter background, and the shots of 11 stand-ins did not have a reasonably sufficient resemblance to Mitchell.

It is also claimed the trial should have been moved from Edinburgh because of pre-trial publicity. The media coverage had treated him in "a vicious manner", his QC, Donald Findlay, had alleged during an earlier hearing. Mr Findlay said it had been national coverage, but would have been remembered more by people living in the area of the murder.

The trial judge, Lord Nimmo Smith, had refused a request to move the trial from Edinburgh, and Mr Findlay said the result had been that "everything that could have been done was not done to ensure a fair trial."

According to the grounds of appeal, all the new evidence "is as compelling a circumstantial case against the individuals as the evidence relied on by the Crown against (Mitchell] at trial. This additional evidence is of such significance, the verdict returned in ignorance of it must be regarded as a miscarriage of justice."

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

America's Gestapo at work again

Darla Jennings held each of her young grandchildren up to the pink casket where their mother lay so they could give her a final kiss good-bye. Tarika Wilson, 26, who was shot to death by police during a drug raid at her home Jan. 4, was laid to rest yesterday after a two-hour memorial service at Grace Church Worldwide Ministries where more than 300 people filled the pews. As family members streamed in to pay their respects before the casket was closed, Elder Ronald Fails recited Scripture and encouragement: "Death is not the end of life. It is not the conclusion. It is really the beginning. We thank God that he delivers hope even in the midst of our sorrow."

Mr. Fails and other local clergy spent much of the service calling on the community to come together, to heal, and to work together to solve its problems. "I want to pray that God will reconcile the community - it's not just the family," he said. "It's the whole community, and when we talk about the community it's important that we take this out of the realm of black and white. This is not just an issue of black and white." Mr. Fails said regardless of Wilson's color, "We cannot allow the enemy to divide us on the basis of color. Every time something happens, we go there. That is not to suggest there are not problems and challenges. There will always be problems and challenges, but together we stand. Divided we fall."

City police have provided few details about what happened after its SWAT team raided Wilson's East Third Street house and arrested her boyfriend, Anthony Terry, on drug charges. At some point in the raid, officers shot two pit bull dogs in the home, and Sgt. Joseph Chavalia fatally shot Wilson as she was holding her 14-month-old son, Sincere Wilson. The wounded toddler underwent surgery on his arm and his index finger was amputated.

On Thursday, Terry, 31, was indicted by an Allen County grand jury on three counts of trafficking in crack cocaine, four counts of trafficking in marijuana, and six counts of permitting drug abuse stemming from incidents that occurred between September, 2007, and Jan. 4, the day of the raid.

Separate from the drug investigation by police, the FBI, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, and special prosecutor Jeff Strausbaugh were called in to investigate the shooting, which has raised tensions in Lima and prompted accusations that police target African-Americans. While no one from the police department could be seen at Wilson's funeral, both Lima Mayor David Berger and council President John Nixon attended, as did Allen County Sheriff Dan Beck.

Councilman Tommy Pitts, who is a minister, spoke briefly during the service, saying he hoped that after the dust had settled, the truth would come out. "You better believe I'm going to stay on top of this," Mr. Pitts said. "The devil did this thing, but God is going to turn it around. He's going to turn it around. He is going to turn it around."

After the service, Sheriff Beck called the shooting "a terrible, terrible tragedy." He said the city has had serious problems for years that are evidenced by the disproportionate number of minorities who are arrested every year compared with the number of whites. He said Lima police do not target the black community, although the department has remained focused on going after crack cocaine dealers, many of whom are African-American, rather than the largely white customer base that buys the drug. "We have got to get back to doing what law enforcement is supposed to do," the sheriff said. "We need to enforce the law equally."

Mr. Fails said some in the community feared there would be "mayhem in the church" during Wilson's wake on Thursday and suggested that police or sheriff's deputies be brought in to provide security. He said he did not feel that was necessary and, in the end, it was not. "We're not going to burn the courthouse down. We're not going to burn our own house down, but we're going to bind together as one people. Together we stand. Divided we fall," he said to loud applause.

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More background:

MANY questions still require answers after a 26-year-old woman was shot to death by drug-raiding police in Lima while she held her toddler son, who was also seriously injured. Though the African-American community is vigorously protesting the death of Tarika Wilson, their concern should be shared by every citizen. Chief among those questions: Did police conducting the raid know children were in the home at the time? Why would officers shoot someone with a child in her arms? Did they think she had a gun? Ms. Wilson's five other children, whose ages range from 1 to 8, were also present when she was shot. Also home was her boyfriend, Anthony Terry, 31.

Frustrated and angry relatives say a search warrant targeted the wrong house number. However, Police Chief Greg Garlock confirmed that officers had the right address. Police suspected the boyfriend of selling drugs at the home; he was arrested on drug-trafficking charges. While the couple have been previously convicted on drug charges, that doesn't dismiss the need for answers in what Chief Garlock calls a "terrible situation."

A former Lima SWAT commander said it is not unusual for children to be home when police show up for a raid. If that is true, it's fair to suggest that officers breached some of the rules intended to avoid shooting innocent people in such situations. The shooter in this tragedy has been identified as Sgt. Joseph A. Chavalia, 52, a veteran Lima police officer for 30 years, including 22 years on the SWAT team. The FBI and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation are conducting inquiries.

Meanwhile, local activists should get credit for tempering citizens' rage even as they seek information about what happened. Among them is Lima city Councilman Derry Glenn, who owned the house but did not live there. Whatever BCI and the FBI find, Lima police have a public relations disaster on their hands, especially if it appears that the shooting was careless or, worse, racially motivated.

What is not in question is the considerable strain in relations between police and Lima's black community. That must be addressed fully as well, no matter what was behind the tragedy on East Third Street.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Louisiana: Rickey Johnson freed after wrongful conviction

DNA evidence has excluded him from a 1982 rape. Faulty eyewitness identification again

District Attorney Don Burkett and Innocence Project attorney Vanessa Potkin will hold a joint news conference at 11 a.m. Monday at the Sabine district attorney's office to discuss the case of Rickey Johnson. DNA testing completed Dec. 21 determined that the Leesville man could not have raped a Many woman on July 12, 1982. The man who did was convicted in May 1984 of committing an aggravated rape April 30, 1983, at the same apartment complex in Many.

The men knew each other from their early days. However, Johnson only learned Friday night over a hot meal of seafood that he spent more than two decades at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola because of a rape committed by John McNeal, also known as "Sneaky Pete." Surprise and disbelief were his first reactions. But no harsh words come from Johnson in a one-on-one interview with The Times in the Sabine Detention Center.

In fact, Johnson said he never gave much thought to why someone wrongly accused him of rape. He couldn't, he said. "If I had thought about it, I would have had a lot of hatred in my heart toward the girl. " I just didn't think about it," Johnson said. "I just had to focus all of my energy on getting out instead of crying about being innocent. " I would drown in my tears."

Johnson was only 26 when a Many woman identified him as her rapist. Johnson was a frequent visitor in Sabine Parish, with relatives living in Many and his father's family hailing from Florien. But he had not been in Many for months before that one day in the summer of 1982 that a Leesville police officer stopped him and told him he needed to check on a warrant for his arrest in Many. Johnson didn't immediately, but later the same officer stopped him again. Johnson was so confident he was the victim of mistaken identity that he told his brother to take him to Many so that he'd have a ride. "But it didn't happen that way," Johnson said.

He was arrested for aggravated rape and was incarcerated until his January 1983 trial. Johnson filed appeals. All denied. About seven years ago, acting upon the advice of a close friend and fellow inmate, Calvin Willis, of Shreveport, Johnson contacted the Innocence Project, which has drawn national attention for taking on the cases of inmates who were wrongly convicted of crimes.

Johnson would receive a letter every year telling him that his case would be reviewed. A few years ago, Johnson had to watch Willis walk out of Angola a free man. He, too, had been wrongly convicted of rape.

Last year, Johnson received a letter from the Innocence Project telling him he was a client. Last week, Johnson received the word. "DNA has cleared you." With a smile that consumed his face, Johnson, a somewhat soft-spoken man, said, "I knew this would happen. I knew I wasn't their guy."

Johnson was convicted solely on the victim's identification. She was unable to distinguish any marks, including a gold front tooth, despite her testimony of looking at her attacker's face during the entire four hours he was in her bedroom, his attorney said in court papers.

DeSoto-Sabine District Don Burkett was not the district attorney who prosecuted Johnson; James Lynn Davis held the position then. Once Burkett learned Johnson had been cleared, he asked that the blood typing evidence still on file with the Sabine clerk of court's office be submitted to the Northwest Louisiana Criminalist Laboratory in Shreveport. DNA testing was not available in 1982. "Thursday, it was determined to a certainty that the rape Johnson was convicted of was actually the DNA from a person committing a rape 10 months later. He was convicted, too," Burkett said.....

Johnson's one request before he left was to see his brother, who also is at Angola. Their reunion was tear-filled, but Johnson said his brother was glad that he was going home. Johnson also expressed heart-felt appreciation to Burkett. "I said to myself, that's a good man."

During his 25 years of incarceration, Johnson has missed watching his four children grow. One was born just after he went to jail. He's kept in touch as best he could. One son, a LSU engineering graduate, just moved to Baton Rouge. "I'm the only one he has now since his mother has passed."

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Another Police Raid gone wrong

Gunning down the innocent. Even if the cop gets prosecuted he will only get a slap on the wrist

Lima, Ohio, remains tense after police Sgt. Joseph A. Chavalia killed a 26-year-old woman and shot and injured her one-year-old son during a drug raid. Tarika Wilson and her child were cut down during a SWAT raid targeting her boyfriend, Anthony Terry. Terry was arrested on suspicion of possession of crack cocaine.

This doesn't appear to be a wrong-address raid -- cops burst into the house named on the warrant. But a violent raid for drug possession? Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't possession of an illegal substance a non-violent "crime." In the absence of evidence that Terry intended to go down shooting, knocking on the door would seem to be the appropriate means of serving the warrant.

Some people would argue that police need to kick the door in to avoid danger to officers. But what about danger to innocent people -- like unarmed women and infants, for instance? It seems to me that if anybody should shoulder the risks of police work, it should be police. Not every interaction with the public should be conducted like D-Day on the off-chance that somebody might start shooting. That's especially true since SWAT tactics all-too-often make it certain that somebody does get shot.

That police knew there were innocent people in the house is clear; according to the Toledo Blade, "[Chief Garlock] said officers were aware that children were inside the home because there were toys in the yard outside and on the front porch." That means police can't feign surprise at the presence of people other than the one named in the warrant.

The FBI has joined a probe into just how this raid went so fatally wrong. That's no guarantee of justice, but it means the guilty department won't be investigating itself.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Corrupt New Zealand again

Call for inquiry into justice system ignored. The Peter Ellis case is typical of the crooked child molestation accusations of its era -- children being repeatedly badgered by self-righteous social workers until the children gave the desired answers. Previous post here on Jan. 21 2006

There is no prospect that the Government will set up an independent specialist tribunal to investigate claims of miscarriage of justice, says the former High Court judge who estimates as many as 20 people may be wrongly in New Zealand jails. Sir Thomas Thorp recommended the setting-up of a specialist tribunal two years ago after making an extensive study of how potential miscarriages were dealt with elsewhere. He concluded there were significant shortcomings in our review systems and that the incidence of miscarriages had been underestimated.

However, despite a special tribunal being recommended by Parliament's justice and law reform committee, and Sir Thomas's proposals receiving support from both practising lawyers and academics, there has been no official action. The reaction from the Ministry of Justice, which oversees measures for reassessing convictions, has been muted. Sir Thomas told the Weekend Herald that the Justice Department seemed to be "regrettably turf-conscious".

The Government said a year ago that it planned to look at the Thorp proposals in conjunction with its "overall strategy of reducing the incidence of crime, helping victims and targeting hardcore criminals and violent criminal activity". But Sir Thomas said he had heard nothing to indicate progress. "I think myself now that my proposals will not be adopted or progressed by the present Government. But [MP Richard] Worth tells me that the National caucus supported his action last year in filing a private member's bill."

Dr Worth's member's bill, which still awaits a ballot, proposes the setting up of a fully independent and appropriately staffed and resourced authority which would put before the courts for reconsideration any claims of miscarriage which its investigations showed had merit.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen said in a letter to Dr Worth in November that his member's bill was too broad and might have unwarranted constitutional and fiscal consequences and would not be supported by the Government. Dr Cullen said the Government was reviewing options to improve organisational arrangements, of which an independent body was one.

Sir Thomas noted that new evidence relating to the Peter Ellis Christchurch creche case produced in articles recently published in the New Zealand Law Journal "must add to concerns expressed previously that that case may have gone awry". While he understood there was still a theoretical possibility of appeal to the Privy Council, "an investigation by an independent specialist authority would in my view be the best means of obtaining an effective reconsideration of those verdicts".

Sir Thomas reviewed the case for the Secretary of Justice in 1999 and concluded that the two petitions for a pardon raised "a considerable number of issues sufficiently to point to a need for further investigation". His report identified child evidence reliability interviewing techniques, potential contamination as central and said that if concerns expressed by several experts proved to have general support, "it would in my view be difficult to argue against the existence of a serious doubt about the safety of the convictions". The Court of Appeal also indicated a commission of inquiry was best suited to test expert opinion.

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Corrupt New Zealand again

Call for inquiry into justice system ignored. The Peter Ellis case is typical of the crooked child molestation accusations of its era -- children being repeatedly badgered by self-righteous social workers until the children gave the desired answers. Previous post here on Jan. 21 2006

There is no prospect that the Government will set up an independent specialist tribunal to investigate claims of miscarriage of justice, says the former High Court judge who estimates as many as 20 people may be wrongly in New Zealand jails. Sir Thomas Thorp recommended the setting-up of a specialist tribunal two years ago after making an extensive study of how potential miscarriages were dealt with elsewhere. He concluded there were significant shortcomings in our review systems and that the incidence of miscarriages had been underestimated.

However, despite a special tribunal being recommended by Parliament's justice and law reform committee, and Sir Thomas's proposals receiving support from both practising lawyers and academics, there has been no official action. The reaction from the Ministry of Justice, which oversees measures for reassessing convictions, has been muted. Sir Thomas told the Weekend Herald that the Justice Department seemed to be "regrettably turf-conscious".

The Government said a year ago that it planned to look at the Thorp proposals in conjunction with its "overall strategy of reducing the incidence of crime, helping victims and targeting hardcore criminals and violent criminal activity". But Sir Thomas said he had heard nothing to indicate progress. "I think myself now that my proposals will not be adopted or progressed by the present Government. But [MP Richard] Worth tells me that the National caucus supported his action last year in filing a private member's bill."

Dr Worth's member's bill, which still awaits a ballot, proposes the setting up of a fully independent and appropriately staffed and resourced authority which would put before the courts for reconsideration any claims of miscarriage which its investigations showed had merit.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen said in a letter to Dr Worth in November that his member's bill was too broad and might have unwarranted constitutional and fiscal consequences and would not be supported by the Government. Dr Cullen said the Government was reviewing options to improve organisational arrangements, of which an independent body was one.

Sir Thomas noted that new evidence relating to the Peter Ellis Christchurch creche case produced in articles recently published in the New Zealand Law Journal "must add to concerns expressed previously that that case may have gone awry". While he understood there was still a theoretical possibility of appeal to the Privy Council, "an investigation by an independent specialist authority would in my view be the best means of obtaining an effective reconsideration of those verdicts".

Sir Thomas reviewed the case for the Secretary of Justice in 1999 and concluded that the two petitions for a pardon raised "a considerable number of issues sufficiently to point to a need for further investigation". His report identified child evidence reliability interviewing techniques, potential contamination as central and said that if concerns expressed by several experts proved to have general support, "it would in my view be difficult to argue against the existence of a serious doubt about the safety of the convictions". The Court of Appeal also indicated a commission of inquiry was best suited to test expert opinion.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

British injustice again

Motorists who kill when driving while uninsured or unlicensed could still avoid a jail sentence, under guidelines to judges outlined yesterday. Similarly, motorists with an unblemished record who kill after a moment’s “inattention” would receive a community sentence, the guidelines suggest.The new “ladder” of penalties outlined by the Sentencing Guidelines Committee, headed by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, are aimed at punishing more harshly drivers who kill. But they will dismay victims’ groups, who had hoped for tougher penalties for all drivers who cause deaths.

Angela Smith, 47, whose 16-year-old son, Kyle, was killed in a car crash in 2005, said yesterday: “Death-crash legislation should be seen as a deterrent, not a soft option.” She added: “The 19-year-old driver in my son’s crash was banned for 2½ years and fined 1,000 pounds. People who cause death on the roads should never drive again. They should have to live with what they have done for the rest of their lives.”

Overall, penalties will increase and offenders will no longer receive only a fine. In the worse cases of dangerous driving, drivers will receive jail terms of at least seven years, up to a maximum of 14 years. But custody will not result in every case and judges will have to assess how bad the driving was and the degree of danger created.

The guidelines, which now go to MPs and ministers for comments, say: “Where the level of carelessness is low and there are no aggravating factors, even the fact that death was caused is not sufficient to justify a prison sentence.” The guidelines spell out how the courts should treat drivers who kill because they have been distracted by mobile phones, lighting cigarettes, reading maps, adjusting car radios or setting satellite navigation equipment.

Often a sentence will depend on whether motorists were guilty of “ordinary” avoidable distractions – such as glancing at a map – or “gross” distractions such as mobile texting.Under new offences to take effect in March or April, uninsured motorists who kill and have no previous convictions can escape with a community order, but motorists who kill when disqualified will face jail terms of up to two years.

Sir Igor Judge, the deputy chairman of the council, said that sentencing in such cases was extremely sensitive. “Very heavy sentences are appropriate where the standard of driving involves flagrant disregard of the safety of other road users,” he added. “But sometimes death results from a relatively minor error of judgment, to which every, however experienced, motorist is liable from time to time.”

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dishonest cop gets a slap on the wrist

Some of his actions could have put people in jail for years

A New Haven police detective was sentenced to 90 days in prison Monday for manipulating evidence and stealing money during drug investigations, part of a pattern of wrongdoing uncovered during a probe of police misconduct in the city.

Former Det. Jose R. Silva had been allowed to plead guilty three months ago to one count of deprivation of individual rights as a result of what authorities determined to be his relatively minor role in the police misconduct. He was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Alan H. Nevas. Silva was one of six men caught in a joint state-federal investigation of the city police department's narcotics unit and the principals in a family-owned, New Haven area bail bond business.

Former police Lt. William White, the one-time head of the city narcotics squad and the senior figure implicated in the law enforcement sting, has admitted stealing tens of thousands of dollars of what he thought was drug money and taking thousands more in bribes from the bail bondsmen. He pleaded guilty to theft and bribery conspiracy and could be sentenced to four years in prison later this month.

Federal prosecutors said in court in Bridgeport on Monday that Silva was implicated in crimes with former Det. Justen Kasperzyk. Both men reported to White. On one occasion, prosecutors said Silva acquiesced while Kasperzyk improperly relocated confiscated narcotics during a drug raid to solidify a case against a suspect. Another time, prosecutors said, Kasperzyk stole $1,000 confiscated during a drug raid and later gave $500 to Silva. Silva kept the money and did not report the theft, prosecutors said.

Kasperzyk has pleaded guilty to theft of government property and a civil rights conspiracy. He is scheduled to be sentenced in March.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

British teenager jailed over taxi rape lie

A rap-on-the-knuckles sentence though. The guy could have got years

A teenager who falsely accused a taxi driver of rape has been jailed after the man proved his innocence by producing a recorded conversation of her repeatedly asking him for sex. Seonad Campbell, who has three A levels and hoped to go to university, ordered a taxi after becoming drunk at a party three weeks after her 18th birthday. When she arrived at 4am at her family home in East Cowick, near Goole, East Yorkshire, she told her father that she had been raped. He immediately contacted the police.

The driver was able to establish his innocence when it emerged that he had used his mobile phone to make a video recording of Campbell during their journey from Pontefract, West Yorkshire. The footage showed the teenager repeatedly asking the driver to have sex with her. He said that he had agreed to her request and the couple had consensual sex in a lane near her home.

In court she pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and was jailed for eight months by Judge Roger Thorn, QC, who told Campbell that her lies might have had devastating consequences

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Kenny Richey free at last

Forcing a plea bargain on him is a disgrace, though. Just a miserable attempt to save themselves the embarrassment of a compensation payout

For more than two decades, he was told by prosecutors that he would leave prison only in a coffin, at one point coming within one hour of being strapped into Ohio's electric chair. But Kenny Richey's long fight against execution was finally over last night after a judge in the US ordered him to be freed. He is expected to fly home to Scotland today.

The 43-year-old Scot's legal struggle ended where it had begun, in the same Ohio courtroom where he was sentenced to death in 1987 for killing two-year-old Cynthia Collins, as the state dropped murder and arson charges and accepted a plea bargain. During the 30-minute hearing Mr Richey spoke only to answer "yes, sir" to Judge Alan Travis as the plea bargain was formally explained to him. The judge said: "I'm ordering the sentence as proposed . . . time served. Mr Richey can be released."

In August last year the sentence was overturned with a retrial on the same charges scheduled for March. However, during yesterday's plea deal he admitted to reneging on a promise to babysit Cynthia on the night she died - leaving her to die alone when fire broke out - but not to killing her by setting the fire himself.

On his release he thanked his supporters. When asked what he was going to do now, he said: "I'm going for some nookie. I've not had any for 21 years." Speaking to The Times earlier, he said: "They tried to kill me, they tried to break me, and they nearly won - they nearly had me in that death chamber so many times. But in the end, it's the truth that wins.

"I've spent all my adult life behind bars and walking free is the dream that's kept me going. I'll go home and hug my mum so tight she won't know what's hit her. I'll lie on my back in the grass and gaze at the big sky and feel the wind in my hair - what's left of it - and let out the biggest roar you've ever heard. And then I'll start my life all over again."

Prior to the judge ordering Mr Richey's release, the atmosphere in the courtroom was ignited by an outburst from Cynthia Collins's aunt, Valerie Binkley. As she read out a victim impact statement, Ms Binkley told Mr Richey that he would "burn in hell". Neither of Cynthia's parents were in court but a statement was read out on behalf of her father, Robert Collins. He wrote: "Cynthia did not deserve to die in such a way. She was my baby girl who I loved, and still do with all my heart. I just wish Cynthia could appeal her death and come back to life."

Mr Richey will be reunited with his mother, Eileen, at Edinburgh airport tomorrow, after spending a night with his brother Steven, 37, who lives in Ohio. Speaking from her home in Edinburgh last night, Eileen Richey said that she was anxious for her son's health but overjoyed. She said: "We'll be glad he's coming home. I'm going to give him a big kiss and hold him for a long time because I haven't been able to do that for over 20 years. I'm looking forward to it."

Mr Richey's lawyer, Ken Parsigian, who has handled his case pro bono for the last 15 years, said: "This deal represents a complete capitulation by the state. What Kenny said he would never do is plead to murder or arson - and he's not."

Mr Richey has been told by prosecutors that they have received death threats against him and his lawyer. As part of the deal, in which he pleaded no contest to charges of child endangerment and involuntary manslaughter, Mr Richey has been ordered to leave Putnam County, Ohio, where the crime occurred, within 24 hours. "There's a lot of strong feelings against Kenny in that place and the authorities don't want to take any risks. We didn't fight for nearly 22 years just to get into an incident when we get him out," said Mr Parsigian.

But adjusting to a world that he last saw when Ronald Reagan was the US President and Margaret Thatcher Prime Minister could be overwhelming, Mr Parsigian admitted. "Kenny's excited, but a little anxious. He's coming back to a world he doesn't recognise," he said.

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