Monday, September 29, 2008

Australia's amazing criminal police

THERE are 133 officers with criminal convictions serving in the New South Wales police ranks - guilty of bashings, fraud, illegal use of guns and numerous high-level drink-driving offences - the state's police force admits. Among them are five officers - three senior constables and two detective sergeants - who kept their jobs despite more than one court conviction.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal the officers have 166 offences between them following the release of documents under the Freedom of Information Act.

And efforts by Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione to clean out bad apples from the ranks have been frustrated by rulings in the Industrial Relations Commission, which saw five sacked officers reinstated in the past year.

Serious traffic-related matters dominate the list, which does not name individuals, including 25 high-range and 47 mid-range drink-drive crimes, two cases of drink-driving occasioning grievous bodily harm and eight of negligent or culpable driving. There are 10 assaults, including several occasioning actual bodily harm, three officers convicted of fraud or making false instrument and three of offensive conduct. Two officers were convicted of unauthorised access to the police COPS computer system.

A police spokesman emphasised that none of the 133 officers had served jail terms and they made up less than 1 per cent of the force's 15,236 officers. "The NSW Police Force is no different from every major employer in having staff who have been before the courts," he said.

But the high number of offences raised concerns among legal experts last night that Crown cases before the courts could be placed at risk should any of these officers be involved. Barrister Stephen Odgers, while not wanting to comment on specifics, said that a police officer called as a witness could be cross-examined and challenged over their "credibility" should their criminal history be known.

The list of convictions, which police claimed at first did not exist, was released after an appeal to the Ombudsman. Opposition police spokesman Michael Gallacher said last night that the force had secretly lowered its standards under government pressure to meet election promises on officer numbers - a claim denied by police.

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Firearms cases at Detroit lab to be reviewed

More disgraceful forensic science

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy told criminal court judges Friday that investigators will be reviewing firearms cases handled by Detroit's beleaguered police crime lab going back five years. Wayne County Circuit Judge Edward Ewell said the probe of the lab -- shuttered Thursday after errors were found in ballistic testing in numerous criminal cases -- could widen to include a review of other kinds of evidence tested by the lab.

Ewell, the presiding judge of the criminal division, also warned that courts could be swamped by appeals generated by sloppy or erroneous lab work on guns. "Our fingers are crossed," he said, adding that there could be "criminal liability growing out of this."

Judge Timothy Kenny said lab workers might be subject to criminal charges from gross negligence to perjury if lab employees testified falsely: "It could be a whole can of worms." But he said that bad lab work may not automatically overturn a conviction. A claim of self-defense may not be affected by sloppy lab work on shell casings, he said.

Meanwhile, defense lawyers called Friday for a meeting with Worthy and a wider ranging probe of the lab's work. "We are shocked and outraged, and we have no idea of the extent of the damage done to the criminal justice system," said William Winters, president of the Wayne County Criminal Defense Bar Association. "We need to call for an independent investigation." Criminal defendants could have had their rights compromised even if there was no false testimony, Winters said.

Innocent people may have pleaded in deals rather than chancing a harsher sentence at trial in the face of presumed scientific proof, he said. "We just don't know how bad this may be," he said.

Maria Miller, the prosecutor's spokeswoman, said there are no plans to meet with the defense bar, though she said her office will contact "individual attorneys whose cases may be affected by the audit."

The entire police crime lab was shut down and its work shifted to the Michigan State Police on Thursday when a preliminary audit found what Worthy called "a shocking level of incompetence." State police auditors said a random sampling of 200 gun cases found 10% with erroneous or false findings. Auditors said the lab mishandled evidence, didn't keep test records and could not verify the accuracy of its equipment.

Although auditors tested only gun cases, the entire lab -- which handled a variety of forensic testing, including DNA, fingerprint and drug evidence -- was closed out of fear that slipshod methods were wide-ranging.

State Police, which does not charge for its service, will handle most work at labs in Sterling Heights and Northville, said spokeswoman Shanon Akans. Testing time ranges from 35 days for fingerprints up to 180 days for DNA, Akans said.

Original report here

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Canada: Only a dead man was at fault in a notorious false conviction

Milgaard commission releases report. It found that there was a determined attempt by police to "get" Milgaard -- using the most dubious methods -- and a refusal to look at exculpatory evidence. But no-one was at fault apparently -- except for one man who is now dead. What a whitewash!

A senior Calgary investigator who obtained false statements contributed to the 23-year wrongful imprisonment of David Milgaard, who is now living in this city. A long-awaited report from the commission of inquiry into Milgaard's wrongful conviction for the 1969 murder of Gail Miller -- released Friday in Saskatoon -- also found a mistake by the trial judge and a wrong finding by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal were major factors in the case.

But commissioner Edward MacCallum cleared Saskatoon police, the RCMP, Crown prosecutors and federal justice officials of any wrongdoing, saying they acted in good faith.

Milgaard's mother, Joyce, and his lawyer, Hersh Wolch, welcomed the commission's recommendation that an independent review agency -- similar to one already used in the United Kingdom -- be created to investigate claims of wrongful conviction. "That was our main objective for the whole inquiry," Wolch said Friday, adding this is the fifth time commissions have recommended setting up such an agency in Canada.

Joyce called the recommendation the "imperative." "Not everyone has a mum that is going to spend 40 years chasing the justice system," she said. "If they're going to push the federal government for that and that goes through, then we'll feel we've accomplished something. "If they really want me to go away, bring the independent board in," she added with a laugh.

Milgaard did not attend Friday's news conference following release of the report, but is pleased with the commission's final recommendation, according to Wolch. "He's very happy about the independent board and giving other people a chance to avail themselves of its services." Milgaard, a stay-at-home father of two -- Robert, 2, and six-month-old Julianna -- now lives in Calgary with his family. "He's really enjoying life at home," Joyce told the Herald.

The family had settled in Vancouver for a while, but found the damp and cold too much. "His wife is from Romania and wanted a place a little warmer. Winnipeg was too cold, so they stopped in between in Calgary," she explained.

He has also apparently taken up paragliding as a hobby -- something Joyce was surprised to learn Friday from Wolch. Wolch said Milgaard finds it difficult to relive the memories of his arrest and conviction and the lawyer blasted the commission for forcing him to testify. "He had little or nothing to add to the commission. It was really a lack of empathy," he said. "They wouldn't accept David was damaged after 23 years in jail." Wolch and Joyce were also critical of the commission's report, which said the media campaign resulting from the Milgaards' push for public support and to reopen the case was full of "inflammatory, inaccurate and misleading" information.

"The media stories relied primarily on the Milgaards and their counsel as sources and were often incorrect and misleading," MacCallum found. The erroneous stories dismayed officials and resulted in their distrusting any information emanating from the Milgaard camp, he said. [Blame the victim!] Joyce said it was difficult to read the report in which she was reprimanded. "As far as I'm concerned, David would still be in prison if I didn't do what I did," she said.

Among other findings in the report, MacCallum dismissed suspicions of conspiracy. However, police should have re-opened the investigation of the 1969 rape and murder of nursing assistant Gail Miller in 1980, when the ex-wife of serial rapist Larry Fisher went to Saskatoon police saying she thought he was the real killer, MacCallum found.

Believing Milgaard was the killer, but lacking evidence to charge him, Saskatoon police brought in Art Roberts, a senior Calgary detective, to conduct polygraphs on Milgaard's companions, Ron Wilson and Nichol John. MacCallum found Roberts did not use "outright coercion" in his questioning but he "somehow pressured" John and Wilson "to tell him what Roberts thought to be the truth." "But for the questioning of John and Wilson by Roberts, Milgaard would not have been charged and tried for the crime of murder," MacCallum found. Roberts obtained damning statements from Wilson and John, who had, until then, maintained Milgaard's innocence when questioned by other police.

Roberts' notes and polygraph records of the interrogations were never part of the police or prosecution file and have never been found. Not recording the questions he asked and the polygraph results was a "critical failure," said MacCallum. Roberts, who joined the Calgary force in 1940 and retired in 1974, has since died. He was considered an interrogation expert within police circles and was the first qualified polygraph operator in Canada.

In 1973, Roberts was given a special assignment by the Calgary Police Commission to research and prepare an operational manual for the city department that emphasized interrogation methods and procedures. The manual was never adopted by Calgary police. A similar manual produced for RCMP advised officers that brainwashing techniques may be used to get information from suspects or witnesses. It was dropped by RCMP in 1975.

Another opportunity for the mistakes to be corrected came in 1980, when Linda Fisher, whose ex-husband, Larry Fisher, had recently been charged with the rape and attempted murder of a woman in North Battleford, Sask., about 140 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon, went to Saskatoon police and gave them reasons why she thought he had killed Miller.

An officer took Linda Fisher's statement and sent it to a superior, who gave it to Jack Parker, an officer who had been involved in the investigation. He filed the report without acting on it or notifying any of the parties involved in the case.

"The criminal justice system failed David Milgaard because his wrongful conviction was not detected and remedied as early as it should have been," MacCallum wrote. Joyce Milgaard hired a series of lawyers to try to have David's case reopened, using the only recourse available in cases of wrongful conviction: an appeal to the justice minister, based on significant new information.

More here

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Trigger-happy NYC cops kill harmless crazy man

Police fired a Taser at a naked Brooklyn man armed with only a fluorescent light tube yesterday, sending him falling to his death from a second-floor ledge after he went on a 40-minute rant. Iman Morales' mom begged cops not to hurt her son, telling them he's sick - then watched in horror as he plunged from the top of the roll-down gate on which he'd been perched.

An Emergency Services officer, acting on the orders of his boss, fired at the 35-year-old man at around 2 p.m., as he waved the 8-foot fluorescent light tube, police sources said. "His body froze up and he fell face-first," said Sean Johnson, who witnessed the drama at 489 Tompkins Ave. in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Morales, who crashed 10 feet to the pavement, died a few hours later at Kings County Hospital.

Asked if police followed the proper protocol for using a Taser, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said, "That's being reviewed." A New York Police Department lieutenant was stripped of his gun and badge, and the officer who used the stun gun on the man was placed on administrative duty Thursday, officials said.

Amid his mostly unintelligible rant, Morales was heard yelling, "You're going to kill me. I'm going to take everyone with me." He also screamed, "I'm going to die. You're all going to die with me."

Morales first emerged hanging out a third-floor window after a blowup with his mother at around 1 p.m., witnesses said. Twenty minutes later, he climbed the fire escape to the fourth floor, where he tried to force his way into a neighbor's apartment. "He tried to come into my window and I ran out," said 40-year-old Tonya Wright. "He said, 'Let me in.' I told him, 'I'm not letting you in.' "

Morales then headed to the second floor and screamed to the crowd, which included his frantic mom. "She was saying, 'No! No! Don't hurt him. He is sick,' " Wright said. With police shouting for him to get down, Morales made his way to a ledge above a the gate. "Walk down now! Move down!" the police can be heard shouting to him on video.

He then picked up the light tube and waved it in the air before jabbing cops who had climbed out of the windows above. "When he was poking the cop, people were laughing," Johnson said. He refused orders from the officers and continued his incoherent tirade.

Finally, one of the ESU cops on the street shot him with the Taser. "He just fell face first," said witness Sean Brown. "People were screaming and yelling. It was wrong."

It was unclear what set off the episode, but, said Johnson, "once he started hitting the cop with that pole, that's when it turned serious." Morales had one prior arrest, for a Manhattan petit larceny.

"This is very out of character," said the building's superintendent, Charlene Gayle, 31. "Nice guy, clean cut, well kept, never irrational. Didn't have irrational behavior."

Original report here

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Moronic police procedures in Australia

Accused handed victim's identity

A 15-year-old girl who was allegedly stalked by a stranger had her identity revealed by police who were forced to hand it over to the suspect when he was granted bail. The teenager told friends she feared for her life in the incident on Tuesday, which is one of a staggering spate of attempted child abductions around Sydney in recent weeks.

The young woman's alleged attacker, a 27-year-old man from Greystanes, had no idea who she was. But within hours of his arrest at Rooty Hill, in Sydney's west, he was free on police bail and had her name handed to him on a charge sheet. Now, only a bail condition ordering the man to stay away from the distressed girl is protecting her.

A police source said it was normal practice to hand over charge sheets to accused criminals on bail. "We are obliged to supply as many documents at the time of charging as we can. It is practice from the Attorney-General's office, trying to streamline the system because whenever anyone appears in court they always ask for a further adjournment," the source said.

But the Attorney-General's office denied it was the result of changes this year to how and when briefs of evidence are served. Victims groups say the system is making thousands of victims of random crimes vulnerable as they wait for their case to come up in court.

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Execution stayed, with 90 minutes to go

THE US Supreme Court has granted a last-minute stay of execution to an inmate due to be put to death for the murder of a policeman, with only hours to spare. "The application for stay of execution of sentence of death ... is granted", the highest court in the US said in a statement issued 90 minutes before Troy Davis was due to die by lethal injection. International figures including former US president Jimmy Carter, Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Pope Benedict, and Helen Prejean, a nun and anti-death penalty campaigner who wrote the book Dead Man Walking, had spoken against Davis's execution.

Davis heard news of the stay on television at the prison in Jackson, Georgia, while he was waiting to go to the execution chamber, and fell on his knees, according to his sister Martina Correia. "I am elated. But tomorrow we have to go on fighting because the Supreme Court has to take the case," said Ms Correia, who has helped lead efforts on his behalf for a new trial. "We are deeply grateful for this stay of execution for Troy Davis and we very much appreciate that the merits of his case for innocence are being taken seriously by the United States Supreme Court," said Sarah Totonchi, chairwoman of Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GFADP).

What were to have been vigils around the state of Georgia were cancelled and replaced by celebrations on the steps of the state legislative building. Lawyers for 39-year-old Davis, who has been on death row since 1991 for the murder of policeman Mark MacPhail, had pressed the US Supreme Court in Washington to take a motion for a new trial after judicial authorities in Georgia threw out appeals for clemency. MacPhail, who was shot to death near a Burger King restaurant in Savannah, Georgia. Davis has protested his innocence and his lawyers say it was a case of mistaken identity.

Seven of nine witnesses who testified against him have recanted and some say police coerced them into giving their original evidence. Four of those witnesses also say another man, Sylvester Coles, shot MacPhail, and three of them say Coles has confessed to the murder, according to court papers. The witnesses' testimony had been the backbone of the prosecution's case in the absence of a murder weapon, fingerprints and DNA.

The US high court was not in session this week and the request was heard overnight by just one member of the court, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas.

Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) welcomed the Supreme Court order to stay the execution and criticised the state of Georgia for trying to "ram this execution through". "For reasons that are unfathomable, Chatham County officials seemed doggedly determined to ram this execution through before justice could fully run its course,'' AIUSA executive director Larry Cox said. "We are grateful that the US Supreme Court has shown the foresight to stay the execution. We hope that it takes up the case and looks at it with fresh eyes, marking the first time that evidence pointing to Davis's innocence will have been heard in a court of law,'' he said.

Davis had originally been sentenced to die in July last year, but he was granted a last-minute stay of execution then by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole. Earlier this month, however, the parole board issued a decision denying Davis clemency. On Monday it affirmed that decision, and the Georgia Supreme Court on the same day voted six to one to deny a stay of execution for Davis, deferring to the US high court.

Original report here

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

De Menezes inquest: British Police ruled him out as suspect 20 mins before they shot him

Jean Charles de Menezes was ruled out as a suspected suicide bomber just 20 minutes before he was shot dead by police, an inquest into his death has heard. The innocent Brazilian was killed on a Tube train at Stockwell Underground station on July 22, 2005 after being mistaken for one of the four terrorists who had tried to blow themselves up on London's transport system the previous day.

Two firearms officers who shot him in the head a total of seven times at point blank range have said they were "convinced" Mr de Menezes was about to detonate a suicide bomb and that "an instant killing was the only option" otherwise "everyone in the carriage was going to die".

Yet an officer in the Metropolitan Police control room directing the surveillance teams who followed Mr de Menezes made a note which said: "Not identical male as above discounted. Surveillance to withdraw to original positions."

The question of why the tragic case of mistaken identity occurred is central to the inquest, which opened with an outline of the chaos and confusion among police surveillance and firearms officers who were trying to track down July 21 bomber Hussain Osman.

The coroner, Sir Michael Wright QC, told the jury that Mr de Menezes lived in a block of flats in Scotia Road, Tulse Hill, south London, which had been linked to Osman via a gym membership card found with the unexploded bomb he had left on a Tube train at Shepherd's Bush station. Sir Michael said that in the half an hour between him leaving the flat at 9.33am and the moment he entered Stockwell station, "no member of the surveillance team had positively identified him as Osman".

He highlighted the note made at 9.46am in a log being kept for the tactical adviser to Commander Cressida Dick, the Gold Commander in charge of the operation, which said Mr de Menezes had been "discounted", and told the jury: "It is not clear from whom this information emanated, but it does indicate, you may think, the lack of certainty in any of the identifications." All of the entries in the police log described Mr de Menezes as "unidentified", he added, but in the control room at Scotland Yard "there does appear to have been a perception that he had been positively identified as Osman".

One firearms officer, codenamed Ralph, had recalled being told "it was definitely our man". Mr de Menezes was shot dead at 10.06am by the two firearms officers as a surveillance officer held him down in a seat with his arms pinned to his side. The two officers who fired the fatal shots, known as Charlie 2 and Charlie 12, will give their first public account of their actions when they appear in the witness box later in the 12-week hearing. They are among 48 witnesses who have been granted the right to anonymity by the coroner because many of them are still actively serving as firearms or surveillance officers.

The jury has the power to decide whether he was lawfully or unlawfully killed and the outcome could decide the future of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, who would be under intense pressure to resign if the jury decides his officers acted beyond the law.

Mr de Menezes's family are convinced the full truth about his death is still to be told, but the coroner told the jury their job was to discover the truth, not to apportion blame to any named individual. He said: "This is a fact-finding exercise, it is not a forum to determine culpability or compensation, still less to dispense punishment."

The shooting prompted two investigations by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and a criminal trial of the Metropolitan Police on health and safety offences, but no individuals have ever been held responsible.

Mr de Menezes's cousins Alex Pereira, Allesandro Pereira and Patricia da Silva Armani, who have campaigned tirelessly on his behalf since his death, were among those attending the inquest in the Sir John Major room at the Oval cricket ground, less than a mile from Stockwell Underground station.

Original report here

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Dangerously opinionated British doctor back at work

Let us just hope that he is never again called in evidence about anything

A paediatrician found guilty of serious professional misconduct after accusing a father of murdering his two baby sons has been allowed to return to child protection work. David Southall made the claim having watched a television programme about the case of Sally Clark, a solicitor who was convicted of murdering her children and jailed in 1999.

The programme was broadcast in April 2000 and featured an interview with Mrs Clark's husband, Steve. After watching it Dr Southall claimed that it was “beyond reasonable doubt” that Mr Clark had killed the babies. The consultant was subsequently banned from child protection work by the General Medical Council (GMC).

Mrs Clark was cleared by the Court of Appeal and released from prison in January 2003. She never recovered from the trauma and died of natural causes last March, aged 42.

The GMC has since found Dr Southall, 60, guilty of serious professional misconduct in another, separate case in which he was said to have accused a grieving mother of murdering her ten-year-old son. Yesterday the council revoked the earlier restrictions on his practice with immediate effect.

Speaking after the hearing, Dr Southall said: “I would like to say how pleased I am by the General Medical Council's decision today. I would like to thank my paediatric colleagues, especially those who came to give evidence on my behalf.”

Andrew Reid, chairman of the GMC's fitness-to-practise panel, said the doctor had expressed regret and remorse for his actions and demonstrated “considerable insight” into his failings.

Dr Southall told the panel last month that he still thought that he had been correct in raising the alarm over Mr Clark, but admitted that the language he had used in the accusation had been injudicious.

He believed that Mr Clark had tried to suffocate his eldest son, Christopher, in a London hotel room in 1996. He came to that conclusion after hearing, in an interview on the Channel 4 Dispatches programme, Mr Clark describe how the child had suffered a nose bleed and breathing difficulties. He wrote a report on the Clarks after talking to social workers and police officers involved in the case.

He said that he owed an apology to the late Mrs Clark for his assumption that if her husband had smothered Christopher, who was 11 weeks old, he must also have killed their second son, Harry, who died 13 months later aged 8 weeks. Mr Clark was exonerated. Dr Southall maintained that the incident in the hotel room “has not been explained by the passage of time”.

The GMC recommended that Dr Southall be struck off the medical register after finding him guilty of misconduct for a second time in December. But the High Court overturned an immediate suspension from work pending the outcome of an appeal that will be heard at the High Court in January.

In February last year the Government announced that a review would be held into a number of criminal cases in which Dr Southall had given evidence for the prosecution after allegations that he had inappropriately kept up to 4,450 personal case files on child patients.

Original report here

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Courts in the Australian State of Victoria bend over backwards to protect child-molesters

And too bad about the victims

USUALLY, the law protects and defends. Sometimes, it makes mistakes. Two days ago in the County Court, I believe the law caused harm. Grandfather John Maria Beyer pleaded guilty to 31 counts of sexual assault committed between 1973 and 1985. The 12 victims were children - five of them were wards of the state. He had been their coach, their carer and taken some of them away on weekends. He had abused them in his home, in the car and on holidays.

The trauma he caused them as youngsters would have been unspeakable. The suffering they have carried with them ever since is unimaginable. As adults now, these 12 survivors had been questioned by the police. They had given statements. They had remembered as much as they could. They had summoned the courage to face their abuser again. With all that over, they came to court expecting their perpetrator to be sentenced. They came for justice, to reclaim their lives and hopefully put an end to years of torment.

Instead, they were sent away. The judge criticised the prosecutor for not providing sufficient details about the charges to enable him to deliver a sentence. He said he needed clearer information about how often and when the abuse had occurred. This means the prosecutor has to ask the victims to tell their story again. Without more details, he believed that the Court of Appeal might overturn his sentence, as it had done recently in similar circumstances.

In the place of justice, the victims have been re-traumatised. They have been told that what they remember is not enough. They need to remember even more. They need to talk about it again.

These events took place more than 20 years ago to children, some of whom were already very vulnerable and in need of protection. It is unrealistic for them to have detailed recall of everything that happened that long ago when they were so young. It is also painful to be forced to remember experiences that they have tried so hard over the years to forget. Remembering abuse is much more like reliving it all over again.

In pursuing the law, the Court of Appeal has put up an unnecessary barrier for sexual abuse cases. The harder it is for victims, the less likely they will want to come forward. Already, there are very few cases of child sexual abuse that result in successful prosecution.

Victims of child sexual assault require our compassion. They require understanding from the judiciary and fair treatment. Above all, they need to be respected for their strength and determination in telling the truth. The law offers an opportunity for real justice for victims. But it should not make them suffer so much to achieve it.

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Moronic British police and prosecutors harass innocent man

Name mistake lands wrong man in court twice

John Taylor, 59, was arrested and driven 110 miles in a prison van after a warrant was granted for the arrest of John Alexander Taylor, who is accused of fraud. He appeared in court to be charged and was given a second date to return to court despite his protests that the court had the wrong man. Mr Taylor was then released on bail and left to make his own way home from Edinburgh to Bedlington in Northumberland. Prosecutors only realised their mistake when he and a relative made a second trip to Scotland

Mr Taylor said: “I couldn't believe it, I didn't know a thing about this and I was dragged down to the police station and taken to court. “I tried to tell them they had the wrong man, that this was not my name, but nobody listened to me.”

The first time Mr Taylor heard about the alleged fraud was when police appeared at his doorstep last September and told him there was a warrant for his arrest. He was taken to a police station and held for several hours before being transported to Edinburgh to appear the following day. He was then bailed and told to return to the court on July 11th this year.

The mistake was only picked up when his defence lawyer asked for “closed door discussions” on the case. Mr Taylor said he had suffered “months of hell, stress and worry” because of the legal bungle. He receives disability allowance and said the journeys to and from Edinburgh had a serious impact on his fragile health. He has been told he is no longer accused of the alleged crime, but claims he has not received any official apology and is considering legal action over his treatment.

A spokesman for the Crown Office said: “A petition warrant bearing the correct name and date of birth of the person sought in connection with these offences was issued by the procurator fiscal at Edinburgh. “Mr Taylor was arrested on that warrant in what was a case of mistaken identity. It is unfortunate that this error occurred and it must have been a very difficult ordeal for Mr Taylor. “The arrest of persons upon apprehension warrants is not a matter for the Crown but as soon as the procurator fiscal was made aware of the mistaken identity of the person apprehended by the police in this case immediate steps were taken to rectify the situation.”

Original report here

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Judge dismisses libel suit against John Grisham

A federal judge has dismissed a libel lawsuit filed against best-selling author John Grisham and two other writers over books they wrote about the wrongful conviction of two men in a 1982 murder.

The lawsuit was filed last year by former Pontotoc County District Attorney Bill Peterson, former Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation investigator Gary Rogers and Melvin Hett, a state criminalist. All three helped win the original convictions in the slaying of cocktail waitress Debbie Sue Carter. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants conspired to commit libel, generate publicity for themselves by placing the plaintiffs in a false light and intentionally inflicted emotional distress.

But U.S. District Judge Ronald White rejected those claims in his ruling Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. The two men initially convicted in the slaying — Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz — were later cleared by DNA evidence and freed after 12 years in prison. A key witness for the prosecution, Glen Gore, was later linked to the crime by DNA, found guilty of the murder and sentenced to life in prison.

In his ruling, the judge wrote that it was important to be able to analyze and criticize the judicial system "so that past mistakes do not become future ones." "The wrongful convictions of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz must be discussed openly and with great vigor," White wrote.

The lawsuit named Grisham — whose account was titled "The Innocent Man" — his publishing company and the authors and publishing companies of two other books critical of Peterson and his prosecution of murder cases. Also named as a defendant was Barry Scheck, founder of the New York-based Innocence Project and an attorney for one of the men falsely accused in the murder. "This is a victory for free speech and for holding officials publicly accountable for their role in wrongful convictions," Scheck said in statement.

Gary Richardson, the attorney for Peterson, Rogers and Hett, said he was still reading the judge's order to determine whether he would file an appeal. "Of course, I'm quite disappointed and a bit surprised at the ruling," Richardson said. "I felt that we had a solid case for defamation." A message left Wednesday with Grisham's publishing company was not immediately returned.

Original report here

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Crazy British laws again

A convicted rapist was allowed to walk out of a secure hospital unit because his carers were not authorised to stop him physically, a court was told yesterday. After escaping from King’s College Hospital, London, in February, Terrence O’Keefe, 39, went missing for almost nine weeks, during which time he is feared to have murdered a pensioner.

O’Keefe, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1996 for rape and robbery, appeared yesterday before Inner London Crown Court to plead guilty to one count of escaping custody. Jailing him for 18 months, Judge Simon Davies said: “Escaping from prison or escaping in the circumstances you found yourself in is a very serious offence and it must attract a substantial sentence of imprisonment. “On this occasion you were being treated in a hospital for chest pains. I accept . . . this was a legitimate complaint. “Nevertheless, you decided to walk out of the hospital and not return. You were not able to be physically detained by your carers and so you were at large for about two months.”

During the time that he was missing, O’Keefe became a suspect in the murder of David Kemp, 73, in his flat in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, on March 12. He was subsequently interviewed twice by police after evidence was found linking him to the scene. Detectives in Norfolk are still waiting for prosecutors to decide if there is enough evidence to charge O’Keefe, and Mr Kemp’s death was not mentioned in court yesterday. But Judge Davies said that O’Keefe was a dangerous man and a risk to the public.

The court was told that O’Keefe had been jailed originally for raping and robbing his girlfriend and then tying her to a radiator with electric wire. He had a personality disorder diagnosed and was held in a secure unit in Lambeth Hospital, South London. In February he complained of chest pains and was taken to King’s College Hospital.

This was the second time O’Keefe had escaped from the hospital. In October 2005, he slipped out of the same unit and managed to travel to his home town of Liverpool, but was taken back into custody later the same day. Robert Brown, prosecuting, said that on the day of his most recent escape, O’Keefe went outside with his nurses to have a cigarette. Mr Brown said: “After they returned to the ward he walked out again. They asked him to stay but he ignored them. Apparently nurses are not allowed to use force to detain patients so he walked out without them being able to do more to stop him. “Police were called about half an hour later but could not find any trace of him.”

Mr Brown added that the defendant later told police that it had been a “spur of the moment decision”, but that he would not say where he had been or what he had been doing while at large. O’Keefe was recaptured by armed police less than a mile from Mr Kemp’s home on April 17.

Original report here

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Police goons in Maryland

Anti-abortion protesters sue Harford County, state police

Three young women who were arrested and strip-searched last month while rallying against abortion have filed a federal lawsuit against Harford County, Bel Air and state police, charging their First Amendment rights were violated. Angela Swagler, 18; Elizabeth Walsh, 20; and her sister, Joan Walsh, 18, are seeking unspecified damages in their lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Swagler, of Erie, Pa., flew to Maryland to participate in demonstrations for "Face the Truth," a Chicago-based anti-abortion group; the Walsh sisters, both of Baltimore County, were leading the rallies. "The nature of the [police's] actions were unbelievably egregious," said Daniel Cox, an attorney for the women. The women clearly posed no threat, but police "tormented" and "heckled" them because they did not agree with the protesters' message, he said. "Anything more would be to the level of the KGB, if we're not already there."

The three woman and about 20 others were protesting Aug. 1 at Route 924 and Route 24 near Bel Air, holding signs with anti-abortion pictures and messages, and offering pamphlets to drivers. The demonstrators moved into Bel Air at about 5 p.m. after three state troopers threatened to arrest them, according to the lawsuit. About 45 minutes later, a dozen troopers, county deputies and Bel Air police officers arrested 18 rally members without giving a reason, according to the lawsuit.

The protesters claim they were not impeding traffic.

Police took them to a police station, where a female officer searched the three women as they stood in a parking lot next to male protesters, reaching her hand down their shirts and pants, causing humiliation and embarrassment, the lawsuit alleges. The protesters were held in a jail cell overnight and were charged with loitering, disorderly conduct and failure to obey a lawful order. But, 10 days later, the charges were dropped.

Harford County State's Attorney Joe Cassilly said that he did not pursue the charges - although he believes the arrests were justified - because "what the demonstrators had already been through" was worse than any sentence they could have received. "You had some college kids, a number of folks from out of state, and I recognized that these people had already been through a lot," Cassilly said.

Greg Shipley, a spokesman for state police, defended trooopers. "Maryland state troopers acted in the interest of public safety and in accordance with guidance from the county state's attorney's office," Shipley said. "We will be prepared to justify those actions in court."

Harford had not yet been served with court summons, so officials on Thursday declined to comment.

Original report here

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Is the hormonal hippopotamus a Brit?

After the completely unwarranted and unsupported attack on me by the pseudonymous Hazel Stone over at the allegedly libertarian blog The line is here I replied with some spirit and was then accused by her collaborator (partner?) of attacking a "girl". I replied that she sounded to me much more like a middle-aged hormonal hippopotamus than a "girl". That sally seemed to lead to a deafening silence.

I have however had an occasional look at the blog since then and I note something interesting about the hippo. She says:
"Despite the media-fueled whinging going on about rising food prices, the national situation is nothing near where it was during WWII, when canned food was rationed and Victory Gardens first became popular ..."

Notice something interesting there? "Whinging" is a British word that few Americans understand. And her description of WWII is more applicable to Britain than America. She sounds in fact as if she lived through what she describes.

So I suspect that she is in fact an aged British hippopotamus. Certainly no girl. Senility would explain her attack on me.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Police goons kill again

Believe the Missouri police account of it below if you like. An eyewitness account follows

Police Chief Tom Dresner said the department was saddened by the news of a Moberly man's death after being Tasered early Thursday, calling it a "tragedy all around." He also said he fully expected a wider backlash against the use of Tasers in Columbia as a result of the incident.

The death comes less than two months after a Columbia man was critically injured after he was Tasered by a Columbia police officer and fell from an interstate overpass. Earlier in July, the City Council had approved the purchase of 40 more Tasers, so the majority of the department's patrol officers would be equipped with Tasers.

That decision prompted outcry from Grass Roots Organizing, the ACLU, Fellowship of Reconciliation, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Peace Haven International. The organizations held news conferences and read a resolution at subsequent council meetings, asking the council to reconsider its decision.

The cause of Stanley James William Harlan's death won't be known for several weeks until toxicology results are available. The results of an autopsy conducted Thursday afternoon could take weeks to release because toxicology reports take two to four weeks to complete, Boone County Medical Examiner Carl Stacy said.

The Moberly incident occurred at around 12:30 a.m. Thursday after Moberly police pulled over Harlan, 23, for driving erratically, according to a news release from the Moberly police department. Officers arrested him under suspicion of driving while intoxicated. When police tried to handcuff him, Harlan began to resist. An officer deployed a Taser to get Harlan to follow instructions, the release states.

Harlan began to comply but refused to remove his arms from under his body so officers could finish handcuffing him, Cmdr. Kevin Palmatory of the Moberly Police said. A Taser was deployed again, at which point Harlan complied and officers handcuffed him. The second deployment was very brief, perhaps between half a second and a second long deployment, Palmatory said.

Shortly after he was handcuffed, Harlan stopped breathing. Before Randolph County Ambulance District personnel arrived, officers performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. When paramedics reached the scene, they began treating Harlan. He was then taken to Moberly Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at around 2:10 a.m. Thursday.

The Moberly incident is being investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Division of Drug and Crime Control at the Moberly department's request. Palmatory said, as an outside agency, the patrol will have objectivity in the investigation. An autopsy was scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday in Columbia. The results of the autopsy could take weeks to release because toxicology reports take two to four weeks to complete, Boone County Medical Examiner Carl Stacy said.

On July 25, a Columbia man was critically injured when he fell off an overpass onto an embankment after being Tasered by Columbia police. Phillip Lee McDuffy, 45, was threatening to throw himself off the Providence Road bridge over Interstate 70 when the first attempt to Taser him failed. A second attempt was made while McDuffy was trying to run from police. He then fell 15 feet from the overpass onto an embankment. A week later, Columbia Police and the Boone County Sheriff's Department announced they would hold informational meetings explaining their Taser policies and technical details of the weapons to residents.

On Aug. 4, five residents asked the City Council to reconsider its decision to equip officers with Tasers. But barring any new information about the Moberly case, the police department plans to move forward with its own Taser program, Dresner said, because there still isn't enough information linking Tasers to deaths. "Situations are often more complicated than they are made to seem," he said.

In response to what Dresner has acknowledged is a daunting public relations problem, the police department is producing a multimedia report on the McDuffy case. Though he would not discuss details, Dresner said it will be "reflective of the information age we live in." With all of the video and photographs available from the July incident, a lengthy written report would not be appropriate, Dresner said. He expects the report to be released sometime next week.

Original report here

Another account

Stanley Harlan died after an early morning altercation with Moberly Police. Moberly Police tasered the 23 year-old twice. Police said Harlan was resisting arrest for suspicion of drunk driving when an officer tased him. Police also said Harlan soon became unresponsive and died at Moberly Regional Medical Center around 2 a.m.

Today, family members gathered at the victim's home to express their grief, sorrow, and outrage at an incident they said was police brutality at its worst. Harlan's mother cried, "I just want him home, I just want him to go home, he was the only person I loved."

Harlan's family and friends said Moberly Police are to blame for their tears. "I lost my youngest son, Stanley James William Harlan, who was twenty-three years old, because of the horrible excessive force the Moberly Police Department used to murder my son," said Athena Harlan.

Family members and witnesses said Harlan was tased twice, the second time while handcuffed, by police during a traffic stop. But Moberly Police said they tased Harlan once to stop his resisting arrest, and a second time briefly to finish handcuffing him.

Witnesses said after Harlan was tased twice by police officers, he was dragged to this curb where he lay awaiting help.

Harlan's mother, who said she witnessed the whole incident from her lawn, said her son was not resisting arrest. "They said he was resisting arrest. Stan said no I'm not no I'm not. He was just standing there. The other officer yelled get the taser, get the taser," she said.

After the tasering, Harlan's mother said police saw there was something wrong. "They pulled him up and said, 'Stanley, stand up, you're all right," said Athena Harlan.

Police said they called an ambulance, but witnesses said they paid more attention to Harlan's car than his condition.

Harlan's mother said police wouldn't allow her to perform CPR on her son at the scene, and another witness said they let him die in the gutter.

Police also adamantly defended the actions of their officers. Moberly Commander Kevin Palmatory said he believes the officers acted properly because they had not gotten a chance to search Harlan before he was tazed.

Original report here

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Mayes finally gets $4.5 Million

Seven years to get compensation! On top of 21 years in jail. They wore him down by continuing to fight the jury verdict of $9 million. The city saved $4.5 million at the expense of more years of oppression for a man who had already been badly wronged

Seven years ago, with the help of IU School of Law-Indianapolis Professor Fran Hardy and four of her students, Larry Mayes of Gary, Indiana, was set free from prison based on DNA testing.

This month a federal court approved a $4.5 million settlement for Mayes - who before his release spent 21 years in prison for a rape conviction. The U.S. magistrate agreed on Sept. 2, 2008, that the 2006 federal jury award of $9 million to Mayes could be set aside, paving the way for the settlement between the man and Hammond, Indiana, city officials, according to an Associated Press report. Mayes originally had sought $19 million in damages and legal fees from the city, according to the AP story.

Mayes, who had been convicted in 1990 of several acts, including rape, was released on Dec. 21, 2001. After his exoneration, Mayes was represented by private counsel during the civil proceedings. "I am certainly pleased that Larry Mayes will finally receive compensation for his unconstitutional, wrongful conviction," Professor Hardy said Friday.

State Public Defender Susan Carpenter had appointed Hardy as pro bono counsel for Mayes. Hardy worked on the case with the help of four students in a criminal defense clinic course, Todd Ess, Edward Queen, Alicia Corder and Darlene Seymour. The team filed the petition for post-conviction relief that requested DNA testing in Mayes' case. "The settlement for Mr. Mayes can only partly compensate him for everything he lost while he was in prison," says Queen, who now directs leadership education programs in the Center for Ethics at Emory University in Atlanta.

"While some may see Mayes' release and the payment as an indication that the legal system works, the fact that he was wrongfully convicted and jailed for such a long time is an indicator that the system indeed is broken," Queen said.

In their petition, the law students cited I.C. 35-38-7, the Indiana law that strengthened Indiana inmates' rights to DNA testing and analysis. After DNA testing exonerated Mayes, Judge Richard Maroc of Lake Superior Court signed the court papers ordering his release.

Hardy's class was part of a national program, The Innocence Network, an offshoot of The Innocence Project, founded in 1992 at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law located in New York City. The project's mission is to assist prisoners who can be exonerated through DNA testing of crime scene evidence. Law faculty and students at Cardozo School of Law referred the Mayes case to the Indianapolis law school which participates in The Innocence Network.

At the time, Mayes was the third Indiana man to be released as a result of post-conviction DNA testing. Presently, according to records compiled by The Innocence Project, six Indiana men have been exonerated by DNA testing.

Original report here

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

New Zealand man freed from jail after false rape evidence admission

A Rotorua man's former partner has admitted gathering false evidence which led to his being jailed for rape before a court quashed his conviction.

Robert Sutton, who owns the Happy Angler store at Mourea, spent 10 months behind bars after being convicted in October 2005 of two violent rapes he says he never committed. He was released following a successful appeal and feels the wheels of justice are finally starting to turn in his favour.

The main complainant in the case against him, his former partner Marion Anne Carter, has this week admitted her role in Mr Sutton's wrongful conviction, pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice. Now Mr Sutton has just one wish - that she too spend 10 months in jail. "I shared a cell with a guy who was doing 17 years non-parole for murder. It didn't make sleeping very easy. I don't wish it on anyone - but her."

Carter, who lives in Te Awamutu, pleaded guilty this week in the District Court at Te Awamutu and will appear in court in Hamilton on October 31 for sentencing. The charge of perverting the course of justice carries a maximum penalty of seven years' jail.

Mr Sutton was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment in October 2005 after being convicted of 15 charges - two of rape, nine of assault and four relating to assault with a weapon.

Carter had told police she was raped by Mr Sutton after he broke down a locked bedroom door. There were two other complainants involved in the other charges. Mr Sutton walked free after serving 10 months and one day in jail. He fought his conviction from behind bars. The Court of Appeal quashed his convictions in light of new evidence showing Carter was "involved in gathering false evidence in support of the allegations prior to the trial".

The police decided in August last year they would not put Mr Sutton on trial a second time. He told The Daily Post yesterday he wrote to Police Minister Annette King and Bay of Plenty police district commander Superintendent Gary Smith following his release, asking that Carter be arrested and charged.

"I'm pleased with the outcome, that they did charge her with perverting the course of justice. I think she deserves a prison sentence the same as I did ... then [she shall know] what her lies can get her into."

Mr Sutton said her arrest also sent a strong message to women about the consequences of making false allegations. That, in turn, was good news for those with legitimate complaints. "The police will then take more notice of women who are genuinely raped."

Asked what had happened between he and Carter that would cause her to falsify evidence against him, Mr Sutton said their 10-year relationship had been rocky and there were regular arguments about money and the business. He said the whole ordeal had made him "very gun shy of women" and he would not jump into another relationship but was now starting to enjoy life again following a harrowing three years. Loyal local customers and "some very good friends" had helped him through a very tough time, he said.

"It's been a hell of a battle for me, getting back into my business again. I'm lucky the people of Mourea have been wonderful but financially it just about cost me the shop."

He estimates his time in prison plus the ordeal of the court process have cost him about $100,000, which included the cost of hiring a lawyer for his appeal. Mr Sutton said he was considering seeking compensation. "It would be good if I could but I'm not sure what tack to take now."

Original report here

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

How come it took so long to notice a statute of limitations?

It looks like somebody felt that two wrongs make a right here. With such an old crime, a statute of limitations should have been the first thing anybody looked at here. That it was not shows a determination to railroad a man. This anti-white "justice" is just as corrupt as the old anti-black "justice" of the past. The imprisonment was blatantly illegal, though it may have been just, depending on whether you believe suborned evidence. The determined collusion that must have been needed to ignore such an obvious defense is shocking

A US appeals court has overturned the conviction of a senior member of the Ku Klux Klan who is serving three life sentences for his part in the 1964 abduction and killing of two black teenagers in Louisiana. The three judge panel accepted the argument of James Ford Seale's lawyer that the statute of limitations in the case had expired.

Mr Seale, now 73, was convicted in 2007 of kidnapping and conspiracy in the abductions of Chrles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee, both 19, who disappeared from Franklin County in Mississippi in 1964. The boys had been bound, beaten and thrown into the Missippi while still alive. Their decomposed bodies were pulled from the river two months later as the FBI trawled the waters for three missing civil rights workers whose murders at the hands of the Klan were commemorated in the film Mississippi Burning.

The 20 page ruling of the US Circuit Court of Appeals noted that the crimes happened in 1964 but that the indictment against Mr Seale was issued 43 years later in 2007, which, said Judge Harold R DeMossJr, clearly exceeded the limitations period. Defence lawyer Kathy Nester had argued that a 1972 congressional act that abolished the death penalty for kidnapping also imposed a five year statute of limitations.

The case was among many unsolved civil-rights-era crimes that state and federal prosecutors across the South have revived since the early 1990s. It was brought largely on the evidence of Charles Marcus Edwards, a former Klansman, who in 2006 confessed to his role in the kidnappings in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

The murders of Mr Dee and Mr Moore came at the height of racial violence in Mississippi.. The teenagers were accosted by Klansmen who had heard rumours about a possible armed uprising in rural southwest Mississippi at a time when civil rights volunteers were encouraging blacks to vote. The boys, who had nothing to do with the civil rights movement, were offered a lift by Mr Seale, Mr Edwards had told the court, and accused of smuggling guns into the town. They were taken to the woods and beaten until they "confessed" that guns were being stored at a local church. Arter searching the church and finding nothing the Klansmen returned, bound the boys with tape, put them in the boot of their car and drove them through eastern Louisiana to get to the river. Their bodies were weighted with an engine block and iron bars before they were thrown in.

Mr Seale was arrested on a state murder charge in 1964, but it was later dropped. Federal prosecutors say the state case was dropped because local law enforcement officers in 1964 were in collusion with the Klan.

The ruling will be a blow to civil rights workers who have been in a race against time to bring prosecutions for crimes committed during the 1960s. Many of the witnesses and perpetrators are now in their 70s and older, and many of the cases have not come to trial because they exceeded the statute of limitations. However Charles Moore's brother said that despite the ruling, he was pleased that the truth about his brother's death had been uncovered. "This (ruling) doesn't take one ounce away from me," said Thomas Moore. "James Ford Seale has spent more than a year in jail. I know I have disrupted his life."

Original report here

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Depressed British trial lawyer shot dead by police ‘long after he’d stopped firing’

A barrister shot dead during an armed siege at his $4 million Chelsea flat was not pointing a weapon at anyone when he was killed by police marksmen, the High Court heard yesterday. Mark Saunders, 32, a divorce lawyer, died when seven officers fired eleven rounds at him, ending the five-and-a-half-hour stand-off at Markham Square, close to the fashionable Kings Road, West London.

His family claim that although Mr Saunders had opened fire using a legally-held shotgun during the siege, he had not fired for 20 minutes before he was killed on the evening of May 6. “It appears that the final fatal shots were fired at a time when neighbours had all been evacuated or otherwise safely ‘contained’,” Tim Owen, QC, representing Mr Saunders’s sister Charlotte, told the judicial review. “As a consequence, it is difficult to see who was being put at risk or who the police may have believed was being put at risk by Mr Saunders’s actions at the time when he was shot.”

Mr Owen said Miss Saunders’s claims about the shooting were based on viewing film recorded from a police helicopter flying over the scene. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) last night rejected another claim from the Saunders family that video footage showed the dead man was holding his gun “limply in his left hand” when he was shot.

Ian Bynoe, of the IPCC, said the video was vital to its inquiry into the shooting and could not be made public. He added: “I feel bound to correct what is not an accurate reflection of the evidence, which we hold since this will in due course have to be considered by a jury.”

Miss Saunders has launched a legal challenge to the way in which her brother’s death was being investigated by the IPCC. She is questioning the legality of the firearms officers being able to confer before producing their accounts of a shooting incident. Mr Owen said: “There can be no doubt that the present practice means that there is a substantial risk of collusion and of contamination.” He said that officers had delayed in producing their statements to the IPCC about the shooting and that the Metropolitan Police had since admitted they had conferred over their accounts. The IPCC took the view that the practice was “undesirable” but could not challenge it unless the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) directed a change.

Miss Saunders is also arguing that the failure of the IPCC to disclose to her the statements of the principal officers, operational commanders, negotiators and firearms officers was unlawful. She is seeking a declaration that the IPCC acted unlawfully by failing to exercise its discretion over disclosure of the statements or to give reasons why they were not disclosed. Acpo, the Met and the Police Federation are all represented at the review proceedings as interested parties.

A preliminary inquest has heard that Mr Saunders died after suffering gunshot wounds to the head, heart and liver. A full inquest has been delayed pending the High Court action. Mr Saunders had fired several shots from the window of his flat during the siege and at one point threw out a piece of cardboard on which he had written a message to his wife, Elizabeth. It said: “I love my wife dearly, xxx”.

Original report here

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Did a judge-prosecutor romance taint Texas murder trial?

Good old boys at work again

The lawyer for a death-row inmate says he is trying to break a "conspiracy of silence" in Texas over whether the district attorney and the judge who presided over his client's 1990 capital murder trial were having a secret romantic relationship. The inmate, Charles Dean Hood, is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday.

A Texas judge has ordered a hearing into the issue on Monday morning. The judge has also ordered the former judge and former district attorney to be prepared to answer questions under oath about their alleged affair and potentially surrender any documentary evidence of a relationship. The unusual twists and turns in the Hood case are attracting national attention and adding fuel to an already-heated debate over capital punishment in Texas.

Mr. Hood's lawyer, Gregory Wiercioch, has been trying for months to persuade the Texas judiciary to investigate the alleged secret relationship. He says former Judge Verla Sue Holland and former Collin County District Attorney Thomas O'Connell may believe that their private relationship did not taint Hood's trial. But, he says, it should not be up to a judge and prosecutor to secretly decide such an issue – particularly when the defendant was on trial for his life.

"No attorney knowing [of this relationship] would have allowed her to stay on and preside over this trial," Mr. Wiercioch says. "I wouldn't want her presiding over a parking ticket, let alone a capital murder trial."

The lawyer says others in Collin County, north of Dallas, were aware of the affair but did nothing. "There was this sense that we are going to keep it secret, and whoever their friends were that socialized with them – and knew of the relationship – those people kept it secret as part of a conspiracy of silence," Wiercioch says.

Fairness of other trials at stake, too. The allegation has been swirling in Texas legal circles for years, but no formal investigation has been undertaken. Judge Holland and Mr. O'Connell, both now retired, have declined to discuss the issue. "It is a matter of Texas courts turning an absolute blind eye to a situation that is in plain sight," says Steve Hall, director of the Standdown Texas Project, a criminal justice reform group. "Legal ethicists have been outraged by the facts. This should not even be a close call."

If true, the secret affair would violate ethics regulations governing both judges and prosecutors, legal experts say. In addition, these experts say, it would raise questions not only about the fairness of Hood's murder trial but also of the fairness of every criminal case charged by O'Connell's office and tried before Judge Holland during their alleged affair.

According to an affidavit by a former assistant district attorney in O'Connell's office, the Holland-O'Connell relationship began prior to 1987 and lasted until 1993. Hood was convicted and sentenced to death in September 1990 for the shooting deaths of a man and woman in Plano, Texas, in 1989.

The former assistant, Matthew Goeller, says in the affidavit: "It was common knowledge in the district attorney's office, and the Collin County Bar, in general, that the district attorney, Mr. Tom O'Connell, and the presiding judge of the 296th District Court, Judge Verla Sue Holland, had a romantic relationship." Mr. Goeller is a past president of the county bar association and of the county's criminal defense lawyers association. He worked in the district attorney's office from 1987 to 1996. One court rejected the complaint

Holland isn't some back-county judge. From 1997 to 2001, she served on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's supreme court for criminal matters.

When Wiercioch brought the Holland-O'Connell affair issue to the attention of that court in June, the judges voted 9 to 0 to toss the complaint out as an abuse of the writ of habeas corpus. The judges said Hood's lawyers should have raised the matter in an appeal filed in 1999. The judges also voted unanimously to allow Hood's scheduled execution to go forward on June 17. The death warrant, however, expired and the execution was postponed until Sept. 10.

There is no indication in the court's opinions that the case involved potentially serious allegations against a former colleague. Holland had served with eight of the nine judges currently on the court. The opinions are marked "Do not publish."

The Holland-O'Connell affair allegations arose again in recent weeks after a Texas judge granted Wiercioch's request for a hearing. But that judge, Robert Dry, set the hearing date for Sept. 12 – two days after Hood's scheduled execution. In a letter to Wiercioch, Judge Dry told the lawyer he had waited too long to raise the issue. He concluded his letter with a disclosure: "I know Judge Holland and Tom O'Connell. It is likely that every local judge knows them. If you are concerned about this, I will consider a motion to recuse." Dry later removed himself from the case.

The new judge, Greg Brewer, ordered the Monday hearing. At the hearing, the judge will consider whether to order Holland and O'Connell to answer Wiercioch's questions about the alleged affair.

A group of 500 former judges and prosecutors wrote Sept. 2 to Texas Gov. Rick Perry urging him to grant a 30-day reprieve to allow an investigation into the alleged affair. "If Mr. Hood's claim is proven, we believe that his right to an impartial judge and a fair trial was violated and his conviction and sentence were unconstitutionally obtained," the group writes. "Under the United States and Texas constitutions, the right to an unbiased judge is fundamental to due process."

The group includes William Sessions, former FBI director and a former federal judge and US attorney in Texas; John Gibbons, former third circuit federal appeals court chief judge; and Patricia Wald, former Washington, D.C., appeals court judge. "No court has addressed the merits of Mr. Hood's allegations or permitted discovery of the facts," they wrote.

Two days later, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced that his office would be filing a friend-of-the-court brief to urge the judge to "fully review" the affair allegations.

Original report here

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Stupid British "human rights" laws give free rein to a monster

An Australian-raised English murderer and serial rapist sent back to Britain after his release from jail faces life behind bars after a sex attack on a pensioner. Simon Wilson, 50, who was deported after his release from a Queensland jail in January, yesterday pleaded guilty in a London court to three charges, including rape, relating to an April attack. Wilson migrated to Canberra with his family as a toddler. After becoming a drifter, he committed 77 offences in Australia, including a killing and six rapes - one in Melbourne.

He was released in January after serving 16 years for the murder of Mackay spinster Joan Randell and deported under tough Australian laws on foreigners who abuse their residency. The detective who dealt with the case described Wilson as a "freak" who needed constant supervision and should never be allowed to return to society. But in Britain, his case was found not to meet criteria for any control orders, leaving him free to go where he pleased. Authorities were also powerless to force Wilson to sign the sex-offender register when he refused to do so. He agreed to meet police and agencies regularly, though lack of resources meant he could not be placed under 24-hour surveillance.

In April, Wilson attacked a 71-year-old woman on her doorstep in central London, slashing her face and body as he tried to rape her. Yesterday, Wilson stared at the ground as he mumbled his guilty pleas in an Australian accent. Prosecutor Constance Briscoe told the court: "We will certainly be making submissions at sentence that this defendant is highly dangerous and ought not to be released in the future." Wilson was remanded in custody until October 10 for a pre-sentence report.

In 2005, 66-year-old Robert Excell returned after 37 years in an Australian jail for child sex convictions. In March, prolific pedophile Raymond Horne, 61, was deported from Australia, where he had lived for more than 50 years. This is in marked contrast to Britain, where criminals such as Italian-born Learco Chindamo, who moved to Britain aged five and went on to kill teacher Philip Lawrence, cannot be deported because of his human rights.

Tory MP Philip Davies said: "Our policies in this country should be more in tune with the way the Australians do it. "They have a zero-tolerance approach while we pussyfoot around. We are far too bothered about the human rights of criminals rather than the rights of citizens."

Original report here. (Via Political Correctness Watch)

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

British landlady ordered to pay damages to serial rapist for clearing his apartment after arrest

You can't beat British law for insanity

A serial rapist has been awarded compensation after his landlady cleared his flat of his belongings while he was awaiting trial. Thomas Cope, 55, tied up his teenage victim with a computer mouse cord and raped her twice before letting her go after an eight hour ordeal. He was jailed for life after a judge branded him 'a serious danger to women'.

But in a publicly funded county court case, the former debt collector sued Melody Goymer for clearing his flat - where he raped his latest victim - following his arrest. The court ruled grandmother Mrs Goymer, 60, had unlawfully terminated Cope's tenancy by failing to seek a court order for possession of the flat in Hailsham, Sussex. The judgement was described yesterday as 'shocking' and 'sickening' by critics, including a rape charity.

Cope was flanked by two prison custody officers as he complained that items including a 20in TV, computer desks, coffee table and tin openers had been put into storage. He admitted Mrs Goymer, who rents three properties in the Eastbourne area, was a 'very good' landlady but said he had been 'angry and stressed' by the eviction. 'It has caused problems between me and my wife,' he told Eastbourne County Court. 'On two or three occasions she has stopped phoning and writing to me because of it. 'I've just been banging my head against a brick wall since I've been in prison.'

Cope - who was living alone in the flat after moving out of the home he shared with his wife, Ann - was first jailed for rape for four years in 1976. He received eight years for rape in 1979, five years in 1985 for indecent assault and another ten years for attempted rape in 1990. He is currently serving a life sentence for attacking a 19-year-old woman on April 25, 2006.

Judge Austin Issard-Davies, sitting at Hove Crown Court in Sussex in June last year, ordered him to serve a minimum of four-and-a-half years for the latest offence before being considered for parole. He told Cope: 'I have no doubt that you are a serious danger to women.'

Mrs Goymer told Eastbourne County Court how she cleared Cope's two-bedroom flat days after he was remanded in custody in December 2006. She said: 'We had no contact from him and didn't know where he was so we used a pass key to get into the flat which we found in a terrible condition. 'It looked as if he had done a runner and just left. There was no electricity and the food in the fridge freezer had rotted away.'

Deputy District Judge Smith awarded Cope $1500 and ordered Mrs Goymer to return his goods within 14 days during the hearing on Thursday. He said: 'He was not thrown out on the street and he may not have been physically removed but his belongings were. 'What would have happened if he had been released on bail or found not guilty? He was unlawfully evicted and his possessions were wrongly removed and wrongly retained.' The amount of costs to be awarded to Cope is to be decided at a later date after the judge said the $26,000 claimed by his lawyers was 'awfully high'.

Afterwards, a Rape Crisis spokeswoman said: 'This case is shocking. 'We are outraged that the same system that can reduce the compensation for victims of rape can financially compensate a serial rapist who has committed violent sexual crimes against women over the last 20 years.' A TaxPayer's Alliances spokesman said: 'All right-minded people will be sickened their hard-earned tax is being used in this way. 'This case demonstrates how courts routinely waste money and how judges often make judgments that go against natural justice.'

Original report here. (Via Political Correctness Watch)

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Murder probe obstructed by British police

The British authorities deliberately obstructed the father of Julie Ward in his pursuit of justice over her brutal murder, according to a secret police report. The Foreign Office (FCO) and the British High Commission in Kenya are heavily criticised in the report, which highlights mistakes and cover-ups over the killing 20 years ago this weekend.

Miss Ward, 28, from Brockley, Suffolk, was murdered on the Masai Mara game reserve in September 1988 during a visit to photograph animals. She was almost certainly raped then hacked to death before her body was chopped up, soaked in petrol and set alight.

Jon Stoddart, who wrote the independent report – seen by The Sunday Telegraph – on behalf of Lincolnshire Police, said of the role of the FCO and the British High Commission: "There is clear evidence of inconsistency and contradictions, falsehoods and downright lies, and it is this that has not surprisingly led to John Ward believing that there was an active conspiracy to prevent him from identifying his daughter's killers."

Earlier in the report, Mr Stoddart said: "This realisation [that the initial police inquiry was flawed], allied to the brazen, deceitful and dishonest behaviour of the Kenyan police; the contradictions, untruths and evasive behaviour from a member of the British High Commission (political section) led to Mr Ward pursuing a different line of inquiry – namely that the authorities had conspired deliberately to prevent Julie's murderer(s) from being brought to justice."

Mr Ward, 74, a retired hotelier, has spent almost £2million and travelled to Kenya more than 100 times trying to find his daughter’s killers. He suspects that the British authorities were willing to hamper his inquiries in order to maintain good relations with the then Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi. The Kenyan government, which tried to claim that Miss Ward’s death was an accident or suicide, appears to have wanted the murder hushed up either to protect tourism or the identity of her killers.

Mr Ward believes the 2004 report, which he recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act after it was originally suppressed on the grounds of national security, has “shamed” Britain’s reputation for honesty and fair play. “I felt totally vindicated,” he said. “Everything I have said all along about the widespread extent of the cover-up and deceit was proved to be true.”

It has long been believed that the authorities in Africa were responsible for mishandling the case and, in his report, Mr Stoddart refers to the “early, pathetic and corrupt investigation by the Kenyan police”. However, it is his criticisms of the Government’s representatives and also New Scotland Yard (NSY) that will come as a shock to many. Scotland Yard was brought in to investigate in January 1990, 16 months after Miss Ward’s death. Inquiries in Kenya by two senior officers led to two park rangers being accused of murder. However, they were acquitted after a trial in Nairobi in 1992. The two British detectives ended up using the man who would become the chief suspect for the murder as their main guide during their visit to Kenya in 1990.

Mr Stoddart, who is now the Chief Constable of Durham, said the two officers had “undertaken what is at best a poor investigation, at worst hopelessly flawed. Despite this, two wardens were charged with murder (a capital offence in Kenya) and stood trial when the evidence against them was flimsy”. He said that the inquiry was “inadequately resourced, completed with unseemly haste and superficial” though he conceded that they operated in a “different, hostile environment and, as a result, were apparently unable to distinguish key witnesses from suspects.”

A second inquiry led by the Kenyan police and Mr Ward himself in 1996 led to Simon Makallah, the chief game warden for the Masai Mara, being charged with the murder, but he too was acquitted after a trial the following year. Mr Stoddart’s report says: “It is something of an embarrassment that the NSY officers failed to even rudimentarily test Simon Makallah’s account [of where he was when Julie was murdered], and thereafter used him as their principal liaison officer. “The embarrassment was further compounded when, in 1996, the [Kenyan] Tole Inquiry team charged Makallah with Julie Ward’s murder.”

The initial Scotland Yard team always insisted that they carried out a thorough investigation under difficult circumstances. Now, however, following a scientific breakthrough in the case — disclosed by The Sunday Telegraph three months ago — Mr Ward is optimistic that the case can finally be solved.

A new Scotland Yard team, headed by Assistant Commissioner John Yates, is expected to visit Kenya later this year. A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We reaffirm our sympathy for Julie Ward’s family. We will continue to offer them any help and advice we can. “We deeply regret that nobody has been brought to justice. We strongly refute allegations of a cover-up. “While we absolutely refute any allegations of collusion with the Kenyan government and/or the Metropolitan Police Service, we could and should have handled this case better and have learned from the mistakes that were made 20 years ago.

“The FCO disassociates itself from Section 4 of the Lincolnshire Police report as it contains many inferences and statements which are unfair and unfounded. Our staff co-operated fully and openly with the police inquiry. “They did so on a voluntary basis and not under caution. Those interviewed by the police were not shown the report and so had no opportunity to correct any inaccuracies, erroneous assumptions or accusations levelled against them.”

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: “The Metropolitan Police commissioned Lincolnshire Constabulary to conduct an investigation into concerns raised by John Ward about an alleged conspiracy by the UK authorities in covering up his daughter, Julie Ward’s, murder. The outcome of that investigation was that they found no criminal conspiracy involving the Metropolitan Police. The Met is still engaged in investigating Julie Ward’s murder and we are working closely with her father to seek justice.”

Original report here

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Habeas corpus motion a tool to free the innocent

Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan, the same judge handling the still pending habeas motion filed by Joshua C. Kezer in the 1992 killing of Angela Mischelle Lawless, granted the same kind of motion this week in a St. Louis wrongful conviction case. According to Casenet, Callahan granted the motion in a suit filed by attorneys for Darryl Burton, a man sentenced to life without parole for the 1984 slaying of Donald Ball at a St. Louis gas station. Casenet indicated the order granting the motion had already been faxed to Jefferson City Correctional Center, but I found out too late in the day to reach anyone to confirm whether Burton would be released.

Like Kezer's case, physical evidence failed to link Burton to the homicide, and according to a 2002 appellate opinion, the prosecution's case hinged on eyewitness testimony. Another similarity: Burton's attorneys argued that the state violated Brady Vs. Maryland by failing to disclose a deal made with an eyewitness to testify in exchange for leniency on an unrelated stealing charge. Kezer's attorneys have argued that a police report casting doubt on the credibility of an eyewitness placing Kezer near the crime scene was not disclosed to defense.

In that court opinion, U.S. Court of Appeals Circuit Judge Kermit E. Bye wrote that habeas motions provide "an additional safeguard against compelling an innocent man to suffer an unconstitutional loss of liberty." "One cannot read the record in this case without developing a nagging suspicion that the wrong man may have been convicted of capital murder and armed criminal action in a Missouri courtroom," the opinion said.

The motion was denied then, on the grounds that Burton failed to prove his legal claims for relief, but Bye wrote that the facts of the case suggested possible innocence. "With no small degree of reluctance, we deny Burton a writ," the opinion says.

Original report here

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Mother rapes daughter?

One would have thought that this would be seen as a fantasy from the beginning

A Mother of six who was jailed for more than three years for raping her daughter, then aged 8, was cleared of the offence on appeal today. In an unanimous judgment the Court of Appeal found six features of the trial worrying enough to quash the guilty verdict.

Justice Ken Mackenzie said he was left with a doubt if the woman had been convicted beyond reasonable doubt on the sole evidence of the complainant. He said a verdict of acquittal should be entered (which means there will be no retrial).

In the District Court at Southport in February, the woman, 41, was found guilty of digitally raping her eight-year-old daughter on an unknown date between November 2005 and February 2006, and was jailed for three-and-a-half years. She had pleaded not guilty.

The trial heard the offence when the child, who had been living with another family, was staying with her mother. The girl saw her mother standing in the doorway of her room holding a sex toy, or what the child called a "fake boy thing". While the girl was pretending to sleep, the mother entered the room, and inserted something into her vagina. The girl then "blanked out" and did not remember any other details.

The court was told the girl had been seen by a doctor but the examination was inconclusive. However, on appeal barrister John Allen argued there were so many inconsistencies in the girl's evidence her mother should never have been convicted.

Original report here

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Friday, September 05, 2008

None of us is safe from police raids

Prince George's County case offers a window into the brutal reality of paramilitary-style no-knock drug invasions

Imagine you're Cheye Calvo, the white mayor of Berwyn Heights, an affluent part of Prince George's County. Coming home one night in late July, you find on your front porch a large package that, unbeknownst to you, happens to contain a lot of marijuana. As it turns out, your spouse is the victim of a drug-smuggling scheme that targets innocent customers in the UPS system. You bring the box inside; moments later, the SWAT officers standing by break in and shoot your two beautiful Labradors. As the dogs lie there bleeding to death, you're held in the same room, handcuffed for hours. Nearly a month later, you have yet to receive an apology.

Because of who he is, the nation knows what happened to Mr. Calvo a few weeks ago. Here's what most Americans don't know: There are perhaps 40,000 such raids each year, according to a Cato Institute report, "Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America."

Now try to imagine that instead of a middle-class white man in the Maryland suburbs, you're a young Latino boy in Modesto, Calif. Shortly before dawn, in early September 2000, a SWAT team forces its way into your house. Thirty seconds later, although you comply with police orders to lie face down on the floor, you are dead from a shotgun blast to the back. The officer responsible is later cleared of wrongdoing in what is concluded an accidental shooting - though it was not the first time his weapon had "accidentally" discharged during a raid. Alberto Sepulveda had just begun the seventh grade.

Or say you're 57 and getting ready for work in May 2003. A battering ram breaks down your door shortly after 6 a.m., and a flash grenade is tossed inside. You're coughing, you can't breathe, while the police search for a stash of drugs and guns they'll never find because it isn't there. Alberta Spruill, a church volunteer and city worker in Harlem, died of a heart attack on the way to the hospital.

Or you're a fierce 92-year-old Atlanta woman, frightened by the sounds of someone prying off the burglar bars that cover your door but determined to protect your home. The door is broken down; you fire one shot at the intruders before being shot at 39 times, handcuffed and left to die while the police (who have broken down the wrong door) realize their mistake and plant drugs in your basement. Two of the cops responsible for Kathryn Johnston's death pleaded guilty to manslaughter last year; a third was recently convicted of lying in the cover-up.

Many lives are lost, and many more are ruined, by these paramilitary operations in the ever-widening circles of survivors and families of those killed. You're in extra danger if you happen to be poor or a person of color.

No-knock warrants may be justified in unusual circumstances. But unreasonable, routine no-knock raids must be stopped. Police should do their homework beforehand, show restraint and use the minimum amount of force necessary in a situation. They must take extraordinary care not to enter the wrong house when conducting a raid. Most important, they need to be held accountable to the communities they serve.

The fact is, raids like the one on Mayor Calvo's home violate every precept of American liberty that is held up as integral to our "free" society. We can no longer allow our supposedly democratic government to terrorize communities across the country with the very tactics that are publicly decried when used by defense contractors and our own military in Iraq.

Unfortunately, racism in political structures and security forces still dictates who matters and who doesn't - and for the most part, violence against those who don't is tolerated. Because the vast majority of these raids are against poor people of color, we hear very little about them.

That's what makes the Berwyn Heights case so potentially important: It is opening a window into the realities lived every day by innocent victims and survivors of the ineffective and destructive "war on drugs." Let's remember this case, keep this window open, and use it to address the misguided (at best), unjust and indisputably failed drug war policies that are destroying the fabric of our society.

Original report here

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Crooked Welsh police still not repentant

Police really seem to be an evil lot in Wales. Previous post here on the case was on 19 Oct., 2006 -- which see for details on how the man was deliberately framed by police who "just knew" he was gulity

A CARDIFF man who served 11 years in prison for a crime he did not commit has passed a lie detector test. Michael O'Brien, who was wrongfully convicted with Darren Hall and Ellis Sherwood for the 1987 murder of Cardiff newsagent Phillip Saunders, said he had taken the test because of the refusal of South Wales Police to give him an apology. The Court of Appeal quashed the three men's convictions after judges found serious flaws in the prosecution case.

Two years ago South Wales Police agreed to pay Mr O'Brien $600,000 in an out-of-court settlement of a civil case he was bringing against it for malicious prosecution. Last night, an ITV Wales documentary revealed that a lie detector test undertaken by Mr O'Brien two weeks ago had cleared him of any involvement in the murder of Mr Saunders.

Mr O'Brien said: "The fact that as recently as two years ago South Wales Police questioned my ex-wife Donna and her sister Mandy about money stolen when Mr Saunders was murdered suggests to me that although they have had to pay me a very substantial amount of money, they still think I am somehow involved. "This makes me angry, not just for myself, but because they are not actively seeking the real killer. I decided to take the lie detector test to show that I had absolutely nothing to do with the murder of Mr Saunders."

Yesterday, at the launch of Mr O'Brien's book on the case, The Death of Justice (Y Lolfa, 9.95), Plaid Cymru AM Leanne Wood renewed a longstanding call for a public inquiry into the wrongful conviction of Mr O'Brien, his two co-defendants and other miscarriage of justice victims in South Wales.

The other cases that Ms Wood and others want to see examined are the wrongful conviction of three men for the murder of Cardiff prostitute Lynette White, the wrongful conviction of brothers Paul and Wayne Darvell for the murder of Swansea sex shop worker Sandra Phillips, the wrongful conviction of Jonathan Jones for the murder of his fiancee's parents Harry and Megan Tooze at their farmhouse in Llanharry, near Pontyclun, and the conviction of Annette Hewins for killing a young mother and her two children in an arson attack at Merthyr Tydfil.

Mr O'Brien was given a lie detector test by expert Bruce Burgess, who said: "I am totally certain that he is innocent."

Original report here

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