Wednesday, September 30, 2009


The police in America are drunk with power and a danger to anyone whom they perceive to be slighting their authority. William Norman Grigg has a nice piece entitled "Contempt of Cop" on today's in which he wrote:
In 1992, amid a growing scandal provoked by a wave of criminal violence committed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, an investigation was conducted....The resulting 358-page "Kolts Report" described a department that behaved in a manner largely indistinguishable from the conduct of a Third World death squad: Beatings, extra-judicial killings, planting evidence, robberies, and other undisguised criminal actions were commonplace; they almost always went unpunished, and were often rewarded....In April 1989, a man named Demetrio Carillo was seized and beaten after he rebuked deputies for driving on the sidewalk near his home – one of many to face summary "street justice" for "mouthing off." Deputies were taught by Field Training Officers how to falsify official reports to justify an arrest after the fact when the real purpose of the arrest was to punish anyone who refused to display the required deference. "This is the worst aspect of police culture, where the worst crime of all is 'contempt of cop,'" observed the Kolts Report.

America is experiencing a wave of "police culture" in which the most dangerous 'crime' to commit is to disrespect -- e.g. question or doubt -- the authority of a policeman. It doesn't matter if the skeptic is acting peacefully and has committed no crime. He must obey a police order and with servility. It matters not if the police are unreasonable or acting outside the law -- e.g. an illegal search. A police order must be obeyed immediately. If not, then the 'criminal' will feel the full force of a gun-packing thug who makes the school-yard bully look like Little Nell. I do not exaggerate.

Consider a September 21st article from the Chicago Sun-Times: A head emergency room nurse at Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital has sued the city and a Chicago Police officer for handcuffing her and putting her in the back of a squad car during a dispute over drawing blood from a suspected drunken driver. Lisa Hofstra insisted on following hospital policy, which was to admit the patient before performing any 'service.' The policeman's response was to handcuff Hofstra in front of co-workers and detain her in the squad car for almost an hour, thus depriving several ER patients of care. After being released, Hofstra herself required medical attention because the handcuffs had been so tight.

The story continues, A security video of the incident shows the officer smiling outside the squad car as Hofstra sat inside. “He feels comfortable about smiling when he just illegally arrested someone,” said Hofstra’s attorney Blake Horwitz. “He is enjoying his power.” Hofstra added, “If this officer is treating me the way he treated me, what is he going to do to people on the street?”

The police are getting away with open contempt for your rights and open brutality against peaceful people because of the knee-jerk approval that post-9/11Americans give to anyone in a uniform, especially one associated with 'security.' How open is their contempt and brutality?

The Merced Police Department's Internal Affairs Division is investigating a complaint alleging that an officer twice used a Taser against an unarmed man with no legs in a wheelchair.
Consider the case of Gregory Williams, a double-leg amputee, who spent six days in jail on suspicion of domestic violence and resisting arrest before being released for lack of evidence. The Fresno Bee (September 21) reported, Williams...said he was violently manhandled and Tasered by police, even though he claims he never was physically aggressive toward the officers or resisted arrest. Williams says he was publicly humiliated after his pants fell down during the incident. The officers allegedly left him outdoors in daylight, handcuffed on the pavement, nude below the waist. Williams said the arrest also left him with an injured shoulder, limiting his mobility in his wheelchair. A handful of residents who live in Williams' apartment complex say they witnessed the incident and support Williams' charges.

There is reason to hope, however, that "the police culture" may be reversing in the direction of civil liberties. The hope lies in the common sense and decency of average people who are being brutalized by the police. Bud Grose is one such man. Breitbart reports:
Two police officers who chased and Tasered a 76-year-old man driving a tractor in a Wyoming town parade have been fired. Bud Grose, who was shocked five times by Officer Michael Kavenius, welcomed the decision announced Tuesday by the Glenrock Police Department.

The most heartening aspect of the story is not that the police officers were fired; they have the option to appeal and, if they do, I expect they will be reinstated. The police and legal system protect their own and don't give a damn about "the public." That's why Florida cop Adam Tavss was back on the streets 4 days after he shot and killed 29-year-old Husien Shehada, a tourist from Virginia. On his first night back on the street, he was involved in another lethal shooting; it is not clear, however, whether Tavss' bullet was the deadly one. Tavss was subsequently suspended due to an investigation into "an unrelated matter."

The heartening aspect of Bud Grose's story is that the community banded together in support of the victimized man and against the police. This is what needs to happen. Average Americans must cease to genuflect and start to question authority.

Original report here

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

British police to face the music for their fatal negligence

Rachel Nickell boyfriend sues: Police face huge damages claim over missed chances to stop killing

Scotland Yard is facing a potentially huge compensation claim over its failure to prevent the murder of Rachel Nickell. The father of Miss Nickell's son Alex, who as a toddler witnessed her murder on Wimbledon Common, is preparing to sue the Metropolitan Police over the appalling bungles that blighted the case. Andre Hanscombe, 46, has instructed a leading London law firm in his attempt to win substantial damages for police negligence. Given the payouts involved in other recent cases, the Met may have to hand over several hundred thousand pounds if it is found liable. A key consideration in any award will be trauma suffered by Alex, now 20.

Miss Nickell was stabbed 49 times and sexually assaulted in July 1992. She was attacked as she walked on the common in South-West London with Alex, who was a month short of his third birthday. He was found by a passer-by clinging to his mother's bloodstained body, begging her: 'Get up, Mummy'.

But Mr Hanscombe makes the case that Miss Nickell would not have died if police had caught her killer when they had the chance three years earlier.

Letters revealing details of his proposed legal action have been sent to surviving victims of serial rapist and triple killer Robert Napper, nine months after he admitted the manslaughter of Miss Nickell.

Last December, as a judge ordered Napper to be detained indefinitely at Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital, details emerged of a catalogue of police failures that meant Miss Nickell, 23, and another young mother and daughter he killed need not have died. Police missed a series of chances to arrest the mentally ill loner before his five-year spree of up to 86 rapes and sex attacks was brought to a close.

Had they taken the first chance to interview him about a rape in 1989, he would not have been free to kill ex-model Miss Nickell. Napper's mother told police he had confessed to her that he had raped a woman near their home in Plumstead, South-East London. She mistakenly told them the attack had taken place on the local common, when the victim had actually been raped at her home nearby.

A police officer made a cursory check of the common and no further action was taken when he failed to find any sign of an attack. But, although the victim had come forward, police did not make the link between her and Napper. He was never interviewed by police, who also failed to carry out a blood test that would have shown his DNA matched traces from the rape scene. If Napper had been arrested and jailed for that crime, Miss Nickell's horrific death would have been prevented.

Instead the paranoid schizophrenic followed Miss Nickell's sex killing with the manslaughter of Samantha Bisset and her four-year-old daughter Jazmine at their South London home in November 1993.

For 16 years, Miss Nickell's death was one of the most notorious unsolved murders on Scotland Yard's books. Referring to the Nickell case, Assistant Met Commissioner John Yates said after Napper's guilty plea in December: 'More could and should have been done. 'Had more been done, we would have been in a position to have prevented this and other very serious attacks by Napper.'
Rachel Nickell

After Napper, 42, admitted killing Miss Nickell, the Met publicly apologised to former prime suspect Colin Stagg, who won £706,000 in compensation from the Home Office, who had spent a year in custody before the case against him collapsed.

Mr Hanscombe also wants a public inquiry into the errors that hampered the hunt for Napper. It was only on the eve of Napper's guilty plea that Mr Hanscombe learned how police incompetence had failed to prevent Miss Nickell's death. Mr Hanscombe was unavailable for comment last night. But speaking to the Daily Mail last December, he said: 'There has been a catalogue of errors with extremely tragic consequences. 'Mistakes by the police cost Samantha Bisset and her daughter their lives. Now we have to accept the possibility that what happened to Rachel could have been avoided as well.'

The Met has already paid £320,000 to the parents of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence for the bungles that deprived them of justice, and it paid six figures to the family of Victoria Climbie, eight,who was murdered by her guardians under the noses of child protection detectives.

Last night, ex-Crown Prosecution Service lawyer Jeff McCann, who charged Napper over the killings of Miss Bisset and her daughter, said: 'The investigation into the murder of Rachel Nickell was for more than a decade blighted by errors and missed opportunities. 'It comes as no surprise that Andre Hanscombe is planning legal action against the Met.'

Original report here

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Monday, September 28, 2009

What do we owe exonerated inmates?

Why justice demands full atonement when we punish the innocent

Michael Evans won an Illinois lottery. The state presented him with a check for $162,000. But forgive him if he's not as grateful as most Lotto winners. His payout didn't come to him because he selected some winning numbers. It came because he spent 27 years in prison for a rape and murder committed by someone else. That amount of money wouldn't be a bad return on a $2 wager. But for the time he spent behind bars, it comes to about $6,000 a year. He could have made more working for minimum wage.

Evans thought someone owed him more than that for all he endured. He filed a $60 million lawsuit against 10 former Chicago police officers whom he accused of framing him. But a federal jury rejected his claim, which meant Evans got nothing—except that state check. The maximum allowed by law, it amounts to less than $17 per day he spent behind bars. He took the verdict hard, saying, "In my case, I don't really see how justice has been done." Bad as his treatment was, though, it could have been worse. Illinois furnishes modest compensation for inmates who are exonerated. But many states that allow compensation offer even less —and most states provide nothing at all.

Some states are reasonably generous. Utah provides $70,000 for each year spent on death row. Tennessee allows awards as high as $1 million. Alabama, Vermont, Michigan, and Hawaii offer up to $50,000 for each year of mistaken imprisonment. California pays $100 per day. But others think inmates should be content with breathing fresh air. Wisconsin caps payouts at $25,000, and New Hampshire has a limit of $20,000. Montana grants only tuition, room, and board at any community college in the state.

And 29 states have no laws aimed at making the injured person whole. In those places, if you get locked up by mistake and want financial compensation, you have to go to court or to the legislature, neither of which is obligated to give it. All you're guaranteed in Florida, for example, is $100 and a bus ticket, which is provided to the guilty as well as the innocent. Florida's legislature has sometimes approved financial redress, but, as in other states, obtaining it can be harder than getting off death row. Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee spent 12 years in prison before being pardoned in 1975. But the state rebuffed 19 separate petitions before finally agreeing to give them each $500,000—in 1998.

Lawsuits can be even harder. To win damages, the former inmate has to demonstrate not only that he was convicted in error, but that the police were guilty of misconduct. Ineptitude or carelessness isn't enough.

Even states that have set up systems for compensation don't necessarily make it easy. Illinois is one of several states that say it doesn't suffice to be cleared by DNA or other compelling evidence: A pardon by the governor on grounds of innocence is also required.

Discovering wrongful convictions is not exactly a freakish occurrence anymore. Since 1973, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, 123 death row inmates have been cleared. Many other inmates have been exonerated of lesser felonies, usually through DNA analysis.

It's hard to envision a more nightmarish experience than being convicted of a heinous crime that you didn't commit and then sent to prison for years or decades. On top of this, death row inmates spend every hour anticipating the day when they will be escorted from their cells, strapped to a gurney, and injected with lethal poison. When freed, inmates face huge hurdles in trying to rebuild the lives that were taken from them. Most of us wouldn't go through that for all the money in Microsoft.

The 5th Amendment to the Constitution says the government may not take your property without paying just compensation. But if you're entitled to fair market value for being deprived of your house, shouldn't losing a large share of your time on Earth be worth more than $6,000 per year? In Illinois and most other places, the answer is no. But if justice demands that we punish the guilty, it also calls for full atonement when we punish the innocent.

Original report here

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

“Contempt of cop”

"The police are to the government as the edge is to the knife," insists sociologist David Bayley, who apparently couldn't explain why the typical tax-feeder isn't the sharpest blade in the cutlery drawer. One suitable example is the specimen who ruined what was an otherwise pleasant drive to northern Idaho last Friday night (September 18) – a fellow whose finely honed sense of unearned privilege coexisted with an intellect whose acuity was roughly the same as that of a rusty butter knife.

I was part of a small group traveling to the tiny but beautiful village of Potlatch, where I was to give the keynote address at the Liberty Roundup, a forum featuring candidates for state and congressional offices. My friend Scott Watson was behind the wheel, my wife Korrin and our seven-month-old son in the backseat. We had just passed through Lapwai when we caught the dreaded sight of running lights in our rear-view mirror.

Scott pulled to the side of the road onto a shoulder that proved too narrow to accommodate the donut-burner as he went through the familiar shakedown ritual. Thus instead of approaching the driver-side window, the officer – an officer of the Nez Perce Tribal Police – tapped insistently on the window next to me. Yeah, I'll bet that this is going to go really well, I thought grimly to myself as I rolled down the window.

"What's your hurry?" began the officer, reciting directly from the big book of police clich├ęs in a voice heavy with affected heartiness.

"I'm not in a hurry," Scott said in a composed but slightly annoyed voice, reflecting his commendable dislike of being patronized.

"Well, I have you going 72 in a 55," the officer continued in the same contrived tone. (This was untrue; we were in a 65 MPH zone, as the GPS on Scott's dashboard demonstrated.) He then asked where we were headed, then paused while Scott busied himself procuring the required documents. The officer then cast a glance around the interior.

"Oh, and I'll need to see ID for the passengers as well," he said casually.

Here we go, I thought. "Why is that necessary?" I inquired in a level, formal tone.

"Because I told you so," the officer said with a slight edge to his voice, as if that settled the matter.

It didn't. "I'm going to need a better reason than that," I explained in the same tone I had previously used.

During the pause that followed, I saw the officer's lips compress in frustration and color begin to flood the part of his face that was visible.

"The Idaho State Code requires that citizens present identification when ordered to by a law enforcement officer!" he hissed. "If you'd like, I'll bring the Code book and show you!" "Yes, that would be nice," I said blithely, handing him Korrin's driver's license and my official state ID card (but not my license). The officer (who made a point of keeping his badge, and thus his own identification, out of view) collected the paperwork.

"You just helped your friend get a ticket," he grunted in my direction as he turned toward his vehicle. A few minutes later the officer's voice was heard behind Scott's car: "Mr. Watson, would you step out of your vehicle? I want to speak with you for a minute."

Scott – an exceptionally level-headed fellow – shook his head and let out an exasperated sigh as he exited the car.

"What is he doing with Scott?" Korrin asked me. "He's back there playing some kind of alpha-male game," I replied, predicting that he'd find some way to do Scott a "favor" in expectation of Scott's submissive gratitude.

To Scott's considerable credit, he remained utterly stolid in the face of the armed stranger's posturing. When he came back to the car, he was even more disgusted than he had been when he left – even though he brought the welcome news that he was not getting a ticket. As he handed our ID cards back to Korrin and me, Scott related the conversation to us.

"The first thing he asked me was, 'How do you know William Grigg?'" Scott reported. "I told him, 'Will is a friend of mine.' Then he said, 'Well, you tell him that next time he encounters law enforcement, he'd better cool it!' Then he said that I wasn't going to get a ticket because I had been 'cooperative,' but warned that there were two state troopers between here and Lewiston and that they'd stop me if I went as much as three miles over the speed limit, so I'd better be careful."

Of course, the officer lied when he promised to show me the section of the Idaho State Code supposedly requiring passengers to produce identification, as I expected him to. I didn't press the matter as forcefully as I could have because, after all, I wasn't the driver; I was willing to push back hard enough to make a point, but didn't want to cause further trouble for Scott.

The officer also lied when he said that his demand was backed by statutory authority. There is no section of the Idaho State Code that authorizes law enforcement to demand identification from a passenger in a vehicle, or the typical citizen on the street.

"A peace officer can require a person to display ID in a bar, or from someone who is driving a motor vehicle," explained Sgt. Clarence Costner of the Payette County Sheriff's Office in reply to my inquiry. "Officers can also check ID when there is probable cause of some kind that leads to an investigation of a crime – for instance, there's been a burglary in a neighborhood, and someone might fit a suspect description. And of course, they can check ID on a consensual basis, the same way they can carry out a search." However, Sgt. Costner emphasized, "there is no physical law that says people have to display ID on demand unless they're driving a vehicle."

"What about a passenger riding in an automobile?" I specified. "No – you don't have to display ID as a passenger; only as a driver," repeated Sgt. Costner.

Locke defines tyranny as power exercised beyond right. The officer who demanded my ID was acting as a petty tyrant. Had he threatened me with arrest for refusing to produce it, he would have committed a crime specifically defined in the Idaho State Code: Title 18, section 703 provides that "Every public officer ... who, under the pretense or color of any process or other legal authority, arrests any person or detains him against his will ... without a regular process or other lawful authority therefor, is guilty of a misdemeanor."

The presumptuous intrusiveness of the officer who stopped us reflects a martial law mindset: Like most law enforcement officers, he sees himself as a caste apart from, and set above, the "civilian" population, and thus empowered to command submission from us.

More to the point: He sees himself as possessing innate authority, rather than authority derived from the law. He is the law, at least in the theater of his small and otherwise uncluttered mind. Note how his idea of a legal warrant is the phrase, "Because I told you to."

My polite but pointed rejoinder was based on the tacit but clearly understood question, quo warranto? – By what authority are you making this demand? This dispelled the officer's pretense that he is somebody to whom reflexive obedience is due, as opposed to someone whose authority – such as it is – must be considered derivative, limited, and conditional.

Sure, the officer succeeded in securing cooperation through a lie. But the frustration-inspired threat of collective punishment – "You just helped your friend get a ticket!" – and the impotent warning, delivered from a safe distance by way of my friend Scott ("tell your friend he'd better cool it!") give some indication, I suspect, of how deeply this encounter injured the officer's unearned sense of self-regard. Most acts of lawless police violence are committed in the service of that self-image, which is endlessly reinforced through training and peer socialization.

In 1992, amid a growing scandal provoked by a wave of criminal violence committed by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, an investigation was conducted under the leadership of James G. Kolts, a conservative Republican retired L.A. County Superior Court Judge who had been appointed by Ronald Reagan.

The resulting 358-page "Kolts Report" described a department that behaved in a manner largely indistinguishable from the conduct of a Third World death squad: Beatings, extra-judicial killings, planting evidence, robberies, and other undisguised criminal actions were commonplace; they almost always went unpunished, and were often rewarded.

One particularly notorious officer, Paul Archambault, was a serial killer with a badge who twice gunned down unarmed, harmless people with extreme prejudice (in one case pausing to re-load before commenting, "He’s still moving" and unleashing a second volley).

On one occasion, as sheriff's deputies pumped round after round into a man named Hyong Po Lee following a pursuit, one San Jose police officer who witnessed the event commented to another: "We just observed the sheriffs execute someone." In the year prior to the formation of the Kolts Commission, there were several instances in which deputies back-shot unarmed people; none of the shooters was ever disciplined in any way, let alone prosecuted.

Summary execution was not the only distinguishing activity of the LASO's under Sheriff Sherman Block. In April 1989, a man named Demetrio Carillo was seized and beaten after he rebuked deputies for driving on the sidewalk near his home – one of many to face summary "street justice" for "mouthing off." Deputies were taught by Field Training Officers how to falsify official reports to justify an arrest after the fact when the real purpose of the arrest was to punish anyone who refused to display the required deference. "This is the worst aspect of police culture, where the worst crime of all is 'contempt of cop,'" observed the Kolts Report. "The officer cannot let pass the slightest challenge or failure immediately to comply. It is here that excessive force starts and needs to be stopped."

The endless parade of abuses inflicted by police on citizens who fail to display the required docility testifies that this "aspect of police culture" has replicated itself nation-wide. In the company of my wife, our infant child, and a close friend, I encountered it just north of Lapwai, Idaho last Friday night. Things could have turned out much worse. Next time, they probably will.

Original report here

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Virginia Supreme Court grants 'writ of actual innocence'

The Virginia Supreme Court granted a highly unusual "writ of actual innocence" Friday after DNA evidence exonerated a man convicted of a 1984 rape in Richmond. This marks the first time the court has granted a "writ of actual innocence" based on biological evidence. The Supreme Court also ordered that the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond immediately expunge the record of Thomas Edward Haynesworth, the man wrongfully convicted.

Mr. Haynesworth is currently incarcerated; in addition to the 1984 rape, he was convicted of another rape and several other crimes.

Attorney General Bill Mims' office had supported his exoneration and asked the court to expedite the request. "This case highlights the effectiveness of the actual-innocence statute. When there is compelling evidence of actual innocence, our office works quickly and diligently to ensure that justice is done," Mr. Mims said in a statement.

L. Steven Emmert, an appellate lawyer and the publisher of the legal Web site Virginia Appellate News and Analysis, said such writs are relatively new to Virginia law. "The reason we have this is Virginia used to have an extraordinarily strict 21-day deadline. After 21 days, there was nothing you could do within the judicial system, even if you could prove you were innocent. The only thing you could do was go to the governor to ask for clemency," Mr. Emmert said.

There are two kinds of "writs of actual innocence," he said. The writ based on biological evidence, which is what Mr. Haynesworth requested, was passed in 2001 and is heard by the Supreme Court; the other, based on non-biological evidence, was passed in 2004 and is heard by the Virginia Court of Appeals. "In a situation where the petitioner can demonstrate that he's not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, then ... he ought to get the relief," Mr. Emmert said.

DNA analysis was conducted as part of an ongoing review by the state Department of Forensic Science, which excluded Mr. Haynesworth as the perpetrator and instead implicated another man, who is serving time for other sexual assaults.

Original report here

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Friday, September 25, 2009

The police beat: Shot in the back

Detective Jeremy Hendricks. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Las Vegas, Nevada.

Here in Vegas, Jeremy Hendricks, a cop working for the Las Vegas city government’s police force, shot John Paul Hambleton in the back while Hambleton was running away. Hendricks was questioning Hambleton (who was 32) about an alleged sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl; Hambleton decided to leave. Hambleton was not under arrest; he was not accused of a violent crime; he also was completely unarmed. But Detective Jeremy Hendricks wasn’t done with him, and, seeing how running away from a cop is apparently treated as a capital offense in this country, Hendricks started out by tasering Hambleton twice. Then he tried to force Hambleton down on the ground.

Hambleton managed to get away Hendricks’ taser, and then started to run away again, so Detective Jeremy Hendricks shot him in the back. Hendricks claimed in court that Hambleton turned around and pointed the taser at him. If so, nobody else who saw what happened — not Hendricks’s own partner, not four non-cop witnesses who watched what was happening — ever saw Hambleton turn around or point the taser at Detective Jeremy Hendricks.

But thanks to the magic "split second," which absolves all sins and justifies all cop shootings in the eyes of the Law, somehow, this supposedly belligerent Suspect Individual who supposedly was threatening Detective Jeremy Hendricks’ sacred hide with a taser shock, ended up getting shot in the back anyway. Oops.

If you tore off chasing after someone, and then shot him in the back and killed him, allegedly in order to avoid the alleged threat of a "less lethal" taser shock, which threat, if it even existed, was solely the product of a confrontation that you yourself had created and escalated, then you would probably be in jail for years. Of course, Detective Jeremy Hendricks is a cop, working for the local government’s police force, so the local government’s coroner’s inquest ruled last month that he was justified in shooting a fleeing suspect in the back.

Original report here

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

After 14 Years in Jail over Alimony, Chadwick Finally Freed

In 1995, a family court judge ordered corporate lawyer, H. Beatty Chadwick to deposit $2.5 million in the court’s registry to pay alimony to his ex-wife, Barbara Applegate. Chadwick said he didn’t have the money, but the court believed he’d stashed it somewhere during the divorce. So, because Chadwick didn’t pay, the judge jailed him for contempt of court.

As this article says, that was when Apollo 13 was box office dynamite and O.J. Simpson was being acquitted of murder. In other words, it was a long time ago. And Chadwick’s been in stir ever since. During that time, the court hired investigators to find the money. They found nothing, but Chadwick wasn’t released. In his decision to free Chadwick, Judge Joseph Cronin maintained that he could have paid the money, but refused to.

Chadwick’s son, William, worked tirelessly for his release. The article gives no information about Applegate.

Chadwick, who is now 73, seems remarkably equable about the whole thing, describing prison as “a very artificial society.” Some people use stronger words than that. For the immediate future, Chadwick intends to live with William, but says he needs to find a job, given that Social Security is his only income. He may try to go into teaching or get his law license reinstated.

Fourteen years is a long time for not paying alimony that he apparently didn’t have the money to pay.

In a column on this case a few years ago, Wendy McElroy wrote:

"A. Leo Sereni, a former president judge in Pennsylvania, was appointed to track Chadwick's money. Eighteen months and two accounting firms later, Sereni reported no trace beyond what had been discovered a decade before. Money had been transferred to Europe and a small fraction had reappeared in U.S. accounts. Sereni concluded, 'most of it...nowhere.' "He recommended Chadwick's release, stating, 'My God -- if he had stolen $2 million, he would have been out a couple of years ago.'"

Original report here

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

At last! Some hostile cops fired

Officers fired for using Taser on 76-year-old -- even though he had come to a halt and was not doing anything

Two US police officers who chased and used a stun gun on a 76-year-old man driving a tractor in a Wyoming town parade have been fired. Bud Grose, who was shocked five times by Officer Michael Kavenius, welcomed the decision announced Tuesday by the Glenrock Police Department. "Hopefully this will kind of help bring the community together and be an answer to a lot of questions and problems," he said.

Kavenius shot Grose with a Taser on August 1 near the end of Glenrock's annual Deer Creek Days parade. Sergeant Paul Brown was also relieved of duty. Police say Grose, who was driving an antique tractor in the parade, disobeyed Kavenius' traffic command. That led to a short pursuit and the Taser use, which outraged some in the town of 2400.

"After considering all aspects of the unfortunate event which occurred after the parade during Deer Creek Days this year, the decision has appropriately been made that the two Glenrock police officers involved are relieved from duty," the department said in its release. The department said the decision came after a consultant's internal investigation and a probe by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. The Converse County Attorney's Office decided against filing any charges in the incident. John Robinson, a lawyer representing Brown and Kavenius, said the officers will appeal the firing.

The Division of Criminal Investigation report said Grose disobeyed Kavenius' traffic command and steered around Kavenius to head toward the town park rather than the end of the parade. Kavenius told state investigators he was struck by Grose's tractor, but Grose denied hitting the officer.

The report said Kavenius then chased Grose on foot until Brown joined the pursuit in a police SUV and caught up to Grose's tractor. The police pulled in front of the tractor, which came to a stop as it bumped the SUV. That's when Kavenius shocked Grose with the Taser.

Grose, a retired truck driver, said he's unlikely to participate in future parades. "I think I probably have retired from parades," he said.

Original report here

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Are you allowed to be rude to a cop?

David Hackbart was mad, and he wanted to show it, but he didn't think he would end up in federal court protecting his right to a rude gesture and demanding that the city of Pittsburgh stop violating the First Amendment rights of its residents.

Hackbart, 34, was looking for a parking space on busy Murray Avenue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood on April 10, 2006. Spotting one, he attempted to back into it, but the driver of the car behind him refused to back up and give him sufficient room. Hackbart responded in the classic way. "I stuck my hand out the window and gave him the finger to say 'Hey, jerk, thanks,' " says Hackbart. "That's all I was trying to say — 'Thanks, thanks a lot.' "

At that moment, a voice rang out telling Hackbart not to make the rude gesture in public. "So I was like, How dare that person tell me? They obviously didn't see what happened. Who are they to tell me what to say?" he says. "So I flipped that person off. And then I looked, and it was a city of Pittsburgh cop in his car right next to me."

That turned out to be police sergeant Brian Elledge, who happened to be passing in the other direction in his cruiser. Elledge whipped around and pulled Hackbart over, citing him under the state's disorderly-conduct law, which bans obscene language and gestures. And here's where the problem lies, says state American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) legal director Witold (Vic) Walczak: the middle finger and equivalent swear words are not legally obscene. In fact, courts have consistently ruled that foul language is a constitutionally protected form of expression. A famous 1971 Supreme Court case upheld the right of a young man to enter the Los Angeles County Court House wearing a jacket emblazoned with the words "F___ the Draft." (Read about how disorderly conduct is often a cop's call.)

"The law is clear that people have the constitutional right to use profanity, especially when it comes to government officials, because that is a form of political speech," Walczak says. "But despite that, we have police officers regularly misapplying the law to punish people who offend them — that's really what it comes down to."

U.S. District Judge David Cercone ruled in March that the citation, along with the $119.75 court costs imposed by a city court, was clearly unconstitutional. The question, however, is whether the city has a pattern of tolerating this kind of constitutional violation. The ACLU says it found 188 cases from 2005 to 2007 in which people were cited under similar circumstances, despite an entry in the police department's training manual making clear that vulgar speech is not illegal.

The question was set to go to trial in Federal District Court last week, but the matter was delayed at the last moment while the two sides explored a settlement. The city's law department declined to comment on the case.

The problem is not confined to Pittsburgh. In 2007, a woman in Scranton, Pa., was cited for yelling obscenities at an overflowing toilet in her home — a tirade overheard by her neighbor, an off-duty police officer. She was later acquitted on constitutional grounds, and the city paid her a $19,000 settlement. "We probably handle a dozen of these cases every year," Walczak says. "We're actually negotiating with the state police right now, trying to force them to change their training and written materials to make clear you can't do this."

It is, of course, part of a larger question. The recent controversy over the arrest of historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. — who was charged with disorderly conduct in his home after police arrived to investigate an erroneous report of a burglary in progress — was cast in racial terms: a white officer distrusting a black homeowner. But Walczak says this issue seems to have more to do with a police officer being confronted by an angry and disrespectful person and turning disorderly-conduct laws into a "contempt of cop" law, as he puts it. "Frankly, I think having someone dropping the F-bomb is better than resisting arrest or taking a swipe at a police officer," Walczak says. "But what we're seeing too often is that police who are offended by a lack of respect, often manifested by profanity or cursing, will punish people for that."

Elledge and the city police department have consistently refused to comment on the case. But Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, says police officers are not out to systematically punish people who mouth off. "There is certainly no substitute for good judgment on the street," says Pasco, whose organization represents officers nationwide, including Pittsburgh, "and if in the officer's judgment, maintenance of order is going to be preserved by giving a citation or making an arrest, then the officer is going to use his judgment to make that arrest or issue that citation."

Officers clearly have varying levels of tolerance for rudeness from the people they encounter, he says, but he expressed little sympathy for anyone making rude remarks to or gestures toward officers. "Police officers have better things to do than give people citations," he says. "And if people are doing things to distract police officers from doing those things, then they should be held accountable in some way."

But Hackbart, a paralegal who learned about court rulings on vulgar language in a communications-law class, says police should not be able to punish people by issuing citations they know to be unconstitutional. Elledge "shouldn't be allowed to conduct himself like that with no repercussions," he says. "Does everybody have to go through this to defend themselves against a bogus charge?"

Original report here

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Young black college student withdraws her gang rape allegations after video of her surfaces

This happened in New York. In Britain, several women have gone to jail over false rape allegations. It would be justice if the b*tch below did too -- preferably for a long time, There was police and judicial malpractice here. The men should not have been given an impossible bail demand based on an uncorroborated complaint. They were indeed judged guilty until proven innocent -- and on the flimsiest grounds. It's only because an outsider gave the cops a video showing her form that they started to act responsibly

For a while, Stalin Felipe thought his life was over. Falsely accused by a college freshman of being one of five men who she said tied her down and gang-raped her at Hofstra University in New York, Felipe was being held on half a million dollars bail and facing countless years behind bars if convicted of a heinous crime he knew he didn't commit.

Felipe, 19, is in the clear now, as are the four other men Danmell Ndonye, an 18-year-old student, said had raped her in a dorm at the university's Hempstead campus on Long Island. Ndonye confessed to police late on Wednesday that she made the whole story up after a cell phone video surfaced showing her involved in consensual sex with several men in a bathroom in the dorm.

But for Felipe, being accused and arrested was a harrowing experience, and he is not keeping quiet about it. In an exclusive interview with, he described his time in prison, his feelings upon being wrongly suspected of a terrible crime, and his thoughts on the woman who falsely accused him.

On Sunday morning, Felipe said, he left a party at Hofstra and went home to the Bronx to hang out with his girlfriend. That evening, he said, he saw police outside his apartment building. "I went out to get food. I come back, and I'm being handcuffed," Felipe told It was not until he was sitting in the back of a Nassau County police car, surrounded by officers, that he began to get an idea of what he had been accused of. "They are asking me, 'Was there rope? Was there rope?' But they're being indirect, so I'm not really sure what they mean," Felipe said. He was taken to prison, where he and his 20-year-old brother, Kevin Taveras — another suspect named by Ndonye — were held on $500,000 bail each.

"I was devastated. At first I kept thinking 'we'll get through this,' but then it just kept getting worse -- saying we raped her, then that there was rope," Felipe told "And I know no one's going to pay one million dollars," he said, referring to the bond. "We're looking at at least six to eight months due to the trial."

Being in prison was like being "in a cage," Felipe said. But the worst part was being perceived as a monster when he knew the truth. "It seems more like you're guilty until proven innocent," Felipe told "Our names were tarnished. We were rapists, we were dirt, we were dogs. "We weren't even suspects. We were rapists."

As for the 18-year-old freshman who accused him of being a rapist, Felipe had very little to say. "I don't know her from a hole in the wall," he said. "I found out her name today from the newspapers. If she didn't know there was a video out there, she wouldn't have cared. She would have let us rot in jail."

Felipe said he cannot provide many details of the night the incident occurred, due to an ongoing investigation. Authorities have said they are considering filing charges against Ndonye. But on a few key facts, he is adamant. Felipe insists he did not have sex with Ndonye, he did not touch her, and he had nothing to do with videotaping her sexual encounter.

"I grew up in an all-women household — my mom, my sisters, my grandma. They would never raise me to treat a woman like that," Felipe said. "It really hurt. I treat all women with respect." Felipe admits he had at least one thing to be grateful for throughout his ordeal. "I want to thank God that I was with my brother. He was with me in there." Now that both he and his brother have been cleared of charges, Felipe is enjoying his freedom. "I'm home now," he said, with a smile.

Original report here

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Coroner attacks British police for failing to protect mother persecuted by youth gang

A gang intensified its hate campaign against a vulnerable mother and her two disabled children after they discovered that she had gone to the police, an inquest was told yesterday.

The “street kids”, some as young as 10, began smashing Fiona Pilkington’s windows and one parent even challenged her on her doorstep after spotting a uniformed officer leaving her house.

Mrs Pilkington, 38, contacted police 13 times in the year before she killed herself and her severely disabled daughter, Francecca, 18, by igniting petrol in her parked car in 2007.

There was never an arrest or charge, even though Leicestershire police had at least eight separate criminal Acts that they could have used to tackle the hate crimes against the family.

A record of the 33 calls that the single mother made over seven years showed that at one point youths were loitering in her garden but the police log showed that she was thought to be overreacting. She also called about death threats made to her dyslexic son Anthony and how they were under siege at their home as children threw stones, smashed windows and shouted obscenities.

On the second day of the inquest, Olivia Davison, the assistant deputy coroner for Rutland and North Leicestershire, repeatedly asked why

“common sense and basic old-fashioned policing” had not identified the family as extremely vulnerable. She said that their human rights were being breached because they were victims of a campaign at their home in the village of Barwell, Leicestershire.

During four hours of intense questioning from the coroner, Chris Tew, then the acting Chief Constable of Leicestershire, admitted that his force had failed to recognise that the family’s 33 pleas for help were all linked. The force classified the offences as antisocial behaviour rather than as a crime. He said that things had changed in the force and by the end of this year 2,000 officers would have been trained to spot vulnerable people who were either physically or mentally disabled.

In one exchange, Ms Davison said: “This family was patently vulnerable to the eye — you don’t need training.”

The coroner questioned why an officer who visited the family and saw that they were clearly frightened could not have done more to help. “Why wasn’t it open to him to take action? I’m hitting a wall here,” Ms Davison said.

In one incident in 2007, Anthony, who is now 19 and was sitting in the court at Loughborough Town Hall, had had stones pelted at his head by the gang as he cycled home and the police asked the council to draw up “antisocial behaviour contracts” with the offending children’s parents.

Ms Davison asked: “Would somebody not have thought of arresting someone and prosecuting them, taking them to the youth court rather than dealing with it through the council and drawing up a letter they will probably ignore?”

Mr Tew said: “It’s for an officer to decide.”

Ms Davison: “You have seven or eight Acts of Parliament and criminal offences which are smack on to deal with what this family was facing.”

Mr Tew: “If each offence can be proved and there’s evidence \.”

Mrs Pilkington, described as shy and terrified by the gang, did not want to proceed with prosecutions, preferring instead to have the children warned. But Mr Tew, now retired, agreed with the coroner that the police could have taken matters into their own hands, realising that she might not have known what was best.

Of the family’s thirteen calls made to police in the year that Mrs Pilkington and her daughter died, five resulted in no one being available to attend the family home, seven led to a visit by an officer and one in a visit from a community support volunteer, the jury was told.

In one of the family’s accounts, a child was said to have told Mrs Pilkington that the gang could do whatever they wanted and “there was nothing she could do about it”. She was described as being in utter despair, depressed and with her hair falling out from the stress. She drove her daughter to a lay-by near Earl Shilton on the A47 and doused the car in petrol before igniting it. Their charred remains were identified by DNA.

Mrs Pilkington had written a series of letters to her MP, David Tredinnick, saying that she was at a loss about how to protect her children from the “street kids”.

Mr Tew said he hoped that changes implemented after the deaths would mean that today’s force would classify the campaign waged against the Pilkington family as a hate crime against the disabled, an actual crime rather than antisocial behaviour.

Original report here

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

British police refuse to apologize for negligence that left an innocent man in jail for many years

It's routine for police to suspect and test confessions but the British police were too lazy. They just locked a crazy guy away and let a really dangerous crazy guy walk free. Case solved! And nothing could move them off their fat behinds after that

Police yesterday named a dead man as the killer of a barmaid 30 years ago. DNA taken from the body of David Lace, which was exhumed last month, matched samples in the car where Teresa De Simone, 22, was raped and strangled.

Astonishingly, police had ignored a confession from Lace, and an innocent man served 27 years in jail for the crime.

The body of David Lace was exhumed in August, and his DNA matched that found at the scene where Teresa De Simone was murdered in 1979. A troubled loner with an aggressive temper and a string of theft convictions, Lace was just 17 when he committed the brutal killing in Southampton in 1979. He confessed to police four years later, after being arrested for theft, and begged them to send him to prison, saying he could not cope with the guilt. But by then mentally-ill Sean Hodgson had been jailed for life and detectives dismissed Lace's confession.

In one of the worst miscarriages of justice in British history, Mr Hodgson served 27 years before new DNA evidence proved his innocence earlier this year.

Lace killed himself in 1988, four days after the ninth anniversary of the murder.

Yesterday Hampshire Police said it was 'regrettable' Mr Hodgson had spent so long in jail. But the force declined to apologise, even though he could have been freed 11 years ago if Lace's confession and DNA evidence had been made available to his lawyers.

The case has now been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission amid criticisms that the original detectives made a series of blunders. Crucially, they failed to take a blood test from Lace in 1983 or pass his file to the Director of Public Prosecutions. They simply dismissed him from the investigation.

It emerged yesterday that Lace had been kicked out of his family home as a teenager due to behavioural problems and lived in a series of care homes. On the day of the murder, December 4, 1979, he had stolen cash and a rucksack from his lodgings in Portsmouth and walked to Southampton. There in the evening, he saw clerical worker Miss De Simone, a part-time barmaid, in a pub car park.

In his 1983 confession, he said he tapped on Miss De Simone's car window and asked her the time. He then forced his way into the car, locking the doors to stop her escaping. He raped and strangled her in a violent struggle, leaving her body in the back seat and fleeing with her handbag and jewellery.

But detectives found 'numerous and significant inconsistencies' in his description of the car and Miss De Simone's clothing. They did not take a blood sample, which would have shown he had the same blood type as the killer. They did take samples, however, from some of the six other men who confessed to the crime, suggesting that they did not take the Lace confession seriously. Officers also failed to pass his file to the Director of Public Prosecutions, predecessor of the Crown Prosecution Service.

Detective Chief Inspector Phil McTavish said yesterday: 'We would have expected a referral to the DPP. We found no evidence that this was done.' He added: 'It's clear that samples were obtained from some of the suspects, but there is no indication one was taken from Mr Lace.'

A year after his confession Lace robbed a post office at knife-point and was sentenced to five years and nine months in jail. Shortly before his suicide, he told friends and family he had killed someone in Southampton years earlier when 'things got out of hand'. He killed himself on December 8, 1988.

When the De Simone case was reopened in March this year, police found Lace's confession and a crosscheck on the DNA database found a close match with his sister. This led to the exhumation of his body last month. The DNA match means there is just a billion-to-one chance that he was not the killer.

Mr Hodgson, now 58, from County Durham, had also initially confessed to the murder. He retracted the confession but was convicted at Winchester Crown Court in 1982, despite evidence that he was a pathological liar and had falsely claimed to have taken part in 200 crimes.

Mr Hodgson could have been freed in 1998 but for a mistake by the police. His lawyers asked for permission to re-examine forensic evidence, but were told it no longer existed or had been lost. But in March, when Mr Hodgson appealed again, the crucial DNA evidence was provided and proved his innocence.

Mr Hodgson's lawyer, Julian Young, said he intended to sue for compensation. He said: 'It appears the police, for reasons obviously I don't know - I've never seen the file - decided they were not going to treat Lace as a suspect.' Mr Young said a fresh appeal could have been launched much earlier if Mr Hodgson's lawyers had known about Lace's confession.

Miss De Simone's mother, Mary Sedotti, said last night: 'When Lace made his confession he seemed to know a lot but I suppose the police thought they had the right man in prison so they never went much further. Knowing what I do now, I wish they had. 'We are just relieved, I suppose, that all this has come to a close. I didn't think they would find anybody after all this time.'

Original report here

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Atlanta’s police chief tries to excuse illegal searches

Earlier this week we reported on the police invasion of a gay bar. One problem, in reporting the case, was that the police couldn't seem to settle on a story as to what happened. Now they have And it's full of holes.

Police Chief Richard Pennington has done what all police chiefs do when their officers do something wrong. Defend them, pretend it was all fine, and hope it will go away. Obviously the next tactic is to "investigate" the officers before exonerating them.

According to Pennington police officers claimed to have witnessed illegal activity. The "illegal activity" they claim was to have seen patron's having sex with one another. The real problem is that NO ONE was charged with anything like that. Surely if undercover police officers witnessed such an incident, right before their eyes, they could conduct an arrest. But they didn't. Not a single patron was charged with any such thing.

Instead what the police did was send in nine undercover cops who were later joined by a dozen more uniformed officers along with a dog unit. The police showed up with three jail vans, clearly anticipating arrests of lots of people. The police allgeded that their investigation began because of claims that drugs were being dealt in the bar. Again, NO ONE was arrested on drug charges either.

When the police arrived, without any warrant, they forced all 62 patrons in the bar to lie on the floor while police illegally, and without permission, searched through each person's pockets looking for the drugs that they claimed were there. NONE were found. Then the identity of each person was recorded, even though they were not charged with anything or had been suspected of a crime, before they were released. People were detained for several hours though they had done nothing wrong.

The only charge the police could find was to claim that men dancing in underwear qualified as a "adult entertainment" which requires a license. What bullshit! A lawyer says that patrons "were not free to go. There was no suspicion any of them had committed a crime. This is unbelievable." So far ten of the people detained illegally have filed complaints against the police department.

Original report here

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

New Mexico: Judge rules against kneejerk police

The judge granted that the plaintiff has liability under the Fourth Amendment and that law enforcement does not have immunity. In my opinion, a major victory for liberty and freedom.

The case: St. John v Alamogordo Public Safety, U. S. District Court of New Mexico, No. 08-994 BB/LAM.

Mr. St. John went into a movie theater openly carrying a holstered handgun. New Mexico has no law forbidding the open carry of a handgun.

The theater owner called Alamogordo Public Safety. Four law enforcement officers (LEO) approached Mr. St. John and with force removed him from the theater, took his handgun and patted him down. After checking, found out that the handgun was legal and that he was not a criminal, returned his handgun and let him go back to the movie but without his handgun, which he placed in his vehicle.

Mr. St. John filed suit in state court but the case was moved to a federal court because Mr. St. John alleged that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated and also asserts his rights under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act. The undisputed fact is that Mr. St. John seizure was unreasonable. He had not committed a crime, was not committing a crime and was not about to commit a crime.

The court stated that “the firearm alone did not create a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity”. The court went on to state that the “Defendants (LEO) had no legitimate reason to engage Mr. St. John in the first place”, also the “Defendants (LEO) had no reason for seizing Mr. St. John”, “Mr. St. John had done nothing to arouse suspicion”.

The judge did rule that the Defendants (LEO) did violate Mr. St. John’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Lastly and the best part of this case was that the judge stated that the “Defendants (LEO) motion for summary judgment is denied with regard to qualified immunity”. In short, the LEOs can be sued. I hope that Mr. St. John also sues the theater owner. The theater owner could have asked Mr. St. John to leave the theater or could have put up a sign; instead he acted like a jerk and called in the Gestapo.

This ruling means that the law enforcement officers will have to think about what they are doing and begin to make sound judgment and not act on impulse. They will have to take responsibility for their action and/ or maybe face a lawsuit. Law enforcement officers, sometimes, have to make quick decisions but without taking any responsibility and with immunity. But the judicial system tells us, the citizens, if we do the same thing we will be held accountable and liable. Now things have changed, law enforcement officers will be held accountable and without immunity. Change I can live with!

This case is not over, it will be appealed and could go to the U. S. Supreme Court and with the people they have on that court, I think that the outcome will be a lot different. But for now, We the People can claim a victory.

Original report here

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

“You can’t do this to people”

As a 45-year-old single mother of two caring for a crippled brother, Robin McDermott was well-acquainted with adversity. When Robin's brother woke her up early in the morning on January 23, 1998 with the news that her older son, Morgan Smith, was being arrested on a DUI charge, she knew things were about to get just a touch worse.

The resident of Springfield, Missouri most likely did not anticipate being needlessly attacked by a police dog, hauled off to jail, and spending the next decade in a lengthy legal struggle with a corrupt and abusive municipal government – simply because she failed to demonstrate the cringing, reflexive submission expected from those of us who don't wear government-issued costumes.

Bleary-eyed from lack of rest, clad in slippers and a nightshirt, Robin turned on the porch light and stepped outside to learn what was going on. She asked the officer who had conducted a field sobriety test if Morgan could briefly speak with her inside the house; she wanted to satisfy herself that her son had indeed been driving while intoxicated. "He said, 'Well, it's a little late for that. He's going to jail,'" Robin recalled in an interview with the Springfield News-Leader, mimicking Officer Tom Royal's smug, officious tone.

Understandably offended by the dismissive tax-feeder (or, to use her preferred description, "donut-burner") in her driveway, Robin found her mood worsening as the police deployed a drug-sniffing dog named Caesar to search Morgan's vehicle. She went into her house, put on some jeans, made a 911 call to protest the officers' behavior, and then went back out to her porch to confront them again.

As a student of constitutional law who was familiar with police tactics, Robin was justifiably suspicious that the officers – five in all – were looking for a pretext to forfeit (that is, steal under the color of "law") the pickup truck and anything else on which they could put their hands. Her suspicion was sharpened when the police allowed the dog off its leash to roam freely around the property – a violation of the city's "dog at large" ordinance.

Knowing that it was possible to tow the pickup truck to another location to continue the search, Robin ordered the police off her property. The officers refused, despite the fact – confirmed in subsequent legal proceedings – that they had already summoned a tow truck and had thus had no reason at all to conduct the search in the driveway.

By this time, Robin's fuses were thoroughly blown, a fact reflected in the increasingly salty language she used to demand explanations from the police – particularly regarding the large, potentially violent dog that they were permitting to run loose in her front yard.

Robin never budged from her front porch – meaning that she was more than thirty feet away from the scene of the search. As a federal court would later observe: "At no point did she offer any force or violence, or threat thereof, nor did she seek to close the distance between herself and police."

Nonetheless, Robin was thrown face-down on the ground by Officer Royal, handcuffed, and arrested under a city ordinance forbidding citizens to "resist or obstruct a city officer making an arrest or serving any legal writ, warrant or process or attempting to execute any other duty imposed on him by law."

Robin's "resistance" or "obstruction" consisted of heckling a knot of self-important armed bureaucrats who were acting as petty tyrants by seeking a pretext to expand their DUI-related search. Her "crime" was to display insufficient docility in the face of armed aggression by agents of the state. As she commented in a telephone interview with Pro Libertate, "I wasn't cordial enough for their tastes when they invaded my property."

"You would beat up an old grandma?" Robin protested as Royal rudely cuffed her wrists. "If you're a grandma, why don't you act like one?" Royal reportedly replied.

While Royal assaulted and taunted her, Robin endured an even greater violation of her person: Caesar, who had been permitted to run free, vaulted onto the porch and bit Robin several times in the thigh and buttocks, leaving her with severe puncture wounds. She was shuttled to a local hospital and then to jail in a police wagon, the interior of which was drenched in urine; this helps explain why the wounds inflicted by Caesar (and, indirectly, by his criminally negligent handler) would become infected and fester for weeks.

Released from jail the following morning, Robin's inchoate anger had been catalyzed into resolve. "I went to bed that night thinking I was at least secure in my own bedroom, my own property," she recalled to Pro Libertate. "The next thing I know there are police – armed men – strutting across my property and arrogantly dismissing my rights. They just can't treat people that way."

As is the case with all ordinances of its kind, Springfield's edict against "resisting and obstructing" a police officer was designed to give cops a bludgeon to harass, intimidate, and punish people who annoy them without committing an actual crime.

Representing herself, with a public defender in an advisory role, Robin requested a jury trial – which was heard in a county court, rather than by a Springfield municipal judge. She won acquittal on the charge of obstructing an officer and a second charge of third-degree assault (arising from an uncorroborated allegation that she bit one of the arresting officers while in the hospital, which, if true, would have required that Robin receive treatment for rabies).

Exonerated of any "criminal" behavior, Robin proceeded to give the city of Springfield unshirted hell. With the benefit of a smattering of legal education and a full, foamy head of righteous rage, Robin filed a civil rights lawsuit against Springfield, Police Chief Lynn Rowe, several officers, and the assistant city prosecutor. This began a legal war of attrition that would last nine years, cost Springfield an estimated $11,587.16, exhaust the services of six city attorneys, and – more importantly – claim countless hours of Robin's life that she could have put to much better use had she not been needlessly assaulted on her own front porch that chilly January morning.

On two occasions, Robin's suit was dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Dean Whipple, who ruled that she had been properly arrested.

Referring to Judge Whipple, Robin commented to Pro Libertate: "He's the orneriest, most willful old cuss – he's just as stubborn as I am. In spite of everything, I just adore him, because he was fair. He understood that I'm not an attorney, and he was willing to help me understand many of the difficult legal issues, but he didn't give me any latitude; he forced me to make my case. I think it would be fun to play a round of golf with him, or maybe spend some time shooting pool."

After each dismissal, Robin – displaying the tenacity of a Pit Bull – filed another appeal. On her third attempt she succeeded in getting a jury trial. In an odd turn of events, the same Judge Whipple who had twice dismissed Robin's case ruled that the Springfield anti-obstruction statute – Ordinance 26-17 – improperly allowed the police to criminalize constitutionally protected speech. This resulted in a judicial order that Springfield pay Robin $25,000 as punishment for violating her rights.

Displaying a dishonest child's gift for depraved creativity and a pathological indifference to truth, the Springfield municipal government had restructured its ordinance code; by the time Judge Whipple ruled against Springfield, the measure in question was not listed as Ordinance 26-17, but rather 78-32(1). This supposedly meant that the ruling didn't apply to the current law. (The city government had earlier played a similar trick with the municipal "dog at large" ordinance, quietly revising it subsequent to Robin's arrest to provide an exception for the police.)

Not only did Judge Whipple not buy that argument, he was offended that Springfield was trying to sell it: On August 13 he issued an order barring enforcement of the ordinance, by whatever designation the city chose for it.

And yet, Springfield continues in its dilatory tactics. "They haven't paid a cent," Robin reported to Pro Libertate. "They're trying to get me to sign a settlement document that would hold them 'harmless,' and refusing to release the money to me until I do. They've gone so far as to send me a scanned copy of the check for $25,000 and said that all I have to do is get it is to sign a document dismissing any further claims against the city 'with prejudice.'"

Robin is smart enough to understand that the officials making that offer are not negotiating from a position of strength, where the legal issues are concerned. "I've filed a motion for civil contempt," she explains. "I'm requesting that the court impose a continuing penalty of $1,000 a day until they pay me what they owe me." Regrettably, those costs will be passed along to the productive residents of Springfield, rather than being extracted from the representatives of the parasite class responsible for the violation of Robin McDermott's rights – but she isn't responsible for that fact.

Robin's long-sought and hard-won triumph shouldn't engender unrealistic hopes that we can beat the statist system by using that system; her happy outcome is a blessed anomaly. Had the same incident occurred in 2008, rather than 1998, it's entirely possible that some overgrown adolescent in uniform would have shot or tasered Robin to death.

During the decade that Robin battled for her rights in court, overkill has become institutionalized – a fact of which she is painfully aware. "Our local Sheriff just applied for a grant to buy a grenade launcher with drug forfeiture funds," she complained to me. "Just what on earth does the Sheriff need with a grenade launcher?"

Robin McDermott, a small woman with burdens that Atlas might find daunting, is a "real American" – an individual who, in the words of former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper, is willing to meet the police "at the threshold at home and [say], 'no, you can't come in. Show me your warrant.'" In this age of collectivist conformity, real Americans are tragically thin on the ground. One of them lives in Springfield, Missouri.

Original report here

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A setup??

I imagine that we all have seen a movie or television show where the bad guy is being led away in handcuffs while loudly proclaiming to anyone who will listen; “I was framed!” In most cases, this scene is presented to provide a sense of closure and slight comedic relief. We know the acts of the bad guy were his own and we recognize his pleas as what they are; a last desperate attempt to avoid responsibility for his actions.

In the real world, claims of being framed are far rarer. The more common defense often raised by attorneys is that their client was “entrapped.” As Wikipedia so aptly states, “Entrapment is the act of a law enforcement agent inducing a person to commit an offense which would be illegal and the person would otherwise have been unlikely to commit.” The important portion of that definition is “and the person would otherwise have been unlikely to commit.” It does a defendant no good to claim that they were entrapped if they had already taken steps toward accomplishing the illegal act before any inducement was offered.

But can law enforcement themselves be entrapped? That seems to be the extraordinary claim of the Racine, Wisconsin police department in the case of an open carrier who was arrested for obstructing justice after he apparently refused to identify himself when officers began questioning him for open carrying on the porch of his own home.

The facts are still emerging, but reports seem to agree that officers were in the neighborhood where Frank Rock lives on Wednesday night investigating the shooting of one or more raccoons. While in the neighborhood, officers noticed that Rock, sitting peacefully on his front porch, was openly wearing a holstered handgun, which is legal in Wisconsin, and began questioning him. When Rock refused to identify himself or answer their questions, officers arrested him, charging him under Wisconsin statute 946.41(1) which reads:

Whoever knowingly resists or obstructs an officer while such officer is doing any act in an official capacity and with lawful authority, is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

The issue then becomes a twofold inquiry. First we must ask whether the officers were acting under “lawful authority” when they questioned Rock about his legal activity on his own property and secondly, whether his refusal to answer their questions rises to the level of resistance or obstruction required by the statute.

Luckily, we have clear legislative and judicial guidance on both issues. On the first issue, the Supreme Court held in Terry v. Ohio that investigative stops are justified (and therefore lawful authority) only when the officer has reasonable and articulable suspicion that a crime is being or will be committed. In the December 2005 issue of Police Chiefs Magazine, this specific topic was covered by Massachusetts attorney John M. Collins in an article entitled “Responding to Gun Possession Reports.” In his article he makes two things very clear. First, he states that “Where simply carrying a handgun is not in itself illegal and does not constitute probable cause to arrest, it follows that carrying a handgun, in and of itself, does not furnish reasonable suspicion justifying a Terry stop.” He follows this by giving officers options on how to proceed in such an event, starting with seeking voluntary compliance by the citizen. However, he notes that “If the person … refuses to answer, and the officer does not otherwise have (legally sufficient) reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, the officer must allow the person to continue on his or her way.”

Uh Oh … It appears that the Racine Police Department has a problem already doesn’t it? But we should not consider this analysis dispositive. So let’s move on to the second issue of whether Rock’s refusal to answer the officer’s question was sufficient to constitute resistance or obstruction.

Under Wisconsin statute 968.24, which effectively codifies the United States Supreme Court ruling in Terry, an officer, “after having identified himself or herself as a law enforcement officer, may stop a person in a public place for a reasonable period of time when the officer reasonably suspects that such person is committing, is about to commit or has committed a crime, and may demand the name and address of the person and an explanation of the person’s conduct.”

However, this statute does not extend so far as to impose a penalty for failure to respond to such a demand. Such a penalty was the subject of a 2004 Supreme Court refinement of Terry in the case of Hiibel v Nevada and the penalty was held to be constitutional, however Hiibel is irrelevant in this case because Wisconsin has enacted no such penalty. In fact, in the July-August 2004 newsletter of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, this very topic was discussed and Wisconsin officers were cautioned to “Beware of misplaced reliance on Hiibel” because “a person may only be arrested for refusing to identify himself if some statute or ordinance makes it unlawful to so refuse under the circumstances” and Wisconsin has no such statute or ordinance.

As a matter of fact, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled on this very issue in the case of Henes v. Morrissey and held that “No law allows officers to arrest for obstruction on a person’s refusal to give his or her name. Mere silence is insufficient to constitute obstruction.”

Wow … It sure seems that the officers overstepped their bounds in this case. And it appears that they know it; because their first reaction when questioned was to claim that it appears they were “set up … to see how they would react to open carry.”

Are they actually claiming that they were entrapped into making an improper arrest? That is an astonishing claim and one that seems to have little purpose other than possibly setting the stage for a defense should Mr. Rock pursue civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for false arrest.

As both an open carry advocate and a supporter of the very difficult job done by our nation’s law enforcement officers, I do not take pleasure in seeing such a lawsuit filed. It means that we have not yet accomplished our primary goal of educating both citizens and law enforcement about the legality of open carry so that law abiding citizens who choose to exercise their rights may do so without fear of these types of encounters.

However, I am not the one who spent 9 hours of his life bereft of liberty and being treated like a common criminal. If Mr. Rock decides to pursue such a course of action, I think he has a very compelling legal story to present to the court. And with the recent release of the memo by Wisconsin Attorney General Van Hollen noting that open carry is legal in Wisconsin, coupled with the clear notification in multiple law enforcement publications and Wisconsin Supreme Court rulings, it seems doubtful that the officers would pass the reasonableness test necessary to enjoy qualified immunity.

It is a sad state of affairs for all concerned. But what it does not appear to have been is a setup.

Original report here

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Monday, September 14, 2009

How just is the justice system in New York?

On paper at least, the U. S. Constitution’s “due process of law” clause is the citizen’s guarantee against wrongful conviction and imprisonment. But once inside a courtroom, all bets are off. Research shows that eyewitness misidentification, false confessions and government use of snitches as witnesses too often put innocent people behind bars.

According to Innocence Project attorneys at the Cardozo School of Law in New York City, courts in 34 states have used DNA testing to reverse more than 230 criminal convictions and free wrongly convicted people who, on average, spent 12 years in prison.

In New York, 24 prior convictions have been nullified. The state’s first reversal took place in 1991 setting aside Charles Dabbs’ 1984 rape conviction. Evidence against Dabbs included identification by the victim and bogus forensic blood tests. After serving seven years in prison, DNA tests on the victim’s underwear proved him innocent.

The latest reversal in New York occurred in 2007 when DNA evidence collected from rape victims in 1985 showed that, after 20 years in prison, a Buffalo man, Anthony Capozzi, was innocent. Capozzi was convicted of two rapes based on identifications by the victims.

“These DNA exoneration cases,” says the Innocence Project, “have provided irrefutable proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events, but arise from systemic defects that can be precisely identified and addressed.”

Eyewitness misidentification testimony was a factor in 74 percent of post-conviction DNA exoneration cases, making it the leading cause of these wrongful convictions. And two in five of these eyewitness identifications involved cross-racial identification. Studies have shown that people are less able to recognize faces of a different race than of their own.

Unvalidated forensic evidence played a role in about 50 percent of the wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA testing. Unlike DNA testing, which is based on solid scientific research, according to the project, other forensic techniques used in courtrooms, such as hair microscopy, bite mark comparisons and shoe print comparisons have never been subjected to rigorous scientific evaluation.

False confessions lead to wrongful convictions in approximately 25 percent of the cases, many involving defendants 18 years of age or younger or developmentally disabled people.

Snitches contributed to wrongful conviction in 16 percent of the cases. Snitch testimony is unreliable because it may be offered in return for deals, special treatment or the dropping of charges.

Governments exist to protect the rights of individuals. But when federal, state and local government prosecutors and judges knowingly tolerate judicial processes that violate the constitutional rights of citizens they, themselves, become rights violators.

Original report here

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Innocent man freed after 10 years in prison

This is a 2006 case but I did not cover it at the time. Better late than never. It is another case of prosecutors and judges obstructing attempts to overturn a miscarriage of justice

State Supreme Court justice Thomas Van Strydonck today freed an AIDS-stricken man who has been imprisoned a decade for a murder prosecutors now say he did not commit. Recent DNA testing showed that Douglas Warney, 44, is innocent of the 1996 slaying of civil rights activist William Beason, prosecutors acknowledged in state Supreme Court today.

Warney was convicted in 1997 of the slaying. The case against him was largely based on a confession he gave in 1996. His lawyers contended that the admission was riddled with errors, and were the rambling of a man with an IQ of 68 who suffered from AIDS-related dementia.

The confession did contain some facts consistent with the crime scene, and defense lawyers now argue that police must have given those facts to Warney then included them in the confession. Warney did know Beason and may have been familiar with Beason's city home, according to trial testimony. Beason, who was 63 and was also known as Solomon Israel, was one of the organizers of the local chapter of the Million Man March.

We now know that Doug Warney is actually innocent and always has been," said local lawyer Donald Thompson.

Peter Neufeld, co-director of the New York City-based Innocence Project, said the Monroe County District Attorney's Office recently conducted DNA testing on crime scene evidence and the DNA results pointed them to a man already incarcerated in New York state for a Utica slaying. Van Strydock also identified the man who admitted to killing Beason as Eldred Johnson Jr. Johnson has admitted that he murdered Beason, Neufeld said.

District Attorney Michael Green also said today that an inmate has confessed to the slaying, and that his admission was consistent with the crime scene evidence. Green would not identify the inmate, but said the prisoner said he acted alone and did not know Warney. That inmate confessed on Thursday, Green said.

The Innocence Project, which uses genetic testing to try to free the wrongly convicted, has challenged the local DA's Office for two years to test evidence in the Beason slaying, but prosecutors had legally fought the requests. Green said today, however, that he asked the Monroe County Public Safety Laboratory in February 2005 to test evidence from Beason's home because there was a theory that Warney might have had an accomplice. "We theoretically could have had a killer walking the street," Green said.

Because of a backlog at the lab, months passed before testing could be conducted. In February of this year, tests showed the presence of one individual's DNA on clothing and blood found at the home, Green said. That DNA matched the inmate, whom defense lawyers say is Johnson.

Warney originally was charged with first-degree murder, which was then a death penalty-eligible offense, but a grand jury instead indicted him on second-degree murder. While it was a potential death penalty case, the charges against him drew national attention. "Warney's confession appears to be the rantings of a man who has only a passing acquaintance with reality," wrote Bob Herbert, a columnist with The New York Times, who contended that Warney should not face the death penalty because the evidence was so shaky.

One of Warney's original attorneys, William Easton of Rochester, was so sure of Warney's innocence that he consented to let prosecutors take a blood sample from Warney without a court order. None of the blood that forensics technicians were able to test from the crime scene matched Warney's. Other blood was found at the scene that did not match Beason's or Warney's.

Warney was prosecuted by Richard Keenan, then first assistant district attorney and now a County Court judge. Keenan, relying on testimony from forensics experts, argued at trial that the blood at the scene could have been there for months and could simply have come from someone who cut himself shaving while visiting Beason.

Easton said that Warney's case should show people that convictions aren't always sacrosanct, and there can be legitimate reasons to revisit questions about the guilt of people. "I think this case is a cautionary tale to anyone who believes that the criminal justice system operates in a fair and flawless way," Easton said Monday.

There were reasons to suspect Warney of the crime, based on some of his past history. He had felony convictions, including robberies in which prosecutors said he beat elderly victims.

Warney supporters argued that he had been released from prison in 1993 and had not engaged in any more crimes since then. And his behavior was akin to that of a person who could wrongly confess to a crime, his attorneys said. Only weeks before the Beason slaying, they said in court papers in 1996, Warney was admitted to a psychiatric unit at Strong Memorial Hospital "after allegedly pulling fire alarms and reporting false incidents." Warney exhibited symptoms "consistent with impaired cognition and/or psychotic behavior," psychiatrists determined.

Approached by Warney's brother, David, the Innocence Project and Thompson agreed two years ago to take on Warney's appeal. They argued that more sophisticated testing was now available which could help resolve unanswered questions. The DA's Office opposed new testing, writing in court papers that "DNA results now would add nothing significant to what we already know or what the jury knew at the time of trial."

The jury was told that Warney may have had an accomplice, even though he said he acted alone.

In 2004, state Supreme Court Justice Francis Affronti rebuffed a bid for DNA testing. He decided that Warney's defense had not met the legal threshold to require testing, and that claims that tests could show someone else had committed the killing were "too speculative." Thompson said the DNA tests now show the fault of that ruling. "This proves that the testing that was requested and the possibility of a favorable result (for Warney) was not too speculative," he said.

Easton said that had the grand jury indicted Warney for first-degree murder, he could have faced execution. "Doug Warney could have faced the death penalty for a charge he is ultimately innocent of, and he has lost the last 10 years of his life in prison for a crime he demonstrably did not commit," Easton said.

Original report here

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Prisoner freed after 13 years sues for wrongful conviction

MILWAUKEE -- A man who served 13 years in prison before his homicide conviction was overturned sued the city of Milwaukee and its police department Thursday, the same day authorities filed new charges against a man whose DNA they say was found on the victim.

Chaunte D. Ott, who was convicted in 1995 in the death of a 16-year-old runaway, claims in his federal lawsuit that officers coerced two people to give false testimony and failed to intervene when DNA tests after his conviction showed he did not commit the crime. "I'm still kind of stunned they had audacity to proclaim I'm guilty of that crime," Ott, 35, said. "But my attitude is, I've never been bitter. I feel like I just have to live each day."

Authorities have now linked the DNA to Walter E. Ellis, 49, of Milwaukee. Police and prosecutors said his DNA matched samples taken from the runaway, Jessica Payne, and at least eight suspected prostitutes killed from 1986 to 2007.

Ellis, already facing two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, was charged Thursday with three more counts of first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of first-degree murder -- the equivalent charge that was state law when the deaths occurred, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Ellis' attorney, Alejandro Lockwood, did not return a message Thursday.

Ellis has not been charged in Payne's slaying or in the death of one of the suspected prostitutes. While the other eight women were strangled, Payne was found partially nude with her throat slit.

A DNA profile from semen on Payne's body did not match Ott, the lawsuit said.

Original report here

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