Monday, May 31, 2010

Lazy British Police face big payout for murder investigation blunders

Rachel Nickell's murder could have been prevented by police, according to a damning report which paves the way for a huge compensation payout by Scotland Yard. But infuriatingly for her family, it adds that no officers can be disciplined over the fiasco because they have all retired.

Miss Nickell's former partner Andre Hanscombe and their son Alex, who as a toddler saw his mother stabbed to death on Wimbledon Common, are expected to receive a public apology from the Met after the report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission is published this week.

Police are expected to offer a six-figure sum in damages to the pair, who have issued a High Court writ seeking compensation over the murder in July 1992. The legal action was launched after Mr Hanscombe, 47, made a formal complaint to the IPCC last November alleging the Met could have done more to prevent Miss Nickell's death at the hands of psychopath Robert Napper.

He also alleged detectives should have locked up Napper before he slaughtered a mother and her young daughter 16 months later. Insiders have told the Daily Mail that the IPCC report is scathing about the fiasco, highlighting how senior officers made wrong decisions about various investigations in the 1990s. A source said: 'It makes it clear that Rachel's death could have been prevented. It goes into great detail about the blunders that allowed Napper to continue his reign of terror.'

Miss Nickell, 23, was stabbed 49 times and sexually assaulted while she and two-year-old Alex took their dog Molly for a walk. For 16 years it remained a notorious unsolved murder. But in December 2008, following a DNA breakthrough in the case four years earlier, Napper finally admitted her manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

As an Old Bailey judge ordered Napper, now 44, to be detained indefinitely in Broadmoor, it was revealed that police missed a series of chances to arrest him before his five-year series of up to 86 sex and rape attacks was brought to a close. Had they taken the first chance to interview him about a rape in 1989, when his mother told police he had confessed the crime to her, he would never have been at liberty to kill former part-time fashion model Miss Nickell.

Napper followed that killing with the grotesque slaughter of Samantha Bisset and her four-year- old daughter Jazmine in their South London home in November 1993.

After submitting a series of complaints to the IPCC in November last year, Mr Hanscombe - who now lives on the Continent - said: 'To have found out that Rachel's death may have been prevented initially left me numb. 'Now that I have had time to come to terms with it, I feel determined to bring all of the issues and events and mistakes out into the light.'

Mr Hanscombe said he wanted an apology from the police and an independent inquiry into the fatal blunders by Scotland Yard which ruined 'countless lives'. He told the Daily Mail that he wanted to 'hold the police accountable for all these apparent failures, going back to 1989, when Napper's mother reported his rape confession to them'. He added: 'It is important for me that all the suffering, the whole ordeal that so many people have been through, is not completely in vain, and that something positive can be taken out of it.'

Mr Hanscombe invited former prime suspect Colin Stagg to help his legal action against the Met. Mr Stagg received £706,000 compensation from the Home Office after being wrongly accused of Miss Nickell's murder. He was cleared in 1994 after a year in jail awaiting trial, but remained a social pariah for a further ten years because police remained convinced, falsely, that he was the killer.

Sources believe Yard chiefs will be keen to reach an out-of-court settlement with Mr Hanscombe and Alex, now 20. The level of compensation could come close to the record £320,000 the force paid to the parents of the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence for the police bungles which hampered the hunt for his killers and caused them additional distress.

Original report here

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Chinese police arrested in 'back from dead' case

Good to see some justice in China -- but how lucky do you have to be to have a "dead" guy turn up?

Chinese authorities have arrested two policemen suspected of torturing a confession out of a man wrongly convicted of murder 11 years ago, state press reported Thursday. Zhao Zuohai, 57, was cleared when the supposed victim showed up alive and well in his former village in the central province of Henan late last month, and he is now accusing police of brutality.

He was charged with murder in 1999, 18 months after an argument with the would-be victim, who had disappeared. A headless, decomposed body was presented as evidence. Zhao was initially condemned to death but the sentence was later commuted to a 29-year jail term.

After being released from prison this week, Zhao accused police of torturing a confession out of him by beating him with sticks, setting fireworks off over his head and depriving him of sleep for about a month, the China Daily said. The wrongful imprisonment and accusations of abuse have cast a spotlight on routine judicial malfeasance and police mistreatment in the communist nation.

"They taught me how to plead guilty. They told me to repeat what they said, and I had to, or I would be beaten," the paper quoted Zhao as saying. "They wrote down what I repeated and said it was my confession."

After his conviction, Zhao refused to appeal because he was afraid of further physical abuse, it added.

So far two policemen have been arrested on suspicion of coercing the confession through force, and a third policeman wanted in connection with the case remains at large, the paper said.

An investigation into Zhao's case has also been launched with provincial prosecutors vowing to penalise judges responsible for Zhao's wrongful conviction, it said.

On Thursday, Zhao was awarded 650,000 yuan (95,000 dollars) in compensation by the Henan high court for his time in jail after earlier receiving a 10,000 yuan payment, China Central Television reported.

A villager said that while Zhai Zuohai was in jail, his wife remarried and two of his children were adopted.

The supposed murder victim, Zhao Zhenshang, 56, told Xinhua he and Zhao Zuohai had been good friends, but fell out over a woman and money. He said he fled the village after hitting Zhao Zuohai, fearing revenge, and stayed away as he had not earned much money and felt ashamed.

Original report here

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

IL: Former cop sues Buffalo Grove, officers over wrongful conviction

A former Willow Springs police officer filed a federal suit against Buffalo Grove and two fellow law-enforcement officers Friday after spending more than 19 years in a Missouri prison following a wrongful conviction for kidnapping.

Gary Engel's conviction for kidnapping a drug dealer was overturned in February and he was freed last month. Missouri was given 60 days to retry Engel, but did not.

The suit named former Chicago FBI agent Robert Buchan and former Buffalo Grove police officer Robert Quid as defendants, as well as the village. According to the suit, they had previously been defendants in a wrongful-conviction suit filed by former Chicago cop Steve Manning over his conviction in the associated James Pellegrino murder in Cook County in 1990, a case made after they had failed to make a previous Buffalo Grove murder stick against Manning.

The suit identifies Engel as a "friend and associate" of Manning and adds that Engel's ex-wife was Pellegrino's sister.

The suit charges that Buchan and Quid tried to compel Engel to testify against Manning in the Pellegrino case and threatened to charge him with a role in the Missouri kidnapping if he refused, even though he maintained he had never even been to Missouri, and that they followed through on that.

According to the suit, Manning's conviction in the murder was overturned in 1998, his kidnapping conviction followed in 2002, and a subsequent civil-rights case against the officers uncovered new evidence that led to Engel's release.

The Missouri Supreme Court found, in vacating Engel's conviction in February, that "material, exculpatory evidence had been withheld" from his defense and that a key witness had been paid for his testimony.

The new suit charges that Buchan and Quid deprived Engel of his right to a fair trial in that they "deliberately withheld exculpatory evidence, as well as fabricated false reports and other evidence."

Manning's case against Quid and Buffalo Grove "was settled for a confidential sum, and without an admission for liability," according to the suit. He won a $6.5 million jury judgment against Buchan and another FBI agent, although that was later "barred" on appeal.

Quid, who has retired to Fort Myers, Fla., declined to comment, and Buchan, also retired, could not be reached for comment. The FBI declined formal comment as well.

Engel's suit was filed by the Chicago firm of Loevy & Loevy, which filed a suit on behalf of Ronald Bell in his videotaped beating by Streamwood police officer James Mandarino on Thursday.

Original report here

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Elderly libertarian activist thrown into tough NYC jail

For the offense of handing out leaflets

Julian Heicklen is apparently being held at Riker's Island without bail until his scheduled court appearance on June 8th. An earlier "update" indicated that Heicklen had been released on bail, but there seems to be differing definitions of the term "Bail & Bond: Remanded."

Some sources use the term "remanded on bail" to mean that the accused has posted bail and has been released. But "remanded" in general means kept or sent back into custody.

An officer of the Manhattan Libertarian Party known to the libertarian community as "Bile" reports on his site, "Blog of Bile," that Julian Heicklen has been "remanded into custody under the charges of "Disorderly Conduct" and "Resisting Arrest A Misdemeanor."

Bile, who witnessed and reported Heicklen's arrest, points out in his latest update that Heicklen "at no time actively resisted arrest" while Bile was watching, and that his disposition was passive, like "someone who was paralyzed or unconscious."

This would lead legal novices to wonder if "Disorderly Conduct" might mean "failure to eagerly participate in one's own illegal arrest" and that "Resisting Arrest" means "not moving."

Original report here

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Six-month suspension for lazy officers who mistook woman's body for a deer

Sometimes the goons get hauled into line

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The two Cleveland police officers who mistook a slain woman's body for a dead deer and drew criticism to a department already accused of being insensitive and uncaring were suspended Tuesday for six months without pay.

Safety Director Martin Flask said the punishment should communicate to officers and the community that Cleveland demands more of its police.

"This is a clear message to the community that this conduct will not be tolerated," Flask said in an interview Tuesday.

That conduct occurred early April 5 after horrified motorists called police to say a dead woman's body had been dumped on the side of Interstate 90 near West 41st Street.

Patrolmen Matthew Prince and David Muniz were assigned to investigate. Instead, they drove past Angel Bradley-Crockett's nude body without stopping or shining their spotlight and told a dispatcher to have ODOT pick up a dead deer. The officers, who each have more than eight years on the job, returned toWest Park Cemetery where they parked their cruiser and spent nearly two hours of their shift on that day.

The incident prompted criticism of the department from throughout Northeast Ohio, including from Police Chief Michael McGrath, who sent a stern message to the department on April 9 telling officers that if they aren't dedicated then find another job.

The chief's memo came two weeks after a commission, formed in the wake of 11 bodies being found in the East Side home of Anthony Sowell, recommended training the the city's police to show more empathy and sensitivity.

The department's Internal Affairs unit investigated Muniz and Prince. The investigation did not uncover any criminal acts by the officers, according to the Cleveland prosecutor.

But Prince, 39, and Muniz, 43, were charged with administrative rule violations, including failing to investigate, neglecting to patrol the area they were assigned and for making false reports about what they were doing while on patrol.

"The actions of the two officers seriously diminished the image and credibility of the Division of Police and resulted in a loss of confidence by the public that the Police will respond when called, and will respond appropriately," Flask said in a written statement Tuesday.

The city's charter had limited Flask's punishment to a 30-day suspension or firing the officers. However, in this instance the officers, who might otherwise have lost their jobs worth $81,800 in salary and benefits, did not object.

The suspension started Tuesday and ends in late November.

"We accept the punishment that the safety director thought was appropriate," said Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Steve Loomis, who defended the officers as having otherwise unblemished records.

Patricia Bradley, Bradley-Crockett's mother, declined to comment Tuesday.

Police say that the 28-year-old woman was robbed, beaten and strangled before being dumped on the roadside.

Stephon Davis, 30, and his 33-year-old girlfriend, Latesha Santos, are in county jail charged with aggravated murder in her death.

With the ruling against the officers, Mayor Frank Jackson's administration announced new measures to supervise police using technology that pinpoints the location of squad cars.

This automatic vehicle location system showed that Prince and Muniz drove past Bradley-Crockett's body at more than 50 miles an hour and that they spent nearly two hours of their shift that day parked in a cemetery.

That technology was installed in Cleveland police cars to help dispatchers assign officers to trouble based on their location.

But the automatic-vehicle locators will now be used by supervisors to monitor officers' movements and dispatchers were not required to check that all of the vehicles' locators were working.

Original report here

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Asset Forfeiture: Are You Guilty Until Proved Innocent?

Quote of the Day: "Under civil forfeiture, police and prosecutors can seize your car or other property, sell it and use the proceeds to fund agency budgets, all without so much as charging you with a crime. Unlike criminal forfeiture, where property is taken after its owner has been found guilty in a court of law, with civil forfeiture, owners need not be charged with or convicted of a crime to lose homes, cars, cash or other property. Americans are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but civil forfeiture turns that principle on its head." - The Institute For Justice, "Policing For Profits"

Civil asset forfeiture is the practice of seizing and keeping property that police claim was used in a crime.

* The government does not have to prove their claim in court under the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt"

* Instead of "innocent until proven guilty" the property owner must prove innocence at his or her own expense

* Incredibly, the funds necessary to pay for that defense are often also confiscated

Police departments are growing more dependent on forfeitures to pay for their budgets. This means no one is safe . . .

* Instead of "protecting and serving" the people, police are pressured to investigate "crimes" which provide the best opportunity to seize property and cash,

* You can lose your car, your cash, or other property through a simple misunderstanding, or because you "look" suspicious

* And even where there are state laws protecting the innocent against abuses, the federal government rewards local police departments for evading state law!

Civil asset forfeiture is a moral and constitutional outrage. Yet the courts permit it. Only public pressure will bring this corrupt and barbaric practice to an end, so we're asking you to tell Congress to End Asset Forfeiture.

You may borrow from or copy this letter . . .

The Institute for Justice report "Policing For Profit," offers a sobering look at asset forfeiture in the United States today. Local law enforcement have used asset forfeiture proceeds to . . .

* purchase football tickets for the district attorney's office

* purchase TV ads for the district attorney's re-election campaign;

* fund a "training seminar" in Hawaii for the staff of the district attorney's office

In one instance, $250,000 was donated to the sheriff's alma mater for a scholarship!

Amazingly, most of this money was taken from people who were never even charged with a crime, let alone convicted. It was stolen money.

"Policing For Profits" also reveals that . . .

* A survey of 770 law enforcement executives found that nearly 40% viewed civil forfeiture as a necessary budget supplement

* A sample of 52 police departments in Texas found that forfeiture proceeds accounted for 14% of their budgets

* There is very little accountability or oversight on how the money is spent

There are a few states with reasonable safeguards designed to protect the innocent against asset forfeiture abuse, but the federal government circumvents these state laws through a program called "equitable sharing." Local police can seize property and hand it over to the federal government in order to bypass state controls.

* The local police agency can get as much as 80% of the proceeds back from the Federal government

* The true owner must fight in federal court for the return of his or her property

* Instead of the government proving guilt, the owner must prove innocence

* The costs of challenging forfeiture is often so great that many forfeitures go unchallenged

In addition, the federal government itself has cleared a $1 billion profit from civil forfeiture. And yet, 80% of the property owners are never even charged with a crime. They are victims of government theft!

I have no problem with laws that require individuals convicted of heinous crimes to forfeit criminal profits and the property they used in the crime. But taking property without even pressing criminal charges is naked theft AND YOU KNOW IT.

The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments say that no person can lose his of her property without due process of law. Honor your oath of office. Repeal the federal forfeiture laws and end equitable sharing.


You can send your letter through's Educate the Powerful System.

If you are as outraged at civil asset forfeiture as we are, we encourage you to forward this message to your friends and share this on Facebook.

Original report here

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Maryland law protects thug cops

It is only cameras that have brought the goons to justice in many instances

Several Marylanders face felony charges for recording their arrests on camera, and others have been intimidated to shut their cameras off. That's touched off a legal controversy. Mike Hellgren explains the fierce debate and what you should do to protect yourself.

A man whose arrest was caught on video faces felony charges from Maryland State Police for recording it on camera. "We are enforcing the law, and we don't make any apologies for that," said Greg Shipley, MSP.

Video of another arrest at the Preakness quickly made its way online, despite an officer issuing this warning to the person who shot it, "Do me a favor and turn that off. It's illegal to videotape anybody's voice or anything else, against the law in the state of Maryland."

But is he right? Can police stop you from recording their actions, like a beating at the University of Maryland College Park?

The American Civil Liberties Union says no. "For the government to be saying it has the power to prevent citizens from doing that is profoundly shocking, troubling, and particularly in the case of Maryland, simply flat-out wrong," said David Roach, ACLU.

Under Maryland law, conversations in private cannot be recorded without the consent of both people involved.

But can that be applied to incidents such as one caught on tape three years ago where a Baltimore officer arrested a teenager at the Inner Harbor? "When you tell me to turn it off because it's against the law, you've proven to me that I'm not secretly taping you," said law professor Byron Warnken. "He doesn't have the right to say, if you don't stop recording me, I'm going to arrest you."

The last official interpretation of Maryland's law came from the previous attorney general saying it was legal for officers to record video on dashcams.

Delegate Sandy Rosenberg is pushing the current attorney general for his opinion on whether you can record them, too. "If he finds that there are circumstances when it's illegal, under existing law, to tape public actions by police or other public officials, then it's appropriate for me to introduce a bill to change that statute," said Rosenberg, Democrat, District 41, Baltimore City.

At this point, the attorney general has not indicated whether he will issue an opinion clarifying this law.

Original report here

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Monday, May 24, 2010

IRS goons

On the one hand, we've got trillion-dollar federal deficits and no sign of any austerity measure on the congressional horizon. On the other hand, we've got dark-suited IRS agents bullying small businessmen for allegedly being four cents behind in taxes.

The letter that the two IRS suits hand-delivered to the owner of Harv's Metro Car Wash in Sacramento claims that with penalties piling up since 2006, Aaron Zeff now owes over $200. Zeff reports that the agents "were deadly serious, very aggressive, very condescending."

The incident is bad press for the Internal Revenue Service. But maybe the taxmen relish this kind of bad press once in a while. After all, they need the rest of us to worry what might happen to us if we step out of line even four cents worth, even if it's only in the fevered imagination of some bored IRS accountant.

Was the hounding of Mr. Zeff a deliberate plan or just zealous overreaching by a couple of goons who forgot to read the manual on being nice to taxpayers? Who knows. Either way, though, do we want the IRS in charge of slapping us with a big tax penalty if we don't sign up for a government-approved health plan? After all, that's a big part of the so-called health care "reform" that Congress is in process of imposing on us.

Original report here

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

America’s slide into a police state

The Baltimore, MD police are determined to establish new law by broadly reinterpreting (to their advantage, of course) how an existing law on wiretapping can be applied. Recording people on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists doesn't fit the traditional interpretation of wiretapping, especially since the use of cameras-on-the-street by authorities has become ubiquitous.

So why is 24-year-old Anthony John Graber III facing criminal charges for a video he recorded on his helmet-mounted camera during a March 5 traffic stop? Because some of the footage was posted to the Internet and it embarrassed the police officer involved, Trooper J.D. Uhler.

When police discovered Graber's YouTube, they got a warrant, searched his parents' house (where he presumably lives), seized equipment and charged him with violating Maryland's restrictive wiretapping law by which it is illegal to capture audio without the other person's consent; Uhler says he didn't consent. In other words, it is the audio and not the video that makes the recording and YouTube posting illegal in Maryland. (The YouTube remains posted with audio as of 17/05.)

The Baltimore Sun explains why Uhler might find the YouTube embarrassing: "Uhler's actions resembled a carjacking more than a legitimate police stop. They [police critics] note that the trooper was driving an unmarked car and was in plainclothes, brandishing a gun and taking about five seconds before he identified himself as a cop."

Baltimore criminal defense attorney Steven D. Silverman says he has never seen the Maryland wiretap law being used as it is against Graber. The application may be technically within the wording of the law but Silverman surmises, "it's more" about "'contempt of cop' than the violation of the wiretapping law."

NOTE: as I wrote the preceding, a message slipped into my inbox. "B" who contributes updates to this blog "From the Backwoods of Hell" comments:

I was reading the local rag this morning, which contained a few notable pieces on the front page: First the police are watching the river festival (the big festival for Wichita every year) from high up in buildings, with a large color photograph of officers peering out windows with binoculars. Then next to this is an article noting that Obama points his fingers at BP, Haliburton, and Transocean for the "ridiculous display" of finger pointing... Finally, and most frightening is an article detailing the new government program to train parking attendants and meter maids to spot terrorists. I find it increasingly difficult to understand how anyone can believe that we do not live in a police state. Who will be trained next? Dog walkers? Nurses as part of the health care "reform?" It seems every day I become more concerned about the place I am..

Original report here

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Australian film shines a light on dangers of DNA dependence

AFTER completing his documentary on how DNA evidence led to one of the justice system's worst mistakes, film-maker Michael Muntz developed his own plan for reform.

It was heavily influenced by the fate of Perth boy Patrick Waring, who would now be in prison for rape but for an independent expert who discovered flaws in the prosecution's DNA evidence. The Waring scandal is the subject of Muntz's film Every Family's Nightmare, to air on SBS on June 9.

Muntz says DNA is still an extremely valuable forensic tool but problems can arise in the way it is applied in the justice system. "The DNA problem in the Waring case is the way it was analysed, and that is where the problem lies. It can lead to miscarriages of justice," Muntz said.

His documentary outlines how the state government's DNA testing lab, PathWest, concluded that the boy's DNA "could not be excluded" from being present in evidence it examined.

"But that was meaningless," Muntz said. "It could just as easily have said that my DNA or your DNA could not be excluded. "If you present that to a jury it plays on the 'CSI effect' and they are likely to convict because everybody trusts DNA."

Waring, who was 16 at the time, spent a year in prison awaiting trial and was exonerated in 2007 due to the work of independent DNA consultant Brian McDonald. "Dr McDonald found that there was male DNA present, that there was not enough to determine whose it was, but there was enough to determine whose it was not -- it was not Patrick Waring's," Muntz said.

He said he would recommend anybody facing court action based on DNA evidence to seek a second opinion.

The film points out that the system used by police and DNA laboratories in this country -- in which police nominate a suspect and then use DNA as verification -- is out of step with the practice in Britain, which now uses DNA to eliminate suspects.

"They look at the objective evidence and have no pre-conceived idea of who the suspect is . . . that is world's best practice," Muntz said.

Original report here

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Surprise! Video raises questions on police shooting

A lawyer for the family of a 7-year-old girl slain during a weekend raid at their Detroit home said yesterday that video footage contradicts the Police Department’s version of events.

Geoffrey Fieger said the video shows that police fired into the home at least once after lobbing a flash grenade through a window. He said that contradicts the department’s explanation that an officer’s gun fired during a confrontation with a resident inside the home.

Aiyana Jones, 7, was shot in the neck and died.

Police said they were trying to acquire the video shot by a television crew.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said yesterday that State Police will take over the investigation of the fatal shooting.

Aiyana was asleep on the living room sofa in her family’s apartment when Detroit police, searching for a homicide suspect, burst in and an officer’s gun went off, fatally striking the girl in the neck, family members said.

When her father, 25-year-old Charles Jones, rushed into the living room, police forced him to lie on the ground, with his face in his daughter’s blood, he said. “I’ll never be the same. That’s my only daughter,’’ Jones told WXYZ-TV.

Assistant Chief Ralph Godbee said officers set off the flash grenade as they entered the apartment with their guns drawn about 12:40 a.m. Sunday with a warrant to look for a suspect in the Friday slaying of a 17-year-old boy.

Original report here

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

NJ: Man arrested for videotaping officers on public street

Cops hate cameras. It tells you a lot about them

A New Jersey man was harassed, intimidated and finally arrested for videotaping a group of cops who were undergoing “training” in a quiet residential neighborhood.

The cops were members of a SWAT team and were using explosives in an abandoned house, apparently training for the next time they violate somebody’s Fourth Amendment rights.

The man stood across the street and began filming and within one minute, he was confronted by a group of officers. They asked why he was filming and he told them he was a documentary filmmaker.

But that didn’t satisfy them, so they continued asking why he was filming as if maybe his answer would suddenly change.

And then they continually asked him for identification, which he refused to provide. They told him he was under legal obligation to provide identification because he was classified as a “suspicious person.”

Really? For filming a bunch of cops causing loud explosions in a quiet residential neighborhood? Who wouldn’t film that?

Then they ordered him to remove his hands from his pockets and informed him how some people go through the trouble of making guns out of cameras so they could shoot police more effectively. Or whatever.

And finally they discovered that the car he pulled up in had a cracked windshield, so they ended up taking him down to the station where he was held until he paid a $750 fine for an apparent suspended license, according to Cop Block.

Original report here

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Killing old women in the name of morality

Helen Pruett is an 76-year-old woman living alone. As is often the case at that age her health is fragile. She previously had three heart attacks but in recent years was doing fairly well, all things considered.

But things took a turn for the worse quite suddenly, unexpectedly and unnecessarily—all thanks to the drug warriors and their ill-considered, counterproductive war on drugs.

While supposedly safe in her home, this elderly woman suddenly found armed thugs shouting and screaming, guns drawn, at every door and window. A swarm of men, with violent intentions, surrounded her. Included in this assault were local and federal agents.

During the raid Mrs. Pruett suffered a heart attack. The drug warriors said they had the house under surveillance for two years and that the "suspect" wasn't there. But Pruett lives alone so the "suspect" is never there. In other words another screw up by incompetent, adrenaline driven armed thugs put another innocent person in harms way all to protect us from the evils of drugs. Who will protect us from the evils of the war on drugs?

According to Pruett's daughter the woman is now in the Intensive Care Unit and is "not in good condition." The daughter said: "She was traumatized. Even the doctor said this is what happens when something tramatic happens. He said its usually like a death in the family or something like that just absolutely scares them half to death, and that is what has happened.

The daughter claims she recently learned of another such raid by the SWAT team and DEA thugs where they "went into some other elderly woman's home who was on oxygen and took her oxygen off of her and scared her half to death."

I am the first to say that illegal drugs are not good things. They do harm people, just not as much as the war on drugs. And the harm illegal drugs do to people are a direct result of the choices made by those who are harmed. The war on drugs is a threat to all of us, and Helen Pruett is a living—for now at least—example of that.

The police chief says he apologize for the mistake. That and $1 will get you a drink at McDonald's but it won't cover the cost of intensive care for the woman he scared.

Chief Kenny Dodd defends his decision to draw guns on the old woman. "These were considered high-risk warrants. These individuals are known drug dealers and they were looking at a lot of time in federal prison, when we serve those type of warrants, we usually go in with guns drawn just to protect ourselves." This is precisely the reason officers get shot by innocent people whose homes are attacked because of the constant errors made by these morons.

In a bizarre move Dodd is now claiming: "We didn't botch a drug raid." Instead he says "he and 12 officers went to the home and did surround it" because the suspect, Tim Washington, was thought to live there. But he didn't live there, Pruett did. That the armed drug warriors surrounded the house of an old woman, because they had it wrong as to who lived there, is a botched drug raid no matter how Dodd tries to spin it. Police confirm Pruett had no connection to the man they were looking for, but don't say they botched it. An even more twisted example of police logic is that Dodd says Pruett's home was never part of the investigation, but that it was listed on the warrant the police secured. So, they never actually investigated who lived at the house, got a warrant to raid the property, did so, an old woman has a heart attack as a result, but don't you dare call it a "botched drug raid." How stupid do you have to be to be a cop in Georgia?

Dodd is now trying to spin the claim that Pruett's heart attack had nothing to do with armed thugs surrounding her home. He says: "We were there to serve an arrest warrant. [Yep, on someone who never lived there.] While we were there, she had a heart attack. [And you don't think the presence of heavily armed, potentially violent, men on her doorstep had nothing to do with it?] We rendered aid. [I guess she should kiss your feet because you didn't shoot her on the spot.]" Dodd says: "I just want our citizens to know the truth." So do I. Here it is. Cops are a threat to your life. The war on drugs is now more dangerous that drugs themselves. Dodd botched the drug raid, Pruett is possibly dying because of it. But Dodd makes it sound as if Pruett was lucky the drug warriors were there since they could help get an ambulance for the heart attack they caused.

In the Cory Maye case it lead to the death of a police officer, and Maye's imprisonment. In the Kathyrn Johnson case the drug warriors managed to gun down the dangerous, terrified, and entirely innocent, 92-year-old woman. Annie Rae Dixon was 84 and bed-ridden when the drug warriors broke into her house by mistake and then, according to them, they "accidentally" shot her to death as she lay in her bed. Rudy Cardenas was out for a walk and happened to walk past a house as drug warriors were attacking. The warriors got confused, probably too many drugs, and thought he must be the suspect. Seeing armed men rushing at him he fled and was shot in the back multiple times, killing him.

Here are some facts. The war on drugs kills more people than the drugs do. Yes, the DEA is more deadly and dangerous than cocaine. And, as our cops militarized and turned into violent, armed gangs they have managed to drive out of the drug market dealers who themselves are not armed or dangerous. In other words, the drug warriors and their violence has resulted in the drug trade itself becoming far more violent. We are in arms escalation race between two armed gangs of violent criminals and innocent people like Helen Pruett, Corey Maye and Kathyrn Johnson get caught in the middle.

We witnessed the same sort of stupid violence when the moralists pushed through Prohibition in the United States. Alcohol production had been a peaceful activity until then. Suddenly we had shoot-outs in the streets and an escalation of violence. Government-sponsored, drug-war-related violence breeds more violence at all levels. This means more and more innocent people will die as a result of the escalation of violence, instigated by the drug warriors.

Original report here

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Gregory Girard: Political prisoner

Massachusetts resident Gregory Girard has never been formally charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one. Yet after spending four months in jail, he will spend the next four years as a ward of the court.

Girard's legally obtained firearms will remain in the possession of the thieves in uniform who stole them on February 9, the same day he was kidnapped by a SWAT team. He will undergo involuntary psychiatric evaluation and treatment, including the administration of psychotropic drugs.

If it is deemed "necessary" by any of the legal or therapeutic apparatchiks who are now in charge of his life, Girard will be taken into custody for "in-patient treatment."

This would almost certainly occur if Girard were once again to express the unacceptable political views that resulted in his four month imprisonment, to wit: The Regime ruling us will eventually send paramilitary goon squads to confiscate legally owned firearms and imprison those who own them.

Because possession of such views made Girard a "danger to the community," a paramilitary strike force was sent to seize his guns, and he was summarily imprisoned.Under the terms of a "continuance without a finding" announced by Salem District Court Judge Richard Mori, Girard will avoid prison only if his conduct and attitude meet with the approval of people who can consign him to the psihuska at whim.

The local Vyshinsky disciple, District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, isn't satisfied with this arrangement and most likely won't relent until Girard is sent to prison. The 45-year-old inventor was initially charged with possession of five "infernal devices" -- which proved to be legal smoke and tear gas grenades -- and four counts of "carrying" what were described as "dangerous weapons" -- police batons and hunting knives he had legally stored in his home.

The remaining accusations involve discharging a weapon in a home-made target range on his property, and possession of two items ambiguously identified as "silencers." Girard and his attorney maintain that the cylindrical objects, which were found on his boat, are flash suppressors he intended to use in order to avoid violating a law against sending up a false distress signal.

It's doubtful that even in Massachusetts a jury would find a reason to send Girard to prison. Yet Blodgett, according to his errand girl (or, as she prefers to be called, assistant DA) Michelle DeCourcey, was "very troubled by the presence of the two silencers and felt it merited a jail sentence" of at least two years.

Gregory Girard has no prior criminal record. He is not accused of committing crimes against person or property.

The same Jonathan Blodgett who is determined to send Girard to prison for possession of two cylindrical pieces of metal is anxious to protect the people who beat Worcester resident Kenneth Howe to death last November 25. That's because Howe's murderers are among the numinous personages swaddled in government-issued costumes and invested with the presumptive authority to kill.

Kenneth Howe was co-owner of a barbershop, a husband, and father of three children. His contributions to society were immeasurably more valuable than anything done by a tax-feeder in an “official” capacity. Last November 25, he has the misfortune of riding in a car that encountered a "sobriety checkpoint."

This particular roadblock -- or "joint sobriety enforcement operation" -- involved the Andover Police Department, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, and the Massachusetts State Police. Like all such operations, this was an orgy of overtime for people who wear government-provided costume jewelry. For the helots on wheels who are forced to endure them, checkpoints of this kind are pregnant with the possibility of lethal violence, as Howe and his friend learned.

Police accounts say that Howe was observed making a “furtive movement” as the car in which he was a passenger approached the checkpoint. The driver says that Howe, who had been smoking a marijuana cigarette, was trying to snuff it and put on his seat belt.

When Jodi A. Gerardi, a female state trooper, approached the car, Howe told her, “It’s only a marijuana cigarette.” After being ordered from the vehicle, Howe tried to flee. (In the official police version, the middle-aged man supposedly jumped through the passenger-side window -- something that would tax the athleticism and agility of a Parkour master.)

As Howe tried to flee, the distaff tax-feeder shrieked, “I’ve been assaulted” — something the driver, the only objective eyewitness, disputes: In fact, that witness claims that it was Gerardi who placed hands on Howe, rather than the reverse.

Gerardi’s account describes Howe as “releasing” a pit bull and “assaulting everyone in his path” as he fled the scene. This is of a piece with her claim that Howe busted a move that would have put the Prince of Persia to shame.

Once again, the other eyewitness to the events doesn't support Gerardi's version. However, he did testify that at least a dozen -- and as many as 20 -- police officers swarmed Howe, beating and otherwise brutalizing him, after their little tag-along (or was she a camp follower?) claimed that he had laid an unholy hand on her sanctified person.

Shackling a dying man: Several members of the thugswarm that killed Kenneth Howe cuff him and put leg restraints on him as he slowly dies from the injuries sustained at the hands of at least a dozen police officers.

Somehow, despite his Jedi-level physical prowess, Howe was taken to the ground “where he continued to disobey orders to ‘stop resisting’ by several other officers,” Gerardi reports, reflecting the common assumption that Mundanes must patiently endure whatever abuse their plunder-supported betters see fit to inflict on them.

After being “softened up,” Howe was handcuffed and placed in leg restraints. He died at a local police barracks shortly after midnight on the morning of November 26.

In a very real sense, Howe was a victim of the federalized Homeland Security State, which underwrites checkpoints as a way of keeping the local condottieri loyal to the Regime. He could also be considered a casualty of Leviathan’s longest and most destructive war, the federal “War on (Non-Government-Approved) Drugs.” More to the point: It is a matter of settled fact that he was a homicide victim.

The Essex County Medical Examiner ruled that the official cause of death was homicide by way of “blunt impact of the head and torso with compression of the chest.” This means that the 45-year-old father was beaten to death, at an East Berlin-style checkpoint, by a tax-subsidized thugswarm.

Acting out of solidarity with the rest of the tax-consuming class, the ME's office moved quickly to take the edge off its findings.

“The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner uses the term homicide to mean a death at the hands of another,” explained the M.E.’s attorney, Jacqueline Faherty. “A medical examiner does not offer an opinion regarding criminal wrongdoing or civil liability.”

In keeping with routine procedure in any case involving the death of a helpless Mundane at the hands of the Bullies in Blue, the Medical Examiner eagerly described the victim’s cardiovascular disease as a “contributory factor” in the death.

Death by Government: Rest in God's Peace, Kenneth Howe.

Despite its patent viciousness, the beating death of Kenneth Howe -- although ruled a homicide -- will not be treated as a crime. “There is absolutely no way reasonable force was used in this case,” insists attorney Frances A. King, who is representing the murder victim’s widow and children. “He has handcuffs on part of that time and leg irons and [the police] are beating him to death.”

Let it not be said that DA Jonathan Blodgett -- the same law-and-order zealot presiding over the persecution of Gregory Girard -- was indifferent to the events of November 25, 2009. In fact, his office was prepared to file charges and prosecute ... the victim, Kenneth Howe, for the supposed offense of "resisting arrest." If Howe had survived the beating inflicted on him, he most likely would be in jail awaiting trial.

Predictably, Blodgett has displayed no measurable interest in building a case against the people who beat Howe to death. Like practically everyone else in his profession, Blodgett apparently assumes that police are entitled to kill anyone at any time who displays anything other than immediate, complete, unconditional submission.

That totalitarian assumption makes a nice matched set with the one undergirding Blodgett's Soviet-style persecution of Gregory Girard -- namely, that Mundanes seeking the means to protect themselves against the Regime's armed enforcers should be treated as fodder for the gulag.

Original report here

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Abductors free George Donnelly

The police hate being filmed -- usually for good reason. It exposes their misbehavior

A phone call to Jim Babb at about 4:45 CDT this evening, Wednesday, May 13, found Babb en route to George Donnelly's home with Donnelly in the seat beside him. Babb had just picked up Donnelly after his release from federal prison in Pennsylvania.

"They singled me out for special treatment," Donnelly told the Libertarian News Examiner. He sat in a cold holding tank for hours and was, purposely he believes, the last person to be processed. Then he was given the archetypal orange jumpsuit and placed in "the hole" for the night.

George Donnelly, a Fr33 Agent contributor and Fully Informed Jury Association (FIJA) activist, had been shooting video of a peaceful FIJA outreach project Tuesday with friends and fellow libertarians Julian Heicklen and Jim Babb when he was jumped by US Marshals, forced to the pavement, had his camera wrenched from his hands, and hauled off to jail.

Libertarians responded fast and forcefully to the illegal abuse of Donnelly. Not only were his actions clearly within his human and Constitutional rights but a Department of Homeland Security document makes it clear that taking photos on federal property is not illegal.

Libertarians performed admirably online in getting the word out and publicizing Donnelly's illegal seizure. It's impossible to cover all of the news and websites in the spontaneously formed "Free George" movement so the following must serve as a sampling.

The Ideas & Minds website posted a full page Free George Action Alert that featured photos and quotes from the Libertarian News Examiner article, "Fed Marshals violently arrest FIJA activist, violate DHS policy" along with links to the Civil Disobedience Evolution Fund and such Free State websites as New Hampshire Porcupine (audio announcement) and Free Keene among many others.

"Bile," who barely escaped a similar fate last fall and currently has a lawsuit in the works ("Manhattan Libertarian sues fed cops for illegal arrest") reported the story on his "Blog of Bile."

The news even crossed the left/right political divide when it was reported, and decried, by the liberal AlterNet.

FIJA, direct benefactor of Donnelly's jury outreach efforts, posted the news top center on its home page. "FR33 George" posters were seemingly everywhere on the net. The Libertarian News Examiner is hoping to get a full report from Donnelly in the near future.

Original report here

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Exonerated but still devastated

Two years ago Tonya Craft had her life turned upside-down. It all started when two little girls were found playing doctor. Such sexual exploration among children is widely known to be normal. But ever since the sex hysterial of the mid 1980s the American legal system has taken a completely different view. Children who engage in such things, although widespread and common throughout human history, are deemed to be either victims of sexual abuse or sex offenders themselves. Absurd as it is, that is how the American legal system now views things.

So when these two little girls were caught the hysteria of adults over the issue took control. The girls thus had every reason to try to defend themselves from hysterical parents and said that their kindergarten teacher, Ms. Craft, was responsible. Craft was arrested, lost her job, and had her children taken from her. She had to raise over $500,000 to defend herself, while prosecutors helped themselves to copious amounts of tax money in order to prosecute her. She had to refinance her home, spend her parent's inheritance and pawn her wedding ring.

This is a classic case of something Ayn Rand emphasized: check your premises. As you will see in the above video one woman starts with the premise that "children wouldn't make something like this up or lie about it." Of course they would, especially if they are facing hysterical, angry adults who catch them touching each other. Children are capable of inventing stories, very capable. The very idea that this is the one area they would not do this is ludicrous and just false. But the hysterics make this claim constantly. The result is that if people believe it then false accusations are encouraged and flourish and innocent people suffer.

This is why it is important to expose the lies—to protect the innocent. Of course, this means anyone doing so is subject to false accusations themselves. Such is the price for defending people in the face of hysteria.

In this interview Ms. Craft mentions the documentary Witch Hunt. I again emphasize that this is a very worthy DVD to own and to share with others. Over the years people have lamented the state of affairs about this issue. Comments have regularly been posted where people say they wish they could do something about the hysteria. They can! You can! Even something as simply as buying the DVD helps as it encourages more such documentaries. But don't just buy it, watch it and share it with others. The more people who understand that these things happen, and why they happen, the less likely it is that they will happen again. Get the DVD here.

Original report here

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Friday, May 14, 2010

A drug raid goes viral

A violent drug raid posted to YouTube catches fire online. But the only thing unusual about the raid is that it was caught on video

Last week, a Columbia, Missouri, drug raid captured on video went viral. As of this morning, the video had garnered 950,000 views on YouTube. It has lit up message boards, blogs, and discussion groups around the Web, unleashing anger, resentment and even, regrettably, calls for violence against the police officers who conducted the raid.

I've been writing about and researching these raids for about five years, including raids that claimed the lives of innocent children, grandmothers, college students, and bystanders. Innocent families have been terrorized by cops who raided on bad information, or who raided the wrong home due to some careless mistake. There's never been a reaction like this one.

But despite all the anger the raid has inspired, the only thing unusual thing here is that the raid was captured on video, and that the video was subsequently released to the press. Everything else was routine. Save for the outrage coming from Columbia residents themselves, therefore, the mass anger directed at the Columbia Police Department over the last week is misdirected.

Raids just like the one captured in the video happen 100-150 times every day in America. Those angered by that video should probably look to their own communities. Odds are pretty good that your local police department is doing the same thing.

First, some background on the raid depicted in the video: On February 11, the Columbia, Missouri, police department's SWAT team served a drug warrant at the home of Jonathan Whitworth and Brittany Montgomery. Police say that eight days earlier they had received a tip from a confidential informant that Whitworth had a large supply of marijuana in his home. They say they first conducted a trash pull, and found marijuana residue in the family's garbage.

During the raid, police shot and killed the family's pit bull. At least one bullet ricocheted, injuring the family's pet corgi. Whitworth, Montgomery, and their 7-year-old son were at home at the time. The incident was written up in the Columbia Daily Tribune, noted on a few blogs that cover drug policy (including a post I put up here at Reason), and then largely forgotten for several weeks.

On April 28, I received an email from Montgomery. She had seen my post at Reason and read an account of some of my reporting on SWAT teams published in Reader's Digest. She said she was reading to her son in his bedroom at the time of the raid. Her husband had just returned home from work. Police fired on their pets within seconds of entering the home.

"I've never felt so violated or more victimized in my life," Montgomery wrote. "It's absolutely the most helpless and hopeless feeling I could ever imagine. I can't sleep right ... and I am constantly paranoid. It's a horrible feeling ... to lose the safety and security I thought I was entitled to in my own home. Nobody protected us that night, my son and I were locked in the back of a police car for nearly four hours on a school night while they destroyed my home."

According to Montgomery, when the couple's neighbors inquired about the raid, they were told that the SWAT team had merely conducted a drill, and no shots were fired. When neighbors learned from the family that this was a lie, they began writing to the department and the Daily Tribune to demand answers. When the couple discovered the police had videotaped the raid, they requested a copy of the video. Montgomery said in her email that the copy they were initially given had no audio, and the incriminating (to the police) portions of the video had been removed.

On February 23, the Daily Tribune published its first story on the raid. The paper made its own request for the SWAT video, which the police department initially denied. On April 20, Jonathan Whitworth pleaded guilty to a single charge of possession of drug paraphernalia. He wasn't even charged for the minor amount of marijuana in his home (marijuana for personal use has been decriminalized in Columbia). He was issued a $300 fine.

On April 27, the Daily Tribune made a formal request for the video, which it received on April 30, with full audio and with no visuals removed. The paper posted the video with an accompanying article on May 3. On May 5, I posted it here at Reason, and the video went viral.

The police department has since conceded it was unaware that there were pets or a child in the home at the time of the raid. A spokesman for the Columbia Police Department initially said police had to conduct the raid immediately before the drug supply could be moved, a statement later shown to be false when police revealed the raid was conducted more than a week after the initial tip.

According to surveys of police departments conducted by University of Eastern Kentucky criminologist Peter Kraska, we've seen about a 1,500 percent increase in SWAT deployments in this country since the early 1980s. The vast majority of that increase has been to serve search warrants on people suspected of nonviolent drug crimes.

SWAT teams are inherently violent. In some ways they're an infliction of punishment before conviction. This is why they should only be used in situations where the suspect presents an immediate threat to others. In that case, SWAT teams use violence to defuse an already violent situation. When they're used to serve drug warrants for consensual crimes, however, SWAT tactics create violence where no violence was present before. Even when everything goes right in such a raid, breaking into the home of someone merely suspected of a nonviolent, consensual crime is an inappropriate use of force in a free society.

The overwhelmingly negative reaction to the video is interesting. Clearly, a very large majority of the people who have seen it are disturbed by it. But this has been going on for 30 years. We've reached the point where police have no qualms about a using heavily armed police force trained in military tactics to serve a search warrant on a suspected nonviolent marijuana offender. And we didn't get here by accident. The war on drugs has been escalating and militarizing for a generation. What's most disturbing about that video isn't the violence depicted in it, but that such violence has become routine.

As horrifying as the video from Columbia, Missouri, is, no human beings were killed. The police got the correct address, and they found the man they were looking for. In many other cases, such raids transpire based on little more than a tip from an anonymous or confidential informant.

Nor is it unusual for raids just as violent as the one depicted in the video to turn up little in the way of drugs or weapons. (Whitworth wasn't exactly an outstanding citizen—he had a prior drug and DWI conviction. But he had no history of violence, and there were no weapons in the home.) Surveys conducted by newspapers around the country after one of these raids goes bad have found that police only find weapons of any kind somewhere between 10-20 percent of the time. The percentage of raids that turn up a significant amount of drugs tends to vary, but a large percentage only result in misdemeanor charges at worst.

Shooting the family's dogs isn't unusual, either. To be fair, that's in part because some drug dealers do in fact obtain vicious dogs to guard their supply. But there are other, safer ways to deal with these dogs than shooting them. In the Columbia case, a bullet fired at one dog ricocheted and struck another dog. The bullet could just as easily have struck a person. In the case of Tarika Wilson, a Lima, Ohio, SWAT officer mistook the sounds of a colleague shooting a drug dealer's dogs for hostile gunfire. He then opened fire into a bedroom, killing a 23-year-old mother and shooting the hand off of the one-year-old child in her arms.

The Columbia raid wasn't even a "no-knock" raid. The police clearly announced themselves before entering. The Supreme Court has ruled that police must knock and announce themselves before entering a home to serve a search warrant. If they want to enter without knocking, they have to show specific evidence that the suspect could be dangerous or is likely to dispose of contraband if police abide by the knock-and-announce rule.

As is evident in the Columbia video, from the perspective of the people inside the home that requirement is largely ceremonial. If you were in a backroom of that house, or asleep, it isn't at all difficult to see how you'd have no idea if the armed men in your home were police officers. The first sounds you heard would have been gunfire.

But because this was a knock-and-announce raid, the police didn't need to show that Whitworth had a violent background or may have had guns in the home to use the violent tactics in the video. They didn't need to show that Whitworth posed any sort of threat at all, other than the fact he was suspected of dealing marijuana. Though SWAT teams are frequently defended as necessary tools reserved for the most dangerous of drug offenders, the reality is that in many communities, all search warrants are served with forced entry and paramilitary tactics.

The militarization of America's police departments has taken place over a generation, due to a number of bad policy decisions from politicians and government officials, ranging from federal grants for drug fighting to a Pentagon giveaway program that makes military equipment available to local police departments for free or at steep discounts. Mostly, though, it's due to the ill-considered "war" imagery our politicians continue to invoke when they refer to drug prohibition. Repeat the mantra that we're at war with illicit drugs often enough, and the cops on the front lines of that war will naturally begin to think of themselves as soldiers. And that's particularly true when you outfit them in war equipment, weaponry, and armor. This is dangerous, because the objectives of cops and soldiers are very different. One is charged with annihilating a foreign enemy. The other is charged with keeping the peace.

More here

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Chinese farmer released after serving ten years for murder as ‘victim’ turns up alive

A Chinese farmer who served ten years of a 29-year sentence for murder has been released after the man he was supposed to have killed, and then beheaded, turned up alive in their home village in central China.

Zhao Zhensheng disappeared after a furious fight with Zhao Zuohai in 1999. After Zhao Zhensheng was reported missing and a headless body was discovered in a village well, the local police put two and two together and arrested his rival. The two men are not related.

The sister of the jailed man said that he had only confessed to the crime after police torture — a not uncommon practice in China as police try to solve a crime and keep their record looking good. She said: “My brother told me he was really treated unjustly.” She said that he had even showed her a scar on his forehead where police had hit him with a gun.

After his arrest, his wife also said that she had been tortured and finally confessed that plastic bags found around the headless body had come from her home. In 1999, Zhao Zuohai was given a suspended death sentence — later commuted to 29 years because of his good behaviour.

But then, on April 30, the missing Zhao Zhensheng, now partially paralysed, turned up in the village after an absence of ten years. He had run away after the two men fought because he feared he had inflicted such serious injuries on his enemy that he might have died. He only returned to the village because he was paralysed and needed to claim basic welfare payments.

He expressed no remorse for the fact that his rival had spent ten years of his life in jail. Zhao Zhensheng told one newspaper: “He had such a bad temper. He needed a lesson somewhere, somehow.”

However, Zhao Zuohai will receive some compensation for his decade-long wrongful imprisonment. The Henan provincial Higher People’s Court has awarded him $45,000 for the miscarriage of justice.

It is far from being the first such case in China. In 2005 She Xianglin, a government worker, was compensated with $67,000 after serving 11 years in prison for murdering his wife. He was freed when his wife later returned to their hometown. She Xianglin said that he had been tortured into making a false confession.

Original report here

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Canadian police goons

Hamilton's police chief admits they got the wrong apartment and the wrong man when officers burst into the home of an unsuspecting refugee from Myanmar who was left terrified and bloodied.

Heavily armed officers were looking for an alleged cocaine dealer who lives in a different unit in the same apartment building as 58-year-old Po La Hay and his two adult children.

Hay was home around 9 p.m. Tuesday readying things for work the next day at a garden centre when he claims police broke down his door and aimed guns at his head. "I didn't even have a chance to say any words," he said through interpreter Lerwah Lobo.

Terrified, Hay collapsed to the ground. Officers handcuffed him and asked if he was the man listed on their warrant, he said. When he said, "No, my name is Po La," Hay claims officers smashed his face on the floor and began kicking him. He was scared to move, believing they might be robbers despite the uniforms.

Telling the story, Hay smiles politely and shakes a little. He has stitches above his left eye, a bruised and bloodied nose and red marks along his back and side. He said one rib is broken and he will have to return to doctors for more tests. He looks less than 100 pounds.

"Our officers attended an address to apprehend a party wanted for trafficking narcotics," said Chief Glenn De Caire. "The person we wanted was in the apartment next door. All the right investigative steps were taken and in the end, it was wrong ... We accept responsibility."

De Caire said he met yesterday with members of Hay's family and apologized. He also offered the services of counsellors and to meet again with the whole family.

Hay said he is too scared to meet with police and his only concern is lost wages for time off work.

When asked about Hay's injuries, De Caire told The Spectator he would not comment, saying only that a complaint has been filed with the Ontario Independent Police Review Director (OPIRD) -- an arms-length agency created seven months ago by the Attorney General. It is staffed entirely by civilians and is meant to keep police accountable for their actions.

But in a later statement, De Caire acknowledged that "during the process of securing the residence, a resident of the home was injured. Officers on the scene called for an ambulance and the resident was taken to hospital."

OPIRD "has carriage of the complaint now," said De Caire. Neither the chief nor OPIRD would say who laid the complaint. The next step is for OPIRD to determine if the complaint has merit, and if so, an investigation will begin that could result in a public hearing and discipline.

Hay's 23-year-old son, Say Blut, was in bed and was handcuffed after police knocked on his door. Another man, 21-year-old Panar Noo, was in the bathroom and alleges police handcuffed him, kicked him and dragged him downstairs.

While Hay says he was being kicked and punched, another team of officers arrived and one yelled "stop, stop." The officers did. They didn't apologize, he said. But a couple tried to wash some of the blood from his face.

The alleged cocaine dealer police were supposed to arrest that night was a 35-year-old whose name is not remotely similar to Po La Hay, according to a copy of the search warrant obtained by The Spectator. The apartment unit listed on the warrant is Hay's.

Police confirm that the intended target was later arrested. He faces two charges of trafficking.

A Hamilton detective constable got a "telewarrant" (done after hours and by phone) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday from a justice of the peace in Newmarket. The warrant permitted officers to seize "cocaine, scales, money, cellphone, debt list, packaging and documents."

The raid on Hay's home came at the end of a two-week project by the vice and drug unit intended to target street level drug traffickers. Yesterday, just hours before Hay's family met with the chief, police issued a media release praising the "aggressive enforcement initiative" which also involved members of the BEAR (Break, Enter, Auto theft and Robbery) Unit, Guns and Weapons Enforcement Unit, the Intelligence Unit, the Emergency Response Unit and Uniform Patrol.

De Caire touted the good work of his officers "overall" and the "number of drugs taken off the streets that will not make it into the hands of children."

Most of the activity took place in the downtown core, with 49 arrests made, 100 charges laid and $1.2 million in drugs seized including cocaine, crack, marijuana, oxycodone and the largest seizure ever of crystal methamphetamine.

Original report here

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vermont Cop Caught Abusing black Detainee

Scandal-Plagued Department Under Fire Again

A surveillance video has been released showing a Rutland police officer using force on a suspect who was cuffed and behind bars.

The 40-minute video was recorded in January and shows former Rutland police Officer Michael Nesshoever firing a pepperball gun repeatedly at Jamek Hart, 26, while in a holding cell.

The video also shows Hart lying on the floor with his pants down and what appears to be a bag over his head as officers look on.

Nesshoever resigned on Feb. 26 after an internal investigation. Now, he and the city of Rutland will likely face a civil lawsuit. Attorney Mark Furlan, who's representing Hart, said it could be a few weeks before he officially files the paperwork in Rutland Superior Court. "It's just a civil allegation that he knowingly and intentionally violated Mr. Hart's civil rights. It's not a criminal charge, it's a civil lawsuit," said Furlan.

Both Mayor Chris Louras and the city attorney refused to comment on the videotape, saying it's a personnel matter and part of a criminal investigation.

The incident is the latest black eye for a department that has been plagued by scandal in recent weeks. Recently another officer, David Schauwecker, was charged by state police after a lengthy child porn investigation.

Original report here (Video at link)

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Monday, May 10, 2010

U.S. police beating of innocent Mexican -- Officer is filmed stamping on man's head

Police in the United States have been plunged into a race row over a video showing two officers attacking and racially abusing an innocent.

In the video, a male and female officer are seen taking turns to stamp on the suspected armed robber's head as he lies face down on the pavement.

The policeman says 'I'm going to beat the f****** Mexican p*** out of you homey' before realising he was not involved in the crime and helping him up.

The video has emerged at a time when race has become an explosive issue among Latin Americans.... Activists are likely to see the video as their own 'Rodney King moment', a reference to the black man badly beaten by police which sparked the Los Angeles riots in 1991 when the officers who attacked him were acquitted.

The new video emerged in Seattle and was shot by a photographer as police responded to an emergency call out of an armed robbery in the car park of a night club.

The Mexican man is detained around half a mile away from where it took place and is forced on the floor face down.

A male officer is seen stamping on his head and raking it over his face and saying: 'I'm going to beat the fucking Mexican piss out of you homey? You feel me?' A female police officer is then seen stamping on the back of the man's left knee as he lies prone.

Once they realise the man is not the person they are looking after, they give him a hand and help him up but despite the fact he clearly looks woozy, they offer him no medical help.

Afterwards the man, in his 20s, told the photographer who had filmed the incident: 'They kicked me in the head. I don't know why, they just kicked me in the head, they knocked me down and kicked me in the head. 'I had nothing to do with what was going on.'

Don Van Blaircom, an expert on police practice, said the stamping was unjustifiable. He said: 'I suppose I could speculate on some excuse but looking at the actual facts as recorded in the video I just don't see any'.

Seattle-based immigrant advocacy group OneAmerica added the video was the 'latest example of ongoing racial profiling both locally and nationally.'

Viewers to local TV station KIRO 7 Eyewitness News, which aired the footage, left sickened comments on its website. 'Wow...I don't even have words....this turned my stomach and made me sick. I am so tired of watching stories of police officers abusing their power and avoiding their real duties,' said one.

The incident happened on April 17 but only came to light when the film was broadcast. The male officer seen kicking the man is reportedly Gang Unit Detective Shandy Cobane, who has spent 16 years on the police force and was named president of his cadet class. He and the woman officer been reassigned as police carry out an internal review.

Seattle police chief John Diaz said he was 'very disappointed in what has occurred'. 'In the heat of the moment, people make mistakes but, once again, I understand that,' he said. 'However, we have a strong commitment of insuring that we hold all our officers accountable'.

Original report here (Video at link)

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Court overturns 17-year sentence for Oregon man

A 17-year prison sentence for an Oregon man arrested while trying to get back into his mother's house because he did not have a key has been overturned by a federal appeals court. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that police must get a warrant or make a reasonable attempt to determine actual trespassing before an arrest.

Rian Struckman was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm after police confronted him in his mother's back yard and found an unloaded gun in a backpack.

The appeals court ruled Tuesday that Portland police had no probable cause to arrest or search Struckman because he lived at the house and was not trespassing or committing any other crime. Officers were called to the house in December 2004 by a neighbor who saw a man climb over the fence.

Three officers responded, and two drew their guns before ordering Struckman down on the ground, handcuffing and searching him.

The court, in an opinion by Judge Marsha Berzon, said the officers testified Struckman repeatedly stated he lived at the house and asked police to use his cell phone to call his mother to confirm it.

He admitted he was on probation but claimed the backpack belonged to his sister before officers determined he did live at the house while checking on his criminal history.

The court said there are only two general exceptions to the Fourth Amendment protection against warrantless searches _ exigent circumstances or an emergency _ and neither one applied in this case.

The opinion said that even though the neighbor was suspicious, police found no signs of forced entry or any tools consistent with a possible burglary, and there was no basis for a trespassing charge because Struckman lived there.

As a result, the court said officers had no probable cause to arrest Struckman or conduct the search.

Berzon said police could have asked him a few simple questions to learn the actual explanation that a family member who lived at the house did not have his key. "Indeed, many of us can recount tales about getting locked out of his or her own house," Berzon wrote.

Original report here

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Australia: Blind faith in DNA evidence slammed

The forensic science has to be very rigorous where DNA evidence is used but often it is not

SERIOUS failings within Victorian police, prosecutors and forensic services in viewing DNA evidence as having almost "mystical infallibility" led to the wrongful conviction and jailing of a 22-year-old man for a rape that did not occur.

In a scathing independent review of the "disastrous" case of Farah Jama, former Supreme Court judge Frank Vincent found a miscarriage of justice had occurred when the DNA evidence that prosecutors used solely to convict the Sudanese man was contaminated and forensic procedures did not adhere to national standards.

He also found that "warning bells" about the lack of evidence in the case were overlooked by police investigators and prosecutors because they were so blinded by the DNA evidence.

"In this present case, the obviously unreserved acceptance of the reliability of DNA evidence appears to have so confined thought that it enabled all involved to leap over a veritable mountain of improbabilities and unexplained aspects that . . . could be seen to block the path to conviction," Mr Vincent wrote.

Mr Jama spent 15 months in jail after a sample of his DNA contaminated one taken from a 48-year-old woman believed to have been raped at an over-28s nightclub in Melbourne's southeastern suburbs.

The 22-year-old was not seen by any witnesses in the nightclub or in the area, the alleged rape victim had no memory of the sexual assault and Mr Jama had an alibi for the night of the incident. Despite this, police went ahead with the prosecution and a jury found Mr Jama guilty.

"It is almost incredible that, in consequence of a minute particle . . . by some mechanism settling on a swab, slide or trolley surface, a chain of events could be started that culminated in the conviction of an individual for a crime that had never been committed by him or anyone else," Mr Vincent wrote.

Mr Vincent recommended that police and prosecutors be trained on the limitations of DNA evidence, that procedures at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine be improved, and that sealed sexual examination kits be used.

The Victorian government has adopted all the recommendations in the report.

Original report here

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Friday, May 07, 2010

How many more are innocent?

America’s 250th DNA exoneration raises questions about how often we send the wrong person to prison

Freddie Peacock of Rochester, New York, was convicted of rape in 1976. This year he became the 250th person to be exonerated by DNA testing since the technique was first used in 1989. According to a new report by the Innocence Project, those 250 prisoners served a total of 3,160 years; 17 spent time on death row. Remarkably, 67 percent of them were convicted after 2000, a decade after the onset of modern DNA testing. The glaring question: How many more are there?

Calculating the percentage of innocents now in prison is a tricky and controversial thing to do. The certainty of DNA testing means we can be positive the 250 defendants listed in the Innocence Project report didn’t commit the crimes for which they were convicted. But there are hundreds of other cases in which convictions have been overturned due to a lack of evidence, recantation of eyewitness testimony, or police or prosecutorial misconduct, and where no DNA evidence exists to definitively establish guilt or innocence. Those were wrongful convictions because there wasn’t sufficient evidence to overcome reasonable doubt, but we can’t be sure all of the accused were actually innocent.

Most prosecutors fight requests for post-conviction DNA testing. That means the discovery of wrongful convictions is limited by the time and resources available to the Innocence Project and similar legal aid organizations who fight for tests in court. It’s notable that in one of the few jurisdictions where the district attorney is actively seeking out wrongful convictions—Dallas County, Texas—the county by itself has seen more exonerations than all but a handful of individual states. If prosecutors in other jurisdictions were to follow Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins’ lead, that 250 number would be significantly higher.

Still, some officials aren’t impressed. One of the more farcical attempts to underplay the growing number of DNA exonerations came in a concurring opinion that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the 2005 case Kansas v. Marsh. Scalia began by dismissing the idea that an innocent person may have ever been executed in America, explaining that if such a tragedy had occurred, “we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops by the abolition lobby.”

Since then the abolition lobby has been shouting about Cameron Todd Willingham, the probably innocent man who was executed in Texas in 2004. But Scalia’s argument also betrays a lack of familiarity with how anti–death penalty groups work. While the justice is right that proof of an executed innocent would be good rhetorical fodder for the abolitionists, legal aid groups aren’t about to waste their limited resources hunting down mistaken executions when there are living, breathing innocents still to be discovered. Moreover, in many jurisdictions, prosecutors destroy case files after an execution, making any post-execution investigation rather difficult.

Scalia also cited some math from Josh Marquis, an Oregon prosecutor who has held various executive positions at the National District Attorneys Association. Marquis crunched his numbers at a time when there had been about 200 DNA exonerations. He arbitrarily multiplied that number by 10 to come up with 2,000 wrongful convictions. Marquis then took every single felony conviction over the previous 15 years as his denominator and came up with a meager .027 percent wrongful conviction rate. Move along, America. Nothing to see here. Your criminal justice system is performing just fine.

But that figure is ridiculous. First, the subset of cases in which DNA testing can prove (or disprove) guilt is exceedingly small. It is generally limited to most rape and some murder cases. You can throw out the entire body of drug charges and nearly all burglaries, robberies, assaults, and other felonies. As University of Michigan law professor Samuel L. Gross wrote in the Annual Review of Law and Science, “By this logic, we could estimate the proportion of baseball players who’ve used steroids by dividing the number of major league players who’ve been caught by the total of all baseball players at all levels: major league, minor league, semipro, college and Little League—and maybe throwing in football and basketball players as well.”

If the aim is to calculate the percentage of people who claim they’re innocent and who actually are, you might throw out all cases decided by a guilty plea too. But this can get tricky. According to the Innocence Project, more than a quarter of DNA exonerations included a false confession or guilty plea. The plea bargaining process also induces innocent people to plead guilty to lesser crimes to avoid charges that carry longer prison terms.

The Innocence Project cites a study by the Seton Hall law professor D. Michael Risinger that puts the share of innocents in prison at 3 percent to 5 percent. But that study looked only at capital crimes, and it’s a much-debated question whether you can extrapolate data from death penalty cases and make assumptions about conviction rates in lesser crime categories. (Those who argue that non-death penalty conviction rates would be higher note that there’s more pressure on prosecutors and jurors to hold someone accountable in murder cases. Then again, defendants tend to have better representation in capital cases.) But even dropping below the study’s floor, using the 2008 prison population, a 2 percent wrongful conviction rate would mean about 46,000 people are incarcerated for crimes they didn’t commit.

Whatever the percentage, DNA testing has exposed some glaring flaws in the system, calling into question traditional assumptions about the value of eyewitness testimony, forensic evidence, confessions, and the appeals process. (In several cases where a defendant was later exonerated by DNA testing, appeals courts not only upheld convictions but noted “overwhelming evidence” of the defendants’ guilt.) Since we now know because of DNA testing that misconduct by police and prosecutors produced wrongful convictions in many high-profile murder cases, it is probably safe to assume that similar problems have led to the wrongful conviction of routine drug defendants. The difference is that there is no test to clear those people’s names.

Scalia wrote that an exoneration “demonstrates not the failure of the system but its success.” But these 250 DNA tests aren’t proof that the system is working. They’re a wake-up call telling us that it isn’t. Instead of falling back on groups like the Innocence Project to serve as unofficial checks against wrongful convictions, cops, prosecutors, judges, and lawmakers should be thinking about why there’s so much work for these organizations to do.

Original report here

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