Saturday, July 31, 2010

Australia: Aboriginal family gets $3.2m payment for prison van death

I suppose this is better than nothing but it is a disgrace that nobody has been held responsible for killing the guy. Surely a charge of negligence could be made to stick, if not manslaughter. It should have gone to a jury instead of being prejudged. Just more West Australian corruption

THE family of an Aboriginal elder who died of heat stroke in the back of a prison transfer van have been awarded a $3 million ex-gratia compensation. The ex-gratia payment comes on top of the $200,000 interim payment they received. The West Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter today revealed the details of the compensation payment, Perth Now reported.

Mr Ward, an elder whose full name cannot be used for cultural reasons, died of heat stroke in the back of the van on the way from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in WA's Goldfields region in January 2008.

Late in June WA's Director of Public Prosecutions Joe McGrath visited Mr Ward's widow Nancy at Warburton in the Central Desert and told her charges would not be laid over his death.

He told her there was no reasonable prospect of conviction if charges were laid against the two security guards employed by the security firm GSL, now known as G4S.

Mr Ward's family were said to be distraught over the decision, which sparked protests in the city.

A broken air conditioner in the back of the van forced Mr Ward to endure temperatures of more than 50C during the four-hour non-stop journey. He was being driven to Kalgoorlie to face a drink-driving charge in court.

Last year WA Coroner Alastair Hope found the Department of Corrective Services, security officers Graham Powell and Nina Stokoe transporting Mr Ward and their employer had all contributed to Mr Ward's death. Mr Hope referred the case to the DPP because he believed a criminal offence had been committed.

But Mr McGrath defended his decision not to prosecute, saying a thorough investigation found no one had been criminally negligent. "I'm acutely aware that the death was tragic, avoidable and rightly creates outrage in the wider Australian community," he said. But he said he had to dispassionately apply the law of WA in determining if there should be a criminal prosecution.

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Friday, July 30, 2010

MI: Man Paid $2 Million for Wrongful Conviction

There was gross police misconduct in the case. See here for details

A $2 million settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed by a Lansing man who was wrongfully convicted of murder.

Tuesday's settlement ends 2 1/2 years of litigation centered on whether Lansing Community College police Det. Rodney Bahl hid evidence of McCollum's innocence.

McCollum tells the Lansing State Journal he just wants to "start the next chapter" of his life. Hugh Clarke Jr., one of three attorneys representing McCollum, said he hopes the settlement prevents future injustice.

McCollum was charged in the 2005 murder of Carolyn Kronenberg, a Lansing Community College professor. The 32-year-old McCollum spent 18 months in prison before his conviction was overturned and he was released.

Bahl led the investigation. His lawyer, Michael Bogren, declined comment.

Original report here

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Trigger-happy cops cost New York a heap

The city of New York has agreed to pay more than $US7 million to settle a civil lawsuit stemming from the fatal 50-bullet police shooting of an unarmed man on his wedding day.

The settlement filed in Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday pays $3.25 million to the estate of Sean Bell, who was killed in 2006 outside a strip club in Queens while leaving his bucks' party.

As part of the settlement, the city agreed to pay $US3 million to Joseph Guzman and $US900,000 to Trent Benefield, both of whom were wounded in the shooting that killed their friend.

The lawsuit had accused the city of wrongful death, negligence, assault and civil rights violations. "We hope that all parties can find some measure of closure by this settlement," the city's lawyer, Michael A. Cardozo, said in a statement.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Scott Rynecki, did not immediately return a phone message on Tuesday night.

Three police officers were acquitted of manslaughter and other charges in 2008. Federal authorities in February declined to bring civil rights charges against them. The officers remain on modified duty and are facing departmental charges that could result in their dismissal.

The Bell settlement continues a tradition set by the city of multimillion-dollar payouts resulting from civil lawsuits in cases involving the police department.

In June, the city agreed to pay a record for a civil rights lawsuit when it agreed to settle for $US9.9 million with Barry Gibbs, an innocent man who spent 19 years in prison after being framed by a police detective.

In 2001, the city and police union agreed to pay $US8.7 million to Abner Louima, who was beaten and sodomised with a broomstick in a police precinct by officers. After legal fees, Louima was left with about $US5.8 million.

Original report here

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

British injustice

Black brutes who killed grandfather outside mosque sent down for a total eight years... but could walk free in months. Such habitual violent offenders should have been put away for good

Harrowing images of the moment a Muslim pensioner was killed outside a mosque by two members of a 'happy slapping' gang were released by appalled police yesterday.

They show how deeply religious Ekram Haque, 67, was struck to the ground in front of his three-year-old granddaughter Marian after being ambushed by the delinquent pair.

Little Marian can be seen trying to comfort her grandfather, who suffered irreparable brain damage and died a week after the assault last August.

The attack happened only minutes after Mr Haque and his granddaughter had attended prayers in the mosque for the holy season of Ramadan.

Yesterday a court order was lifted, allowing Mr Haque's killers - Leon Elcock, now 16, and Hamza Lyzai, now 15, both of Tooting, South-West London - to be named.

But to the disgust of the dead man's family, gang leader Elcock was locked up for only four-and-a-half years and Lyzai for three-and-a-half years.

Mr Haque's son Arfan, 35, attacked the Crown Prosecution Service for dropping murder charges against the pair. He said: 'Justice has not been served. I have been let down. The CPS really need to buck up their ideas because people are getting away with murder. My father died. It's a disgrace.'

He added that his daughter Marian still has nightmares about the attack. The Old

Bailey heard that Elcock and Ugandan-born Lyzai approached Mr Haque from opposite directions and both landed blows to his head, which felled him.

The pair pleaded guilty to manslaughter and also admitted their parts in other assaults. Brian Altman, QC, prosecuting, said the series of 'wanton and cowardly' attacks were 'deliberately targeted on middle-aged and elderly men for fun and for the defendants' own pleasure'.

He said of the attack on Mr Haque: 'It is a case of two youths creeping up on a defenceless, elderly and vulnerable man minding his own business and deliberately attacking him with the obvious intention to do him some harm.

'The two blows did not themselves inflict serious injury. It was the all too familiar tale of a blow stunning or rendering Mr Haque unconscious by which he fell backwards, hitting the back of his head, suffering a complex fracture leading to secondary brain injury of which he died a week later.'

The death of the retired care worker was the culmination of a series of 'happy slapping' incidents recorded on mobile phone cameras.

Only 20 seconds before the fatal assault on Mr Haque the two killers, then aged 14 and 15, had assaulted two other men in the same road with a 14-year-old friend.

Elcock and the 14-year-old, who cannot be named, had also attacked a married elderly couple five days before, kicking and stamping on them in their own home. A series of 'happy slapping' clips were found stored on the 14-year-old's mobile phone. The gang regularly filmed the attacks under the name 'Lane Gang Productions'.

A short clip shot by the unnamed 14-year-old showed Elcock hitting a bus driver who was talking on his mobile phone during a rest period.

The 14-year-old had been permanently excluded from school and was being educated at a centre for unruly children. Elcock and Lyzai had been due to face trial for murder-but the prosecution accepted pleas to lesser offences after reviewing the evidence.

In addition to manslaughter, Elcock - who at the time of Mr Haque's death was on police bail for a previous happy slapping attack - admitted four counts of causing actual bodily harm.

He has spent almost a year in custody already and will be freed once he has served two years and three months, half the term he received. Lyzai, who also admitted two counts of assault, has served almost a year in custody and will be freed within months.

Their friend, now 15, admitted four counts of causing actual bodily harm and was given a six-month detention and training order. He has spent 324 days in custody and will be released immediately.

Judge Martin Stephens, QC, told the killers: 'As a result of your so-called bit of fun he [Mr Haque] was deprived of a full and contented life, and his family of a devoted, inspiring and beloved father and grandfather.'

Mr Haque was born in Calcutta and moved to Belfast in search of work in 1972. He met his wife there and they moved to London in the 1980s. He worked in textiles, later becoming a warden in a home for the disabled. He retired last year.

His son said: 'My father was a very loving individual. He gave his time to anybody and everybody. It is tragic he died in the way he did, he was such a peaceful man.'

Original report here. (Via POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A very dubious Australian magistrate

For more background, see here. Still no action against him

Wrong-way Magistrate Richard Pithouse cleared the way for a disgraced barrister colleague to get his gun licence back - a move that has worried the barrister's former wife.

And the potential conflict of interest in Mr Pithouse presiding over an earlier hearing involving the barrister colleague prompted one court onlooker to make a complaint to the Chief Magistrate about Mr Pithouse.

Ballarat barrister Graeme Jackson lost his gun licence after a court found him guilty of a string of criminal offences and police seized three guns from his house. Jackson was found guilty last year of seven counts relating to falsifying documents, including forging his wife's signature on tax cheques.

Last month he returned to court to try to get his gun licence back and appeared before his old family law colleague, Richard Pithouse. He applied to court to be deemed a non-prohibited person in relation to a firearms application, the court listing shows. Magistrate Pithouse heard the application and granted it.

Mr Pithouse heard the firearms application the same day he accidentally went to Ararat courthouse, not Ballarat, and then offended a sex assault victim by scrapping her heartfelt victim-impact statement.

He also presided over the first two court hearings of Mr Jackson's criminal charges last year. Lawyers said it may have been more appropriate for Mr Pithouse to have excused himself from sitting given the potential conflict.

Jackson said he and Mr Pithouse knew each other from the Ballarat court and Jackson had previously been briefed by Mr Pithouse's firm.

A police operation focused on Jackson raided properties at Ballarat, Horsham and Melbourne in which computers, guns and documents were seized.

Jackson was reprimanded by the Legal Services Commissioner for sledging a woman in court, but denied the woman's claim he also assaulted her. The wife, who the court heard was a victim of forgery, is now Jackson's third ex-wife. Her friends have said she is still shocked and bewildered by the actions of the man she once loved and is concerned by his recent moves to get his guns and licence back.

But Jackson said he was a hunter and though he had received several threats - including shotgun shells being left at his office - the guns were not for personal safety.

Chief Magistrate Ian Gray said no additional action was being taken against Mr Pithouse despite several complaints against him.

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Super-dangerous Las Vegas cops

They'll empty lead into anyone because they know they will get away with it

It's been two weeks since three Las Vegas Metro cops shot and killed 38-year-old West Point graduate Erik Scott as he exited a Costco store in the upscale area of Summerlin on July 10.

So far, the incident has generated more questions than answers. If officials lock up the evidence so you can't get the answers, print the questions.

Erik Scott had a permit; he could legally carry a firearm either open or concealed. It's a right. Mr. Scott was under no obligation to demonstrate a "need" to carry his firearms to the store (as some letter-writers have suggested), any more than you must demonstrate a "need" to go to church more than once a week.

Nor do I agree with those who would say, if police shot up a luncheon meeting of the Jaycees or the Rotary Club, that "Cops are getting edgy in this town; people are just going to have to be more cautious about how they exercise their right to assemble."

Apparently Mr. Scott, who was shopping with his girlfriend, broke the plastic wrap on a carton of bottled water so he could check to see if the bottles would fit in his backpack. He shouldn't have done that. But is it a capital crime?

If I go to Costco with a perfectly legal gun in a holster, either concealed or open, even though I never present my weapon or threaten anyone with it, will employees there call the police, report a "crazy man with a gun," and have me killed?

Will the 9-1-1 operator closely question such a caller, asking, "Wait a minute, this is important: Do you mean there's a man who's behaving oddly and he's brandishing a firearm, threatening people with a firearm? Or do you mean there's a man who's behaving oddly, and you've noticed he's carrying a handgun in a holster, which is perfectly legal? This is a real important distinction for me to be able to explain to the officers we're sending"?

I hope the 9-1-1 operator in the Erik Scott bottled-water killing asked that question; they ought to be trained to ask that question. The Review-Journal has tried to get the recordings of the 9-1-1 calls to find out, but the G-men won't release them.

Actually, I can't find the part of the state or U.S. Constitution that says, "You can be killed at any time for failing to obey a policeman's order," even though letter-writers keep telling me it's in there.

Will only one officer give me orders? Or will all three shout conflicting orders in order to confuse and terrify me?

Will they have their guns out and leveled at me, at that point? If I point a firearm at someone it's considered to be a crime, called "assault." If I shoot a police officer simply because he puts his hand on the butt of his sidearm while it's still in the holster, I'll go to prison (at best). How come cops don't go to prison if they shoot someone simply for touching a gun? I suppose people will say, "You're not in danger if a policeman puts his hand on his gun, because they don't go around shooting people."

Good one. How many this year, Sheriff Gillespie? Trevor Cole, unarmed, got shot in the head with a combat rifle while kneeling on his bathroom floor with his hands up. The charge? Selling an ounce or two of pot.

Why not arrest him on the street? Why put his nine-month-pregnant girlfriend at risk? Did some sloppy police work allow the author of that warrant to claim Cole had a violent criminal record, when he didn't? Was that work done by an officer who'd already shot and killed other suspects, and told stories that didn't match the physical evidence?

How about if we count people like Ivan Carrillo, an apparent drunken driver killed when his car was rammed by a Metro police cruiser on May 20? Isn't that a lethal use of force? How come there's been no coroner's inquest in that death?

If the police tell me to put my gun down on the ground, and I reach down to remove my holster from my belt or waistband so I can follow that order, will they shoot and kill me for following that order, later explaining they had to shoot me because I didn't follow one of their other, simultaneous orders -- to put my hands up, to lie down, to do any number of things that can't all be done at once? We don't know whether that's what happened outside the Costco, because Metro hasn't released the Costco video disc. Some of it may be shown to a coroner's jury on Sept. 3, the first day of the long Labor Day holiday weekend, in a little courtroom downtown holding about 46 people.

Maybe. If it isn't "lost or damaged."

Oh, was that gratuitous? I don't think so. After Officer George Pease killed Henry Rowe by slashing his throat, Metro said tests of both men's clothing would reveal whether Rowe grabbed the officer's gun and shot at him in the dark, like Pease said. But when they got to the coroner's inquest, Metro said it hadn't bothered to have those tests performed, since they would have been "costly and inconclusive." Yeah. Good one.

If I show up for that Sept. 3 inquest, will I find my entrance blocked by two armed bailiffs, maybe even shaved-heads K.P. Ross and Sgt. R. Wright, who will rest their hands on the butts of their Glock .40s and tell me "It's not open to the public," the way they did when I tried to attend the Henry Prendes inquest, in March of 2006?

What are they afraid of, with their carefully arranged dog-and-pony show, presenting only the evidence selected by the government, with no cross examination, so jurors end up clearing even officers they think should never be allowed back on the street, as was the case when Bruce Gentner emptied his magazine at John Perrin, armed only with a basketball?

Original report here

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

MD: Judge fines man for factory installed tail lights

A Maryland judge issued an $85 fine to the owner of a Pontiac G8 GT for illegal tail lights, despite being factory-installed and approved by the US Department of Transportation. She's promised to keep fining him. Judicial activism, FTL!

Forum member "jackalope" at was ticketed by a Maryland officer who claimed he was sporting illegal tail lights. After amassing a healthy amount of evidence proving he hadn't modified his car and it was approved for sale by the Department of Transportation, he went to court confident the ticket would be dismissed, only to find the contrary. We'll let him tell you how it all went down:
Went to court for my clear tail lights on my car and was found guilty!

The judge actualy told me she didn't care what the manufacturer said, what the federal govt said, what the DOT # stamped onto my taillights said if the officer says my lights aren't legal then they're not legal. I took the G8 sales brochure in along with pics of my car and other G8 GT's and the VIN trace by 3 different dealers saying my lights were factory none of it mattered she found me guilty of failing to display or reflect red light on the rear of the car. Didn't matter the reflecters were in the bumper, didn't matter where the light is has that little red circle, the whole lens isn't red so they're not legal. Also where the back-up and turn signals are should be the reflectors according to the cop so the V6 cars lights aren't legal either.

Judge stupid went on to tell me that maybe I should consider trading in or selling the car since its not legal in MD and that I'm going to continue to get the $60 tickets till I get rid of the car.

So I contacted Pontiac's 1-800 # and I have an apt next friday to have my car looked at by them and see if they can help or at least repay me the $85.50 fine and court costs.

I honestly don't know what else I can do. The cop was ALL smiles afterwards and winked at me! WTF! Now I'm screwed! How do I go to work now? I drive right thru where he works!! So this ass nuget can make up **** randomly for any car he gets a hard on for and nothing can be done to fight it!

This is BS.

The problem centers around the clear lens tail lights and bumper-mounted reflectors of the Pontiac G8 GT model. Because the red area in the lenses is reduced in the G8 GT, there are reflectors mounted in the bumper to reflect additional light and bring the reflective requirements into spec. Th officer and by extension the judge considered them illegal.

Now, we can understand Mr. Jackalope's momentary lack of respect for the legal system above — this is B.S., but he's got legitimate cause to be pissed. He bought a car he assumed to fall within the operations laws of all states and which was in reality approved for nationwide sale by the government. According to the Judge, the opinion of an Officer of the Law supersedes what the Federal government approved for sale and the design somehow doesn't jive with what the State of Maryland considers legal.

One of the other forum members has offered up legal service to fight the fine, but it makes us wonder if all the G8 GT drivers in Maryland now have something to worry about. Should motorists who've bought a car approved by the Federal government be worried about being arbitrarily fined by a Judge who seems to side with the opinion of an officer over the law.

Original report here

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Another incredible twist in a 20-year wrongful conviction case in Australia

The state government is demanding Roseanne Catt pay an $89,000 victim's compensation award to her former husband, Barry Catt, even though she has been found to be the victim of a miscarriage of justice in the same case.

The latest twist in a 20-year case, which began when Roseanne Catt, now known as Roseanne Beckett, was charged and convicted of assaulting and attempting to poison Mr Catt, a motor mechanic in Taree.

In 2005 the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal quashed six of eight convictions for which Ms Beckett had served 10 years in jail, sending five of those back for a retrial. The Director of Public Prosecutions subsequently elected not to proceed with a retrial. She is now suing the NSW government for malicious prosecution and appealing to the Supreme Court for a further inquiry into two remaining convictions.

Ms Beckett says she was stunned to receive a letter from the NSW Victims Compensation Tribunal last week: "Do they think this will be the weight that breaks me? The claim is based on false information. They have opened a Pandora's box," she said.

She first received the demand for the $89,000 in 1998 after she had been in jail for seven years. She responded with a sworn statement asserting her innocence. "The truth will come out one day and you will see the wrong person has been put in jail … I ask you to please look at this very grave situation and override this man's claim for compensation," she wrote.

She heard nothing more from the tribunal and was released from jail in 2001 after an inquiry was ordered into fresh evidence suggesting NSW Police might have planted a gun on her.

Mr Catt did not apply for compensation until three years after Ms Beckett had gone to jail.

Initially Mr Catt was granted only $9300 with the tribunal's assessor noting there was no evidence of serious injury or financial loss and that some of the material was "naive in the extreme".

Mr Catt appealed with the help of his friend and key prosecution witness Adrian Newell whose 21-page statement Mr Catt's solicitor said was "extremely relevant" to the claim.

Ms Beckett wanted to use Mr Catt and Mr Newell's victims' compensation statements to demonstrate contradictions between them and their evidence in her trial and the 2004 inquiry into her case conducted by Judge Thomas Davidson. But the DPP resisted her lawyer's attempt to subpoena the file. Although the file was later partly admitted, the defence was prevented from exploiting contradictions in prosecution accounts of injuries and events.

Judge Davidson found the prosecution's key witnesses were unreliable, describing Mr Catt as "at times irrelevant to the point of incomprehensibility, and that he could not accept his evidence unless supported by other independent and credible witnesses".

He found Mr Newell was so opposed to Ms Beckett that he might have fabricated evidence that she spiked her husband's drinks with lithium.

Ms Beckett says she will oppose the restitution claim and push for an investigation into the claim which she says can be proved to be fraudulent.

"Why won't they ever do anything about the false evidence that has been used against me?" she says.

Original report here

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Disgrace: Killer British cop escapes all charges

Not mentioned below is that the cop had previously obscured his ID badges and partially covered his face so he was obviously intending to act with dubious legality from the beginning. A "Misconduct in public office" charge could surely be made to stick but now it is not even going to be put to a jury

A BRITISH police officer who struck a man and pushed him to the ground during the G20 protests in London last year will not face charges over his death.

Ian Tomlinson, 47, was filmed being hit with a baton by the officer, identified only as PC "A", and being pushed over as he walked through demonstrations in the City of London financial district on April 1, minutes before collapsing.

The Crown Prosecution Service said there was a "sharp disagreement between the medical experts" about the cause of the newspaper seller's death. [Rubbish. There was only a disagreement between the initial autopsy and a second, more thorough, one]

"As a result, the CPS would simply not be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Tomlinson's death was caused by PC 'A' pushing him to the ground," it said. "That being the case, there is no realistic prospect of a conviction for unlawful act manslaughter. "It also follows that there is also no realistic prospect of a conviction for assault occasioning actual bodily harm or misconduct in public office."

Mr Tomlinson's family were outraged at the decision and vowed to seek a review. "There is either a lack of will or there is incompetence," their lawyer Jules Carey said on the "unbelievable" lack of charges.

"Their dad died of either a heart attack or internal bleeding, whichever evidence you prefer, but no one has been prosecuted and that is a disgrace. "We will be looking at whether the decision can be reviewed."

Mr Tomlinson had not taken part in the protest and was apparently on his way home through the protest zone.

"It's just outrageous. We feel like it wasn't a full investigation from the beginning," his son Paul King said. "It's been a big cover-up. Why isn't there an assault charge, nothing?"

Thousands of anti-capitalist protesters gathered in the City of London ahead of the Group of 20 summit in east London which was attended by leaders of the world's wealthiest economies, including US President Barack Obama.

Original report here. More shocking details here

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

British police goons again: Taser an innocent man

A man was shot in the groin with a 50,000 volt Taser gun by police who wrongly believed he had been driving without insurance. Peter Cox was given the electric shock after he climbed out of his BMW to talk to officers who had been following him.

He had a brief conversation with them but suddenly collapsed to the ground in agony when one of the policemen discharged the weapon.

Yesterday Mr Cox, 49, said he was considering legal action against the force after it said the gun had been fired accidentally. In addition, it later emerged Mr Cox's car was insured.

Officers had been tailing the motorist as he drove through Bridgwater, Somerset. When he stopped at the home of his partner Donna Allen, 47, where he was going to do some gardening, he asked the police what they wanted. He said: 'I asked them to park on the other side of the road because we were working on the front garden.

'The officer didn't say anything, but he got out of the car and pulled out a Taser and pointed it at me. 'I didn't know this at the time so I just went on with what I was doing and got a bag of stone for the garden out of the boot. Then he shot me.'

Mr Cox denied acting aggressively. He said the Taser missed his genitals by three inches. He continued: 'I was really shocked and I didn't know what was going on. I got one in my groin and one in my ankle.

'It really hurt. It just stunned me completely and felt like someone was stabbing me with a fork all over my body.' He added: 'Police should not be armed with Tasers if they cannot use them properly. 'It was incredibly painful. It totally paralysed me.'

Paramedics treated Mr Cox, who suffers from debilitating Guillain Barre syndrome - an autoimmune disorder which can cause paralysis - on the front lawn of the home.

A spokesman for Avon and Somerset police confirmed officers had wanted to speak to Mr Cox as they suspected the BMW 3 Series he was driving was not insured.

The force later issued a statement, saying: 'The Taser is a hand-held device which discharges an electrical current to temporarily incapacitate a person. 'Its effects are short-lived but are designed to give officers control of the offender and the situation.' The statement continued: 'On Tuesday morning officers stopped a man in Bridgwater suspected to be driving a vehicle without insurance.

'The man appeared to become aggressive and the officer removed his Taser in accordance with protocol. 'On lowering the Taser it was accidentally discharged. Police are now looking into this.'

The incident is the latest episode to raise questions over the use of Tasers by police. It has been suggested that Raoul Moat shot himself in the head during negotiations with police because of an involuntary action caused by being shot with the weapon.

Since being introduced in April 2004, Tasers have been used in more than 5,400 incidents in England and Wales.

Original report here

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thou shalt not video police

There's a tiny red button on your video camera. If you push that button, it could get you tossed in prison for years

That Anthony Graber broke the law in early March is indisputable. He raced his Honda motorcycle down Interstate 95 in Maryland at 80 mph, popping a wheelie, roaring past cars and swerving across traffic lanes.

But it wasn't his daredevil stunt that has the 25-year-old staff sergeant for the Maryland Air National Guard facing the possibility of 16 years in prison. For that, he was issued a speeding ticket. It was the video that Graber posted on YouTube one week later -- taken with his helmet camera -- of a plainclothes state trooper cutting him off and drawing a gun during the traffic stop near Baltimore.

In early April, state police officers raided Graber's parents' home in Abingdon, Md. They confiscated his camera, computers and external hard drives. Graber was indicted for allegedly violating state wiretap laws by recording the trooper without his consent.

Arrests such as Graber's are becoming more common along with the proliferation of portable video cameras and cell-phone recorders. Videos of alleged police misconduct have become hot items on the Internet. YouTube still features Graber's encounter along with numerous other witness videos.

"The message is clearly, 'Don't criticize the police,'" said David Rocah, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland who is part of Graber's defense team. "With these charges, anyone who would even think to record the police is now justifiably in fear that they will also be criminally charged."

Carlos Miller, a Miami journalist who runs the blog "Photography Is Not a Crime," said he has documented about 10 arrests since he started keeping track in 2007. Miller himself has been arrested twice for photographing the police. He won one case on appeal, he said, while the other was thrown out after the officer twice failed to appear in court.
"They're just regular citizens with a cell-phone camera who happen to come upon a situation," Miller said. "If cops are doing their jobs, they shouldn't worry."

The ACLU of Florida filed a First Amendment lawsuit last month on behalf of a model who was arrested February 2009 in Boynton Beach. Fla. Her crime: videotaping an encounter between police officers and her teenage son at a movie theater. Prosecutors refused to file charges against Sharron Tasha Ford and her son.

Original report here

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ultra-dangerous Las Vegas police

Officers William Mosher, Joshua Stark, and Thomas Mendiola. Las Vegas Metro Police Department

Last weekend, at the Costco in Summerlin, Erik Scott got into an argument with some workers at the store. A Costco employee noticed that he was carrying a handgun in his waistband, so they freaked out and called the cops, then evacuated the store.

Three Las Vegas Metro police officers — William Mosher, Joshua Stark, and Thomas Mendiola — rolled up and waited outside the store. When they saw Scott walking out of the store, they came up behind him and grabbed him on the shoulder and screamed at him to get down. He turned around and obeyed less than instantaneously, so the cops opened fire and stone cold gunned him down in the parking lot.

The cops claimed that before they lit him up with 7 shots, Scott had "reached for his gun" in his waistband. Then, later, they claimed that he "refused orders [sic] and instead withdrew a handgun and pointed at them.".

Most of the witnesses, including a friend who was standing right next to Scott when the police gunned him down, say that he never did. A few witnesses differ — they say they did see him take out his gun but that he never pointed it at the cops. Metro said that Scott was "ripping merchandise apart", "kind of going berserk", and that they had "received numerous 911 calls for his erratic behavior and reporting he was carrying a gun".

Turns out that what actually happened is that another customer saw Scott opening up a box of aluminum water bottles "putting some in his cart and some on the floor", in order to find out how many would fit in his cooler; when store security tried to confront him about it, Scott’s voice got "elevated".

A number of later 911 calls, provoked by the store’s panicky evacuation, recorded parts of the cop’s confrontation with Scott; the police have refused to release the 911 tapes.

The Costco has surveillance cameras on the parking lot; the police took the tapes, but claim that they haven’t looked at them yet because of "technical issues."

The investigation of this police shooting by Las Vegas Metro is, of course, being handled by more police from Las Vegas Metro. There will almost certainly never be any kind of public trial; a coroner’s inquest hasn’t been scheduled, but will probably happen "sometime in September".

(There has been only 1 Clark County coroner’s inquest in 34 years that ever found any Metro police shooting to be neither justified nor "excusable.")

Meanwhile, the three cops who gunned down Erik Scott have been given a paid vacation from their jobs. The local newsmedia has been all over this story, mainly because Scott shops in Summerlin and used to be a tank commander in the United States government’s Army.

Bill Scott, Erik’s father, has said that he hopes this case will draw attention to how many people Metro has gunned down: "There are a lot of people who have been killed in Las Vegas, a lot of them by the police. They didn’t have a voice. This time, quote me: they killed the wrong guy.

Officer Luis Norris. Las Vegas Metro Police Department

Another cop working for the local government in Las Vegas opened fire on an unarmed man this past Tuesday, for the crime of taking a shortcut through a residential neighborhood while the cop was Investigatin’. The man "appeared on the wall" while the cop was talking to a local homeowner about a possible prowler.

Of course, all kinds of people live in a residential neighborhood (by definition), and all kinds of people pass through, so a civilized person might take this as a reason to shout "What are you doing here?" but Officer Luis Norris was packing heat and "startled" so he whipped out his gun and opened fire on this innocent man, who was not the prowler, was unarmed, had committed no crime, and posed no threat to anything other than the cop’s composure and poise.

Thankfully, Officer Luis Norris is a bad shot: he missed the man he was trying to gun down in a moment of irrational panic, so his intended target lived through the night long enough for Authorities to later determine he was not a threat.

Since Luis Norris just recklessly endangered the life of an innocent man, but didn’t kill him in the process, there will not even be a coroner’s inquest. Instead, Officer Luis Norris’s has been given a paid vacation from his government job, and eventually, his "actions will be reviewed by the department’s use of force board," which may hit him with such serious consequences as a "written reprimand" or even firing him from his job. In case you were wondering, the process is not open to the public.

Las Vegas Metro is full of heavily-armed, twitchy, terrified cops who are easily "startled" and ready to open fire on helpless or harmless people at even the most furtive motion.

Whether you’re resting in bed with your fiancee on Eastern and Bonanza, or going shopping with your fiancee in Summerlin to celebrate your new life together, or just talking a quiet walk through the neighborhood out at Desert Inn and Sandhill, there is a heavily armed force, patrolling 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, constantly ready to come down on you and gun you down at even a moment’s hesitation to obey their bellowed commands, or the slightest twitch that they don’t understand, or just for "startling" them.

If they shoot at you, or even if they kill you, they will almost certainly never be held accountable for their actions; the worst that’s likely to happen is that they might lose their job, and what’s more likely is that they will be put back onto the streets to continue a long and storied career of killing unarmed people.

We are told that we need this heavily armed, omnipresent, domineering, hyperviolent, completely unaccountable paramilitary occupation force constantly in our lives and at our throats in order to stop our community from being overrun by small-time possible neighborhood prowlers, by erratic men who take aluminum water bottles out of their boxes at Costco, and from black men who might maybe be willing to sell a bit of pot to willing customers. We are told that we need this heavily armed, omnipresent, domineering, hyperviolent, completely unaccountable paramilitary occupation force in order to keep us safe. But who will keep us safe from them?

Original report here

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Thug Australian cops refuse to admit that they got it wrong

No apology of course. I just hope there was a substantial costs award against them

LISA MAREE BOERSMA had just returned from a holiday in the US when she found herself thrust into the middle of a nightmare. On June 23 last year the 26-year-old swimwear designer and part-time model from Bondi Beach found her black BMW surrounded by armed officers from the drug squad.

Ms Boersma was surprised when police found five one-kilogram bags of white powder and a kilogram of hydrophosphorous acid, which they said could be used as a precursor chemical in making methylamphetamine.

She had no idea how the bags got there and was stunned when a roadside test of the powder gave a reaction consistent with methylamphetamine. She was arrested and charged with supplying a prohibited drug and possessing in excess of five kilograms of methylamphetamine, which could have resulted in a 25-year jail sentence.

Ms Boersma told police that while she was abroad her car was used by her bodybuilder boyfriend and his mates. For three days she was held in custody until her solicitor, Stephen Alexander, secured bail.

In an attempt to have the bail overturned police speeded up testing of the powder, which would normally have taken six to 12 weeks. It was only then they discovered they had made a grave mistake - the powder was caffeine dimethyl sulfone, a legally obtainable supplement taken by bodybuilders.

Yet police would not drop the charges. Finally, on Thursday, Chief Magistrate Graeme Henson in the Downing Centre Local Court dismissed the case against Ms Boersma. "My client has gone from hell to heaven in having to endure this mistake," Mr Alexander said as they walked from court.

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Police thuggery in America

Across America, daily incidents occur, one of many the cold-blooded January 1, 2009 murder of Oscar Grant - unarmed, offering no resistance, thrust face-down on the ground, shot in the back, and killed, videotaped on at least four cameras for irrefutable proof. USA Today said five bystanders taped it....

Systemic Police Brutality

An earlier Jones text and video account headlined, "Epidemic of Police Brutality Sweeps America," showing footage of police repeatedly tasering a student with 50,000 volts of electricity for questioning the 2004 election results at a campus meeting.

Other videotaped incidents showed:

-- a man victimized by police violence;

-- a former sheriff's deputy acquitted of voluntary manslaughter for shooting an unarmed man;

-- police repeatedly beating an old man on the head, "for the crime of intoxication;"

-- officers violently using assault rifles, tear gas, dogs, and at least one helicopter in an alleged narcotics sweep;

-- a woman tasered to death by police; and

-- a man in shock, bleeding and burned over much of his body, ordered to lie on the pavement, then tasered and shot to death while he sat dazed, the Report highlighting systemic police violence "repeated almost every day in (America), the police (getting) away with murder," beatings, and other lawless acts - poor Blacks, Latinos, and Muslims for their faith and ethnicity their usual victims....

National Police Misconduct Statistics

The Injustice (IE) web site compiles them, publishing them in regular reports, some for individual cities, including daily accounts. One on July 10 covers King County, WA deputy Paul Schene, captured on videotape assaulting a 15-year old girl in jail. He was tried twice, hung juries resulting each time.

On July 9, the County Prosecutor's Office dropped the charges, and won't pursue a third trial. As a result, the sheriff's department may rehire Schene, though he still faces possible disciplinary action. It's currently in arbitration, IE saying decisions nearly always favor officers, in which case he'll likely be reinstated to abuse other detainees, off camera to avoid being charged.

In early 2010, IE published an April - mid-December 2009 (8.5 months) Police Misconduct Report, from figures compiled in its National Police Misconduct Statistics Reporting Project (NPMSRP), begun earlier in March 2009, analyzing data:

"by utilizing news media reports of police misconduct to generate statistical information (to) approximate how prevalent (it) may be in the United States."

Police departments don't usually provide them, nor do courts, except for successful prosecutions, omitting confidential settlements and cases resulting in disciplinary action only, not trials. Media reports, though imperfect, are more complete because laws limit or filter information released. As a result, IE's data "should be considered as a low-end estimate of the current rate of police misconduct," as well as in individual cities covered.

Statistics compiled follow the same DOJ/FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) methodology, recording only the most serious allegation (not conviction) when multiple ones are associated with a particular incident. The findings were as follows:

-- 3,445 police misconduct reports;

-- 4,012 officers charged;

-- 261 law enforcement officials (police chiefs or sheriffs) cited;

-- 4,778 alleged victims;

-- 258 fatalities reported;

-- an average of 15.05 daily incidents or one every 96 minutes;

-- nearly $200 million in related civil litigation expense, excluding legal fees and court costs;

-- 980.64 per 100,000 officers charged;

-- one of every 266 officers accused of a violent crime;

-- one of every 1,875 charged with homicide;

-- one of every 947 accused of sexual assault;

-- 33% of police officers charged were convicted, not necessarily justly for the offense committed;

-- 64% of officers convicted were imprisoned, not necessarily as long as justified;

-- those sentenced served an average 14 months, far less than citizens for the same crime;

-- misconduct by category included 18.1% for non-firearm related excessive force; 11.9% for sexual misconduct; and 8.9% for fraud or theft;

-- analyzing reports by last reported status showed 45.9% affected officers adversely, including 14% internally disciplined and 31.9% criminally charged; of the latter, 32.5% were convicted "for a 10.4% total criminal conviction rate for alleged misconduct incidents; and

-- 27% resulted in civil lawsuits, 34.3% favoring victims.

In addition, data were compiled for states, cities and counties, excluding unavailable federal statistics as well as local omissions, especially in some states. Various offenses included:

-- accountability: evidence of coverups, lax discipline, and other failures to adhere to official policies or processes;

-- animal cruelty, harming them by unnecessary shooting, inappropriate KP unit training, or other mistreatment;

-- assault: "unwarranted violence" off-duty, excluding murder;

-- auto incidents involving recklessness, negligence, and other violations of official policies;

-- brutality, involving excessive physical force on-duty, excluding firearms or tasers;

-- civil rights, including unconstitutional civil liberties violations such as lawless peaceful protest disruptions;

-- sexual misconduct, including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, wrongfully eliciting sex, harassment, coercion, prostitution, sex on duty, incest, and molestation;

-- theft or fraud, including robbery, shoplifting, extortion or bribery;

-- shooting: gun-related incidents both on and off-duty, including self-harm;

-- taser: excessive force, including usage not according to guidelines, resulting in excessive injury or death; also, improper taser use may be recorded as "brutality;"

-- color of law, including incidents involving misuse of authority such as bribery, soliciting favors, extortion by threat of arrest, or using badges to avoid arrest;

-- perjury, including false testimony, dishonesty during investigations, and falsifying charging papers or warrants; and

-- raids, including misconduct during warranted or warrantless operations or searches, wrong address raids, mistaken ones, use of no-knock ones when warrants require notification, or mistreatment during executions.

Misconduct status stages go from allegations to investigations, lawsuits, charges, trials, judgments, disciplinary measures, terminations, convictions, and sentences.

IE compiles data regularly, prepares daily and quarterly reports, and henceforth an annual one each January the following year. It explains that its statistics:

"should only be used (as) a very basic and general view of the extent of police misconduct. It is by no means an accurate gauge that truly represents the exact extent (of its extensiveness) since it relies on the information voluntarily gathered and/or released to the media, not (first-hand) by independent monitors who investigate complaints.....because no such agency exists for any law enforcement agency...."

Detailed quarterly and annual reports are produced, not monthly ones considered a less accurate "depiction of the overall extent of police misconduct...." Daily reports cover a sampling of individual incidents. Overall, IE provides a valuable reading of systemic police misconduct, though capturing only a snapshot of the full problem - widespread, abusive, violent, often with impunity, and when officers are held accountable, imposed discipline is usually mild, prison sentences rare and short-term, victims cheated by a criminally unjust system, favoring power over people, no matter the offense.

Final Comments

In December 2007, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination published a report titled, "In the Shadows of the War on Terror: Persistent Police Brutality and Abuse of People of Color in the United States," saying:

"Since this Committee's 2001 review of the US, during which it expressed concern regarding incidents of police brutality and deaths in custody at the hands of US law enforcement officers, there have been dramatic increases in law enforcement powers in the name of waging the "war on terror (resulting in) the use of excessive force against people of color....(It's not only continued post-9/11), but has worsened in both practice and severity" - a NAACP representative saying it's "the worst I've seen in 50 years."

On April 4, 2007, Ryan Gallagher, writing for Medill Reports, produced by Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, headlined, "Study: Police abuse goes unpunished," saying:

From 2002 - 2004, over "10,000 complaints of police abuse were filed with Chicago police....but only 19 resulted in meaningful disciplinary action, a new study asserts." According to Gerald Frazier, president of Citizens Alert, it reflects "not only the appearance of influence and cover-up," but clear evidence that city residents are being abused, not protected, despite the department's official motto being "We Serve and Protect."

Most disturbing is that the Chicago pattern reflects what's happening across America, people of color like Oscar Grant systematically abused, in his case murdered in cold blood, what no criminal or civil actions can undo.

Original report here

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

DC: Photographer detained twice in four months for taking pictures of cops

Jerome Vorus, a 19-year-old man living in Washington DC, is the latest photographer to prove that cops either do not know the law regarding photography or just choose to make it up as they go along in the hopes the photographer will be clueless. Fortunately, Vorus is far from clueless.

In the last four months, he’s been detained twice for taking pictures of cops. In the first incident last March, he was actually tackled by an officer who supposedly was later disciplined.

You can hear that incident in the audio recording he made that demonstrates that although he is an aspiring pilot, he would make one hell of a lawyer.

The assault takes place in the first clip. The second clip captures the aftermath, including a moment when a cop tells Vorus he needs to “stop hiding behind the Constitution.”

In the latest incident earlier this month – which was covered by NBC Washington and might be covered by The Washington Post - he came across a few cop cars making a traffic stop and snapped a few photos.

A male cop demanded to know what he was doing. He asked if he was being detained. The cop hemmed and hawed and told him no, he was not being detained. That he was free to go.

“As I was walking away, two other units pulled up,” he said in a phone interview with Photography is Not a Crime. A female officer then stepped out and demanded his identification. He asked again if he was being detained. He also started recording the conversation.

“I notified her that I was only required to provide her with ID if I was suspected of a crime,” he said. “She said, ‘yes, you’re being detained.’ I said, ‘now that we’ve established I’m being detained, here is my ID,’.”

The officer, who was under the impression that it was illegal to photograph police in public, then checked to see if he had any warrants against him. She also said it was illegal for him to audio record her, which he was doing openly. Neither is illegal in Washington DC.

Meanwhile, the first cop was telling him that he was free to leave. Both officers were of equal rank. Vorus asked for a supervisor, which only complicated matters.

“A sergeant arrived and told me I could not take pictures without permission,” he said. A friend of his then arrived at the scene and tried correcting the officers by informing them that he, in fact, did not need permission to take their photos.

“Then they started asking for her ID,” he said. But she knew better than to provide her identification.

He was eventually released after almost 30 minutes.

A few days later, Vorus spoke to a Sgt. Mercer at the police department to file a complaint. “He said those officers were incorrect and that anyone can take pictures on public property,” he said. “He also told me he would speak to the officers to get their side of the story.

“It was Tuesday and he told me to call him back on Wednesday.”

Vorus called back on Thursday and surprise, surprise, the sergeant was no longer so cooperative. “He now had an attitude. He said the officers told him I was taking pictures of inside the police cars. I told him all the pictures I took are posted on my blog.”

Not that it should have made a difference. As long as he is not physically entering the police cars, he has every right to photograph whatever can be seen from the outside. If the cops don’t like it, let them tint their windows.

The First Incident

Vorus was hoping to take photos of airplanes at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va. It was March 1st and Vorus contacted the airport’s media relations department to inquire about its photo policy. He spoke to a Tara Hamilton.
We talked about me taking photos at the airport check-in kiosk for the airlines since that was private property leased by the airport, she notified me that I would need to ask their station managers. She also told me that she would notify TSA and Airport Police of my presence.

It wasn’t long before he was approached by Transportation Security Administration officials inquiring about his photography. The first two times, the TSA officials were in uniform. He told them he had permission and they did not push the matter further.

But then he was approached by two men in suits who told him he was not allowed to photograph “TSA checkpoints or TSA personnel.” “They said they were in law enforcement. I asked them to show me a badge,” he said.

One of the men told him, “we ain’t going to show you shit.” They eventually pulled out Homeland Security credentials.

Vorus began recording the conversation. He then snapped some photos of the men. Then he walked away after being informed he wasn’t being detained.

But then one of the Homeland Security officers beckoned a uniformed Metropolitan Washington Airport Police officer who was on a bicycle, telling him him that Vorus was being “combative.”

In cop talk, combative is anytime you question their authority. It’s the equivalent of contempt of cop. The only difference is, the word “combative” written on a police report gives them the justification of beating your head in.

So Vorus got into a discussion with the police officer, whose name turned out to be Corporal King.
I asked him “was I being detained” after 2 minutes of his hostility, and he did not respond. I then asked a couple more times. He stated no, I then asked him was I free to leave he also said no, I then followed up with well then I am being detained. He asked me for identification. I asked one more time was I being detained. NOTE: “By this point I am extremely frustrated. I was verbally abused by two TSA employees and accosted by an Airport Police Officer.” Officer King stated that if I did not provide proper Identification, I would need to leave the airport. I decided at this point I would depart from the airport.

As he was walking away, Vorus turned around and snapped a photo of King and another officer who had joined him. This caused King to become combative, to say the least.
I was told by other officers that I was being detained as a suspicious person. When it was confirmed that I had been detained, relinquished a VA Driver License. I then was told that I would be taken to jail at least for disorderly conduct.

Officers came, examined the images that were stored on my camera’s memory card. I was told to delete the images of TSA personnel and airport personnel. I was released twenty minutes later. I was told that I was being detained for suspicious behavior, but I was never searched.

When I took a picture of Officer King he jumped off of his bicycle and said “your ass ain’t gonna take a picture of me” and tackled me. I yelled “ that is assault, get off of me”. He grabbed the camera that was around my neck and walked away. The female officer yelled and motioned for me to sit on stairs that were to our left, two more officers came and yelled for me to sit down. One officer had a M-4 assault rifle.

The cops ended up deleting his images, which he was unable to recover, before sending him on his way.

He ended up filing a complaint against King and learned that the officer had “violated departmental policy” and “appropriate action has been taken” but wasn’t told any details, which probably means King was simply told not to tackle anybody when it was obvious he was being recorded.

Original report here

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Thug cops use Taser on woman calling for help

Janice Wells called the Richland Police Department when she feared a prowler was outside her clapboard house in the rural west Georgia town.

The third-grade teacher had phoned for help. But within minutes of an officer coming to her backdoor, she was screaming in pain and begging not to be shocked again with a Taser. With each scream and cry, the officer threatened her with more shocks.

"All of it's just unreal to me. I was scared to death," Wells said in an interview with the AJC. "He kept tasing me and tasing me. My fingernails are still burned. My leg, back and my butt had a long scar on it for days."

The officer in question is Ryan Smith of the Lumpkin Police Department. Smith was called to back up an officer from the Richland Police Department because the sheriff's office in the county, Stewart, had no deputies to send.

Smith resigned as a result of the incident. The other officer involved, Tim Murphy of Richland PD, was fired for using pepper spray while trying to arrest Wells.

Wells is considering filing a lawsuit, according to her attorney,.

The details of the altercation between Wells and the officers have been fodder discussions in the two towns, which are only 10 miles apart. Some have speculated there was a racial component to the altercation between Wells and the policemen; Wells is black and the officers are white.

Stewart County Sheriff Larry Jones, who came to the house seconds after the last electric shock was administered, suspects the outcome would have been different if the woman had been white and the officers black.

“I don’t think they would have done a white female like that,” said Jones, who is black. “If they had, it wouldn’t have been any doubt about whether they need to be terminated.”

Much of what happened in front of Wells' house was recorded by the camera on the dash of Smith's patrol car. The AJC obtained a copy of the video.

Wells, hidden from camera view by the open door of the Richland patrol car, can be heard pleading, “Don’t do that! Don’t do that!” “Get in the car. Get in the car. You’re going to get it again,” Smith answered. Almost immediately there is another clicking as the Taser is discharged again and Wells screams. "Don't do it! Don't do it!" Wells pleads again.

Smith, who quit eight days after the incident, remains unrepentant. "I did what I had to do to take control of the situation," Smith told the AJC about his decision to repeatedly discharge his Taser.

Yet his former boss, Lumpkin Police Chief Steven Ogle, was shocked when he saw the video. "I couldn’t believe it,” Ogle said. “You don’t use it [a Taser] for punitive reasons, to prod someone. It was evident it was an improper use of force. He was an excellent officer other than that incident."

Smith resigned just as Ogle started the process to fire him, the chief said. Smith now works for the Chattahoochee County Sheriff's office.

And on April 28, the Richland Police Department fired Murphy, the officer who first arrived at Wells' home. Murphy did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Some of the details contained in police department records conflict with those provided in interviews. And only the end of the encounter between Wells and the officers is captured on video.

But all agree that the struggle between Wells, 57, and Murphy, 52, started because she would not tell him the name of a friend who was at her house in Richland, 35 miles southeast of Columbus, when Murphy arrived around 9:30 p.m. on April 26.

Wells, who teaches in Columbus, said she had called to report a prowler. Murphy wrote in his police report that he was dispatched to check out a report of an “unwanted guest.”

John Robinson was at Wells' house when Murphy pulled up. Robinson told the AJC his friend of 26 years had called him to be with her until the police arrived. Robinson lives 10 miles from Wells and her husband was in McRae, almost 90 miles away.

According to Robinson, Wells and the police reports, the officer only asked Robinson how long he had known Wells, the status of their relationship and where he lived. Murphy asked nothing more, not even Robinson's name.

Moments later Robinson left. Murphy wrote he let the man leave because it is best to seperate people in domestic violence situations. “I could always arrest him later if I needed to since he lived nearby,” Murphy wrote in a report obtained by the AJC. But Wells and Robinson said there was no violence and nothing to suggest there had been any.

As Robinson pulled out of the driveway, Murphy asked Wells for her friend's name. She refused to give it.

“'You don’t need to know that,'” Murphy wrote in his report was Wells' response. “I told her that she would need to give me the information that I needed or she would be arrested for obstruction. I explained that state law mandates that we investigate to determine if there has been any family violence.”

She retrieved her purse and began walking around the side of her house until Murphy said he was taking her to jail.

“Janice then backed up from me in a fight or flight stance and I grabbed her arm and placed a handcuff on it,” Murphy wrote. “She pulled away and she took off. I sprayed her with pepper spray. I chased her around the house and tripped and fell, injuring my knee just as I caught up with her. As I was once again walking her to the car, she broke loose again and ran. She tripped and fell and I grabbed her again. As we got to the car, I attempted to get the other handcuff on her and get her in the car.”

Wells told the AJC, she finally stopped. “I fell to the ground. I was balled up and I was begging him to leave me alone,” Wells said. “Then he called for help.” Smith answered Murphy's call for backup.

In his report, Smith wrote he was concerned for Murphy’s welfare because his voice was weak. “[He] sound[ed] as if he could barely talk,” Smith wrote.

The camera recorded images of Smith's short drive down a two-lane road, but once he got within sight of the Wells' clapboard house, the dash cam also began recording sound.

As Smith pulled up, the video showed, Murphy was leaning on the roof of his car and a side door was open. He appeared to be talking to Wells, who was “in a ball position facing the ground,” according to Smith’s report.

Smith, 22, said nothing as he strode to the side of the car, his Taser in hand. Then came the sound of the electric buzz of the Taser and Wells screaming “Oh God! Oh God!” “Get in the car! Get in the car! Get in the car! You gonna get it again,” Smith screamed. Wells cried. In seconds the sound of the Taser can be heard again. “Don’t do it. Don’t do it. I ain’t gonna do nothing,” Wells pleaded.

Smith is heard threatening a more aggressive setting on his Taser. And then he used it again. “It felt like electricity going through your body,” Wells said. "He was tasing me so fast and I was asking them to stop. To me, it was like it was a dream."

Murphy’s report says Smith used his Taser three times. Smith said he probably discharged the Taser three or four times for a total of six seconds. One of those times, he shocked himself. The sound from the video suggests he discharged the device at least four times.

Wells' attorney, Gary Parker, said it may have been as many as 12 times. Parker said no decision has been made on filing a lawsuit but he is talking with local officials about a resolution.

After hearing about the calls to Wells' house, a woman he had known for years, the sheriff got to the house just as she was shocked for the last time. He said he could hear her screams as he pulled up. “Larry, help me,” Wells said as the sheriff walked up. “Larry, I didn’t do nothing.”

Jones said, “It took my best to hold my composure.” On the video, Jones can be heard softly reassuring Wells. Later that night, Jones bonded Wells out of jail and drove her to an area hospital to be examined.

He watched the video from the dash camera later. “It was worse than what I thought it was. I was shocked,” the sheriff told the AJC. "The public needs to know.”

Original report here

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Orleans cops charged over fatal Danziger Bridge shooting, cover-up

Good to see that this has finally got to court. Senior police aiding and abetting lies is corruption of the deepest dye and undermines all confidence in police testimony and integrity. It makes the USA into another Mexico

THE US Justice Department charged six New Orleans police officers today in connection with a shooting and alleged cover-up that occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Four officers - Kenneth Bowen, Robert Gisevius, Robert Faulcon and Anthony Villavaso - allegedly opened fire on an unarmed family on the east side of Danziger Bridge on September 4, 2005, killing 17-year-old James Brissette and wounding four other people.

Two supervisors, Arthur Kaufman and Gerard Dugue, were charged with conspiring to cover up the crimes.

The four officers had been responding to reports of looting and that someone was firing at police. Minutes later, officers allegedly shot at two brothers, injuring 40-year-old Ronald Madison, who had severe mental disabilities. Officer Bowen allegedly kicked and stomped Madison, who later died at the scene. Four other people were injured in the shootings.

The charges allege officers attempted to cover up the shootings by making them appear to have been justified. Police arrested Madison’s brother, Lance, and charged him with eight counts of attempting to kill police officers. Lance Madison was held in jail for three weeks but was released without charge.

Supervisors Mr Kaufman and Mr Dugue purportedly also held a meeting in an abandoned New Orleans Police Department building, where homicide officers instructed the officers involved in the shooting to get their stories straight before giving formal statements on the incident. Mr Kaufman allegedly claimed a gun from his home was found at a bridge and fabricated witness statements.

The two superviors are also accused of conspiring to have Lance Madison and Jose Holmes prosecuted on the basis of false evidence. Mr Holmes was part of the first group of alleged shooting victims.

Four of the men charged today were among seven officers indicted in December 2006 on charges of murder and attempted murder, USA Today reported. The charges were dismissed because of prosecutorial errors.

The four officers charged with killing civilians face maximum penalties of life in prison or the death penalty. Mr Kaufman faces a maximum penalty of 120 years in prison, while Mr Dugue faces a maximum penalty of 70 years in prison.

Five former New Orleans police officers have already admitted to participating in a cover-up of the shootings.

Original report here

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Several wrongful convictions in NC

Prison is meant to punish the guilty, but during his 17-year imprisonment following false charges he molested his former stepson in Hot Springs, Jonathan “Scott” Pierpoint found himself in the company of innocent men.

One was Dwyane Dail, jailed in 1989 for the rape of a 12-year-old Goldsboro girl. Dail was freed in 2007 after DNA evidence showed his conviction based on microscopic hair analysis was wrong.

Another, Greg Taylor, was convicted for the 1991 murder of a Raleigh woman and freed after 17 years, in part, Taylor said, because it was learned a jailhouse informant had lied.

Pierpoint, who met the two men during his prison time, himself was exonerated on July 6 after his former stepson recanted his 1993 testimony, saying he had in fact not been raped by Pierpoint at the age of 7.

North Carolina has some of the best rules in the nation to prevent wrongful convictions, advocates for police and prosecutorial reform say. But they also say better protections should exist for men such as Pierpoint, Dail and Taylor.

“I want people to know that there is such a thing as wrongful convictions in the state of North Carolina,” said Pierpoint, 46, who was serving a life sentence. “And there needs to be something done.”

Common denominators

It's not possible to know how many wrongfully jailed people there are in North Carolina, reform advocates say. But it is known that over the last 20 years 22 inmates have been exonerated following efforts by advocacy groups such as the N.C. Center on Actual Innocence in Durham.

Case circumstances vary widely, but common denominators include reliance on eyewitness accounts, false confessions and tainted testimony, said center director Chris Mumma.

“Seventy-five percent of them have misidentification. Twenty-five percent have false confessions of some type,” Mumma said. “Then there's also instances of unreliable informants or ‘snitch' testimony.”

Others say the cases tend to involve people of little means, are often based on sex offense charges and reflect pressure on police to close cases.

More here

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Tension surrounds killer cop’s sentencing

The involuntary manslaughter conviction of a white former transit officer in the death of an unarmed black man set the stage for a sentencing that could be just as explosive as the trial depending on how the judge interprets the verdict.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry has a tremendous amount of discretion in handing down punishment Aug. 6 against Johannes Mehserle — anywhere from probation to 14 years.

A sentence on the low end could further inflame tensions among the hundreds of angry people who took to the streets of Oakland Thursday over what they believe should have been a murder conviction.

Those protesters could find some satisfaction in the way Perry decides to apply a finding by the jury that Mehserle used a gun to commit the crime.

Involuntary manslaughter convictions call for two to four years in prison, but Perry could tack on an additional three to 10 years due to the gun enhancement.

“I think he could get substantial time, by that I mean like six years,” said John Barnett, a defense attorney from Orange County who represented one of four Los Angeles police officers acquitted of beating Rodney King in 1992. “There is going to be a lot of pressure to give him state prison.”

In a handwritten letter released Friday, Mehserle suggested a possible prison term wouldn’t be his only punishment for killing 22-year-old Oscar Grant.

He said he will forever “live, breathe, sleep and not sleep” with the memory of Grant dying on the train platform and “knowing that Mr. Grant should not have been shot.”

Mehserle, 28, testified during his trial that he struggled with Grant and saw him digging in his pocket as officers responded to reports of a fight at a train station.

Fearing Grant may have a weapon, Mehserle said he decided to shock Grant with his Taser but mistakenly pulled his .40-caliber handgun. Grant was shot as he lay face-down.

Prosecutors wanted Johannes Mehserle convicted of murdering Grant. Instead, jurors decided Mehserle didn’t mean to kill Grant, but his behavior was still so negligent that it was criminal.

The judge has the option of tossing out the gun enhancement, though experts say that seems unlikely because of Perry’s no-nonsense reputation on the bench.

Legal experts also said a sentence of probation appears remote, especially because Mehserle was taken into custody immediately after the verdict and booked into the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail, where he will be kept apart from the general population. “It is probably politically difficult to give him probation,” Santa Clara University law professor Edward Steinman said.

Mehserle was arrested two weeks after the shooting and has remained free after posting $3 million bail in February 2009, meaning he would have no credit for time served if he is sentenced to prison.

Some experts doubt that Mehserle will receive the maximum sentence and question whether an on-duty police officer should be punished with additional state prison time for using a service weapon.

The gun enhancement law was passed to additionally punish armed muggers, robbers and other criminals for endangering lives during their crimes. Using it in a shooting death that resulted in an involuntary manslaughter conviction is redundant and illogical, said Stanford University law professor Robert Weisberg. “There is a real ambiguity here,” Weisberg said. “This is an odd application of the statute.”

Mehserle could be facing more than state prison time if a civil rights investigation planned by the U.S. Justice Department leads to charges and a federal conviction.

In a move reminiscent of the Rodney King beating case in Los Angeles, federal authorities said they will investigate the shooting.

Federal officials stepped into the King case after a state court jury acquitted four Los Angeles police officers in 1992 of using excessive force. The acquittals touched off three days of riots, 53 deaths and more than $1 billion in damage.

Original report here

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

The FBI Closes a Window to the Truth: Why federal investigators should use recording devices

Very strange. Videorecording of police interviews with suspects has long been common in many jurisdictions worldwide. It is seen as protecting the victim from false police evidence as well as assisting conviction of the guilty. Perhaps it's the protecting the victim aspect that the FBI dislike

Modern recording devices are a boon to law enforcement. Wiretaps betray crooks plotting their crimes. Surveillance cameras on city streets identify muggers and drug dealers. Video gear in patrol cars shows drivers who can barely stand, much less walk a straight line.

All these provide devastating evidence in court: Jurors can witness exactly what happened. But when it comes to capturing some of the most important information available for fighting crime, the Federal Bureau of Investigation would rather see no evil and hear no evil.

Agents conducting an interrogation of someone they have detained need a record of what the suspect says. So what do they do? They grab a pen and take notes down on paper. Then they type up an account, just as their forebears have been doing since the Taft administration.

The written account—which is not even signed by the suspect—is all prosecutors have when they want to use incriminating statements against a defendant. It's the FBI's word against the suspect's as to whether he actually said what the agent recalled.

The result at trial is often unpleasant for the prosecution. "You can imagine how the cross-examination goes," sighs Paul Charlton, a former U.S. attorney for Arizona, who does a convincing impression of an incredulous defense attorney. "'Agent Dokes, do you have a recording device? Do you know how to operate it? Agent Dokes, why didn't you use a recording device?'"

Charlton, who was fired by the Justice Department in 2006 for trying (without success) to force the FBI to record confessions in Arizona, had been sorely frustrated by its policy. "We lost cases, we had to plead down cases, we had to drop cases just because of this policy," he recalls in a phone interview.

The Justice Department, finally waking up to the arrival of the 21st century, now has a task force reexamining the virtual ban on recording, which by any reasonable standard is as obsolete as J. Edgar Hoover. But the FBI shows no openness to change.

Spokesman Bill Carter provides the traditional explanations for rejecting recording as a normal practice. He says they can "inhibit frank discussions and end interviews early" if the arrestee is averse to taping.

Maybe so. But the occasional objection from someone being questioned doesn't justify a general policy against taping.

In any event, the FBI ignores a mass of experience acquired by police agencies that make use of modern technology. When I asked Carter if the FBI had looked at their experience for possible lessons to be learned, his refreshingly candid answer was "no."

It would learn a lot from asking them and even more from trying what they've tried. When cops start taping all confessions and interrogations, they suddenly discover that recording devices are their best friends.

Chicago lawyer Thomas Sullivan, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, has with his colleagues queried more than 800 U.S. law enforcement personnel in departments that routinely tape custodial interviews. Of those departments, Sullivan wrote in a 2008 article in the American Criminal Law Review, "not a single one has expressed a wish to return to non-recorded custodial interviews."

Why is that? Recording the process frees cops from scribbling notes, letting them focus on how the suspect handles himself. Reviewing the tape, they sometimes notice things they missed the first time.

The recording relieves police of having to recall events that may be years old by the time they take the stand. They no longer endure grilling from defense lawyers about whether they gave Miranda warnings or coerced suspects. When a jury gets to see a criminal calmly recounting his crime, a conviction usually ensues.

Here's something else that may interest the FBI: Cops, Sullivan writes, report that "most suspects pay no attention to the recording equipment once the interview begins."

More here

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Crooked Australian cops wrongfully send man to jail but he loses most of his compensation on a technicality

"Planted" evidence. $60,000 is peanuts for such a gross miscariage of justice

A man awarded $230,000 in damages after being wrongly arrested and charged by police has been stripped of three quarters of his compensation.

Henry Landini already had an extensive criminal history when he was arrested for supplying heroin in 1980.

He was sentenced to 15 years' jail in 1984 but his convicted was quashed after former drugs squad officer Trevor Haken told the police royal commission that officers had planted the drugs in the boot of Mr Landini's car.

Mr Landini launched a damages claim against the state of New South Wales for $1 million.

After a six-year legal battle, he was last year awarded $230,000 in damages.

But the Court of Appeal has today slashed Mr Landini's compensation to $60,000 because the initial amount wrongly took into account events before legislation came into force making the state liable for the actions of the police officers involved.

The court found the damages awarded should have been limited to his wrongful conviction and sentence.

Original report here

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Friday, July 09, 2010

Absurd verdict in Mehserle case

Facing only light penalty. There was no reason for him to use ANY weapon, be it taser or gun. The victim was flat on his face on the ground. But cops have special privileges, of course

A white transit police officer was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on Thursday in the videotaped shooting death of an unarmed black man that triggered a night of rioting in Oakland, California.

The defendant in the racially charged trial, Johannes Mehserle, 28, testified that he mistakenly drew his pistol instead of his electric Taser weapon and shot Oscar Grant, 22, while trying to subdue him during a New Year's Day 2009 confrontation.

But prosecutors said in closing arguments that Mehserle "lost all control" and intentionally shot Grant because he was resisting arrest.

The Los Angeles County jury of four men and eight women deliberated for about six hours over two days before reaching their verdict, indicating they essentially believed Mehserle's account that he shot Grant accidentally.

Juries can find a defendant guilty of involuntary manslaughter if they believe he lacked the intent to kill but that his actions were so grossly negligent that he should be held criminally responsible for them.

Legal experts have said involuntary manslaughter is generally punishable by two to four years in prison. It is rare for a law enforcement officer to be charged with murder in connection with an on-duty shooting.

Police in Oakland, across the Bay to the east of San Francisco, moved to a tactical alert status as they braced for the possibility of renewed violence following the verdict. But civic leaders appealed for calm.

Demonstrations by supporters of Grant, a young father who worked as a grocery store butcher, were planned in Oakland and Los Angeles.

"We don't know if we're going to have a riot or a celebration, but either way we're going to have one," protester Cindy Delgado said outside the downtown Los Angeles courthouse before the verdict was announced.

"I'm concerned about riots. I don't want to be hit by a bottle," said Francisco Raygoza, 30, an accountant leaving work in San Francisco. "Our office manager said leave as soon as you can."

Video footage of the slaying shown widely over the Internet and television, appeared to show Grant lying face down on the train platform when he was shot in the back. Mehserle was seen holstering his gun immediately afterward and putting his hands on his head as in disbelief.

The killing unleashed charges of police brutality and a night of civil unrest in Oakland, where demonstrators smashed store windows and set cars on fire. Police arrested over 100 people on charges of vandalism, unlawful assembly and assault.

The Alameda County Superior Court judge in the case, which was moved to Los Angeles because of heavy pretrial publicity in Oakland, ruled that the jury could not consider a first-degree murder charge. Judge Robert Perry held there was too little evidence to show the killing was premeditated.

Had he been convicted of second-degree murder, Mehserle faced a sentence of 15 years to life in prison. The jury could alternatively have found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter or acquitted him entirely.

Original report here

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