Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thug British cops again

Police drag boy, 13, out of bed at midnight for throwing an APPLE. But if your car gets stolen they are not interested

When two police officers turned up on his doorstep at 11.20pm, Clive Lindoe feared the worst. But the father of three was shocked and angry to learn the reason for the late-night visit – an allegation that his youngest son had thrown an apple at another boy.

They even threatened to arrest Charlie, 13, when his father initially refused to let them see him until the morning.

The schoolboy was then woken up and taken to the ‘bullying and brutish’ officers, who made him sign what is believed to have been a neighbourhood resolution agreement, used to resolve minor disputes – even though he denied hurling the apple in the first place.

Mr Lindoe, 50, has since made an official complaint to Essex Police, accusing the force of leaving his son traumatised by the heavy-handed treatment. ‘We had been enjoying a lovely evening together as a family,’ said Mr Lindoe, who lives with his wife Lyn, 48, and their children Charlie, James, 14, and Robyn, 16, in Great Horkesley, near Colchester.

‘The boys had gone to bed and then suddenly there was a banging at the door – really hard knocks. ‘When the police told me they were investigating reports of an apple being thrown I could not believe it was about such a petty issue. ‘I told them they would have to come back in the morning, but they said, “We can’t do that – get him out [of bed] or we will go in there and arrest him”.

‘Charlie was crying and shaking and saying, “Dad, I didn’t do it, I didn’t throw the apple, don’t let them arrest me”. ‘If they were investigating a murder or a serious assault, I could understand the need for coming late at night. ‘But they arrived five days after [the incident] was supposed to have happened.’

Mr Lindoe said his son had never been in trouble with the police before, and accused the officers of failing to listen to his side of the story when they grilled him at the family’s £250,000 bungalow on Saturday.

‘He’s no angel, that’s for sure, but he did not do this and he did not deserve to be treated like that,’ Mr Lindoe added. ‘The officers were bullying and brutish in the way they approached us.’

He suggested the apple-throwing was the result of a long-running squabble between two sets of boys in the village. He said his son had been out with a friend when they bumped into another youth from the rival group, who has been named locally as Leo.

During the confrontation that followed, Mr Lindoe said an apple was thrown at Leo, leaving him with a slight bruise to the arm – but he added that he had made enquiries and was certain his son was not responsible.

‘This kind of thing happens when kids are growing up,’ he said. ‘They have their friends they get on with and then there are others who they may not get on so well with. ‘But to behave in the way [the police] did to my boy, at the time they called round, just beggars belief.’

Yesterday, the family were visited by a sergeant who is investigating their complaint. Essex Police has refused to identify the form Charlie signed because their investigation is ‘ongoing’. A spokesman added: ‘It would be inappropriate to comment any further.’

Original report here

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Drug War’s piranhas

The invaders who murdered Hampton, Virginia resident William Cooper swiped about $900 in cash. They seized his gun collection. They took the Lexus from his driveway. By some oversight they neglected to extract the gold fillings from his teeth.

While they made off with a decent haul, the robbers were doubtless disappointed that they couldn't locate the large stash of illicit prescription drugs they had expected to find. They had the luxury of tossing the home at leisure without worrying about being interrupted by the police -- on account of the fact that they were the police.

William Cooper, a 69-year-old retiree who suffered from the familiar variety of afflictions attendant to age, was startled awake on the morning of June 18 by two men who had barged into his home with their guns drawn and ready. Since he lived in a neighborhood in which home invasions (of the non-State-sanctioned variety) were commonplace, Cooper slept with a loaded handgun on his nightstand. He made an entirely proper but regrettably ineffective use of that weapon in an effort to repel the intruders, and was gunned down in his bedroom.

The police raid was triggered by an unsubstantiated tip from a still-anonymous informant that the NASA retiree -- who walked with a cane and, according to his neighbors, never seemed to have any visitors -- was illegally selling prescription drugs from his home. After they murdered Hampton, the police found about two-dozen different prescription drugs in the home, including various painkillers and medications for blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

An apparatchik with the Hampton PD insisted that the lethal home invasion had turned up "evidence" of illegal drug dealing. Someone not required to lie for reasons of professional convenience would admit the obvious: The victim of this needless home invasion was simply a sick, helpless old man who made extensive use of his Medicare Part D benefits. Now that he's dead, the people responsible for killing him are permitted to keep the stolen property as "proceeds" from alleged narcotics dealing.

The lethal June 18 assault on William Cooper's home was carried out under the supposed authority of Virginia's Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Task Force (PNETF).

The "Asset Forfeiture Addendum" to the PNETF's most recent "Memorandum of Understanding" specifies that "TASK FORCE investigations should result in the seizure of forfeitable assets." It is also expected that the plunder will be distributed "in a fair and equitable manner," with a little more than one-third going to the city governments of Hampton and Newport News, a little less than a fifth going to the State Police, and the rest being lavished on the "Peninsula Association of Commonwealth Attorney's Association" (redundancy in the original). At least some of the boodle would be used to cultivate other informants, as well.

To understand what really happened in William Cooper's home on June 18, it's useful to imagine the murdered retiree's body surrounded by police, prosecutors, and local politicians who pick over his lifeless form like a colony of vultures. The cash is divvied up, with Hampton and Newport News getting about $300 apiece, the State Police receiving roughly $180, and the local prosecutors laying claim to about $120. For taking the lead in the heist, the Hampton Police Department is permitted to keep Cooper's car and gun collection, to use or liquidate as it sees fit.

As this is a "civil forfeiture" action, it's not necessary to prove that Cooper actually broke any law. And since he's dead, he can't contest the forfeiture action in court. If police had conducted an actual investigation, rather than staging a home invasion robbery on the pretext provided by an unsubstantiated tip from an unknown informant, they and their cohorts wouldn't have been rewarded with this modest haul.

Original report here

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Transparency and totalitarianism through the modern lens

The camera eye is not minatory. It is not, by itself, menacing, or evil. It merely aims, focuses, and (if the mechanisms behind it are sound) records. And yet, in some contexts, it seems alien, like the red orb of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey, or invasive, like the public cameras all over Britain, and increasingly in these United States.

Personally, I’ve never minded the cameras in 7-Eleven, or the uptown mall. I know they are recording my sauntering gait through their purview. But, they record everybody, and I am sure that the eyes behind those cameras glaze over at my torso and shadow. Nothing to see here. I move along. Somewhere, in secret rooms now or later, the eyes move on, too.

Some folks get freaked out about this, use words like “Big Brother.” But I’m afraid my suspicions rise only when those cameras are run by governments. The local mall presents no threat. They want me to be safe, so that I can buy more stuff.

I wish I could say the same of our governments. But, something there is in government that doesn’t respect my autonomy. Because too many laws are bad laws, and because the people enforcing those laws have monopoly privileges, too often those in authority turn antagonistic.

In the context of our “throw-the-book-at-em” culture, I don’t want our streets and byways to be filled by government cameras, constantly spying.

It turns out, most voting Americans don’t want that, either. In every jurisdiction in the union where red-light cameras have been put up for a vote, they’ve been voted down.

The red-light camera is, in case you are not familiar, one of those ostensible safety measures that turn invasive and malign pretty easily. At first blush, you might think that an increase in eyes on intersections would be a good thing. A lot of cars crash at intersections. Too many people die from such crashes.

But it becomes quite clear that the innocent cause of “safety first and foremost” doesn’t stay in focus. Many locales begin to issue citations for minor infractions to make the cameras pay. Worse yet, many municipalities with red-light cameras reduced their yellow-light durations after the cameras were installed. This, to increase the number of people nabbed, along with their checkbooks.

Typical government indecency, that. It’s why Americans increasingly distrust those in power. Something billed as a safety measure quickly becomes a shake-down racket. And, believe me, Americans do feel shaken. Shaken down. Nickeled and dimed.

But there is a deeper reason for Americans’ increasing disgust with government spying, and today’s red-light camera issue perfectly illuminates it. Some rules we want strictly enforced, because the harm done and rights violated are clear and unassailable. We want every murderer caught; we want every fraudster tracked down. But traffic rules are there to provide some ground-rules for traffic that help us on average. If you roll through a stop sign at three in the morning, in lonely streets, no harm is possible. Rolling through them at rush hour, with school buses on the road, that’s another story. Between these two extremes, where the rule has scant probability of doing good and where the rule is almost 100 percent necessary, there is a whole spectrum of probabilities. And, in the context of varying probability of danger even when motorists (or pedestrians, for that matter) fail to comply completely, most infractions of the law will yield no harm.

So, in this context, piecemeal, intermittent enforcement seems apt. If you are sometimes caught for your carelessness and inattention, you tend to be fine with that. But if you are caught every time, it seems way out of whack with the danger, since in most cases, the probability will be low.

There’s a certain type of mind, of course, that doesn’t understand this probabilistic, random aspect to life, and will always push for constant enforcement . . . and take every instance of injury or fatality as an example of the need for total enforcement.

Trouble is, that kind of impulse yields to totalitarian oversight. There is a reason why voters vote down red-light cameras. It’s not just simple self-interest. It’s not heedlessness of safety rules.

It’s hatred for totalitarianism. That’s why the people are fighting back. The zero tolerance mentality that infected America from the Nixon era to the present day is still with us, but is increasingly under attack. It is being battled at the fundamental level, where we debate “what is the role for government in society?”

On the other hand, the citizens’ lens has also exploded in the YouTube culture. It’s not just Big Brother that has cameras. We all do. In our phones, in our shirt pockets, in our cars.

And we are using them. Recording much of what we see, including police overkill, including public servant misconduct.

The age started with the Rodney King recording, where a dangerous motorist was brutally stomped on by police — many police — and the event was videotaped. The immediate results were less than pleasant, since much of the fallout diverged on the basis of race.

But since then, as private video sharing has grown in popularity, conduct and misconduct by public servants is seeing the light of day. We are reaching the Age of Transparency. Predictably, the authorities are striking back.

Arrests of citizens recording police actions is one of the most interesting ongoing stories of the day. Every week a new example pops into view. Last week, police at a public meeting arrested two journalists — one for photographing the event, the other for video-recording the first journalist’s arrest. The charges initially brought against the two were absurd, as Judge Andrew Napolitano pointed out on his great Fox program Freedom Watch. Neither behaved in a “disorderly” way (you can see for yourself, on YouTube), and, since the event was a public meeting, neither engaged in “unlawful entry.” Napolitano asked “what kind of a government do we have that watches us with cameras everywhere we go, but recoils in horror and uses force when we try to watch the government with cameras?”

The previous week’s example was police abandoning a nabbed motorist to arrest a woman “making them feel unsafe” by recording them from the safety of her own lawn.

Hysterical police-state over-reaction won’t go away until officials and police realize that people do have First Amendment rights, and that they are, themselves, civil servants, not Lords of the Realm.

Government cameras on citizens? Dangerous. Citizen lenses trained on government? Essential safety devices.

Original report here

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Schoolgirl was almost grabbed like murdered girl but lazy British police didn't act for 3 years

The girl who was almost kidnapped the day before Milly Dowler was murdered has accused police of blundering and robbing her of justice. Rachel Cowles was stopped in the same road as Milly by a chubby man in a red car as she walked home from school aged 11. She refused a lift. She repeatedly tried to report the incident to police, but they refused to take it seriously and didn't even take a statement for three years.

Last Friday the jury deliberating a charge of attempted abduction by Milly's killer Levi Bellfield was discharged without reaching a verdict.

Yesterday Miss Cowles, now a 21-year-old student nurse, told the Daily Mail: 'I am very angry and hurt, and I feel I have been robbed of justice. '[When the jury was discharged] I burst into tears. 'This whole thing has been very difficult and frightening, both recognising Bellfield in court and giving evidence. 'I just want to be able to draw a line in the sand and move on.'

Seconds after Miss Cowles refused a lift from the man in 2002, a police car passed and he sped off.

Miss Cowles and her parents John and Diana were convinced that her would-be attacker was Milly's killer.

For three years, every time there was an appeal about the unsolved murder or a new press report appeared, Miss Cowles's mother would ring Surrey Police and offer to make a statement about the stranger. Each time, she was told the force had no record of previous calls, that this one would definitely be logged and someone would call back – but they never did.

Miss Cowles added: 'I feel very lucky that I got away. When it came out about Milly it really hit me that it could have been me. 'I genuinely felt that I could put [the experience] to good use to help find Milly's killer.'

Her mother, 50, a secondary school science technician, said: 'It had to be more than a coincidence that Rachel was approached on the road where Milly went missing. 'Two girls, in two days – surely there had to be a connection? 'The police weren't taking us seriously.

'In the end we had to write to the chief constable, and it was only then, three years later, that they came to take Rachel's statement.'

Miss Cowles, in smart navy uniform and striped tie, with a dusting of freckles on her cheeks and brown eyes, bore an uncanny resemblance to Milly as she walked to her home in Shepperton, Surrey, in March 2002.

She said the driver beckoned her over, but soon after 'a police car drove towards us on the opposite side of the road and I think it spooked him and he sped off'.

Original report here

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

The high cost of wrongful convictions in Illinois

A seven-month investigation by the Better Government Association (BGA) and the Center on Wrongful Convictions (CWC) reveals the wrongful convictions of 85 men and women for violent crimes in Illinois has cost taxpayers more than $214 million, and imprisoned innocent people for more than 900 years. Meanwhile, the real perpetrators committed nearly 100 felonies.

While the study, which tracks exonerations from 1989-2010, reveals that most of the wrongful convictions were caused by multiple factors, the most common cause --- in 81 of the 85 cases --- was alleged government misconduct or error by police, prosecutors and forensic officials.

This is the first study that looks at the cumulative impact of police, prosecutorial and forensic failure in Illinois since the DNA era began more than two decades ago.

“This is a shameful failure of government in financial and human terms,” says BGA President & CEO Andy Shaw. “Public servants who are sworn to uphold the law and protect the public have done just the opposite in far too many cases.”

“This landmark investigation underscores the need for sweeping reforms of law enforcement, forensics and the judiciary,” says Rob Warden, the Center on Wrongful Convictions’ executive director. Warden worked with the BGA to draft a series of proposals for consideration by state officials.

Financial and Human Costs

The study indicates the total financial cost to state taxpayers will approach or surpass $300 million in the next several years as 16 civil suits now pending and a 17th to be filed later this year are settled or come to trial.

The joint investigation finds that while the 85 people were wrongfully incarcerated, the actual perpetrators were on a collective crime spree that totals at least 94 felonies, including 14 murders, 11 sexual assaults and 10 kidnappings.

“I am astounded,” said former U.S. Attorney Thomas Sullivan, who chaired the Capital Punishment Reform Committee established by the General Assembly. “Those are astounding numbers in terms of total years in prison and dollars spent.”

One bad set of prosecutions can cost taxpayers dearly. The conviction of four men for two murders in Ford Heights in 1978 ultimately cost taxpayers $45 million.

More disturbing, one bad case can ruin lives and wreak havoc in communities. During the 26 years that Jerry Miller was serving time and probation for a brutal rape he did not commit, Robert Weeks, the actual perpetrator, attacked at least four women, raping three (he was stopped before raping the fourth); committed aggravated battery on 11 police officers; and attacked a man with a chain, according to police and court documents. DNA testing in 2007 exonerated Miller. His civil suit cost the city $8 million in settlement and legal fees.

Causes of Wrongful Convictions

Alleged government error, often rising to the level of misconduct, and eyewitness misidentification are the two leading causes of wrongful conviction in the BGA/CWC study. Alleged government misconduct or error appear in 81 out of the 85 cases, and eyewitnesses fingered the wrong person in 46. False confessions occur in 33 cases, incentivized witness testimony in 30 and allegations of ineffective counsel in 22.

In the alleged government error and misconduct arena, police behavior dominated (66 cases), followed by prosecutors (44). Forensic specialists who gave questionable forensic evidence or testimony appear in 29 cases, according to the BGA/CWC investigation.

Jurisdictions in various parts of the country have introduced reforms to address the causes of wrongful conviction, but Illinois has been slow to adopt many of them. The BGA and the CWC are backing a series of reforms, including recording interrogations and confessions in all major felony cases, the adoption of ABA-recommended rules for prosecutors that would require them to work to right wrongful convictions, and the “blind” administration of police lineups and photo arrays. All of these policies have been embraced in other states. A copy of the investigation is being presented to the state’s top officials for public hearings and legislative action.

Details of the Investigation

The investigation’s findings are based on the cases of 83 men and two women who were charged with murder, attempted murder, rape, kidnapping and armed robbery who were exonerated between the years 1989 (chosen because it is the start of the DNA-exoneration era in Illinois) and 2010. The financial toll is calculated by adding the costs of incarceration in jails and prisons, compensation paid by the state in the wake of exoneration and civil litigation costs.

The study involves nearly 100 Freedom of Information Act requests; interviews with the exonerated, police and prison officials, attorneys and proponents for reform; reviews of public documents assembled in criminal cases and filed in civil suits; and complex calculations based on the varying costs of imprisonment.

The BGA/CWC study finds a substantial lag time between wrongful conviction and exoneration. In Illinois, the financial costs and the attendant human toll is likely to keep growing for the foreseeable future.

Original report here

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Retired physician, wife sue former Madison sheriff officials

A retired physician and his wife have filed a federal lawsuit against former Madison County Sheriff Nelson O'Donnell, a current deputy and the sheriff's department over a Jan. 2 incident in which the doctor was arrested after he fired a shotgun to stop a neighbor's dog from barking.

The lawsuit filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Lexington by Dr. William Grise and his wife, Mary, alleges false arrest, malicious prosecution, abuse of criminal process, unlawful search, invasion of privacy and a failure by the department to properly train and supervise employees.

O'Donnell said Wednesday that he isn't sure why the suit names him as a defendant because his term ended Dec. 31, but the suit says O'Donnell's term ended Jan. 3 and that his successor, Jerry Combs, then took office. Deputy Todd Allen and Combs could not be immediately reached Wednesday for comment.

"I had already turned in my keys, car, radio, everything, and he (Combs) was already moving in," O'Donnell said.

Grise, 82, was charged with alcohol intoxication in a public place, fourth-degree assault and carrying a concealed deadly weapon. In March the charges were dismissed as long as there were no further offenses, and Grise was to have no possession of firearms except for a shotgun that was not to be discharged except in self-defense, according to Madison District Court records.

In the suit, Grise says he fired the shotgun twice into the ground on his property in order to silence a neighbor's dog that "had become an annoyance." When Grise saw a car's lights coming up his driveway, he put a pistol in his pocket because he'd confronted "vagrants" and trespassers who had been threatening, and his house has been broken into, the suit says.

Deputy Sheriff Allen stepped out of the car and asked if Grise had fired a shotgun. Grise said he had, turned around and walked back into his house.

Allen followed and asked if he could enter. Grise refused and told Allen he had no warrant to do so. Allen instructed Grise to "come out here" and told Grise it was dangerous to discharge the shotgun because "there were children over there," the suit says.

Grise responded that he had "broken no law." The suit says Grise "never, at any time" uttered "any offensive words whatsoever."

However, in his report in the Madison District Court files, Allen said Grise was "cursing loudly" and also that Grise was "cursing toward me." The suit says Grise had had a half glass of wine that evening, but Allen's report said Grise "had a strong odor of alcohol, slurred speech and was unsteady on his feet while in the road in front of his residence." Grise's suit said he was not in a public place but was, at all times, on his private property.

The deputy and Grise's accounts also differ on what happened next.

The suit says Mary Grise, 77, who was weak, scared and unsure of herself on her feet after suffering a stroke two years ago, stepped back and fell down as Grise "tried to slide inside the partly open" front door. But Allen's account in court records says he saw Grise "push his wife down and then fall on top of her."

The suit says Allen grabbed Grise's arm and pulled, yelling "Come out here!" The suit says Allen told Grise "You are under arrest," but never told Grise why he was under arrest. Allen informed Grise that he had a gun in his pocket, the suit says, and adds that Grise "had never touched the gun in his pocket or even moved his hand in the direction to do so."

Allen, however, said in his account that "I asked if he (Grise) had a gun and he said 'Yes, in my pocket.' He then went to put his hand in his pocket but I beat him to it." The .38-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol was fully loaded, but Grise did not have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, Allen wrote.

The suit says Allen, "without any warrant or any justification whatsoever ... unlawfully entered and searched" the Grise home, but "found nothing in his warrantless search." The suit says Allen "fabricated the charges against" Grise "as well as his report of the incident."

The suit says "there was absolutely no probable cause to charge and arrest" Grise. The charge of alcohol intoxication in a public place" was groundless because Grise was not intoxicated and was on his own private property, the suit says. The fourth-degree assault charge was groundless because Mary Grise "fell due to her own illness, weakness and fright and was not physically injured," the suit says.

And Grise carried the pistol "only to defend himself, his wife and his property in his own house from the fast approach of an automobile, the identity of which could not be discerned by him given the darkness and bright headlights that shined directly at" him, the suit says.

The suit says the Grises "have suffered the expenditure of funds for counsel fees and costs, public ridicule, the loss of personal reputation, the tainting of plaintiff's medical license, and plaintiffs have suffered humiliation and extreme and several emotional distress."

The Grises seek a jury trial and the award of compensatory and punitive damages.

Original report here

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Blunders of British police who insisted: Milly Dowler's dad did it

It took them 9 years to find the real murderer despite an abundance of clues

An extraordinary anti-terrorist-style surveillance operation was launched against Milly Dowler's father in the weeks after her disappearance. So convinced were police that Bob Dowler had killed his daughter that they were blind to the possibility of other suspects. Instead of hunting the real murderer, they bugged IT consultant Mr Dowler during the crucial early stages of the bungled inquiry.

Recording and tracking devices were placed in his home and car, while a surveillance team was on standby 24 hours a day to clock his every move in the belief that he would lead officers to his daughter's body. Deeply personal discussions between Mr Dowler, his wife Sally and daughter Gemma were relayed to a police station.

The operation was launched because police had initial doubts over Mr Dowler's alibi. Officers also found pornography and bondage equipment during a search of the family home. None of the material found was illegal.

Detectives admit the surveillance operation on Mr Dowler was a 'major distraction' in the early days of the investigation, but insist it had to be carried out to rule him out of the inquiry. They also point out that abductions by strangers are notoriously difficult to solve.

But critics claim the bugging initiative was one of many blunders which enabled Bellfield to go on to murder Marsha McDonnell and Amelie Delagrange.

Milly was last seen alive at 4.08pm on March 21, 2002, as she walked along Station Avenue in Walton-on-Thames, and police were soon deluged with information.

There were 70 different sightings in the UK plus others as far away as Fiji. So desperate were senior officers for a breakthrough that two detectives even visited a psychic medium in Ireland (not surprisingly, nothing came of their trip).

A month before Milly vanished, Bellfield is believed to have exposed himself to an 18-year-old girl as she walked down Station Avenue, Walton – the very street from which Milly was snatched.

The flasher followed her along the road before dropping his trousers. The case was reported to police but incredibly not linked to Milly's disappearance because the victim was five years older.

For nearly three years, officers in the Milly inquiry were unaware that at the time she vanished, Bellfield was living with his girlfriend Emma Mills in Collingwood Place, Walton, only yards from where his victim was last seen. He fled the property days after the murder.

Officers called at the property ten times during the following two years before finally getting a reply on the 11th visit in May 2004. Even then, they failed to establish that Bellfield had been living there at the time of Milly's kidnap. Had his links to the property been realised, background checks would have identified him as a strong suspect, and possibly saved lives.

Bellfield was no stranger to police. Between 2000 to 2002, officers received 93 reports linking him to sexual assaults, threats, obscene phone calls and physical attacks. And in August 2002, five months after Milly vanished, another unit in Surrey Police identified Bellfield as being behind a credit-card fraud operation at the Collingwood Place address. But still the murder officers failed to spot his links to the property. Bellfield was arrested over the fraud on August 23, 2004, in West London. Even then he was quickly released by detectives who failed to link him to his trail of murderous destruction.

Four days earlier, he had bludgeoned Amelie Delagrange to death, having killed Marsha McDonnell a few miles away 18 months earlier.

It was only after Bellfield was arrested that November over the murder of Amelie that Surrey officers belatedly discovered his links to Collingwood Place and began investigating the theory that he abducted Milly. They were tipped off by top Scotland Yard murder squad officer, Detective Chief Inspector Colin Sutton, about Bellfield's links to Walton-on-Thames.

Surrey officers then carried out more research and found that Bellfield had access to a red Daewoo Nexia car, his girlfriend's, which was reported stolen 24 hours after Milly vanished. Officers re-examined CCTV footage and discovered the car (a 'red splodge' later identified as a Nexia) coming out of Copenhagen Way into Station Avenue about 22 minutes after Milly was last seen. Fresh analysis also revealed the N-registered Daewoo parked in the street half an hour before Milly vanished. Bellfield immediately became the prime suspect.

The delay in identifying him as the culprit meant Surrey officers were unable to retrieve any forensic evidence directly linking him to the crime, let alone find the red Daewoo, and prosecution lawyers initially ruled there was insufficient evidence to charge him with Milly's murder.

Time has done nothing to make Sally Dowler's pain any easier to bear. She has carried it from the moment she realised her daughter was missing, for the six months it took to find her skeletal remains, and for the nine years it took to bring Milly's killer to justice.

Then it emerged that Milly – a 13-year-old making the difficult transition from childhood to adolescence – suffered such self-loathing and inner anguish that she once considered suicide.

The strain drove Mrs Dowler to the brink of insanity, she admitted. Emotionally wrecked by the trauma and tormented by visions of her daughter, she had a nervous breakdown.

She still does not know exactly what happened to Milly, how she died, whether she suffered or was sexually assaulted, or how her last moments were spent.

Yesterday the 51-year-old teacher fled from court in floods of tears as the monster who murdered her daughter was sent back to prison – still refusing to tell what happened that day in March 2002.

More here

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Trial Nears In Post-Katrina Bridge Shootings

Nearly six years later, the real story of what happened on the Danziger Bridge may finally come out.

On Wednesday, the biggest police abuse case in the modern history of the New Orleans Police Department gets under way. Federal prosecutors allege police officers shot and killed two unarmed civilians fleeing the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina and maimed four others. Afterward, prosecutors claim, the police engaged in an elaborate cover-up to make it look like self-defense.

It was the morning of Sept. 4, 2005. The city had been underwater for six days. Civil order had broken down.

A group of police responded to a call that civilians were shooting at police and an officer was down. They raced to the Danziger Bridge, a concrete lift bridge in east New Orleans, in a rental truck, bailed out and started shooting.

This is where accounts diverge.

Some of the officers maintain they were being shot at and they were justified in returning fire. But civilians who were crossing the half-mile-long bridge that morning have a very different story.

"When I looked we were all on the ground and all you could see is blood everywhere. And everybody's just hollerin' and moanin'. Everyone been shot and in pain. I look over, my right arm was on the ground lyin' next to me. It had been shot off," Susan Bartholomew told NPR in a 2006 interview.

Bullets struck five people in the Bartholomew group. James Brisette, her 17-year-old friend, died from his wounds.

Police then proceeded over the bridge and confronted a second group of civilians they say had been shooting at them.

A FedEx employee with no criminal record named Lance Madison, then 48, described in an earlier interview with NPR how he and his younger brother, Ronald, were trying to run away from the shooting when the police showed up. Ronald, 40, was mentally and physically disabled.

"We just kept runnin' up the bridge and that's when I noticed that one of the [police] who jumped out of the truck had a rifle, pointed it towards me and my little brother, and he shot my little brother in the shoulder," Madison said.

'Bad Shots'

Both Lance Madison and Susan Bartholomew are expected to testify. Michael Hunter, a former New Orleans police officer who was on the bridge that morning, is also expected to testify. In a sworn affidavit, Hunter has stated that a policeman shot the disabled Ronald Madison in the back with a shotgun as he was running away. Then, as Madison lay dying, the affidavit says, the officer began to kick him violently. Ronald Madison died from his wounds.

Hunter claims the bridge shootings were "bad shots" — a legally unjustified use of force.

Attorneys for both the defendants and the government declined to comment for this report because the trial starts this week.

Five former policemen are defendants in the trial. Hunter is one of five additional officers who pleaded guilty for their roles in helping to cover up the police shootings. They are not on trial this week. In affidavits, they describe an elaborate conspiracy that included a planted handgun, a fabricated witness, secret meetings to coordinate stories and bogus after-incident reports.

This is the second high-profile "Katrina case" in which the Justice Department is aggressively prosecuting New Orleans police for their actions after the storm. In December, a federal jury convicted three officers of various roles in the murder of civilian Henry Glover in the days after the storm. Court testimony showed the officers burned Glover's body, then concocted a cover-up story. Since then, a judge has ordered a new trial for one of the policemen.

In the Glover trial, defense attorneys tried to argue that the chaos after Katrina helps explain officers' actions. "As the jury in the Glover case decided," Ciolino said, "the storm was not a license to kill."

Capt. Mike Glasser, president of the 800-member Police Association of New Orleans, agreed. "We still have an obligation to support the Constitution. We have an obligation to exercise force and deadly force when appropriate. In spite of the scope of the devastation, those things remain in place," Glassner said.

Glasser added that if the police defendants are found guilty, they represent a tiny minority of an honorable, hard-working police force. In March, the Justice Department released a lengthy, scathing report on systemic problems inside NOPD, such as officers breaking the law with impunity, excessive use of force, illegal stops and arrests and discriminatory policing.

The department has agreed to a federally supervised consent decree to reform itself from top to bottom.

'Target Practice?'

Gauging from the morning talk show on local radio station KBOK, the Danziger shootings confirm the worst fears of some citizens — that there was an "open season" on black people after Katrina.

"They don't see us as people, and this is why they do what they do. Because if you saw me as a person, you wouldn't do this to me," said one caller last week.

"So what do you think, Miss Bobbi, that this was target practice or something?" asked the host, Gerod Stevens.

"Yes, of course," the caller answered. "What else could it be?"

The host pointed out to her that though all the Danziger victims were black, half of the police on trial are black, too.

The outcome of the Danziger Bridge trial is certain to intensify calls for sweeping changes in the New Orleans Police Department.

"The department needs a cleansing like a colon cleanse," said Tamara Jackson, outreach coordinator with a local grass-roots group called Silence is Violence. "It's like the department needs a pill to purge themselves and get rid of all the bad officers."

Original report here

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Couple sues Long Beach police who riddled their home with bullets

A Long Beach couple says it plans to sue the Long Beach Police Department in the wake of an officer-involved shooting last month. Members of an activist organization made the announcement today outside the Long Beach Police Department.

On the evening of May 14th, Elizabeth Bustamante says she and her fiancé, Jonathan Cabrera, had returned home after a day of church activities. She says they heard a knock on the door.

"My fiancé answered the door," Bustamante says. "I heard the door slam. I said, 'What happened?' He said, 'The police are at the door.' I didn’t know at that time, they had pointed a gun to his face."

Bustamante says her fiancé told her to get dressed. That’s when she says Long Beach police officers opened fire on her home with no warning.

"I counted over 30 bullet holes in my house. At that time, there was the bullet holes... riddled throughout the whole house," Bustamante says. "There was no focus and it went through my window. There was never entrance to my home."

Bullets hit Bustamante’s fiancé, Jonathan Cabrera, in the torso and arm. He survived, but now he faces charges that he resisted arrest and didn’t comply with police officers.

Police say they responded to an anonymous domestic violence call and that Cabrera was not cooperative and threatened to kill them. Officers say they shot when they thought Cabrera was trying to pull out a weapon.

Bustamante denies that.

Doug Kauffman is with the Long Beach Campaign to Stop Police Violence. It’s working with Cabrera and Bustamante to overturn the charges.

"The problems with the Long Beach Police Department are entrenched and all you have to do is look at the statistics to know this," Kauffman says. "In 2009, there were 17 people shot by Long Beach police and a couple of years before that, there was 14. The average is 12 a year who are shot by Long Beach police, the majority of which are unarmed and innocent people."

Kauffman’s group started after Long Beach police shot and killed a man named Doug Zerby outside a home on Ocean Avenue last December.

In that case, police say they thought Zerby was coming at them with a gun. It turned out to be a garden hose nozzle.

Kauffman sayys he wants justice for the shooting victims.

"In particular, having all the charges against them dropped, having the people who are responsible for Doug Zerby’s death, the people who are responsible for shooting Jonathan and the people who are responsible for the tazings and beatings of the other victims we’re working with to be brought to justice," Kauffman says. "They should not be on the force. Really, they should be facing criminal charges."

Kauffman says he wants reform in the Long Beach Police Department.

The Long Beach Police Department says it won't release any additional information about the Cabrera case until its investigation is complete. The police officers involved maintain that opened fire in self defense, when they thought the man inside the home had pulled a gun on them.

Original report here

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Push to pardon Australian whistleblower

RANK and file members of the Labor Party have started moves within the party's branch structure aimed at encouraging the Gillard government to pardon convicted whistleblower Allan Kessing.

The push within the ALP to have the government pardon Mr Kessing came to light on May 13 at a party meeting attended by federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett and NSW senator-elect Matt Thistlethwaite.

The federal electoral council for Mr Garrett's Sydney seat of Kingsford Smith deferred consideration of the move in order to give delegates time to research the issues.

The government has been considering whether to pardon Mr Kessing since October 1, 2009, when independent senator Nick Xenophon wrote to Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor on Mr Kessing's behalf.

The push for a pardon inside Labor's branches emerged after disclosures in March triggered concern that the whistleblower might have been denied a fair trial.

Labor's Hillsdale-Pagewood branch has already unanimously called for the Gillard government to "urgently overturn the 2007 wrongful conviction of former Customs officer Allan Kessing".

That branch's resolution, which will be resubmitted to the next meeting of the Kingsford Smith federal electoral council, makes detailed references to disclosures in The Australian on March 25 about apparent flaws in the way the Australian Federal Police investigated the Kessing affair.

The resolution calls on Attorney-General Robert McClelland and Mr O'Connor "to immediately recommend and have approved a full pardon with full compensation (including all legal costs incurred by Mr Kessing) to the Federal Executive Council of the Commonwealth and advise Mr Kessing of that in person as soon as is possible".

Mr Kessing was convicted in the NSW District Court of leaking long-ignored Customs reports to this newspaper that revealed criminality and lax security at Sydney Airport.

A letter held by the AFP, which has been obtained by Mr Kessing, shows the AFP withheld evidence in that letter that Mr Kessing's barrister Peter Lowe believes could have supported the defence and undermined the prosecution case. When asked about the affair at the weekend, Mr McClelland said he was unaware of the details of what had happened.

But he told the Australian Agenda program on Sky News that "any litigation on behalf of the commonwealth needs to be undertaken in accordance with the model litigant principle, and that is an obligation to disclose to all parties all relevant facts that are in possession".

"The basic principle is that all agencies need to be aware, certainly not only the government lawyers, but all agencies need to be aware of that model litigant principle that applies across the commonwealth," Mr McClelland said.

The AFP has declined to explain why it failed to disclose the material. It has also declined to explain why it failed to interview a potential defence witness, journalist Norm Lipson, who was named in a letter given to the AFP by Customs' internal affairs unit.

The AFP has also declined to say whether it reached an agreement with Customs to ensure that another potential defence witness, Customs officer Zoe Ayliffe, would remain silent about whether she had been interviewed by the AFP.

A conversation between Lipson and Ms Ayliffe is outlined in the same letter from the Customs internal affairs unit that is still on file with the AFP.

The move within Labor's rank and file to support Mr Kessing is in line with Labor's 2007 election policy. The policy says federal law provides inadequate protection for public servants who make unauthorised disclosures in the public interest that reveal improper practices. "The case of Allan Kessing -- who was prosecuted for disclosing a report detailing security failings at Sydney Airport -- is a case in point," Labor's policy says. "The actions of Mr Kessing ultimately made Australia safer, yet he was prosecuted."

Mr Kessing has consistently denied being responsible for the leak to The Australian. But he has admitted he leaked the same material to a staff member employed by Labor's Anthony Albanese, who is now the Transport and Infrastructure Minister.

Original report here

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Free state or police state?

Some alarming recent precedents

The enemies of a free state — and a free people — are at it again. Not that they ever stopped, but a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, along with a new directive within the FBI and a city council ordinance in Iowa. make it perfectly clear that the Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures is a thing of the past.

The Supreme Court decision, issued in May based on a case from Kentucky, allows police officers to enter a residence without a warrant if they contend that they smelled marijuana or some other drug odor, knocked, identified themselves as police and then heard noises that sounded like evidence being destroyed.

Note the assumption that police really did smell drugs, as if police never lie.

Consider the case in Philadelphia during the 1990s when several officers from the same North Philly precinct were convicted of planting evidence on innocent people. This current ruling runs the risk of making the Philadelphia situation routine across the country.

The specifics in the Kentucky case are these: Police were following a suspect who allegedly sold crack cocaine to an informant. They followed him into an apartment building, but did not see which apartment he entered.

Smelling marijuana coming from one unit, the police knocked, identified themselves and then heard movement and a toilet flushing. So, the cops broke in and arrested the occupant who was not the suspect they were following. They did find some powdered cocaine so the man was arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

The appellate process took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Judge Samuel Alito Jr. said people don’t have to answer the door when police knock but if police hear movement and the toilet flush, officers may enter without the need for a warrant. In the 8-1 decision, Alito wrote that people who attempt to destroy evidence have only themselves to blame.

The lone dissent came from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg who said the court has now given police an easy way to ignore fundamental rights. The decision “arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement in drug cases,” she wrote.

Compounding this insidious decision from last month is the FBI’s recent decision to permit agents to initiate any investigation or surveillance that they like without any need to show cause for the action.

Judge Andrew Napolitano, on his Freedom Watch program of June 13, said the new policy: “…would permit [FBI] agents on their own to follow and snoop on anyone they wanted, whether there was any suspicion of criminal activity about that person or not; that it would sort through the garbage of anyone it chose, whether there was any suspicious behavior on the part of whoever used the garbage or not; and that it would search any databases it felt like searching about anyone in whom it was interested, whether there was criminal suspicion about that person or not.”

Those two situations would be hideous enough, but now come the lawmakers from Cedar Falls, Iowa. In 2004, the city council in Cedar Falls enacted an ordinance that required lock boxes on commercial buildings and large apartment complexes. On June 13, the council voted 6-1 to expand the policy to include smaller apartment buildings. It went from a six-apartment minimum to a three-unit minimum.

Tenants are required to place a key to the apartment or property in a universal lock box that firefighters can access so, in case of a fire, they can enter without breaking down the door.

One woman speaking against the expanded measure said that if her apartment were on fire, she wouldn’t care about whether or not firefighters broke the door.

Another rationalization for the ordinance is that if there’s an EMS call, responders can gain access. Again, if it’s a matter of life or death, the door doesn’t matter. Even if it did, those in single dwellings should fork up keys, too. Don’t they deserve to be safe? Don’t their doors deserve the right to remain hinged?

Cedar Falls council members likely got the measure approved because it doesn’t affect the more affluent, those in better neighborhoods with nice houses. It focuses on the poorer in the community, those who rent.

When the law first passed seven years ago, nobody said a word, and now the ordinance has been expanded. Unless people get their act together and get the law overturned, it will expand again, likely to those single-family homeowners.

Think not? When the income tax went into effect in 1914, only those making more than $100,000 per year had to pay. Since nobody cared about the rights of the rich, now the middle class and working poor are paying that tax.

Asset-forfeiture laws were only to be used against organized crime members and drug runners, but forfeiture has been abused. Police across the country routinely confiscate cars and cash without ever charging a person with a crime.

The SCOTUS decision and the Iowa ordinance unfairly target people who live in apartments and condominiums. People in houses don’t have to give spare keys to Cedar Falls authorities — not yet anyway — and folks who live in single-family dwellings have a better chance of keeping suspicious odors from escaping.

To paraphrase Thomas Paine, those who fail to safeguard the rights of others whether it’s because of a difference in income, skin color, gender, or for any reason whatsoever will lose their rights, too.

Regardless, though, the FBI is watching whomever they want, for whatever reason they choose.

Original report here

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Crooked prosecutors in Sydney, Australia

The Bondi caveman says police held secret information that quashed a sex crime charge against him and kept him in custody for 18 months, writes Les Kennedy.

FOR more than 11 years Peter Millhouse lived in a sandstone cave overlooking Bondi Beach. It was where the 55-year-old chose to recite his poems to passers-by in the hope of payment while relying on food handouts from locals.

He became known as the "Bondi caveman" but some residents and the council sought to evict him because of the unsightly camp and for his own welfare.

Then the law intervened. On Melbourne Cup Day in 2009, a then 21-year-old woman visiting the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition spent six hours feeding birds and chatting to Millhouse. Within an hour of her leaving the cave about dusk, he was grappling with police, arrested for allegedly raping the woman despite his protests that the sex was consensual.

He spent the next 18 months behind bars, awaiting trial, during which time he says he was assaulted.

But on the eve of his trial last month, the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped the rape charge. Now Millhouse intends to sue the NSW police for wrongful imprisonment by withholding information from the DPP that would have led to the charge being dismissed earlier, says his lawyer, Paul Williams.

The case raises questions about the role of police in not revealing to the DPP information about the troubled background of the alleged victim, including a history of unsubstantiated sexual assault claims and multiple personality disorder.

Background information about the woman first emerged last month, on the day Justice Reg Blanch was to assign a District Court judge to hear the trial before a jury.

Crown prosecutors were granted a one-day adjournment to respond to a request from Williams for information on the woman, such as medical reports or criminal history.

The DPP had not received such details from Waverley police, who charged Millhouse. When police provided files to the DPP later in the day, copies were passed to his defence team.

The next day, without explanation, the DPP's office told Blanch it had "no-billed" the charge of intercourse without consent. In no-billing, the DPP does not have to state its reasons for dropping a charge.

The files, seen by The Sun-Herald, contain reports from police - including officers attached to joint police and Department of Community Services child mistreatment teams - of investigations dating back to 2002, when the woman was 14. They included numerous unsubstantiated claims by her of being attacked and sexually assaulted by strangers - one calling himself the devil - in bush and at her home.

One report investigated by police included allegations that she was raped many times at a religious centre by an African immigrant who said it would rid her of a demon.

In the 2006 report of the alleged incidents at the religious centre, police wrote: "History of mental illness and unsubstantiated sexual assault reports."

In 2003 the woman made three reports to police about being dragged into bush and raped. After reviewing them, police said: "There is insufficient evidence to proceed … no further action to be taken." Two more allegations of sexual assault that year were dismissed.

The files also contained a report on the woman four months after the alleged Bondi rape, when Millhouse was in custody, that was never declared to the defence team. It said she was found slumped in her car covered in dirt and insect bites near a coastal lake with no recollection of having left her western Sydney home the night before.

In the car police found a fresh lamb's heart, a broken cross with a date of birth engraved on it, a kitchen knife, scissors and a Stanley knife.

"Police are unable to determine if the [victim] slaughtered a lamb and took its heart," the report said. It also said her guardians had informed officers she had four personalities, each with a different name.

Williams said police should have reviewed the woman's background and given that information to the police legal branch and the DPP for review.

In no-billing the rape charge against Millhouse, the DPP did not drop charges of assaulting two police officers that arose from his arrest - one was allegedly bitten and the other kicked in the groin.

On Friday Millhouse's legal team again appeared before Justice Blanch in the Downing Centre District Court and received an adjournment to July 8, after advising he would make an application to the DPP to no-bill the assault charges and would also make an application for costs.

After his arrest Millhouse lost his cave home - council staff removed his property - and he lives with a former Bondi family who have supported him while on bail.

Original report here

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

SWAT team who shot Iraq war vet 70 times in his home cleared of any wrongdoing

Five officers involved in the shooting of a U.S. Marine who was killed when he was gunned down in his home near Tucson, Arizona have been cleared of any wrongdoing. Pima County Attorney's Office said the 'use of deadly force by the SWAT team members' in the raid on Jose Guerena's home was 'reasonable and justified'.

The father-of-two, who had served twice in Iraq, died on May 5 after the SWAT team descended on his home believing it was one of four houses associated with a drug smuggling operation.

The Attorney's office revealed that the 26-year-old had been previously arrested on five felony counts, but had never been convicted, as it said the shooting was justified.

'[The] assault rifle held by Mr Guerena held numerous rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber,' chief Criminal deputy county attorney David Berkman wrote in a letter to county sheriff Clarence Dupnik.

'The officers were mistaken in believing that Mr Guerena fired at them. However, when Mr Guerena raised the their direction, they needed to take immediate action to stop the deadly threat against them,' Mr Berkman wrote.

The SWAT team members who fired at Mr Guerena included two officers from the sheriff's office and officers from the Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita police departments.

Mr Berkman said that when the first officer fired, other officers mistook the flash from his gun as coming from Mr Guerena's rifle and so they responded with their own shots. Two officers said they heard him say, 'I've got something for you guys'.

'The SWAT team had been briefed on the nature of the operation and the fact that the occupants of the homes to be searched were potentially violent and could be armed,' wrote Mr Berkman.

The terrifying footage released by police shows the uniformed team pulling up outside Jose Guerena's home, sounding their sirens and banging on the door before kicking it in. The sound of bullets then rings out as they open fire shortly after entering the home.
A police investigation revealed that officers fired more than 70 shots.

Police allege that the former Marine was involved in drug smuggling, robbery and human smuggling. But a search of the home found nothing illegal. Officers found a handgun and body armour in the house.

The five SWAT team members remain on active duty. No criminal charges have been filed and no disciplinary action taken.

The Tucson SWAT team responsible for the May 5 house shooting defended its actions, saying the team was conducting a multi-house drug investigation based on a search warrant when they saw Mr Guerena aiming an assault rifle at them.

At first, the SWAT team had said Mr Guerena fired first, but then they retracted that statement, saying he had left the safety on.
SWAT team lawyer Mike Storie claimed weapons and body armour were found in the home, as well as a photo of Jesus Malverde, who Mr Storie called a 'patron saint drug runner'.

In a statement, the sheriff's office criticised those questioning the team, saying, 'It is unacceptable and irresponsible to couch those questions with implications of secrecy and a cover up, not to mention questioning the legality of actions that could not have been taken without the approval of an impartial judge'.

On the night of the raid, Ms Guerena said her husband was asleep, after having worked a night shift at the Asarco copper mine. She said she then saw the armed SWAT team outside her youngest son's bedroom window.

Ms Guerena alleges that she thought it was a criminal assault, since two members of her sister-in-law's family, Cynthia and Manny Orozco, had been killed last year in their Tucson home. Ms Guerena said she shouted for her husband, who told her to take young Joel and hide in a closet.

An ambulance reportedly arrived in a few minutes, but medical personnel were not allowed inside to see Mr Guerena for an hour and 14 minutes, the family's attorney, Chris Scileppi, told ABC News affiliate KGUN.

In contrast, it took responders only 12 minutes to address Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in Tucson in January, according to Mr Scileppi.

Mr Storie defended the SWAT team's actions, saying, 'They still don't know how many shooters are inside, how many guns are inside and they still have to assume that they will be ambushed if they walk in this house'.

Mr Scileppi accused officers of 'circling their wagons'. 'The pieces don't fit. I think it was poor planning, overreaction and now they're trying to CYA', Scileppi told ABC.

Mr Guerena served two tours of duty in Iraq, until he left the Marines in 2006. He had been working for a mining company in the Tucson area.

ABC interviewed his former commander, Sergeant Leo Verdugo, who told them he 'definitely pulled his weight'. 'I have a hard time grasping how something so tragic could happen', he told the network.

The Guerena's oldest boy, Jose, turns 6 Tuesday. Ms Ortiz told ABC, 'He went to school, came back and never saw his daddy again. He's asking, "Why did the police kill my daddy?"

'We were so worried when he was over there fighting terrorism, but he gets shot in his own home. The government killed one of their own', Ms Ortiz said. Mr Guerena was buried in his Marine dress blue uniform.

Original report here

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Friday, June 17, 2011

High Court: Age Must Be Considered In Interrogation

The U.S. Supreme Court has broadened use of the Miranda warning for suspects, extending it to children questioned by police in school. By a 5-to-4 vote, the court said for the first time on Thursday that age must be considered in determining whether a suspect is aware of his or her rights.

This case, involving a 13-year-old North Carolina boy identified only as J.D.B., will likely change police practices across the country. Experts say that police questioning, particularly in school, can no longer be presumed to be legally permissible without advising a youngster of his or her rights.

J.D.B., a special-education seventh grader, was pulled out of his classroom by a uniformed officer and escorted to a conference room where he faced a police investigator, the assistant principal and two other school officials.

For more than half an hour, the investigator interrogated J.D.B. about a string of local burglaries. The boy's legal guardian, his grandmother, was never contacted, and he was not given a Miranda warning — the warnings routinely given by police to criminal suspects once they are taken into custody.

While the police officer later told J.D.B. that he was free to leave, he also told the boy that the police could get a court order to put him in juvenile detention, and the school's assistant principal advised the boy to "do the right thing."

J.D.B. eventually confessed, and helped police recover the stolen items. At trial, his lawyer tried to get the confession thrown out on the grounds that given J.D.B.'s age and the circumstances of the interrogation, the confession was, in essence, coerced, and that the boy should have been advised of his right to an attorney and to remain silent. The state countered that the boy had been free to leave, that he, therefore, was not in custody, and that age should not be considered in determining whether police warn suspects of their rights. The North Carolina courts agreed.

Court's Ruling

But on Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time ruled that the age of a child subjected to police questioning is relevant. Writing for the five-member court majority, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said there is "no reason for police officers or courts to blind themselves to [the] commonsense reality" that "children will often feel bound to submit to police questioning when an adult in the same circumstances" would not. Indeed, Sotomayor said that a student required by law to attend school, and who is subject to disciplinary action for disobedience, might well believe that he or she must answer all police questions.

"Our history is replete with laws and judicial recognition that children cannot be viewed simply as miniature adults," said Sotomayor, concluding that because children are different — less mature, less capable of judgment and more susceptible to influence — police and judges must consider age in determining whether a child should have been advised of his or her legal rights.

Joining her in the majority were Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissent for the court's four most conservative justices. The dissenters said, essentially, that the beauty of the Miranda rule is that it is simple and objective. A suspect must be Mirandized once he is in police custody — in short, when he cannot leave. Thursday's ruling, wrote Alito, "blurs" that line and "is fundamentally at odds" with the clarity of the Miranda rule.

More here

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Today's dangerous police mentality

Their operational credo is not "protect and serve," but rather "control and dominate" -- and, with increasing frequency, "close and kill."

Those options are compellingly displayed in two entirely unnecessary police assaults on young teenagers: The case of 17-year-old Derby, Kansas resident Jonathan Villareal, who was beaten, tasered, and handcuffed by police "resource officers" who took offense over the way the high school student was wearing his pants; and the murder of 14-year-old San Antonio reform school student Derek Lopez. Significantly, both of those incidents occurred after school hours.

Relieved by the end of his daily sentence in the government mind-laundry, Jonthan passed a brace of officially licensed bullies on the way to the bus. One of them told Jonathan to pull up his pants; the youngster replied -- hopefully with the appropriate measure of controlled contempt -- that school was over and he was thus free to dress any way he chose.

One of the thugs -- his tax-fattened bulk making him much larger than the scrawny adolescent -- threw Jonathan to the ground while bellowing the familiar rapist's refrain: "Stop resisting!" The other thug immediately joined in, both of them striking and kneeing the prone, helpless teenager in the back, legs, and neck. Jonathan also suffered a black eye.

When Jonathan struggled to his feet, he was thrown down forcefully; he felt his arm snap as he hit the ground. He struggled to his feet again, thereby giving one of the costumed enforcers an excuse to report that the victim had assumed an "aggressive stance." This supposedly justified a potentially lethal taser attack.

The Derby High School newspaper, appropriately called the Informer, explained that students can be subjected to "administrative" discipline for wearing their pants "inappropriately." Derby Police Chief Robert Lee described the incident as "a flagrant violation of school policy that could have been handled administratively, if he had not resisted the SRO."

Once again, we see the logic of the rapist at work: If the victim is severely injured or killed for fighting back, it's her own fault; she shouldn't have resisted. This comparison, of course, is unfair: Rapists and other aggressors not swaddled in government-issued costumes aren't generally permitted to file criminal charges against victims who fight back. The Derby Police Department "will take the incident to the district attorney for possible criminal charges against Villareal," observes the Informer.

Through an interpreter, Villareal's mother said that she "understands if they need to arrest him for being disrespectful," but that she doesn't understand why "they need to beat him up for whatever reason."

The short answer, of course, is this: They do it because they can.

Derby High's dress code is described as part of an effort to beat back the insidious "gang culture" considered to be a besetting scourge of society. Doubtless the school also participates in the Regime's "anti-bullying campaign," in which students are encouraged to rat out each other whenever they hear inappropriate comments, or see what they believe to be inappropriate conduct.

None of this applies to the sanctified bullies in military attire, of course. Since they belong to the State's punitive priesthood, those skeevy armed adults can loiter around schools, leering like Aqualung at underage girls and taunting smaller young males in an attempt to provoke them into doing something to justify a righteous beating -- followed by prosecution for "resisting arrest."

With troubling frequency, this State-authorized bullying involves the use of consistently lethal weapons, such as the ubiquitous portable electro-shock torture device. On occasion, it involves unambiguous criminal homicide. Witness the November 12, 2010 killing of Derek Lopez by Officer Daniel Alvarado of San Antonio's Northside Independent School District Police.

Alvarado was an exceptionally unqualified officer even by the dismal standards that prevail among the ranks of tax-subsidized gun thugs. Between March 2006 and November 2010, Alvarado was suspended four times. Four times he was informed by supervisors that he faced "immediate termination."

For some reason -- most likely one rooted in police union politics -- when it came time to fire Alvarado, his superiors just couldn't bring themselves to pull the trigger. Alvarado displayed no similar scruples on November 12, 2010, when he murdered 14-year-old Derek Lopez, who had just taken part in a brief scuffle with another student.

Owing to his own troubled past, Lopez was a student at the Bexar County Juvenile Justice Academy. At around 4:30 PM on the fatal day, Lopez sucker-punched a 13-year-old classmate at a bus stop.

"He just hit me once," the student later recalled in a sworn deposition. "It wasn't a fight. It was nothing."

Unfortunately, Alvarado happened to be prowling the intersection in his patrol car, and witnessed the trivial dust-up.

"Freeze!" Alvarado shouted at Lopez, who bolted from the scene. Alvarado, in his mid-40s, briefly gave token pursuit before wheezing out the first of several self-serving falsehoods.

"I just had one run from me," gasped the winded tax-feeder. "I saw an assault in progress. He punched the guy several times."

A supervisor instructed Alvarado "not [to] do any big search over there" in pursuit of the assailant. "Let's stay with the victim and see if we can identify [the suspect] that way."

Rather than doing as he was ordered, Alvarado bundled the "victim" -- who was probably more terrified of the armed functionary than of his obnoxious classmate -- into the patrol car and went in pursuit of Lopez.

Lopez vaulted a nearby fence and hid in a backyard shed containing Christmas decorations. The homeowner saw the intrusion, and a neighbor flagged down Alvarado's patrol car. The officer drew his gun "when he came up the driveway," recalled the homeowner.

Within a minute or so, a single gunshot resonated through the neighborhood. When asked by the horrified homeowner what had happened, Alvarado -- who reportedly looked "dazed or distant" -- replied that Lopez "came at me."

"The suspect bull rushed his way out of the shed and lunged right at me," the timorous creature later claimed in an official report. "The suspect was literally inches away from me, and I feared for my own safety."(Emphasis added.)

Alvarado was lying, of course. An autopsy revealed "no evidence of close range firing [on] the wound," and no gunpowder stains were found on the victim's bloody t-shirt.

By this time, the boy who had taken the punch at the bus stop had called his mother via cell phone. She arrived shortly after Alvarado had gunned down Lopez.

"At one point, the mother told a witness, `He shot him? Why did he shoot him? He didn't have to shoot him," reports the San Antonio News-Express.

Alvarado, who four times was on the cusp of being fired for insubordination, disobeyed a direct order on November 12. He falsified key details of the shooting in his official report. A 14-year-old boy was gunned down execution-style for the venial offense of engaging in an adolescent scuffle, and for compelling an overweight middle-aged badge-polisher to run a few hundred yards. According to the San Antonio Police Department, this is all perfectly acceptable: The department ruled that the murder of Derek Lopez was a "justified" shooting.

Although he's been removed from patrol duty, Alvarado remains on the force, albeit in a tax-underwritten sinecure. Although he had repeatedly been threatened with termination for sloppiness or defiance in carrying out administrative duties, Alvarado faces neither criminal prosecution nor professional censure for murdering a 14-year-old boy.

Apparently, insubordination in carrying out office functions is a much graver matter than insubordination that results in the needless death of an adolescent Mundane.

Despite the fact that this incident involved two teenage boys who attended a special school for troubled juveniles, parents should understand that students in practically any government-run "educational" institution can fall prey to sudden -- and potentially lethal -- police violence.

The purpose of "active shooter drills" is not to refine protocols intended to protect inmates of government schools; instead, it is to habituate children to the presence of paramilitary operators in their midst. Parents should ponder that reality as millions of young Americans begin their welcome Summer parole from the government's hybrid school/prison system -- and they should likewise consider the wisdom of making that parole an unconditional pardon.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress. If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where posts appear as well as on the primary site. I have reposted the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts HERE or HERE or here

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Wrongful Conviction as Way of Life

BOOK REVIEW of "CONVICTING THE INNOCENT: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong" By Brandon L. Garrett

Judge Learned Hand called “the ghost of the innocent man convicted” an “unreal dream.” But in “Convicting the Innocent,” Brandon L. Garrett shows that it can be a “nightmarish reality.” Since the late 1980s, DNA testing has exonerated more than 250 wrongly convicted people, who spent an average of 13 years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. (There is every reason to think that more people have been wrongly convicted since then, but only these 250 have been definitively exonerated by postconviction DNA tests.) Seventeen of the 250 were sentenced to die, and 80 to spend the rest of their lives in prison. By poring over trial transcripts and interviewing lawyers, prosecutors and court reporters, Garrett, a law professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, seeks to explore who these 250 innocent people are, and why they were wrongly convicted. His alarming conclusion: the wrongful convictions were not idiosyncratic but resulted from a series of flawed practices that the courts rely on every day, namely, false and coerced confessions, questionable eyewitness procedures, invalid forensic testimony and corrupt statements by jailhouse informers. Garrett’s book is a gripping contribution to the literature of injustice, along with a galvanizing call for reform.

Almost 90 percent of the 250 innocent people later exonerated were falsely convicted of rape, or rape and murder, and 40 of them actually confessed to crimes they didn’t commit, most adding specific details that only the real culprit could have known. How did this happen?

Garrett describes how the police, intentionally or not, fed details of the crime to the suspects — and then recorded only portions of the interrogations so that it was difficult for defense lawyers and jurors to reconstruct the truth. Even the selectively recorded interrogations make for painful reading, as the suspects offer facts that are inconsistent with what happened, and the police browbeat them into false confessions. (Detective: “You hung her!” Vasquez: “O.K., so I hung her.”) Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has refused to focus on whether confessions are reliable, asking instead whether they were coerced, or offered without Miranda warnings. Garrett says the best protection against false confessions would be to require that police record interrogations from beginning to end; at the moment, 11 states and the District of Columbia are required or encouraged to record at least some interrogations.

In addition to false confessions, eyewitnesses wrongly identified the accused in 76 percent of the 250 cases. The unreliability of witness identifications is now widely known, but Garrett was surprised to discover how flagrantly unreliable the procedures were in the cases he examined. In 78 percent of the trials, he found evidence that the police contaminated the eyewitness identifications with suggestive methods, like indicating which suspect in a lineup should be selected, or conducting lineups where one suspect obviously stood out from the others. (Many of the convicted looked nothing like the initial description given by the victims.) Garrett learned that while the witnesses were confident by the time of the trial that they had identified the right suspect, in more than half the cases they had not been confident at the time of the initial identification.

Of those exonerated by DNA, 70 percent were from minorities, and in nearly half of the rape cases involving blacks or Hispanics, the victims were white. (Garrett points out that “most sexual offenses, almost 90 percent, are committed by offenders of the same race as the victim.”) Garrett criticizes the Supreme Court for allowing lineups that were unfairly conducted, and says the best way to avoid erroneous identifications is to use a ­double-blind procedure where police officers can’t influence the witness because they don’t know which person in the lineup is the suspect.

Garrett found invalid forensic testimony in 61 percent of the trials where an analyst testified for the prosecution, including overly confident claims of matching bite marks, shoe prints and hair samples. (One leading geneticist noted in 1989 that clinical and forensic labs have to meet higher standards to diagnose strep throat than to put a defendant on death row.) And Garrett discovered unreliable testimony by jailhouse informers in 21 percent of the trials — informers who, in exchange for lenient treatment from prosecutors, lied about hearing specific details of the crime from their cell mates. Garrett suggests this testimony could be avoided if prosecutors were prohibited from promising informers secret deals that weren’t disclosed to the defense.

Garrett’s statistical analysis is invaluable, but the most dramatic parts of his book are those that provide narrative details of trials that failed to prevent the innocent from being wrongly convicted. It turns out to be surprisingly hard to prove your innocence: most people don’t remember where they were on a particular day months ago, and can present only weak alibis. Especially memorable are the dignity and self-control with which those convicted asserted their innocence and recanted their false confessions.

Even when facing the death penalty at their sentencing hearings, these innocent people often maintained a remarkable degree of poise. After the verdicts were read, some of them understandably lashed out in anger and then sought to compose themselves. In the Central Park jogger case, one of the convicted was taken out of the courtroom after he exclaimed: “No. No. No. Can’t take this. O, Lord. Jesus. No. . . . It’s wrong. It’s wrong. No. No.”

Where were the courts in all of these 250 miscarriages of justice? In 10 percent of the cases, appellate courts called the evidence of the innocent people’s guilt “overwhelming,” while the Supreme Court summarily dismissed requests to review 37 of the cases without giving reasons. I teach criminal procedure, and after reading Garrett’s book, I am looking forward to future discussions with students of the many Supreme Court cases that narrowly concentrate on procedural regularity, rather than encourage appellate courts to review the accuracy of evidence. Garrett makes a powerful argument for enhanced access to DNA testing: in addition to clearing the innocent, DNA tests in 45 percent of the cases he studied identified the actual rapists or murderers, many of whom had been free for more than a decade to commit other crimes. And he insists that by placing too much reliance on decisions made early in the investigative process, we place the innocent at an unnecessarily high risk of being convicted of crimes they didn’t commit.

Garrett ends by reviewing the most promising bipartisan reforms that seek to increase the accuracy and reliability of criminal convictions, like North Carolina’s Actual Innocence Commission, which has required the recording of homicide interrogations, expanded the procedures for preserving evidence and increased defendants’ access to DNA testing. But it’s the stories in his book that stick in the memory. One can only hope that they will mobilize a broad range of citizens, liberal and conservative, to demand legislative and judicial reforms ensuring that the innocent go free whether or not the constable has blundered. “What makes the trials of exonerees so frightening is that they show how the case against an innocent person may not seem weak,” Garrett writes. “The case may seem uncannily strong.”

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress. If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where posts appear as well as on the primary site. I have reposted the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts HERE or HERE or here

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Policing for profit

A shocking news report recently documented how Tennessee police were stopping drivers on the interstate and confiscating large amounts of cash, even if the drivers were accused of no crime. The report was particularly shocking because the special unit was operating far outside of its jurisdiction in exchange for giving a cut of the seized cash to the local government in question.

This episode is outrageous enough that any regular American can see the problem. Yet most people who see the report will probably conclude that the government "went too far" in this instance, and some reforms are needed. The real lesson here is that the War on Drugs — just like every other war waged by our politicians — doesn't solve the ostensible problem, and in fact strips away other liberties.

More generally, the report is a perfect vindication of the Rothbardian point that, in a very real sense, government is a gang of thieves writ large. Such a radical viewpoint sounds crazy to most Americans in the abstract, but when they watch the video, it's hard to deny.

The Bitter Fruits of the Drug War

From a standard libertarian perspective, the government has no business interfering in capitalist acts between consenting adults (to use Robert Nozick's felicitous phrase). This includes situations where one person wants to grow a plant, for example, and sell it to somebody else who intends to use it to induce a feeling of euphoria.

To be sure, private organizations can lay down whatever regulations they want "regulating" drug use. Airlines can still subject pilots to randomized drug tests, and schools can expel students caught smoking in the bathroom if they so choose. After all, private schools can tell students what clothes they can wear on school property, so they obviously have the right to prohibit the use of particular drugs.

Yet even if we put aside such principled opposition, it should be crystal clear by now that the War on Drugs has shredded traditional liberties. The scandal on the Tennessee interstate shown in the video above is just one example. Precisely because the War on Drugs has fostered an immense black market, the authorities can now seize large amounts of cash from anyone simply on the suspicion that the person "must be" a drug dealer (or a terrorist financier).

This is a very troubling trend. Beyond the obvious inconvenience for people who don't trust banks and want to keep a large amount of cash on hand, it also takes away one of the last escape routes from the tightening vise of financial regulations and controls. As the government's interventions in the banking system and stock market become ever more intrusive, more and more individuals will want to "opt out" by conducting their operations in cash. But now that strategy entails a huge risk, because their holdings can be seized without any formal charges if they happen to get pulled over.

Another major landmark along the road to serfdom is the huge prison infrastructure in the United States. Many Americans don't realize that the United States has the largest prison population in the world, both in absolute terms and per capita (with the possible exception of China, because their government's official figures could be bogus).

If a truly nightmarish scenario ever does develop in what was once a relatively free country, the ruling elite at that time won't have to come up with a pretext for building prisons able to house millions of dissidents. No, that option is already available, courtesy of the Drug War. Most Americans have no problem funding such construction, because they are confident that they would never be locked up.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress. If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where posts appear as well as on the primary site. I have reposted the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts HERE or HERE or here

Monday, June 13, 2011

NH: Eight arrested at pro-police accountable rally

On Saturday, June 4th, 2011 – eight ‘shire-based activists were arrested while at a pro-police accountable rally outside the Manchester, NH PD 603.668.8711. Earlier in the week we had announced our intentions to hold the event due to two recent incidents perpetrated by those wearing “Manchester PD” badges:

* The shooting death of James Breton (interviews of neighbors Ademo captured this week contradict the “official” story – we’ll have this video up soon)

* The clearing of off-duty officers who beat Christopher Micklovich

Those arrested:

Ademo Freeman – criminal mischief and resisting
Charles Nachtrieb – disorderly
Garret Ean – disorderly
Kate Ager – disorderly and resisting
Mike Segal – disorderly
Neal Connor – criminal mischief
Pete Eyre – disorderly
Wes Gilreath – criminal mischief and false report

Kate was bailed out for $540. We were all given court dates of June 23rd. Only Ademo and Wes currently remain behind bars. They were transported to the Valley St. Jail 603.627.5620 and should be arraigned this Monday, June 6th at 8:30am – join us to show support!


The event today began at 4pm. At its peak, about 40 activists were present holding signs on the corners of Chestnut and Merrimack and along the street. Passerbys were handed literature and engaged in conversation. Many stopped to share their own stories of rights-violations by those wearing “Manchester PD” badges. Some driving by honked in support.

A short time later Ademo and Wes were arrested – ostensibly for chalking. Next, Mike, Neal and Garret were handcuffed and taken away. A WMUR Channel 9 van driving by was flagged down. Some folks present, including myself, gave interviews. Not sure what, if anything aired from that. Next, Kate was literally surrounded by men and women wearing “Manchester PD” badges and arrested for standing in a “crime scene” (the sidewalk that had earlier been chalked). The group then stood shoulder-to-shoulder and walked north on Chestnut, telling those present to “move back” – supposed so they could capture “evidence” (pictures of the chalking). After passing the last of the chalk someone with a “Manchester PD” badge ordered his colleagues to “arrest them!” and Charlie and I were handcuffed for …?

Video cameras and cell phones were stolen (“seized”) from those arrested. Even some not arrested had their video camera and/or phone stolen by those wearing “Manchester PD” badges on their costumes.

UPDATE by Ademo: I was finally released at approximately 12:30pm after a bail hearing. I was placed on $1,000 Personal Recognizance – meaning if I don’t go to court I’ll be fined that amount – with several ‘bail conditions,’ all things that are illegal already (except the excessive drinking one? – lol). My trial is scheduled for August 18th, 2011, I’m facing three misdemeanor charges (Criminal Mischief and two counts of Resisting).

I want to thank all of those who were at the protest against Manchester Police brutality ofthe past few weeks. Seems folks were right when they said the Manchester police were heavy handed and quick to use force. I also want to thank all those who made calls in support to the police station and jail facility for Wes and I (and the others prior to release).

For now it’s back to work, finishing the Free State Friendship Tour (and PorcFest) and then our trial in Greenfield. After that we’ll revisit this issue, thanks again and stay tuned for more from and – Much love Ademo!

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress. If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where posts appear as well as on the primary site. I have reposted the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts HERE or HERE or here