Monday, February 28, 2011

Australia: Supreme Court quashes conviction of brutalized Aboriginal man

Video shows that police lied

An Aboriginal man tasered 14 times at a Perth watch-house has successfully appealed his conviction for obstructing police. Kevin Spratt in the WA Supreme Court on Thursday was acquitted of the charges after Justice Stephen Hall ruled there had been a miscarriage of justice.

Justice Hall said Mr Spratt's guilty plea had been induced by false allegations made by the police prosecution.

Mr Spratt's conviction was questioned after Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) hearings in December prompted Constable Brett Fowler, who laid the charge, to admit the police statement used to obtain the conviction was false. Const Fowler admitted during the CCC hearing that his description of Mr Spratt "kicking" police was contradicted by CCTV footage.

Mr Spratt admitted the offence because he did not remember the incident. He was sentenced to two months' jail, to be served concurrently with an 18-month prison term for other crimes.

Outside court on Thursday, Mr Spratt's lawyer, Steven Penglis, told reporters his client was "pleased" with the outcome. "It's a step, obviously, in the right direction so far as Kevin's concerned," he said. "It has the effect, of course, of getting rid of the suggestion that Kevin was tasered in a Perth watch-house as a consequence of some unlawful conduct on his behalf."

Mr Spratt said the ordeal had brought back a lot of bad memories for him. "I just want to move on with my life," he said outside court.

WA opposition legal affairs spokesman John Quigley said the matter had been a "wicked perversion of justice" by the police and a "grave insult" to the administration of justice. "This has happened right under the nose of Police Minister Rob Johnson," he said. "It's inconceivable that he didn't know about this. This was on his watch."

Mr Quigley said Mr Johnson must "confess" that he was either involved in a cover-up or had "fallen asleep at the wheel" by not knowing about the incident. "There is a serious miscarriage of justice and we now have to have an inquiry," he said.

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

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Heicklen: AG Holder should fire two US attorneys for perjury

After being arrested and compelled to appear in court, and after finally hearing the details of the jury-tampering charges against him, libertarian activist and jury rights advocate Julian Heicklen asked US Attorney General Eric holder to file perjury charges against two US attorneys.

Heicklen's home invasion by up to nine law enforcement agents, arrest, and transportation to the US District Court in Manhattan on February 18 was reported in an article by the Libertarian News Examiner.

Heicklen later wrote to his Tyranny Fighters support group about his experience.

Appearing before Magistrate Judge Ellis, Heicklen reports that Assistant US Attorney Rebecca Mermelstein informed the court that "I had influenced another juror on a case in which I was a juror, and influenced jurors in other cases."

Heicklen then informed the judge that Mermelstein had committed perjury twice. "I was not a juror on any case in this court," Heicklen stated, "and could not have been a juror, because I do not reside in the jurisdiction of the Second Circuit, which includes New York City."

Since Heicklen lives in New Jersey he pointed out, "I am not even on the potential juror list" and further stated that he had never served on a jury.

Heicklen then asked the judge to charge Mermelstein with perjury, which he refused to do.

In addition to Mermelstein, Heicklen accused US Attorney Preet Bharara of perjury in his letter to AG Holder.

Heicklen enclosed a copy of the indictment against him signed by Bharara in which Bharara, referring to Heicklen, wrote, "before a jury of which he was a member."

"Of course, the US Attorney committed perjury," Heicklen responded, and again pointed out, "I could not possibly have been a juror in the US District Court for the Southern District of NY, because I do not live in its jurisdiction. My name cannot even be on the eligible juror list."

Heicklen is asking that both attorneys have their employment with the US government terminated, be criminally indicted for perjury, and that they be barred from ever again practicing law.

Heicklen is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday in Newark NJ and Friday in Manhattan.

Fearing that the court will get someone to lie about him influencing jurors, Heicklen is asking as many people as possible to attend his hearings and witness the proceedings.

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

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Australia: Man acquitted on appeal after suppression of evidence in first trial

A MAN accused of murdering his elderly father walked free yesterday after almost seven years in jail. A Supreme Court jury acquitted Douglas Jensen four years after another jury found him guilty of murdering his father then making it look like a suicide.

Yesterday's verdict, after three days' deliberation by a jury of six men and six women, finally ended a legal battle that began more than 11 years ago.

Mr Jensen, 45, pleaded not guilty and was acquitted of both a charge of murdering his father and an alternative charge of assisting an offender. Marius Jensen, a 75-year-old bee-keeper, was shot in the head while sitting at the kitchen table of his home at Tarrington, near Hamilton, on February 2, 2000.

The jury that freed his son yesterday was told that a book called Forensic Clues To Murder was found among Douglas Jensen's collection of crime books after his father's death. The jury was not told the book had a chapter about the shooting murder of a person at a kitchen table, staged to appear as a suicide.

Evidence about that chapter was heard by a jury that convicted Mr Jensen in 2007, but was ruled inadmissible in the trial that ended yesterday on the grounds it was more prejudicial than probative.

Mr Jensen spent more than two years in jail on remand before being found guilty in 2007 and has been in custody ever since. He was sentenced to a minimum 16 years after being convicted, but was granted a retrial in 2009 after representing himself in an appeal.

The three appeal judges granted him a retrial because the Crown's refusal to call Mr Jensen's brother, Colin, as a material witness for the prosecution caused a miscarriage of justice. The Court of Appeal ruled defence lawyers should have been given the chance to question Colin Jensen about his father's state of mind and whether he had the motive and opportunity to kill him.

Mr Jensen gasped loudly when yesterday's verdict was announced in the Supreme Court at Geelong, then slumped to his seat in the dock, choking back tears and shaking violently. He refused to comment after the verdict or say whether he would return to the family property.

Mr Jensen's older brother, Colin - accused by defence counsel of being the real killer - lives at the property, which the brothers inherited after their father's death.

Douglas Jensen told police he heard a bang the day his father died and found him on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood. The unusual weapon that fired the fatal shot - a sawn-off shotgun converted to a home-made .38 pistol - was found beside the body.

Defence counsel Chris Dane, QC, told the jury suicide was the obvious cause of Marius Jensen's death. He said the beekeeper was lonely, depressed and facing financial ruin because his bees were infected with a disease he failed to disclose to friends and authorities.

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

Friday, February 25, 2011

Evidence 'hidden' in British case: Appeal over infamous robbery conviction begins

For more than 30 years George Davis has insisted he is innocent. Yesterday he listened in court as it was claimed that for all those years the authorities had suppressed evidence showing his 1975 conviction over an armed payroll robbery was unsafe.

At the start of an appeal which Davis hopes will clear him, the reliability of a policeman who identified him as part of the gang was questioned.

The case of Davis became part of criminal folklore after he was jailed in 1975 over a raid in April 1974 at the London Electricity Board in Ilford, Essex.

Davis, now 69, sat in the public gallery at the Court of Appeal to hear his QC argue that his Old Bailey convictions for robbery and wounding with intent to resist arrest should be overturned. The lawyer argued that evidence to show the convictions are unsafe 'has been in the hands of the authorities since at least 1977'.

The convictions have been referred to the court by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), an independent body which investigates possible miscarriages of justice.

Davis, who lives in London, was originally sentenced in 1975 to 20 years. That same year the Court of Appeal rejected a conviction appeal bid, but reduced his sentence to 17 years.

His case attracted widespread attention in the 1970s, with Sham 69 writing a song about him, Roger Daltrey wearing a T-shirt proclaiming his innocence and his name being daubed across railway and road bridges.

Davis's sentence was remitted by Royal Prerogative and he was released from prison in 1976. But he was arrested again in September 1977 and later pleaded guilty to his involvement in an armed robbery at the Bank of Cyprus in London. He was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment, which was reduced to 11 years on appeal.

Several complaints about the Metropolitan Police's investigation of the London Electricty Board robbery prompted an investigation by Detective Chief Superintendent Moulder, of Hertfordshire Police.

It was the interim reports from Mr Moulder's investigation that led the then-Home Secretary Roy Jenkins to exercise the Royal Prerogative to remit the remainder of Mr Davis' sentence and he was released from prison on May 11, 1976, the CCRC has said. The Home Secretary could have, but did not, refer the matter to the Court of Appeal so the safety of the conviction was never considered by the court.

When referring the case last year, the CCRC said: 'The reasons for the referral are that the Commission believes that non-disclosure at the time of Mr Davis's original trial of information which may have assisted the defence and / or undermined the prosecution's case at trial, as well as evidence subsequently obtained by the Moulder investigation and, more recently by the CCRC, raise a real possibility that the court may quash the conviction.'

Before the appeal began before Lord Justice Hughes, Mr Justice Henriques and Mrs Justice Macur, Bernard Carnell, consultant at solicitors Shaw Graham Kersh, said in a statement issued on Davis's behalf that they hoped to overturn the historic case.

It said: 'It is our intention to demonstrate to the Court of Appeal that evidence which shows Mr Davis's convictions in 1975 to be unsafe has been in the hands of the authorities since at least 1977, when the final report of an independent police investigation into the case was completed by Det Chief Supt Moulder.'

He commented: 'If, as I believe, there has been a failure for over 30 years by those in authority to disclose essential evidence which could have demonstrated that Mr Davis was innocent, it is as serious an affront as there could be to the expectation of a defendant having a fair trial.'

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

Thursday, February 24, 2011

NY state: Patriotic mother of 3 grievously mistreated by police goons after taking a photo of a Long Island tourist attraction

This case is a frightening example of what can happen when a photographer encounters ignorant bullies with badges. According to the complaint filed in Federal Court, Nancy Genovese, a mother of three, was driving home on County Road 31 past Gabreski Airport in Suffolk County. Gabreski Airport displays a decorative helicopter shell by the roadway to the public, which is visible to all who pass by.

Nancy Genovese stopped her car on the side of the road across the street from the airport in an area that is open and accessible to the public, and crossed over the road to the airport entryway that is also open and accessible to the public to take a picture of the helicopter display. While still in her car, she took a picture of the decorative helicopter shell with the intention of posting it on her personal “Support Our Troops” web page.

As Nancy Genovese was preparing to drive away, she was stopped and approached by Robert Iberger, a lieutenant with the Southampton Town Police. Lieutenant Iberger demanded to know why she was taking photographs. Nancy showed the lieutenant her camera, but Lieutenant Iberger grabbed her camera and handled it “without care”. In an attempt to prevent the lieutenant from damaging the camera, Nancy removed her memory card, which Lieutenant Iberger confiscated. To date, Nancy’s memory card still has not been returned to her.

Lieutenant Iberger demanded that Nancy remain where she is, and he refused to allow her to leave. At this time, Lieutenant Iberger notified the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office and the authorities at Gabreski Airport of Nancy’s presence outside the airport, and falsely and wrongfully informed them that she posed a terrorist threat.

Suffolk County Deputy Sheriff Robert Carlock responded to the scene, along with various members of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office. When Deputy Carlock arrived, he placed cameras on the roof of his vehicle, aimed at Nancy Genovese and her 18 and 20 year old sons who had come to the scene at this point to help their mother. Deputy Carlock ordered all three of them to stand directly in front of the cameras, and not to move.

Officials from the airport, as well as other local and federal law enforcement agencies also responded, including, without limitation, the Southampton Police Department, the Westhampton Police Department, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security. Nancy was questioned on the side of the road for approximately five to six hours, from about 6pm until midnight, denied food or water, and denied the opportunity to use a restroom, all without having received any warnings as to her rights.

Nancy Genovese also had a left lower leg injury just above her ankle that she had received earlier in the day and which, exacerbated by the stress and length of her roadside detention, was causing her to limp. When the officers saw this, they ordered her to expose her wound, which was bleeding, for no legitimate purpose, and with no regard for Nancy’s health or well-being. Members of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office used Nancy’s leg wound as another object to taunt her with, telling her that they were going to arrest her for an unreported knife wound.

Here’s where the story takes an interesting twist, and why I believe Nancy’s situation hasn’t received more press coverage. Before arriving at the airport to take a picture, earlier that day Nancy had been to the local shooting range with her rifle practicing her hobby, target shooting. During the first hour of questioning, Lieutenant Iberger searched Nancy’s vehicle, without her consent, and came across her unloaded rifle, which Nancy was legally carrying, in a locked case. Now some people throw up their arms (no pun intended) at this point, and say, “what does she want, she brought a rifle to the airport!”, but I would like to remind everyone that it is perfectly legal to drive around with an unloaded rifle in your car. Yes. Really. And Nancy did not enter the airport, she was parked alongside a public roadway. It is important to remember that no matter how you feel about firearms, nothing that Nancy did violated any laws.

Using force, Lieutenant Iberger pushed Nancy Genovese when she objected to the seizure of her rifle. Deputy Carlock taunted Nancy, asking in a disparaging tone, “You’re a real right winger, aren’t you?”, and stating in words or substance that she was never going to see her rifle again.

During the remainder of the six hours that Nancy Genovese was forcibly detained on the side of the road, she was taunted, verbally harangued, threatened, belittled, abused, humiliated and harassed by members of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office. For example, Deputy Carlock repeatedly referred to Nancy as “a right winger” and “tea bagger”, and threatened that they were going to arrest her for terrorism to make an example of her to other “tea baggers” and “right wingers”.

Around midnight, officials from the airport and federal law enforcement agencies determined that Nancy posed no terrorist or other security threat. Once most of the other law enforcement officials left the scene, Deputy Carlock ordered Nancy Genovese to be handcuffed by another member of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office. Before placed in handcuffs, Nancy attempted to give her purse containing her wallet and cell phone to her sons. Her wallet contained approximately $13,000 in cash, money she was holding to pay tuition that day for her son’s college and her daughter’s Catholic school tuition. Deputy Carlock refused to allow her sons to take her bag, and ordered her to leave it on the front seat of her unlocked vehicle, even after being informed of the value of its contents. When Nancy’s sons objected, Deputy Carlock threatened to arrest them if they touched it, and ordered them to leave the scene. Not knowing what to do, they left.

When Nancy’s sons responded to a call from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office in the early morning hours to pick up their mother’s vehicle from the roadside, they found $5,300 of the $13,000 missing. The money was never returned. In addition, the contents of the glove compartment box was missing, and there was damage to the body of the car, particularly around the trunk.

Around midnight, after her sons were ordered to leave upon threat of arrest, Nancy was transported, in handcuffs, to the Suffolk County Jail. While in a holding cell, Deputy Carlock continued to verbally harass Nancy, telling her “you will pay”, and admitting that they had nothing to charge her with, but that he would “find something in order to teach all right wingers and tea baggers a lesson.”

While in her holding cell, Nancy Genovese was interrogated by Suffolk County Undersheriff Caracappa without receiving any warnings as to her rights. Her requests to speak to a lawyer were ignored. Following her “interrogation”, Undersheriff Caracappa informed her that she was being arrested and charged with “terrorism.”

At this point, Nancy requested medial treatment for her bleeding and painful left leg. After several requests, and several hours later, she was taken to the Peconic Bay Medical Center by male members of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, and handcuffed to a bed. A sonogram was performed on Nancy’s left leg from her ankle to her inner groin, requiring her to disrobe. Despite her and the doctor’s request for them to turn away, the two male Suffolk Deputies insisted on staring at Nancy while she disrobed, further humiliating her. She was prescribed antibiotics, and discharged back to the Suffolk County Jail, with instructions on proper care for her leg wound.

Once back at the jail, the Suffolk County Sheriffs denied her access to her antibiotics, and denied her proper care of her leg wound. This caused a serious and painful staph infection to develop.

The following morning, Nancy Genovese was briefly questioned at the Suffolk County Jail by two FBI agents. No federal complaints or charges were ever brought against Nancy. That same day, Nancy was transported in handcuffs and ankle shackles, with no regard for her ankle wound, to the Southampton Justice Town Court. The driver drove fast and recklessly, intentionally making abrupt turns and laughing. This caused Nancy, who was not secured by a seatbelt, but was instead restrained with her hands cuffed behind her and her ankles cuffed together, to roll about in the back of the vehicle, further exacerbating her leg injury. When she requested that the Deputy Sheriffs secure her with a seatbelt, they laughed at her, and the driver continued to recklessly swerve the vehicle.

Nancy Genovese was brought into the courthouse in handcuffs and leg restraints, and was violently pushed through the door by the Deputy Sheriffs. This added to Nancy’s humiliation, particularly since Nancy knew some of the courthouse employees and other people who were present. Both before and after arriving at the courthouse, Nancy repeatedly requested to speak with an attorney. All of her requests were ignored.

Despite never stepping foot onto airport property, Nancy Genovese was arraigned on a single misdemeanor charge of Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree. She was assigned a Legal Aid Attorney by the Judge. Undersheriff Caracappa and Deputy Carlock intentionally lied to the Judge about the circumstances surrounding Nancy’s arrest, including that she was a terrorist and had surveillance equipment in her car, and the judge set bail in the amount of $50,000.

Due to the excessive amount of bail, Nancy’s children needed more time to come up with the money, so Nancy was returned to the jail. The Legal Aid Attorney assigned to Nancy spoke with the Deputy and Undersheriff, and due to the conversation, directly afterwards informed Nancy that he was no longer her attorney, and that he was going to ask the court to place her on suicide watch.

Once back at the jail, Nancy Genovese was processed, including being issued prison “greens” to wear, and was photographed, fingerprinted, and eye scanned. Members of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department continuously verbally harassed Nancy. A woman in civilian clothes then interviewed Nancy. The woman told Nancy she was going to be placed in “general population.” During the interview, two men wearing “Suffolk County Emergency Response Team” jackets entered the room. One of them removed Nancy from the room and held her in the hallway outside of the interview room. From there, Nancy heard the woman who had interviewed her arguing with the other man, saying that “She is not suicidal.”

Despite the woman’s protests, Nancy was physically moved by the two men wearing “Suffolk County Emergency Response Team” jackets to another room. There, another woman who identified herself as a nurse administered, without Nancy’s consent, two injections into Nancy’s arm. One of the men held Nancy’s head so that she could not see what was being done, while the other man held Nancy’s arm down. Despite her demands to know what they were doing, no one answered her. Nancy experienced bruising and swelling in her neck and arm long after she was released from custody.

Nancy was then escorted by the two men into a cell area, where she was forced to disrobe and put on a “suicide gown”, consisting of a heavy, jacket-type blanket that fastens around the body with Velcro. Nancy was not permitted to wear undergarments under the blanket. Nancy was required to wear this same “suicide gown” for the next several days. After three days, Nancy was evaluated by a psychiatrist who determined her to be of sound and stable mind, and immediately removed her from suicide watch.

Later that day, bail was posted, and Nancy was able to go home. Subsequently, all charges against Nancy were dismissed.

Upon Nancy’s release, Undersheriff Caracappa issued a press release in response to media inquiries, titled “Armed Woman Arrested for Trespassing at Suffolk County Gabreski Airport”, which falsely stated that Nancy had been taking pictures of the airport and surrounding security”, and that she became hysterical, and began “screaming and flailing around” when confronted. Undersheriff Caracappa also falsely reported that Nancy had surveillance equipment, 500 rounds of ammunition, and “scary weapons” in her car, and that she was a right-wing extremist and terrorist, and that she had been at the airport trespassing several times and had been warned to stay away. Upon further inquiry, it turns out that Nancy had never trespassed at the airport before, had never been warned by anyone to “stay away” before, had no “surveillance equipment” of any kind other than her point and shoot camera, and certainly was not a terrorist. Undersheriff Caracappa has refused to issue a retraction or correction.

Nancy has filed a Federal Lawsuit seeking up to 70 million dollars from the Town of Southampton, the County of Suffolk, Lieutenant Iberger, Undersheriff Caracappa, Deputy Carlock, Lieutenant Leuete, and various other employees of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department. The lawsuit is still ongoing.

Original report here

For further enquiries, the phone no. of the Suffolk County Chief Deputy is (631) 852-1600

(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, February 23, 2011

Police, cameras and crime

Can a surveillance state make us safer?

If you want to be on TV, don't go to Los Angeles or New York. Come to Chicago, where your wish is certain to be fulfilled. In fact, you couldn't avoid it if you wanted to, thanks to the nation's most extensive network of police surveillance cameras. Anytime you walk out your door, you may find an audience.

This is one of Mayor Richard M. Daley's proudest achievements, but the estimated 10,000 devices now in operation are not enough for him. He once expressed his intention to keep adding cameras until there is one "on every street corner in Chicago."

His obvious error is to assume that if some cameras are good, more are better. Daley's policy also rests on a plausible but unproven assumption: that cameras reduce crime by deterring criminals and helping nab those who aren't deterred.

If you are going to spend millions buying, installing and monitoring this technology, you had better be able to show it yields some positive results in practice. Given the experience in this country and abroad, skepticism is in order.

The government of Britain, where cameras are ubiquitous, concluded they have had "no overall effect" on crime. Researchers at the University of Southern California looked at two neighborhoods in Los Angeles and found no visible benefit from this sort of surveillance.

Even in the studies that show cameras help, the question arises: compared to what? Any funds spent on this gadgetry cannot be spent on beat cops, probation officers, laboratory gear, or jail cells. The challenge for enthusiasts is to show the technology outperforms other options.

On those issues, the jury is still out. But the latest discoveries, from Chicago, are bound to encourage the spread of surveillance video in law enforcement.

Nancy La Vigne, director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute in Washington, has directed a study of the impact of cameras in Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. Her preliminary findings, due to be finalized and published this year, are that they can indeed curb crime—and at a bargain price.

Her team of researchers looked at two high-crime neighborhoods on Chicago's West Side, Humboldt Park and West Garfield Park. In Humboldt Park, she told me, they found "a significant decrease in total monthly crime numbers," including both property crime and violent crime. They found no evidence that the cameras merely pushed crime into other areas. In West Garfield Park, on the other hand, they saw "no impact," possibly because there were fewer cameras.

On the cost-effectiveness test, though, La Vigne says the cameras were a solid success. For every $1 of costs, they yielded $4 of societal benefits (reduced crime, savings in courts and corrections, less suffering for victims), despite their failure in West Garfield Park.

In Baltimore, where cameras are concentrated in downtown and monitored actively 24 hours a day (as distinct from the more passive approach in Chicago), La Vigne found the impact on violent crime was even greater—and the benefits exceeded the costs by 50 percent. (In Washington, which deployed only a small number of cameras, they found no effect.)

All this may confirm those who see this technology as an unmixed good. But La Vigne herself worries that too much will be made of these results.

"I'm sure there are diminishing marginal returns," she says, meaning that each extra camera achieves less than the one before. "I'd expect very little impact on low-crime areas." If we have cameras on every corner, many of them will be the functional equivalent of potted plants.

Even if cameras have benefits, they narrow the scope of personal privacy, which should not be sacrificed without a compelling reason. In a crime-infested neighborhood, the loss may clearly be modest compared to the dangers of violent perforation. In more tranquil locales, the burden of proof should be on the supporters.

When cameras are used, common-sense restrictions should apply. The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois recommends that police show probable cause that someone has committed a crime before they use facial-recognition software or conduct nonstop video tracking of an individual. Another proposal is to delete images after seven days unless there is reason to think they document a crime.

The ultimate question is not whether cameras work. It stands to reason that they can work when used wisely—just as a hammer works for certain tasks. But not everything is a nail.

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, February 22, 2011

Australia: Thug cop abusing his police powers

A police officer who was demoted for misconduct after he injured his former police lover, when he handcuffed her during an off-duty argument, has lost an appeal.

Jane Moran, who was then a constable, ended up with a fracture to her right eye socket, facial bruises and abrasions and tenderness to her neck, arms and wrists.

In February last year, after a police disciplinary hearing found Mount Isa police prosecutor Mark McKenzie had inappropriately and forcibly detained Ms Moran, he was demoted from sergeant to senior constable for two years. He appealed against the decision.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal was told Sen. Constable McKenzie, a police officer for 18 years, would suffer a financial loss of almost $34,000, and it would take him six years to progress to the position of sergeant.

The incident involving Ms Moran occurred on March 1, 2008, at police accommodation in Mount Isa. The tribunal heard the couple argued and Sen. Constable McKenzie claimed he became concerned for his safety because there was a knife within reach of Ms Moran. He claimed he restrained Ms Moran, using reasonable force, to defend himself, the tribunal heard.

She denied any knowledge of the knife, but admitted she got into a fight with Sen. Constable McKenzie. The hearing found that Sen. Constable McKenzie grabbed Ms Moran by the wrist, forced her face down on the bed with his knees in her back and handcuffed her.

After calling for police “back-up", which did not eventuate, Sen. Constable McKenzie escorted Ms Moran to the door and removed her handcuffs. The tribunal found Sen. Constable McKenzie’s demoiion was appropriate.

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, February 21, 2011

DNA evidence wins Florida rape conviction a second look

The Innocence Project of Florida has a record of using powerful new evidence to overturn wrongful convictions, but that does not mean prosecutors give up easily. Most of the time, state attorney offices will do what Manatee County prosecutors did in court Friday in the case of Derrick Williams -- fight to uphold a conviction that is years old, even as exculpatory evidence mounts.

"Nobody wants to think they or their office could have had a part in wrongfully convicting somebody," Florida Innocence Project Executive Director Seth Miller said. "The more notoriety we have, that creates more reluctance because of the result we're seeking."

The project says new DNA evidence on a key piece of evidence -- a gray shirt -- proves Williams was wrongfully convicted of a rape in Palmetto in 1993. But prosecutors argue the evidence at trial was so overwhelming that DNA tests would not have affected the jury's guilty verdict.

Some inmates have had prosecutors deny their requests for DNA tests repeatedly, until the Innocence Project gets involved.

Friday's hearing cleared up some last legal issues before a main hearing scheduled for March, which will determine if Williams should be exonerated, face a retrial, or have his appeal denied.

Police accused Williams, now 47, of abducting the 25-year-old woman from her Palmetto home, forcing her into her car and driving her to an orange grove to rape her. Williams testified at his trial; relatives told the jury he was at a family barbecue at the time of the attack.

Williams immediately offered to give blood and saliva samples, but no sperm was found to compare the genetic material, and DNA techniques used to find samples on evidence were not known then.

So the case largely was based on the victim's identification of Williams, but her description of her assailant differed from Williams and her story was inconsistent. Misidentification is often the cause of wrongful convictions, the Innocence Project said.

Innocence Project involvement brings extra publicity to appeals, and has led to a reputation for taking strong cases with new physical evidence such as DNA.

The Innocence Project called on prosecutors to immediately release Williams last year. But revelations over new evidence do not automatically mean prosecutors will relent and agree to release inmates. "The prosecutor is supposed to do justice," said Chip Thullbery, a spokesman for Polk County State Attorney's office, where the Innocence Project overturned James Bain's rape conviction after 30 years. "If justice means upholding the jury's verdict because the defendant is making a frivolous objection, that's what the prosecutor should do."

On Friday, Manatee County prosecutor Spencer Rasnake fought to prevent the Innocence Project from using the original police records from Williams' case to argue for his freedom. Rasnake said the appeals based on new evidence are "difficult to do." But in this case he does not think the new evidence would have changed the result at trial.

The Innocence Project says those records contain incorrect information and evidence of sloppy police work. Rasnake says those materials were available during Williams' trial in 1993, and are not generally admissible at a trial, so they should not be used to overturn the conviction.

The judge will decide the issue before the March hearing.

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

Sunday, February 20, 2011

U.S. Marshals Threaten, Censor Libertarian site

For the first time, in its sixteenth year of publication, this journal of libertarian views and opinion — bound by an absolute moral resolve never to initiate force against anyone for any reason, nor to advocate or delegate its initiation — has been threatened by agents of the federal government and ordered to remove content from its website.

We have done so. When you learn, in a general way, what that content consisted of, you will be perplexed, at first, then angrier and angrier as you see what has been done to what was once a free country, and realize precisely who is most responsible for having done it.

Last August, TLE ran a piece by our frequent contributor Jim Davidson about the hypocrisy of the federal judiciary. Three federal judges had just authorized a practice in which armed government agents could feel free to trespass on a citizen’s property without a warrant or probable cause, in order to affix a GPS tracker to that citizen’s car.

Our columnist’s natural and logical response was to deprive these judges of privacy the same way they were allowing the privacy of the individuals who pay their salaries (however involuntarily) to be violated. Using only publicly available sources, he published their names, addresses, and other information. Let me state that again, so there can be no mistake: he published their names, addresses, and other such information which he had obtained from purely public sources.

This week — six months later — we have been notified, first by our domain registrar, then in an e-mail from the U.S. Marshals’ “service” that we must remove the offending article from _TLE_’s website, in order to assure the safety of the judges and their families. (This, of course, begs the question, why in the hell their information is publicly available if it constitutes a threat to their safety.) has refused to answer reasonable questions about this affair — such as precisely what Terms of Service we were in violation of — instead simply repeating the order to remove the material.

We have complied.

I used to have a little respect for the U.S. Marshals’ “service”. They had a long, distinguished history, and for some reason, they seemed cleaner to me, nobler, better than the bottom of the barrel scrapings infesting other federal “law enforcement” agencies, like the ones, for example, that disgraced themselves at Ruby Ridge and Mount Carmel.

I wonder if any of them ever thought, when they were growing up, dreaming little kid dreams of being the “goodguys” and saving folks from the “badguys”, that they’d end up merely doing the bidding of corrupt and irrational federal judges, thuggishly intimidating the very folks they once dreamed of saving, helping a new and unAmerican aristocracy to establish themselves as an elite with rights — like simple privacy — that ordinary individuals are no longer allowed to enjoy.

But we have complied.

And yet, our compliance is not without its cost. Everyone who reads this will now understand a little better what those who wish to rule their lives are made of. And they will know — as if they didn’t know already — that these distinguished, cleaner, nobler keepers of the peace are nothing more than a cruel myth. And that knowledge — enough of it — will be all that it takes to change the course of history.

Meanwhile, whom do we hold responsible for this unjustifiable violation of the First Amendment? The Republican administration of Abraham Lincoln was probably not the first, but was by far the worst of its time. Presidents like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt began to see the people as their property and treated them accordingly.

The RICO Act was specifically designed to deprive the accused of representation in court. The authorities and their stooges in media work overtime to convince us that anyone who “lawyers up” is guilty. Agencies like the FBI and CIA are not authorized in the Constitution. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have ever said a word to stop these practices.

Now we have the Department of Homeland Security which officially regards the average American wage earner, homemaker, student, hunter, sportsman, scholar of the Bible or the Constitution as an uncaught criminal. The so-called Transportation Safety Administration shakes down just as many inmates of this nation-sized prison as it can every day.

So who is to blame? Those who do the shaking. Those who abuse their fellow citizens for no other reason than that they can. Or because the sociopaths in power have paid them to do so. And we, the abused, are forced at gunpoint to give them half of everything we earn.

And we have complied.

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

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sticklers for procedure

Ohio's Supreme Court reverses an acquittal in yet another outrageous sex abuse prosecution.

It would be difficult to cite a more shameful episode in the history of America's criminal justice system than the pedophilia panic of the 1980s and '90s. Police, prosecutors, and social workers all over the country were overcome by hysteria about the supposed proliferation of ritual sex abuse, a fear fed by a new movement of quack, Christian fundamentalist psychologists.

Although dozens of convictions have been overturned, we are nowhere near uncovering all the damage wrought by this panic. The case of Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen shows how the same criminal justice system that rushed to convict innocent people can take decades to recognize and correct its mistakes.

Smith, a bus driver, and Allen, an unemployed laborer, were imprisoned from 1994 to 2009 after they were convicted of bizarre and grotesque crimes against children at a Head Start school in Lorain, Ohio, where Smith worked. Prosecutors alleged that Smith, a single mother of four, routinely kept several children on the bus after dropping the rest off at school. They said she would take the remaining children to Allen's home, or possibly somewhere else, where the two adults would molest the children, rape them, put them through all sorts of outlandish and perverted rituals, then clean them up, dress them, and put them back on the bus in time for Smith's evening route. (She had a second job delivering Meals on Wheels in the afternoon.) Smith was sentenced to 30 to 90 years in prison, while Allen received five consecutive life sentences.

In 2009 Smith's and Allen's attorneys challenged their sentences on technical grounds related to the wording of the sentencing orders. Most observers expected Lorain County Common Pleas Court Judge James Burge (who was not the judge who had presided over the trial) to correct the error and resentence Smith and Allen to the same prison terms. But Burge reviewed Smith and Allen's case files while preparing for the hearing and was appalled by the lack of evidence against them. Instead of resentencing Smith and Allen, Burge stunned the courtroom by acquitting them and ordering their release.

Prosecutors challenged Burge's decision, and last month the Ohio Supreme Court ordered Smith and Allen back to prison after two years of freedom, finding that Burge had exceeded his authority. The court ruled that Burge should have considered only the sentencing error, not Smith and Allen's guilt or innocence. Unlike Burge, the court did not review the evidence against Smith and Allen; its ruling was strictly about procedure. Smith and Allen have been permitted to remain free while their attorneys ask the court to reconsider its decision.

I don't know Ohio criminal procedure, so I'm not qualified to comment on the quality of the court's legal analysis. Commenting on the case at the Volokh Conspiracy blog, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh writes that reversing a judge-ordered acquittal does not violate the U.S. Constitution's Double Jeopardy Clause. But like a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that overturned a lower court's finding of actual innocence in a sex abuse case because the defendant's attorney had missed a deadline to file the claim, the Ohio Supreme Court's ruling starkly illustrates the difference between law and justice.

It is impossible to adequately convey the outrage perpetrated on Smith and Allen in a single column. (This long but compelling Crime Magazine article tells the story in great detail.) But here are the highlights.

There isn't a single piece of physical evidence against Smith or Allen. There were no hairs or bodily fluids from either of them on the children who allegedly were abused, or vice versa. There were no medical examinations of the children that found evidence of physical abuse. Prosecutors could provide jurors with no specific dates when the abuse allegedly occurred (denying Smith and Allen the chance to provide alibis), nor could they specify where it occurred. At one point in the trial the prosecutors alleged that Smith drove the children to Allen's home, and they attempted to show that one child could identify items seized from Allen's home after he was arrested. But when defense attorneys poked holes in that story—noting, for example, that prosecutors could find no one who had seen Smith's bus parked at Allen's home—the prosecutors changed their story, saying the abuse must have taken place somewhere else.

Smith and Allen claimed then, and still claim, that they had never met before they were arrested. The prosecution presented two witnesses in an attempt to link the defendants to each other. One was a child who claimed to have seen them together at a bus stop. But that child was at one point also supposed to testify as a victim. The problem for prosecutors: He alleged that Smith and another woman, not Allen, had abused him. So they didn't ask him about the alleged abuse. The other testimony linking Smith and Allen came from a Head Start employee who claimed to have seen Allen arguing with Smith after trying to board her bus. But a Head Start parent remembered that incident and said it was he, not Allen, who got into the argument with Smith.

The case got started when the mother of a Head Start student claimed her daughter told her that Smith and someone named Joseph had sexually abused her. Detective Tom Cantu of the Lorrain Police Department's Youth and Gang Unit interviewed the child, her mother, Smith, and Head Start employees. He found no evidence to support the allegations. But the mother persisted. She went to the press and started talking about the allegations to other Head Start parents. Rumors circulated. Soon the mayor and the Lorain County Prosecutor's Office got involved. The mother initially said Joseph was a white man (Joseph Allen is black) who owned a local gay bar (homophobia often factored into false ritual sex abuse allegations). When that suspect was cleared, the search for the "real" Joseph was on.

Six months after the initial allegations, Joseph Allen walked into a police station to report that his car had been stolen. An officer who had worked on the sex abuse investigation looked up Allen's criminal record and found that he had pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a minor several years earlier. (Allen says he was falsely accused by the girl's mother after the two had a failed relationship.) Never mind that police had initially been looking for a white man and had no way of connecting Allen to Smith. Here was a Joseph with a prior sex crime conviction. The panic was on. New alleged victims came forward, and Allen was arrested.

Almost none of the alleged victims could identify Allen. In police reports and taped interviews that defense attorneys either never saw or saw only the day before the child witnesses testified, child after child failed to pick Allen out of police lineups, despite persistent prodding by investigators. Incredibly, prosecutors spun this inability to identify Allen as proof of his guilt. The children, they said, were afraid of him, so they were afraid to look at him or to point him out. Of course, the few children who did identify Allen were also presented as evidence of his guilt.

Interview tapes show investigators leading children with their questioning, refusing to accept denials, and urging the children to help them protect other children by identifying their attackers. One psychiatrist asked to review the tapes told a local newspaper: "If these interviews were the basis of testimony on which people were convicted, it is an affront to justice. If people were convicted, it was on profoundly tainted testimony."

Head Start records showed that many of the children who alleged repeated abuse had perfect or near-perfect attendance records throughout the period when they supposedly were forced to participate in depraved orgies during school hours. Other Head Start employees gave testimony showing how implausible it was for these abuse rituals to have occurred without anyone—parents, teacher, neighbors, or administrators—noticing.

Prosecutors dismissed all of this testimony as attempts by Head Start employees to stave off a lawsuit against them and their employer. And it's true that the mother who first came forward with allegations was already preparing to sue. Another was also facing a criminal investigation of her own; she was suspected of getting illegal prescriptions for painkillers from a dentist.

In the end, Smith and Allen were convicted because jurors simply did not believe that so many innocent children (four in all) could make up such lurid tales of abuse. One juror would later explain, "I don't think [the children] could have gone into detail like that if they were lying."

More 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

Friday, February 18, 2011

Some classic pigs at work

Three times each week, 36-year-old Keith Briscoe of Winslow Township, New Jersey would begin his day by going to a nearby Wawa convenience store for soda and cigarettes. Briscoe, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and lived with his parents, went to the local Steininger Behavior Services clinic for treatment, and he would have a smoke outside the store while waiting for the office to open.

As far as anyone in the neighborhood could recall, Briscoe had never bothered anybody. He wasn't causing trouble on the morning of May 3, 2010, when he had the lethal misfortune of attracting the attention of Winslow Township Police Officer Sean Richards. When Richards demanded to know who he was and what he was doing, Briscoe was cooperative, telling the officer – who had no business bothering one of his betters anyway – that he was waiting to go to the clinic.

"Patients often go up to the Wawa before their sessions to buy coffee [or] cigarettes," a medical professional who worked at the clinic informs Pro Libertate. "The local businesses and police are aware that there are psychiatric patients in the area and know to call Steininger in the event that one of them gets lost or is getting into trouble. This cop took it upon himself to do what he did without asking anyone in Wawa if there was any problem. Wawa hadn't called the police to intervene because Mr. Briscoe would frequently go there."

Richards should have left well enough alone, but since he had a gun, a piece of government-provided jewelry, and an unearned sense of superiority, he didn't. He demanded that Briscoe get into his police cruiser, supposedly to be given a ride to the clinic. Briscoe wisely turned down the offer.

Richards later admitted that he hadn't received any complaints about Briscoe's behavior, and that he did nothing that warranted an arrest. According to the former clinic staffer, Briscoe was known to be "very kind and gentle [and] would never be aggressive." Yet when the harmless and intimidated man refused to get into the police car, Richards committed an act of criminal assault by seizing and attempting to handcuff him.

As Briscoe tried to escape, Richards called for "backup." He also attacked Briscoe with his Oleoresin Casicum spray, a "non-lethal" chemical weapon that left the victim choking and struggling for breath.

At this point, three bystanders saw Briscoe struggling with a uniformed assailant, a situation that presented them with the "Tom Joad Test," which I've previously described thus:

"When you see a cop – or, more likely, several of them – beating up on a prone individual, do you instinctively sympathize with the assailant(s) or the victim? Do you assume that the state is entitled to the benefit of the doubt whenever its agents inflict violence on somebody, or do you believe that the individual – any individual – is innocent of wrongdoing until his guilt has been proven?"

The bystanders failed the test. Rather than intervening on behalf of the victim, or simply butting out, these statist Samaritans reflexively gave the uniformed assailant the benefit of the doubt, and joined in the beating. Five more armed tax-feeders, summoned by Richards's frantic call for "backup," then arrived to pile on. A few minutes later, Briscoe was dead as a result of "traumatic asphyxia" – that is, he suffocated at the bottom of a thugscrum. The Camden County Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide. But the chief assailant was not charged with a homicide-related offense.

According to the Camden County prosecutor's office, although Richards had committed an illegal arrest, he couldn't be prosecuted for homicide because New Jersey "law" doesn't recognize the unalienable right of innocent people to resist unlawful arrest. This supposedly means that once Briscoe "resisted being taken into custody, police had the right to take actions necessary to restrain him" – up to and including the use of lethal force.

What this means is that in New Jersey – a state afflicted with some of the most corrupt and abusive police officers this side of Tahrir Square – someone who survives a murder attempt by a uniformed thug can be prosecuted for "resisting arrest" even if it is proven that the police assault was a criminal act.

In fact, according to one recent ruling from the state Superior Court (State of New Jersey v. Craig Byron Joseph Martin), it is a crime to resist even when a police offer specifically and repeatedly states that the subject is not under arrest. The police officer in that case testified: "I said, `Sir, you're not under arrest. I'm just patting you down for my safety."

The subject was instructed to place his hands on his car. When he removed his hands from the vehicle, the officer told him, "I'm going to handcuff you. You're not under arrest." Eventually the incident degenerated into a "scuffle," in which the officer – once again, by his own account – exclaimed: "You're not under arrest; stop resisting arrest!"

Ah, yes: "Stop resisting" – the refrain of rapists, police, and other violent degenerates.

Richards, who murdered Briscoe for the supposed crime of resisting an illegal arrest, was charged with simple assault and as a result was sentenced to a year on probation and the loss of his job. He also agreed that he would never seek to expunge his record, although it's not clear how that provision could be enforced.

"This plea ensures that Richards will be forever barred from holding such a position of authority again," insisted Camden County Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk. Actually, it's entirely possible that Richards will join the ranks of corrupt, disgraced "gypsy cops" who invariably find employment elsewhere as members of the coercive caste.

None of the other four police officers who collaborated in the crime has been punished at all. However, all five officers, along with the "Samaritans" who collaborated in the murder of Keith Briscoe, are the subjects of a $25 million civil lawsuit filed on behalf of the victim's family.

Legal commentator Elie Mystal points out that the "Good Samaritans" in this matter had no reason – apart from a "reflexive trust of police" – to assume that Sean Richards was justified in using force to subdue Briscoe. "They chose the wrong side, and now a man is dead," Mystal observes. "There should be some kind of punishment for that."

"And don't tell me that holding these people accountable will have some kind of ‘chilling effect' on the willingness of citizens to help their fellow man," Mystal continues. "This is America! We are founded on a skepticism of authority. We believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty. It's entirely consistent with the American experience … [not to assume] that police officers are always right or on the side of good."

The Mundanes who joined in the assault will most likely end up ruined financially. The same is true of Sean Richards, now that he's no longer wearing the habiliments of the State's punitive priesthood. But the others still employed as agents of coercion will probably be spared similar hardship through a settlement worked out in collaboration with the local armed tax-feeders' union.

And still, somehow we're supposed to believe that the take-away here is that the lawsuit poses a new threat to "officer safety," because it will discourage Mundanes from coming to the aid of police next time they assault a helpless individual.

"They saw a cop struggling and they jumped into action," says Tim Quinlan, the attorney representing Sean Richards, of the Mundanes who helped murder Keith Briscoe. "Now you're going to have cops getting killed because people are afraid to get involved." Somehow that unlikely prospect fails to send a chill down my spine, or leave me prostrate with inconsolable grief.

New Jersey cops appear to specialize in unprovoked assaults on harmless people who suffer from mental illness.

On May 29, 2009, Ronnie Holloway was standing on a street corner near a restaurant when Officers Joseph Rios III and Erica Rivera pulled up in a cop car and berated the 49-year-old man for having his jacket unzipped. As is usually the case in such encounters, things went dramatically downhill in a hurry.

Rios, an Iraq combat veteran, appeared to be on "contact patrol" – that is, prowling the neighborhood looking for an excuse to throw somebody to the ground. Holloway, an unassuming man on medication for schizophrenia, presented a perfect target of opportunity.

A video recording of the event shows Holloway meekly zipping up his jacket. As he did so, Rivera exits the vehicle and distracts Holloway while Rios blind-sides him, slamming him to the ground and beating him repeatedly with his fists and baton. After a brief pause, Holloway – who is clearly terrified, but not putting up any physical resistance – is able to rise to his feet before being slammed onto the hood of the police car.

"I didn't know if I was going to see tomorrow at that point," Holloway later said of the assault, which left him battered and bloody and with a serious injury to one of his eyes. The beating continued until backup – in the form of two additional police cars – arrived to help drag Holloway off to jail.

Despite the fact that he had behaved like a properly docile Mundane, absorbing an unprovoked beating without making any effort to flee or fight back, Holloway was charged with resisting arrest and "wandering," supposedly in search of narcotics.

In filing their official report of the incident, Rios and his partner did what police in such circumstances always do: They committed perjury in the form of "creative writing." Rios claimed that when he and Rivera told Holloway to leave the corner, Holloway "verbally challenged" them. "Step on the sidewalk, you'll see," Holloway supposedly said to Rios, assuming a "fighting stance" as he did so.

Rios had no right or authority to demand that Holloway – who had done nothing to anybody – leave the street corner. It's also clear from the video that the beating began before Holloway would have had an opportunity to fling a verbal "challenge" at Rios. Some measure of Rios's reliability as a witness is found in the fact that his Use of Force Report claims that Holloway wasn't injured in the attack.

After the May 29 assault was publicized, the Passaic Police Department "pulled a Mubarak," as it were: They defied public outrage for as long as possible, keeping Rios on active duty, and then suspending both Rios and Rivera (the latter for failing a fraudulent claim of a job-related injury during the incident) when the outrage failed to dissipate.

Owing entirely to public pressure put on the Passaic municipal government, Rios has been charged with aggravated assault and official misconduct. He has entered a plea of "not guilty by virtue of a government-provided wardrobe." "I did what was proper," lied Rios in a June 2009 press conference. "I did what I was trained to do under circumstances that existed at that time. I stand by my actions."

His attorney, Anthony J. Iacullo, defended the assault as a pre-emptive strike against some unspecified threat posed by an uppity Mundane: "Based upon what Officer Rios feared might happen, and based upon his not submitting to arrest, the actions were taken."

Holloway's "resistance" consisted of cringing and covering up in confusion and terror as Rios rained down punches and baton strikes. In New Jersey – as is the case elsewhere in the Soyuz – even such minimal and reflexive attempts to protect one's self from State-sanctified violence is treated as a criminal offense.

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

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Seattle cop kills man because of the look on his face

King County prosecutors have decided not to file criminal charges against Seattle police Officer Ian Birk in the fatal shooting of woodcarver John T. Williams, according to sources familiar with the decision. Meanwhile, the Police Department has found the shooting unjustified, which could lead to Birk's firing.

The Prosecutor's Office is expected to announce the decision in a news conference on Wednesday, the sources say.

Shortly after, Seattle Police Chief John Diaz is expected to disclose at a news conference that the department's Firearms Review Board has reached a final decision that the Aug. 30 shooting was not justified, say sources briefed on the finding.

The board's conclusion, reached in private deliberations a few days ago, allows the Police Department to begin internal proceedings that could lead to Birk's firing or other discipline, the sources said. In October, the board reached a preliminary decision that the shooting was unjustified, sources said then.

Deputy Police Chief Nick Metz said Tuesday he couldn't comment in detail on the department's plans but said police officials were working on a statement on the course of the case.

Metz said the department was aware that the outcome is a "very sensitive issue" and that the "community is watching closely." Birk has been on paid leave since the shooting.

The Prosecutor's Office declined Tuesday to discuss its decision. "Our decision has not been finalized and we will make an official announcement in the near future," said Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.

Prosecutors have been confronted with a steep legal hurdle in deciding whether to charge Birk with murder or manslaughter. State law shields police officers from criminal prosecution when they claim they used deadly force in self-defense, unless it can be shown they acted with malice and a lack of good faith.

A spokesman for Mayor Mike McGinn said Tuesday night that Satterberg and Diaz will make statements on the case on Wednesday.

Spokesman Mark Matassa did not reveal what would be said. He said McGinn will hold his own news conference Wednesday.

The decision not to file criminal charges comes about a month after a King County inquest jury reached mixed findings on the shooting. Four of eight jurors found that Birk wasn't facing an imminent threat when he fatally shot Williams, and that he didn't give Williams sufficient time to put down a knife he was carrying during their confrontation on a Seattle sidewalk.

One juror found that Birk faced a threat and gave Williams sufficient time; three others answered "unknown." Four jurors determined Birk believed he was in danger when he encountered Williams, while four others answered "unknown."

The findings regarding the actual threat to Birk stand in contrast to previous King County inquest decisions, in which jurors have almost always upheld the actions of police officers involved in deadly shootings.

Inquest jurors weren't asked to weigh whether Birk was guilty or innocent of wrongdoing in the shooting. The results were reviewed by the Prosecutor's Office to help determine whether to file criminal charges.

Even before the inquest, Birk, 27, who joined the department in July 2008, had been stripped of his gun and badge as a result of the preliminary finding by the Firearms Review Board and Diaz, the police chief, that the shooting was unjustified, sources said. The board waited to make a final decision until after the inquest.

The board, made up of Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer, two captains and a lieutenant, heard testimony in October from civilian witnesses and police investigators. One board member sat in on the inquest. The board determines if officer shootings fall within department policies and procedures. The inquest jury sifted through conflicting testimony and two patrol-car videos and audio that captured some of the confrontation at Boren Avenue and Howell Street but not the shooting itself. Their answers did not have to be unanimous.

Evidence presented during the inquest showed about four seconds elapsed between Birk's first order to Williams to put down the knife and when he fired.

The shooting occurred after Birk saw Williams cross the street holding a flat piece of wood and a knife with a 3-inch blade. Williams, a member of Canada's First Nations people, used the knife for carving, his family says.

Birk got out of his patrol car and followed Williams onto the sidewalk. Birk shouted at Williams to get his attention and ordered him three times to put down the knife. Birk fired when Williams didn't respond, hitting him four times.

Birk testified during the inquest that he was initially concerned because Williams showed signs of impairment while carrying a knife. He said when he sought to question Williams, Williams turned toward him with a "very stern, very serious, very confrontational look on his face."

Birk told jurors Williams "still had the knife out and [was in] a very confrontational posture" when he opened fire.

Williams, a chronic inebriate, had a blood-alcohol level measured during his autopsy at 0.18 percent, above the 0.08 percent at which a driver is deemed legally drunk.

During the inquest, two witnesses contradicted Birk, saying they didn't see Williams do anything threatening before he was shot.

Birk testified that shortly after the shooting he told a witness, a responding officer and a detective that Williams had not complied with his order to put down the knife. He acknowledged that, at that time, he did not tell them that Williams had threatened him.

It wasn't until hours later, Birk testified, that he provided a detailed written statement alleging that Williams had menacingly displayed the knife and "pre-attack indicators."

Williams' knife was found folded in the closed position after the shooting.

Jurors unanimously found that Williams was carrying an open knife when first seen by Birk. But four answered "no" and four "unknown" when asked if the blade was open when Birk fired.

In reviewing the case, prosecutors had various options: charging Birk with second-degree murder, first-degree reckless manslaughter, second-degree negligent manslaughter, or declining to bring a charge.

A second-degree-murder charge would require prosecutors to show beyond a reasonable doubt that Birk intended to unlawfully kill Williams, or that Birk intentionally and unlawfully assaulted Williams, causing his death.

Manslaughter requires less proof. Prosecutors must show only that reckless or negligent conduct caused a death, though they still must do so beyond a reasonable doubt.

Federal prosecutors have been monitoring the case and could consider bringing a criminal civil-rights case against Birk. But they must show willful criminal conduct to obtain a conviction.

The shooting of Williams and other incidents have prompted the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and 34 community groups to call on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate Police Department practices. Seattle officers have been under scrutiny over use of force in several incidents in the past year, particularly in dealings with minorities. Justice has opened a preliminary review of the department.

At least two protests are planned for Wednesday over the decision not to file criminal charges against Birk.

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, February 16, 2011

Police Have More, Better Rights than You

Two court cases could weaken access to justice in Illinois

Last week redOrbit declared that Chicago is “on a path … to become the country’s most-watched city.” Over 10,000 government and private cameras are linked to an official surveillance system called Operation Virtual Shield. At least 1,250 of them are “powerful enough to zoom in and read the text of a book.”

In this Orwellian scenario, however, one class of people is granted ever more privacy: on-duty policemen. Even as the Illinois police defend their “right” to surveil everyone on the grounds that those being watched are in public, they deny the public the right to record them in the line of duty.

Instead, the police invoke an eavesdropping law to prevent omnipresent cell phones and other recording devices being pointed their way. Illinois is one of 12 states that requires “two-party consent” for the recording of a conversation to be legal. Along with Massachusetts and Maryland, it is one of three states that does not make an exception for recording on-duty policemen in public places.

Law with Teeth

The Illinois eavesdropping law has teeth, as Chris Drew and Tiawanda Moore have discovered. Drew and Moore are two of nine people currently being prosecuted for recording on-duty police officers. They are charged with a Class 1 felony that carries up to 15 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. (Similarly recording a mere citizen carries up to only three years in prison.)

Drew is a 60-year-old Chicago artist who, as a protest, intentionally violated a city ordinance against selling art on the street. He had a friend record his encounter with the police on an Olympus voice recorder. Instead of being fined or charged with a misdemeanor as he expected, Drew was arrested on felony eavesdropping. His trial is set for early April.

Moore is a 20-year-old former stripper who tried to file a sexual harassment complaint against a policeman responding to a domestic violence call. When Internal Affairs refused to take her seriously, Moore started recording her encounter with the two officers on a Blackberry. The result: a Class A felony charge. Her trial was tentatively set for early February but there is no record of it yet occurring. Perhaps prosecutors have been discouraged by coverage of her plight in the New York Times and a petition on her behalf from the Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls and Young Women; the Taskforce argues that Moore’s prosecution will have a chilling effect on women reporting sex abuse by police officers.

Meanwhile, in January a First Amendment challenge to Illinois’s eavesdropping law brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was rejected by a federal judge. The ACLU suspended its plans to record police-civilian interactions for fear of being arrested, but the grounds for the challenge signals what is likely to become a trend.

Justice in the Balance

Justice itself depends on people being able to document their encounters with government agents, especially the police. If people are prevented from establishing the truth through evidence, then they have no defense against a corrupt, incompetent, or vengeful police officer.

When Mark Donahue, president of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police, defends the eavesdropping law on the grounds that recording an officer “can affect how … [he] does his job on the street,” he misses the point. Changing police misconduct is the purpose of such recordings. And an officer who is threatened by the truth or transparency is someone who badly needs to change behavior.

Donahue insists that surreptitious recordings are an invitation to abuse but he stops short of explaining why police should be trusted with power that is far more subject to abuse. The explanation seems clear: The police have more and better “rights” than you or your children.

Chicago’s massive surveillance program may well become a trend in America’s cities. But if the police can arrange it, the cameras will point only one way. Sadly, hypocrisy is not illegal in Illinois. It is official policy.

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, February 15, 2011

GA: Atlanta police won’t hinder citizens who videotape cops

Faced with complaints from a citizen watchdog group, Atlanta police will stop interfering with people who videotape officers performing their duties in public, an agreement reached with the city Thursday says.

"Commanders have made it clear that Atlanta police officers in the field should not interfere with a citizen’s right to film them while they work in public areas," said APD spokesman Carlos Campos.

The settlement, which also calls for the city to pay $40,000 in damages, requires city council approval.

The agreement resolves a complaint filed by Marlon Kautz and Copwatch of East Atlanta, a group that films police activity with cell phones and hand-held cameras. The group has volunteers who go out on patrols and begin videotaping police activity when they come across it.

Last April, Kautz said, he pulled out his camera phone and began recording Atlanta police who were arresting a suspect in Little Five Points. Two officers approached him and said he had no right to be filming them, Kautz said. When Kautz refused to stop, one officer wrenched Kautz's arm behind his back and yanked the camera out of his hands, he said. "I was definitely scared," Kautz, 27, said.

Kautz said that when he asked to get his phone back, another officer said he'd return it only after Kautz gave him the password to the phone so he could delete the footage. When Kautz refused, police confiscated the phone, he said. When police returned it, Kautz said, the video images had been deleted, altered or damaged.

As part of Thursday's settlement, reached before a civil rights lawsuit was filed, the city will pay Kautz and Copwatch of East Atlanta $40,000 in damages. APD will also adopt an operating procedure that prohibits officers from interfering with citizens who are taping police activity, provided individuals recording the activity do not physically interfere with what the officers are doing. The policy is to be adopted within 30 days after the Atlanta city council approves the settlement, and training is to be carried out during police roll calls.

"We commend the city for resolving a long-standing problem of police interfering with citizens who monitor police activity," the group's lawyers, Gerry Weber and Dan Grossman, said.

APD spokesman Carlos Campos said the matter had been referred to the Office of Professional Standards, and three officers were disciplined. The two officers who confronted Kautz -- Mark Taylor and Anthony Kirkman -- received oral admonishments for failing to take appropriate action. Sgt. Stephen Zygai was admonished for failure to supervise.

"Commanders have made it clear that Atlanta police officers in the field should not interfere with a citizen’s right to film them while they work in public areas," Campos said.

Also Thursday, the Atlanta Citizen Review Board sustained allegations of excessive force against Kirkman, who took the phone out of Kautz's hand. The board recommended to Police Chief George Turner that Kirkman be suspended without pay for four days. It also recommended that APD adopt the new standard operating procedure.

Copwatch began in 1990 in Berkeley, Calif., and other chapters have since been organized in cities across the country. Its goal is to protect citizens from being mistreated by holding police accountable. With the ubiquity of small hand-held cameras and cell phones, Copwatch members can begin videotaping a police scene at a moment's notice.

"There shouldn’t be anything wrong with these constitutional watchdogs keeping an eye on the police," said Emory University law professor Kay Levine. "Just about anything the police are doing out in the public, in performance of their duties, members of the public can see -- and therefore film."

Citizens should not interfere with police activity, however, and should be wary about compromising an undercover investigation, she said. "Just about anything the police are doing out in the public, they should be comfortable being videotaped because they’re simply performing their duties," Levine said. "If some aren’t comfortable with it, it makes you wonder why."

Kautz started Copwatch of East Atlanta after he moved here about two years ago. "We landed right smack dab in a situation where we saw police behavior was unacceptable," Kautz said, citing the controversial APD raid of the Atlanta Eagle gay bar. "We saw Copwatch as direct action we could take to increase police accountability in the city."

Copwatch members are trained how to behave when videotaping a scene, Kautz said. "It's important for us when we're out there to keep it together. We try to stay professional, as we expect the police to be."

Copwatch members get varying responses from police, Vincent Castillenti, 24, said. Some officers become hostile because they don't like the scrutiny, while others begin behaving less aggressively when they realize they're being filmed, he said.

Kautz said the intent of Copwatch is not to get police officers in trouble. "The hope," he said, "is that our presence will remind police the community is watching what they're doing and wants them to be on their best behavior."

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, February 14, 2011

NY court to hear wrongful conviction damages case

No matter how strange or stupid a guy might be, it is still a huge fail to lock him up for something he didn't do. And taking advantage of such a guy is beneath contempt

A man who spent nine years in prison after an unjust murder conviction has asked New York's top court to reinstate his damages case against the state, claiming his confession to Rochester police was coerced while he was mentally ill.

Douglas Warney, 49, was convicted of stabbing William Beason to death in 1996 and exonerated a decade later by DNA tests that identified the killer, who is now in prison. Warney's case was taken up by the Innocence Project, a national nonprofit organization that works to clear the wrongly convicted. Prosecutors had initially opposed the genetic testing.

The Court of Claims dismissed his lawsuit for wrongful conviction and imprisonment, finding Warney was unlikely to prove that he didn't cause his own conviction by confessing. A midlevel court agreed.

Arguments at the Court of Appeals are set for Tuesday. The dollar amount of the claim hasn't been set.

Attorneys for Warney, a convicted burglar, said police had taken him to a psychiatric emergency ward because he was setting off fire alarms, they knew his mental health history and told him crime details put into the confession that he couldn't have known.

"If his entire interrogation had been videotaped he never would have been convicted," attorney Peter Neufeld said. His client had been diagnosed with AIDS-related dementia and had an IQ of 68. "The only way he could have gotten those details was if police fed them to him during the interrogation."

Officer Stephen Scott, Rochester police spokesman, said it's policy not to comment on pending litigation.

In court papers, state lawyers said lower court rulings were correct, that Warney's repeated and voluntary self-incriminating statements to police bar him from recovering damages. Warney had initially contacted police, saying he had information about the murder.

"That his confession has now been shown to be false and that it contains non-public details of the crime do not establish that it was coerced," Assistant Solicitor General Frank Walsh wrote. "In view of the totality of claimant's conduct, the courts below correctly dismissed the claim on the ground that it was unlikely that claimant could prove, by the high standard of clear and convincing evidence, that he did not, by his own conduct, cause or bring about his conviction."

Court of Claims Judge Renee Minarik dismissed the lawsuit based on briefs and the state's dismissal motion, Neufeld said. "She never even allowed us discovery, even though our guy was unquestionably innocent."

Prosecutors statewide are pushing for videotaping interrogations, which reduce claims of both coerced and false confessions. Authorities in many counties are starting to do it, and some now do the recordings in all felony cases.

Nine claims of wrongful conviction were filed in 2010 against the state and five the year before, said Jennifer Givner, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office.

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

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Australia: Rowe case shakes public trust in police

Bruce Rowe is one of those blokes authority hates. He has a simple sense of justice and when he digs in his heels he is immovable.

Rowe is the oldish fellow (65 at the time) who was seen on TV being manhandled by a bunch of cops in the heart of Brisbane's Queen Street Mall back in July 2006.

He was arrested, charged and convicted of obstructing police and failing to obey a police order after an incident that began in the public toilets and ended with him being held down by four officers and kneed by another.

Rowe was last seen on TV last week savouring a moment of triumph after Constable Benjamin Arndt was found guilty of assaulting him and fined $1000 and ordered to pay him $2250 court costs.

That was the result of a private prosecution by Rowe, not one launched by the established forces of law and order.

The case was one of the most unsavoury in Queensland's policing history and dragged through the Magistrates Court, the District Court, the Court of Appeal and back to the Magistrates Court.

The first court convicted Rowe, the second confirmed it, the third overturned it and the fourth fined Arndt, although it did not record a conviction. Even the supporting magistrate and judge made known their displeasure with what they saw on video tape.

Rowe was not caught up in some kind of public toilet degeneracy. Depressed and homeless after his wife of 41 years died, he went in there to change his clothes. There was some argy bargy with the cleaner, who wanted to close up for cleanings, and the police were called. The rest is history.

You might think that after the best part of five years, all involved would be happy to put it all behind them. But, no, the Police Union wants a rematch. Spokesman Ian Leavers said it would back an appeal against Arndt's conviction which had "dire consequences for all police officers doing their jobs".

"I am very, very concerned now that police officers across the state will be reluctant to do their job and the community will suffer," he said.

Any officers who think the right of assault is issued with their batons and handcuffs might be reluctant to do their jobs but I can't see what difference it will make to the majority who follow a tough calling with courage and dignity.

"It simply doesn't make sense at all because a District Court has found the force used was reasonable," he said.

Judge Nicholas Samios did find that but he also found the arrest was lawful. Whether he would have found it reasonable had he found the arrest unlawful is another thing.

In the Court of Appeal, Judge Cate Holmes noted that Rowe wanted to argue three grounds of appeal, including on the grounds that "the arrest was unlawful or, alternatively, because Mr Rowe's actions were a response to unlawful force used in effecting it".

It never came to that because the court found other reasons to rule the arrest was unlawful. In the circumstances, it might be a pity it was not resolved by the higher court. And whether the degree of force was reasonable and has much to do with the fact of assault is another matter.

Arndt is entitled to seek to clear his name and the Police Union is entitled (possibly obliged) to support him in his actions.

However, whatever the outcome, this was a shameful incident that should never have happened. It was badly handled during and after the event and has dragged on too long, to the detriment of just about anyone involved and at a cost to trust in our police service.

The courts will do their job, but I think public opinion has reached a verdict.

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

(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

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A protection racket run by an Australian law enforcement agency

The state's most secretive law enforcement agency has been sharing the proceeds of crime with organised crime figures, cutting deals that allow them to walk away with millions of dollars.

The NSW Crime Commission, set up to investigate and jail Sydney's crime lords, has struck as many as 600 such deals during the past 20 years, in effect, handing over millions of dollars' worth of assets that might have been illegally obtained.

The funds taken by the commission are put in a Treasury account and disbursed to crime prevention and drug rehabilitation programs.

But instead of litigating in open court to confiscate all proceeds of crime, the agency has settled most cases by consent for a lesser amount and often before a defendant appears on a criminal charge.

For senior figures in the underworld, it has become a cost of doing business. The Herald has confirmed that in one recent case, someone with criminal associations approached the commission to pay a financial settlement - before he was even called in to give evidence.

The Herald has also learnt that such deals, struck under proceeds of crime laws, have not always been inspected by a Supreme Court judge as envisaged by the legislation but merely stamped by a court official.

A defence lawyer, Dennis Miralis, said there was a "prevailing view" within the criminal world that by reaching a secret deal with the commission, it was possible to avoid further police scrutiny. "They believe that by settling with the crime commission on a non-admission basis, they will remove the commission from investigating their affairs any further," he said.

"One advantage of settlement is that individuals can effectively have funds returned to them that are now 'clean' and have been sponsored and endorsed as such by the state."

While the value of the assets the agency confiscates has grown by more than 1300 per cent since 1990 - generating almost $250 million over that period - the number of people it has arrested has plateaued, falling last year to fewer than the number in 1993.

A former commission investigator and now police academic, Michael Kennedy, said: "It is philosophically unsound what they do. They are licensing organised crime because they are fining it. The Crime Commission is involved in business transactions."

The agency - which taps phones, can compel witnesses to answer questions and maintains an army of criminal informants - has operated for two decades with less oversight than even the domestic spy agency, the Australian Secret Intelligence Organisation. The Herald also understands several prominent organised criminals have been able to avoid greater police scrutiny, a bigger confiscation bill or more severe legal penalties by becoming an informant. A 12-month investigation has discovered:

An "ends justify the means" culture exists at senior levels. It manifests itself in inadequate record keeping, the routine relaxation of policies governing the handling of informants and inaccurately reporting its financial achievements.

A murder investigation into a prominent Lebanese mafia figure was thrown into disarray, NSW police say, after the commission warned his lawyer that one of the criminal's most-trusted friends had rolled over.

An entrenched distrust of the agency among senior members of the Australian Crime Commission, the federal police and the NSW Police, over disputes about the management of complex investigations.

Since 1993, the commission has been run by Phillip Bradley, who is respected in government circles as a hard-working anti-crime crusader. And despite its problems, his organisation is one of Australia's most effective criminal intelligence agencies.

Its supporters say confiscating criminal proceeds is the only way to put pressure on well-organised criminals with experience of police methods - and the Supreme Court has encouraged such settlements because of the heavy caseload in the courts.

But critics say such deals do not make a dent in the amount of drugs sold in Sydney and, as they are struck in private, do little to deter crime.

The commission's oversight body, a management committee that consists of Mr Bradley, the police minister and the heads of NSW Police and the federal police, has not always been able to scrutinise properly the organisation or the financial settlements it has struck.

Another former commission officer, Peter Robinson, said it was compromised because it was trying to juggle competing priorities - the confiscation of assets and the investigation of organised crime.

"The concept of taxing organised crime, or skimming off the top, and leaving crime figures to keep the rest of their spoils sounds like a protection racket. If the commission is doing that, it is encouraging crime and fostering a culture where organised crime can flourish."

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

(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