Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Your Lying Eyes: How Fallible Memories Send Innocent People to Prison

In 1986, Tim Cole, a student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for a rape he did not commit. He was exonerated in 2009, a decade after he died behind bars from a severe asthma attack at the age of 39.

Like three-quarters of the defendants who are cleared by DNA evidence, Cole was convicted based on sincere yet inaccurate eyewitness testimony -- a problem the New Jersey Supreme Court highlighted last week when it revised the state's rules for pretrial hearings and jury instructions based on three decades of research exposing the fallibility of human memory. That decision, together with a case the U.S. Supreme Court will hear this fall, reminds us that the most powerful testimony jurors hear may also be the weakest, subject to hidden influences that can send an innocent man to prison if they remain unexposed.

"Memory does not function like a videotape, accurately and thoroughly capturing and reproducing a person, scene or event," writes Geoffrey Gaulkin, the former judge who prepared a report on the science of eyewitness testimony for the New Jersey Supreme Court. "Memory is, rather, a constructive, dynamic and selective process" that includes three stages: acquisition, retention and retrieval. "At each of those stages," Gaulkin notes, "the information ultimately offered as 'memory' can be distorted, contaminated and even falsely imagined."

Tim Cole's wrongful conviction involved several of the memory-corrupting factors cited by Gaulkin. Cole's accuser, Michele Mallin (who later supported his posthumous exoneration), was held at knifepoint while she was raped, and the presence of a weapon can distract a victim's attention from facial features. High stress also impairs an eyewitness's ability to encode details.

Police claimed that Cole resembled a composite picture they produced based on Mallin's description. "The broad consensus within the scientific community is that composites produce poor results," writes Gaulkin, "because people recognize others holistically, not feature-by-feature in the manner composites are constructed."

Mallin is white, whereas Cole was black, and cross-racial identifications are substantially less reliable than intra-racial identifications. Police presented Mallin with a photo lineup in which Cole's picture stood out because it was the only Polaroid and Cole was the only man looking directly at the camera. The detective who oversaw the lineup was conducting the investigation and may have unconsciously steered Mallin toward Cole, his only suspect.

Mallin was not told that her attacker might not be in the lineup or that she did not have to choose anyone if she was unsure. The photos were presented simultaneously instead of sequentially, encouraging "relative judgment" -- the tendency to pick the person who most resembles a perpetrator. Instead of recording the doubts Mallin had expressed, police made notes that suggested she had chosen Cole without hesitation.

The following day, the police did a live lineup, in which Mallin picked Cole again, reinforcing her initial misidentification. By the time of Cole's trial five months later, she confidently and convincingly identified him as her attacker, which was the only real evidence against him.

Gaulkin observes that courtroom identifications, for all their drama and emotional impact, merely recapitulate whatever errors led to an initial misidentification, hardened by feedback from police and prosecutors. He also notes that memory decays irreparably over time. According to a 2008 meta-analysis of 53 studies, memory quality falls by 50 percent after one month.

Because of these and other factors, eyewitness testimony is wrong about one-third of the time, judging from laboratory experiments, field studies and analyses of real cases. Almost all of the relevant evidence has emerged since the U.S. Supreme Court last addressed the due process implications of eyewitness testimony in 1977.

In November, the court will revisit the subject, considering whether eyewitness testimony can be suppressed when it is biased by factors other than "improper state action." However the justices rule, jurors in most cases still will have to decide not only whether eyewitnesses are honest but also whether they are telling the truth.

Original report here

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Australian man seeks compensation from state government after being wrongly jailed

He was set up by crooked cops but no word of any action against the cops concerned

An Aboriginal man wrongly jailed for an armed robbery has been given the go-ahead by the Brisbane Supreme Court to seek compensation from the Queensland Government.

Terry Irving, 56, was sentenced to seven years five months in May 1993 for an armed robbery. Having repeatedly protested his innocence, in 1997 the High Court quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial. Mr Irving was released after serving almost five years.

In January 1999, the Department of Public Prosecutions filed a notice in the Court confirming it was no longer pursuing a retrial.

Maurice Blackburn Associate Trent Johnson said Mr Irving had struggled for years to represent himself after he was refused legal aid, and today's Supreme Court decision was a welcome step towards some finality. Mr Irving has been assisted on a pro bono basis by Townsville Solicitor Michael O'Keeffe.

"This has been a long and painful ordeal for Mr Irving. The High Court of Australia found that there had been a miscarriage of justice and the United Nations Human Rights Committee agreed," Mr Johnson said. "Maurice Blackburn has taken on Mr Irving's claim for an investigation into his conviction, an apology and to secure compensation for his wrongful detention."

Mr Irving said he was determined not to give up his fight. "The checks and balances did not protect me. This has affected my family, my friends. The thing that drives me is that I don't want this to happen to my children, my grandchildren, anyone," he said.

In 2009, Queensland Attorney General Cameron Dick abandoned a judicial review of Irving's case, which had been ordered by Mr Dick's predecessor, Kerry Shine, leaving Mr Irving with no other alternative than to pursue compensation through the court.

"Mr Irving has endured a prolonged period of incarceration for a crime he did not commit and the compensation we will be seeking on his behalf will clearly reflect that," said Mr Johnson.

Original report here

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Injustice, in Plain Sight

In 1989, a Waukegan, Ill., woman was raped after three men invaded her apartment. She told police the rapist had a tattoo, wore an earring in a pierced ear and spoke English. Two days later, the cops took her to an office and said, "Watch the one sitting on the chair."

Alejandro Dominguez, age 16, had no tattoos or pierced ears, and he reportedly could speak only Spanish. The woman, however, said he was the attacker, and largely on the strength of her testimony, he was convicted. Not until 2002 did DNA analysis prove Dominguez was innocent.

It's a dismally familiar tale: a victim making an eyewitness identification that later turns out to be horribly mistaken. This type of mistake is universally known as the most common cause of false convictions. Yet law enforcement authorities, courts and juries continue to treat it as pure gold.

But change is on the way in New Jersey, where last week, the state Supreme Court ran out of patience with a method that puts so many innocents behind bars. It mandated new rules that will help to prevent errors while giving defendants more avenues to expose them.

The justices said that "courts must carefully consider identification evidence before it is admitted to weed out unreliable identifications" and "juries must receive thorough instructions tailored to the facts of the case to be able to evaluate the identification evidence they hear."

Like other evidence, it must be subject to careful scrutiny and challenge. The burden of disproof will still fall on the accused, but it will be easier to meet. Chances are good that, as a result, some blameless individuals will be spared.

It's the least the courts can do, and it's something the U.S. Supreme Court will get to consider this fall, hearing the first major case on the issue since 1977. Since then, the fallibility of eyewitness evidence has been confirmed by a mounting pile of data.

In one experiment, a "customer" went into a convenience store to buy a soft drink with a traveler's check, which required him to provide an ID and spend a few minutes conversing with the clerk. Later, the clerks were asked to find the person in a group of photos. Forty-one percent made a wrong pick.

Errors don't happen because crime witnesses choose to lie. Most of them sincerely believe what they say. But their memories may be addled by shock, colored by a desire to punish the villain or led astray by police suggestions.

The palpable certitude of someone who was present during a crime makes for powerful evidence to a jury. But as the New Jersey court opinion noted, "accuracy and confidence may not be related to one another at all."

Jennifer Thompson can vouch for that. In 1984, as she was being raped at knifepoint, she forced herself to study and note "every single detail on the rapist's face" so she would be able to identify him.

At the police station a few days later, Thompson found her attacker in a gallery of photos. She picked him again out of a physical lineup. She took the stand in court to point him out, and he was convicted.

But 11 years later, DNA evidence pointed to someone else. "The man I had identified so emphatically on so many occasions was absolutely innocent," she wrote later.

Thompson had many minutes to get a closeup view. Often, arrests are made on the basis of brief glimpses, sometimes in dim light or at a far remove. But even in these instances, eyewitness testimony can obliterate other evidence, as well as common sense.

In 1990, a jury convicted David Dowaliby of suburban Chicago of killing his 7-year-old daughter, largely on the basis of a witness who, on the night of the murder, saw someone in a parking lot where the body was later found.

He was 75 yards away, the lighting "wasn't that great," and the witness wasn't sure if the person was male or female, or black or white. All he knew was that the "nose structure" matched Dowaliby's. A jury voted to convict. It took an appeals court to throw out the case.

But many times, mistakes go undetected and uncorrected. We all know it's dangerous to believe everything we hear. The criminal justice system ought to acknowledge that the same holds for what we see.

Original report here

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Concord Cop Threatens Camera-Wielding Lemonade Stand Operator With Wiretapping Charges

A Concord man giving away lemonade at a farmer's market was threatened with wiretapping charges last Saturday when he refused to stop filming a police officer and a fellow vendor.

Garret Ean didn't have a permit to sell lemonade, which drew the ire of the president of the Concord Farmer's Market.

Ean filmed the confrontation, and continued to film when a Concord cop showed up and threatened to arrest him for wiretapping.

Photojournalist Carlos Miller (who we interviewed for the November issue of Reason about the war on photography) has the story:
The man, whom Ean identified as Steve Blasdell, ordered Ean to turn off the camera.

Ean instead engaged him in a debate about what constitutes vending.

At 2:48, Blasdell shut down Ean’s camera, but Ean turns it right back on.

That was when Ean turned from lemonade activist into photography rights activist, claiming he was now “a member of the press.”

And that was when Blasdell tried to grab the camera from him after first trying to grab his cooler of lemonade.

The two men squared off with Ean accusing him of assault while Blasdell said it was not assault because he was only trying to swipe the camera without touching any part of his body.

Blasdell then ran off to call police while Ean announced he is giving away “free lemonade.”

Police arrived ten minutes later and wrongly told Ean he is violating the state’s wiretapping law by recording them on a public sidewalk.

Ean offered to show him the actual law, which he has printed on a little card, but the cop refuses, saying he already familiar with the law.

But then he again threatens to arrest him on wiretapping charges if anybody else on the street complains

Original report here

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

British counter terrorism officer sues London cops over De Menezes 'cover-up'

It is a disgrace that nobody was found guilty of anything in this matter. This gives hope that the truth may finally come out.

I have a pretty good idea what is involved. The openly Lesbian and rather aptly-named Cressida Dick was in charge of the operation. Her incompetence at controlling it caused the disaster. But because she is a "minority", she must be protected.

She was clearly promoted beyond her level of competence on "affirmative action" grounds so those who promoted her also need protection.

In my observation, Lesbians tend to be overconfident and often give the impression that they are more competent than they in fact are -- leading to others having to bail them out when they get it wrong. Exactly that would seem to be going on now

A Christian counter-terrorism officer involved in the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes is suing the Metropolitan Police over allegations that senior officers tried to cover-up vital evidence.

He says his faith compelled him to blow the whistle and he is now claiming thousands of pounds for loss of overtime pay and promotions after Special Branch bosses allegedly sidelined him.

One allegation involves anti-terror officers perverting justice by replacing a chief inspector with another to give more favourable evidence at the 2008 inquest into de Menezes’s death.

An inquest jury returned an open verdict into the shooting of the 27-year-old Brazilian who was mistaken for a suicide bomber in 2005 – rejecting the police view that he was killed lawfully.

The detective sergeant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, first made his concerns known after he gave evidence under a codename at the inquest.

Two more serious concerns were reported about issues within the Met Police’s counter-terrorism department, known as SO15, last December that form the main part of his tribunal case.

He is also suing for religious discrimination and loss of earnings.

A senior source said: ‘The allegations are about such a sensitive subject that top brass are very worried about what could come out in a tribunal.’ ‘As this has been going on for such a long-time he was moved to another department and believes that his career was stalled because he spoke out.’

Mr de Menezes was shot seven times in the head at Stockwell Underground Station in South London after police mistook him for bomber Hussain Osman.

He was killed on July 22, 2005, the day after Osman and three fellow terrorists had gone on the run after trying to bomb the Tube in a follow-up attack to the July 7 London bombings which killed 52 and injured 977.

The jury at the inquest on the Brazilian electrician rejected the account of police marksmen, branding them ‘liars’, and sided with Tube passengers who said the officers failed to issue a warning before opening fire.

They returned an open verdict, which was the most strongly critical option available to them after the judge instructed them there was insufficient evidence to rule that de Menezes was unlawfully killed by police.

The Crown Prosecution Service ruled out criminal charges against anti-terror officers in 2006 and after the inquest in 2009. The Met was instead fined £175,000 under health and safety laws.

The Independent Police Complaints Commision has investigated one of the detective sergeant’s claims finding no evidence to support the allegation.

An IPCC spokesman said: ‘We received a referral from the Metropolitan Police Service on 4 January 2011, as a result of an allegation made by a detective sergeant to the Directorate of Professional Standards in December 2010. The allegation had also been the subject of employment tribunal proceedings.

‘The IPCC independently investigated the allegation, examining statements given to the Employment Tribunal and interviewing key people involved. The decision to call the DCI was made by counsel on the basis that he was better able to answer the questions. ‘The investigation found that there was no evidence to support the Detective Sergeant’s allegation.’

A Met spokesman said: ‘The Metropolitan Police Service can confirm that it has received two employment tribunal claims from a Detective Sergeant lodged at London Central employment tribunal offices.’

Original report here

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Friday, August 26, 2011

British supermarket branded me a shoplifter - and the same could happen to YOU

For me, the weekly shop is a slice of calm in the middle of my hectic week. I enjoy ambling through the aisles, with my children Olli, five, and Mili, seven, thinking about what I’m going to cook and trying to get the kids to spell out things from my shopping list.

But not any more. For something happened in Tesco last month that appalled and upset me so much, I’ve changed my shopping habits completely. And it’s something that just as easily could happen to you. In fact, it regularly does if the hordes of people who’ve contacted me since are anything to go by.

It started on Friday, July 29, when I went to do my usual shop in Tesco Extra in Havant, Hampshire. I’ve shopped there for the past three years and I spend around £250 per week. I had the kids with me and I was all set for a relaxing mooch. We chose some toys and then I spent a while smelling shampoos before continuing with my food shop.

After around an hour in the store, I paid for my goods and prepared to leave. But as I ushered the kids towards the travelator, a burly security guard pounced — he clapped his hand on my trolley and started to steer me away from the exit.

‘Come this way, madam,’ he said sternly. When I asked where we were going, all he said was that the store manager wanted to see me. The kids and I did as we were told. We were frog-marched through the store, with no explanation.

I was made to feel stupid every time I asked what was going on. At one point, I jokingly asked if I had won something — was I the billionth customer? I started to feel quite panicky. My heart was racing and as I was helped through some doors to the back of the shop I saw two more men and a rather smug-looking woman waiting. They were waiting for me.

It was at this point I lost my patience. ‘Right, what’s going on?’ I demanded.

Both my children were clinging on to me. ‘We have seen you on CCTV stealing shampoo and putting it in your bag’ I was told by the security manager. I was stunned. ‘Shoplifting? I don’t think so!’ I looked at my daughter, who was in floods of tears asking: ‘Why, Mummy? Why have you stolen something?’

I was ushered into another room, where it was very clearly stated that I had been seen stealing shampoo. I was told they wanted to search my bag. Both kids at this point were crying.

I emptied my bag on the table. I was furious — watching a strange man rummage through your personal belongings is degrading and humiliating. I keep all kinds of slightly embarrassing things in there — tampons, half-eaten brownies, spare knickers. I felt like crying, but could only watch in horror as he poked through my bag.

When they had satisfied themselves there was no shampoo, they appeared puzzled. The woman looked annoyed. There was no apology and no concern for my wailing children. ‘But we saw you on CCTV,’ they said, instead of trying to explain to my children that they had been mistaken and that I was not guilty.

By now, my daughter was in floods of tears, visibly shaken and very confused. In her eyes, I was guilty. I was guilty because a man, who looked a lot like a policeman, had said I was. Police don’t lie. That’s what her mummy had told her.

I asked to see the CCTV and was refused on the grounds of Data Protection. No form of an apology was made. In fact, the staff looked more disappointed than sorry. It was as if they had been looking forward to exposing me as a thief. They were almost rubbing their hands with glee.

Confused and feeling pretty irate, we left the store. It took me a good hour to calm my very upset children, during which time I became increasingly annoyed at my treatment. I went into the store feeling great — happy, calm and relaxed — but I left feeling angry, violated, degraded and confused.

When we got home, I decided to call Tesco head office to let them know what had happened and to give them the chance to put it right. At first, they seemed great. The lady I spoke to was shocked at the way I had been treated. She told me she would deal with my case and would get the store manager to call me.

The whole of bath and bedtime was spent trying to convince Mili I was not guilty — an upsetting task bearing in mind my children had never before questioned my judgment or word.

The next day, my mother-in-law popped in and asked the kids what they had been up to. ‘We had a BBQ at Nanny’s, I drew this picture and then Mummy got caught shoplifting,’ announced Mili. I was mortified.

When the store manager eventually called me back the next day he did apologise, but to my mind, a half-baked apology from someone who wasn’t even there wasn’t good enough. I told him I wanted a written apology.

Three weeks went by. Nothing came. I was still angry, so decided to write a blog about it. I use the social-networking site Twitter to promote my business — I run a private members’ club and have around 500 followers. I thought if I blogged about my experience and it was read by at best 500 people, the supermarket might take note.

My blog was, in fact, read by 60,000 people in the first 24 hours of going live. I was shocked — I assumed it would only reach a small group. It obviously struck a chord. I think a lot of people dislike the treatment they receive at the hands of big supermarkets, who don’t appear to care about their customers.

A lot of people shared their experiences with me through the blog — many said they were boycotting certain stores already due to similar experiences — and 5,000 people left comments on my site.

Then, the following morning, on Tuesday, August 16, I received a call from Tesco head office. It was a bit awkward — never in a million years had I imagined my blog would cause such a furore.

They were very apologetic and concerned about Mili. They finally sent me the apology they’d been promising for three weeks and also a letter directly to my daughter Mili — along with compensation in the way of a £30 Tesco voucher.

The truth is, although I was happy with the way Tesco dealt with the reaction to my blog, it was cheapened by the fact that I knew they reacted only because 60,000 people had read it and they were scared of the damage to their reputation.

When I was a lone voice, my complaints were ignored. How many more people have experienced my anger and distress, but been ignored because they don’t have an audience?

And how often will it have to happen again before these stores change their ways? Perhaps next time it will be you.

Since writing about my experience, I’ve heard terrible stories of pensioners being marched through shops by burly security guards and innocent children not even allowed to call their parents for help or advice — even though the store is calling in police.

Now, I go to Asda and Aldi because I don’t feel I can show my face in Tesco again. I’m too angry, too embarrassed.

Despite changing stores, my old enjoyment of food shopping has gone — I’m too worried it will happen again to be truly relaxed. But worst of all, it’s now lonely — the kids no longer want to shop with their mummy because they haven’t yet forgotten what happened.

Original report here

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

WA: MrFuddlesticks, the Renton Police Department and Online Civil Liberties

In the last two decades, the Internet has revolutionized the way people communicate and socialize. Unfortunately, our legal system has yet to adapt to the new norms of the evolving information age.

Case in point: According to Washington state law, a person is guilty of criminal "cyberstalking" if he makes an electronic communication using lewd or indecent language with the intent to embarrass another person. In other words, a Washingtonian who creates a raunchy email message, blog post or Web video to embarrass a foe isn't just playing dirty; he's technically breaking the law. One YouTube user recently learned this lesson the hard way.

Last month, the scandal-ridden Renton Police Department launched a criminal cyberstalking investigation against a YouTube user known only as "MrFuddlesticks." The user had uploaded a series of lewd, animated videos poking fun at recent allegations of wrongdoing by Renton police officers. In one video, a character talks about his civilian superior's lack of law-enforcement experience; in another, characters discuss the impropriety of a police officer who slept with a murder suspect.

Even though none of MrFuddlesticks' videos mention the city of Renton or any police officers by name, Renton police managed to convince a county judge to issue a warrant to compel Google, YouTube's parent company, to disclose identifying information about MrFuddlesticks' accounts, including credit-card details and even contents of Gmail messages.

After a local news station broke the story, an attorney representing an undisclosed client moved to quash the search warrant. Shortly thereafter, the city of Renton dropped its case and announced it was pursuing the matter internally. By that point, several media outlets had already speculated that MrFuddlesticks was a disgruntled member of the Renton Police Department.

Despite Renton's eventual decision to abandon its criminal investigation of the matter, the curious case of MrFuddlesticks raises serious concerns about how state laws impact online expression.

In 1999, the novel issue of cyberstalking was examined by the U.S. Attorney General's Office, which published a report that would become the basis for anti-stalking laws in several states. While the report emphasized the need for "relatively broad" laws, recognizing that stalkers constantly devise new ways of tormenting their victims, it also warned that laws that are not "carefully formulated and enforced" could run afoul of the First Amendment by curbing protected speech.

These warnings are no longer just legal theories. Indeed, as UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh observed in a recent essay about the Renton controversy, Washington's cyberstalking statute is "clearly constitutionally overbroad" if prosecutors can interpret it as broadly as they did in pursuing MrFuddlesticks.

Washington is not the only state with a cyberstalking law on the books. More than 34 states have similar laws, as does the federal government. That law, signed by President Bush in 2006, goes so far as to criminalize any anonymous Internet communication intended to "annoy" another. Although federal prosecutors have exercised reasonable discretion thus far, the statute's seemingly limitless reach remains deeply worrisome to free-speech organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union.

Nearly four in five Americans are Internet users today, and that number is growing. Online communities are enabling individuals around the world to communicate and interact like never before. But as the saga of MrFuddlesticks and the Renton Police Department illustrates, overbroad laws targeting electronic speech are ripe for exploitation by overzealous prosecutors and police officers.

If lawmakers do not write new laws carefully and judges do not vigilantly guard our constitutional protections, we can say goodbye to civil liberties online.

Original report here

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Young black guy bashed to death by ELEVEN British cops

A 25-year-old man collapsed and died after being overpowered with CS spray as he was being arrested by up to eleven police officers.

Jacob Michael was sprayed in the face inside his home in the Widnes area of Cheshire, but managed to flee officers before being brought down on a verge 30 metres away.

He was taken to a police station where he suddenly became unwell and was rushed to hospital by ambulance. He was pronounced dead two hours later.

Today police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission confirmed it had begun an investigation into Monday's incident. Tests are due to be carried out into how Michael died.

The dead man - who was known as Jake - had been with his family and is believed to have dialled 999 himself over a threat made to him when police arrived at the semi-detached home at 5pm.

Police said they were arresting him on suspicion of affray but there was a struggle and Michael was blasted in the face with the spray.

Despite him being temporarily blinded by the effects, Michael managed to run out of the house and got to a grass verge before being tackled and brought to the ground by other police officers who were waiting nearby.

Neighbour Ann Blease, 40, said: 'I didn't know Jake that well but he seemed like a good lad, he was pleasant and good with all the kids, very friendly and happy-go-lucky.
The victim's distraught father, also called Jacob Michael, was pictured today at the family home, along with a female relative

The victim's distraught father, also called Jacob Michael, was pictured today at the family home, along with a female relative

'As far as I know he didn't have a job but lived with his parents and was just a really popular guy who knew a lot of people.'

The mother-of-three claimed: 'What the police did was outrageous. He was handcuffed, on the floor with his legs restrained and they didn't even have the decency to pull up his pants.

'They seemed to be kneeing him in the back of the head. I counted 11 cops. They were all sat on him, giving him a kicking and giving him side digs. There was one woman officer, the rest were men, and she was getting her kicks in as well.

'They were chasing him in the street. I saw it because they chased him in front of my house.

'His mum told me Jake was the one who rang the police himself, saying that someone was threatening him with a gun.

'They started chasing him and hitting him in the back of the legs with batons. They said, "Why don't you stand up and give yourself some dignity," to him. But he couldn't even stand up after they'd hit him with the batons. 'It was so upsetting to see. I couldn't believe the police could do that. It was like something you see on those TV cop shows.

'I went to speak to his mum. She didn't know what happened. She was mortified when they knocked on her door those hours later and told her, "Your son's died".

'They had banged his head on the floor and they were giving him punches. He was already handcuffed and he was restrained when I saw him. I don't know what happened in the house, I just saw when they were on the street.

'He was shouting, "Help me, help me". He wasn't coherent. I don't know why they were bringing him in for affray. It doesn't matter, he didn't deserve that. 'He's never been in trouble before as far as I know.

'The officers threw him into the van by his arms and legs after they beat him. He was shouting for help. We were saying afterwards with the neighbours, nobody saw him get sprayed.

'It's an absolute disgrace. I don't think the police realise how many eye-witnesses there were. We were all shouting, "Get off him". We were scared for him. They weren't listening, they didn't seem aware of us, or that there were kids watching.

'It lasted for 15 minutes that I saw, and he was handcuffed the whole time. I don't know why they kept hitting him. All he was doing was shouting for them to get off him.

'His parents are absolutely mortified. Jake was a popular, well liked lad. He was a friend of a friend of mine and was house sitting for her this week. She's absolutely distraught. 'It's a waste of a young life. It's a disgrace.'

Today Michael's father, a retired businessman who is also called Jacob, emerged from the property with his daughter after police officers spent 30 minutes speaking to them.

Mr Michael Snr said: 'I cannot say anything at this stage because it's far too early to say what happened and we need to know how Jake died.

'All I want to know is what happened to my son and I'm sure everyone feels the same about that. All I can say is that the whole family are devastated at Jake's death and we need time to reflect on it before we say anything about it.'

CS Pepper spray is an inflammatory product which causes immediate closing of the eyes, difficulty breathing, runny nose, and coughing.

The duration of its effects depends on the strength of the spray but the average full effect lasts around thirty to forty-five minutes, with diminished effects lasting for hours.

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, August 23, 2011

Does technological innovation invalidate your 4th Amendment rights?

We told you on Tuesday about two successes we had at the Supreme Court. One was the case of Antoine Jones.

Our coalition submitted the ONLY brief asking the Court to hear Jones's case. DC Downsizers helped give Jones his chance before the Supremes. But now we need to make sure Jones wins...

...because YOUR liberty is at stake too.

Court decisions are tending in a bad direction. Judges are claiming that technology makes your 4th Amendment rights virtually obsolete.

But can the fact that the police have fancier surveillance toys really be a valid excuse for abolishing an inalienable right?

Put yourself in Jones' shoes. Do you want to live under a State that can secretly attach a GPS to your car (after their warrant has expired), track your every move, wishing, even hoping, that they'll find you did something wrong at some point?

Could you be targeted this way? ...might law enforcement STALK a friend or family member with their gadgets?

This is what's at stake in the Jones case. Please, we need your help to restore YOUR Fourth Amendment.

35 DC Downsizers have responded. We need only 25 more to get the job done.

And it would make a huge difference if at least one of those donations was $500 or more.

Don't let the Statists use technological advances as an excuse to erect a Big Brother universal surveillance state. You can contribute here.

* Every donor to this brief, who includes their email address in the contribution, will receive a pdf of the brief we submit to Supreme Court.

* And every donor of $200 or more will get the same printed and bound version we send to the Supreme Court.

Original report here (See the original for links)

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Monday, August 22, 2011

VA: Cops not admitting anything in the Grise case

An answer filed Monday in U.S. District Court denies virtually all claims made by a retired Richmond physician and his wife against a sheriff’s deputy and the Madison County Sheriff’s Department.

Defendants Deputy Ronald T. Allen, former Madison County Sheriff Nelson O’Donnell and the Madison County Sheriff’s Department deny allegations that Dr. William P. Grise, 82, and his wife Mary, 77, were treated maliciously.

Grise filed a federal complaint June 20 “ ... due to (the defendants’) wanton, malicious, intentional and negligent actions, forcibly entering plaintiffs house, without a warrant and without any reasonable justification, injuring plaintiffs and charging, arresting and prosecuting (Dr. Grise) for crimes the plaintiff never committed ... .”

The couple is suing over an incident which reportedly occurred Jan. 2, just one day before O’Donnell left the sheriff’s office and was replaced by the newly elected Sheriff Jerry Combs.

“Earlier in the evening of January 2, 2011, (Grise) had taken one of his empty shotguns in the car to a position of the Parkwood Subdivision Plat (which is owned by the Grises, but subdivided),” the suit reads. He fired two shots into the ground in hopes of quieting a dog which had been barking.

Grise later noticed a car rapidly approaching his home after returning from trying to silence the dog. When Grise saw the car approaching, he put a pistol in his pocket because he had experienced past incidents of lawlessness on his property, the complaint reads.

The lights were that of the police cruiser driven by Allen. The deputy asked Grise if he had fired shots with his shotgun. Grise “... responded that he had shot his gun into the ground, hoping the noise would silence a barking dog,” the suit states.

Allen reportedly followed Grise onto the front porch of his home and asked to search the home. Grise reminded Allen he needed a warrant to search the home, but the deputy tried to get Grise to admit firing the shots was dangerous because of children reportedly playing nearby, according to the complaint.

“When the plaintiff reached the front door, he found that his wife had opened it about ‘a third open,’” it reads. Mary Grise had been very ill and was sick at the time of the incident, and when she stepped back from the door, she fell down, the lawsuit claims. Allen reportedly grabbed William’s arm as he tried to help his wife up from her fall, placing him under arrest.

The deputy searched the home without permission and failed to check on Mary Grise, according to the lawsuit. The Grises demand a jury trial and monetary compensation for attorney’s fees.

The defendants admit William Grise was jailed and charged with alcohol intoxication in a public place, fourth-degree assault and carrying a concealed weapon. They deny that the Grises were battered by the deputy.

The charges against William Grise were deferred for approximately one year pending no further offenses. “... William Grise was ordered to have no possession of firearms with the exception of a shotgun that could only be discharged in self-defense,” the answer states.

The defendants deny almost all claims in the plaintiffs suit, including: William Grise’s wrongful arrest, Grise was not intoxicated at the time of the incident, his wife was not physically injured by William, the plaintiffs had a reasonable ground to believe they were in immediate danger of violence or crime, William never touched the gun in his pocket, they made false statements and omissions to create a pretext for entering the couple’s property, they searched William’s home without a warrant, O’Donnell hired deputies without proper training and Allen was inexperienced and improperly trained.

“... the defendants’ actions were in furtherance of a governmental function in which discretionary acts were performed in good faith with an objectively reasonable belief that their actions were lawful, and the defendants plead and rely upon this defense as a complete bar to all claims of the plaintiffs,” the answer states. “...The plaintiffs’ damages, if any, were directly and proximately cause by the plaintiffs’ negligent and/or intentional actions ... Deputy Allen had probable cause to detain, search, arrest and charge the plaintiff, William Grise.”

The defendants are asking the complaint be dismissed, a monetary reward to cover legal fees and “ ... any and all other relief to which they may appear reasonably entitled.”

Original report here

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

'West Memphis Three' freed

A judge has freed three men who have spent 18 years in prison for a notorious triple child murder in the US, while always maintaining their innocence.

The so-called West Memphis Three — Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. — were convicted of the killings of three eight-year-old cub scouts in the Robin Hood Hills of Arkansas in 1993.

They have been freed on a plea deal after 18 years in prison for the murders.

Echols, who was 18 at the time of the deaths, was sentenced to death by lethal injection. Baldwin, who was 16, and Misskelley, who was 17, were both given life jail sentences.

The young victims — Christopher Byers, Steve Branch and James Michael Moore — were left mutilated and bound, leading prosecutors to portray the killings as part of a “satanic cult” ritual.

Doubts have repeatedly been raised about the convictions from crime experts, campaigners, and even victims’ family members. Newly unearthed DNA evidence had prompted calls for a new trial.

It is thought a deal was agreed, involving an unusual legal manoeuvre in which the men will maintain their innocence but concede that prosecutors probably have enough evidence to convict them.

The so-called “Alford plea” is controversial and not allowed by many US judges. Kay Levine, a law lecturer at Emory University and former prosecutor, said it was an “incredibly troubling” device.

Christopher Byers’s adopted father, John Mark Byers, said he believed the West Memphis Three were innocent but stressed the plan would not satisfy anyone involved with the case.

“There’s certainly no justice for the three men that’s been in prison, or for my son and his two friends,” he said. “To me, this is just a cop-out from the state for not wanting to admit that they made a mistake.” Police investigating the killings focused their attention on Echols due to his interest in pagan witchcraft, and questioned Misskelley, a mentally challenged acquaintance.

Misskelley eventually confessed to the killings after a 12-hour interrogation, and implicated Echols and Baldwin. However, many parts of his account did not tally with facts known by police.

Media attention has been focused on their case by a series of HBO films, titled Paradise Lost, the third of which is still being made. Rock and punk groups have also raised money for their legal support.

Original report here

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Australia: Police misconduct files reveal corruption, favouristism, sexual misconduct

A POLICE officer said he would let a woman off for mail theft if she had sex with him, another three officers were caught stealing while on duty and 10 more were nabbed for drink-driving - including one on the way to work, fraud and misconduct investigations have revealed.

More than 20 Queensland police officers have quit in the past 18 months after being investigated over serious incidents ranging from corruption and favouritism, sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviour.

However, most of those investigations were subsequently dropped because they were no longer employed by Queensland Police Service, documents obtained by The Courier-Mail under Right to Information have revealed.

Other misconduct investigations that were substantiated included one where a police officer demanded a woman he was investigating for mail theft "show him her breasts", then proceeded to sexually assault her.

The (police officer) told her he had "bent a few rules", that he would "take care of a few charges and not prosecute her", documents reveal.

There are thousands of code of conduct complaints against police officers each year but a Queensland Police Service spokesman said only a "small fraction" were substantiated following investigations.

Other internal investigations into officers include:

* "Maintaining a relationship" with a career criminal and driving him away from a crime scene following an assault.

* Child pornography found on home computer.

* Pole dancing with a pool cue on top of a pool table and then inappropriately touching another officer in view CCTV cameras.

* Keeping nine guns under bed.

* Accessing police files for personal use.

Most officers caught drink-driving remained on the police force but lost their driving licences for a period of time after the matters were heard in court.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said it was not surprising in a workforce of 15,000 people.

"The important issue is that these people have been identified and have either been dismissed, resigned or have been provided with managerial guidance to address their behavior so that they continue to maintain the high standards of the Queensland Police Service," he said.

"The police union does not support any person who deliberately engages in criminal, corrupt or illegal behavior but sometimes people genuinely make mistakes and we will always support those police involved," Mr Leavers said.


CORRUPTION AND FAVOURITISM: The officer demanded a woman he was investigating for mail theft to "show him her breasts and sexually assaulted her". He took her for a drive in a police vehicle, "removed his penis from his pants and demanded oral sex". He later telephoned the woman he was investigating seeking phone sex and told her he'd "bent a few rules" to take care of the charges against her and see that she wasn't prosecuted. The investigation was substantiated and the officer resigned.

SEXUAL MISCONDUCT: Taskforce Argos found images of child exploitation material on the officer's home hard drive. He had been accessing the material over a number of years. The officer resigned and court action was taken.

CORRUPTION AND FAVOURITISM: An officer maintained a relationship with a career criminal who was under witness protection, even being prepared to drive him away from the scene of an assault before police arrived. Officer resigned and the investigation did not reach a conclusion.

CORRUPTION AND FAVOURITISM: The officer took a body to the undertaker where his wife worked. He resigned from QPS and the investigation did not reach a conclusion.

INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR: The off-duty officer was on top of a pool table and "pole dancing" with a pool cue. She approached a woman, placed her arm around her shoulders and neck, squeezing tight. There was CCTV footage of the incident and the officer resigned and the investigation did not reach a conclusion.

PUBLIC NUISANCE: The officer's brother failed to leave a licensed premises, was arrested and taken to the police station following a joint drinking session. The off-duty officer then banged on the station's front door loudly, yelled abuse at police and was drunk. His brother was released and went back to the hotel to join the officer after being refused entry. When police arrived, the officer was involved in a fight at the hotel. When his police colleagues tried to intervene, the officer pushed them away, swore and abused them. He was taken away by a friend before he was arrested. The officer resigned.

INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR: Officer picked up intoxicated youths who he knew as part of "Adopt-a-cop" and drove them around for hours and let them sleep at his home. He was provided with "managerial guidance".

EXCESSIVE FORCE/ASSAULT OFF DUTY: The complainant alleges the officer punched him in the face when an argument broke out during a drinking session. The officer has since died.

COVERING UP INAPPROPRIATE CONDUCT: Officer lied about a speeding fine after being caught doing 91km/h in a 70km/h zone. He falsified a report claiming he was "speeding to intercept a white van following too close to another vehicle". The officer now admits he did not intercept the vehicle and at the time he had "accumulated near maximum points on his drivers licence".

STEALING: An officer used a police car to transport fence panels he stole while on night patrol. They were later erected in his own front garden. He was helped by another officer. One of them resigned - also suspected of stealing shed panels - and both were ordered to undertake 120 hours of community service and pay restitution.

STEALING: An officer was in possession of a ute that had been reported stolen and the insurance claim had settled. The officer resigned and was fined $1000 and given a 12 month good behaviour bond.

STEALING: An officer attended a break and enter at a private business and convinced the owner that an industrial-grade high-pressure cleaner would be seized as evidence and then destroyed. In actual fact, the officer took the cleaner home. He was also accused of stealing paint tins from the scene of a fire. The officer resigned and the investigation did not reach a conclusion.

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Top Australian cop convicted on drug charges

ONE of the state's most senior law enforcement officers - yesterday convicted of drug charges - is under investigation over further drug importations, the Herald has learnt.

The conviction of Mark William Standen, an assistant director with the NSW Crime Commission when he was arrested in June 2008, raises questions about his relationship with commission informers and his involvement in the kinds of offences he and his colleagues routinely investigated.

The verdict opens the way for a public examination of procedures at the Crime Commission and alleged corruption in the Australian Federal Police.

The Police Minister, Michael Gallacher, announced a special commission of inquiry into the crime-fighting body but ruled out having the inquiry investigating any allegations of misconduct.

The former premier and now opposition police spokesman, Nathan Rees, said there was a risk innocent people might have been jailed as a result of Standen's high-level involvement in law enforcement. "The Police Minister must order an immediate review of the dozens of serious and sensitive investigations at the NSW Crime Commission [that] Mark Standen oversaw," Mr Rees said. "These investigations now have a very real cloud over them."

A former assistant police commissioner, Clive Small, also said the inquiry should be broadened: "If there's an inquiry that's not going to examine past conduct, then I don't know how the government will be able to understand how things ended up as they did."

Standen was convicted after a five-month trial in the NSW Supreme Court of conspiring to import pseudoephedrine and to pervert the course of justice, and of taking part in the supply of 300 kilograms of the substance. His trial revealed an improper relationship with an informer, James Kinch, financial irregularities and disregard for Crime Commission rules.

Standen admitted breaching commission rules in the way he dealt with Kinch by becoming friendly and accepting money from him.

He also lobbied the Director of Public Prosecutions - with a letter under the signature of his boss commissioner Philip Bradley - to drop charges against Kinch so that he would agree to forfeit at least $900,000 in suspected drug money to the commission. The present Attorney-General, Greg Smith, was deputy DPP at the time and dealt with the matter.

The trial excluded some evidence about Standen's alleged co-conspirators and about further allegations against Standen - some dating back to the start of his 33-year law enforcement career.

Among the things the jury of six men and five women did not know was that one of his co-conspirators, the food wholesaler Bill Jalalaty, last year admitted plotting with Standen to import a large quantity of pseudoephedrine, a substance used to make the drug ice.

After Jalalaty pleaded guilty last year, he and his wife Dianne made serious allegations of corruption in the Australian Federal Police, where Mrs Jalalaty had worked with Standen in the 1980s. It is unclear what has become of this investigation.

Standen now faces possible life imprisonment when he is sentenced at a later date. A 54-year-old father of four, Standen smiled wryly when the jury announced its verdict after less than 10 hours of deliberations. His brothers, who had supported him throughout the trial, declined to make a statement but appeared unsurprised by the outcome.

While the trial was in full swing, authorities were already delving into Standen's further involvement in the illegal drug trade.

This investigation so far has been limited to his contact with Kinch, the informer at the centre of his trial, amid suggestions that Standen had been complicit in several other of Kinch's attempted - and successful - drug importations into Australia since 2004.

The federal police are investigating whether Standen had regularly spoken to Customs under the pretext of passing on tip-offs but with the aim of finding out whether a drug shipment linked to Kinch had attracted their attention. It is believed $200,000 Standen received from him was payment for such services.

Kinch, who allegedly was the link to a famous Dutch drug syndicate, remains in a Thai jail fighting extradition to Australia. He has been watching the case closely, blogging and sending postcards - perceived as hidden threats - to Standen and Jalalaty in jails in Sydney.

There have been allegations about Standen's dealings with other informers, which could mean the inquiry will be widened.

Standen was also convicted yesterday for perverting the course of justice, by allegedly using his knowledge and contacts in law enforcement to avoid detection and prosecution. It did not explore whether any other officers were working with him.

The NSW Bar Association said Standen's trial raised disturbing issues. "Evidence at this trial justifies a re-examination of Mr Standen's connections with informers and other criminal suspects throughout his career at the Crime Commission," said a spokesman, Phillip Boulten, SC. "It is clear that Mark Standen was let go by people who should have reined him in."

The NSW Law Society president, Stuart Westgarth, supported that call, saying: "Where such extensive powers are present, the risk of misconduct is inherent … [and] there is a high risk that if there is misconduct, it will be serious."

But Mr Gallacher said if the commission of inquiry turned up matters that warranted proper scrutiny, it would refer them to the Police Integrity Commission. "It is not my intention to be running a royal commission, if you like, into the Crime Commission. This is a special commission of inquiry to look at the governance issues."

Australian authorities were alerted to Standen's involvement in the importation plan after a tip-off from Dutch authorities, who had intercepted a fax sent by the alleged Dutch syndicate from an Amsterdam internet cafe to Jalalaty's business.

The federal police and the Crime Commission had Standen and Jalalaty under investigation for more than a year.

After the conviction yesterday, police are still wondering about the pseudoephedrine, which was allegedly shipped from Pakistan but never reached Sydney. This, and the whereabouts of some of Kinch's money, remain a great mystery.

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Life without parole in Oklahoma

Oklahoma State Senator Connie Johnson of Oklahoma thinks Larry Yarbrough should be free. Larry, a model prisoner, is in his 17th year of a life-without-parole sentence for a nonviolent drug crime. On August 17, Sen. Johnson will speak on behalf of Yarbrough at an Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board hearing that will be considering commuting Larry Yarbrough's drug trafficking sentencing. In 2002 the Board unanimously commuted his sentence, but former governor Frank Keating overturned that decision and denied Larry his freedom.

If the board agrees with Senator Johnson, the new Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin will have the opportunity to commute Yarbrough's life sentence for his non-violent drug offense.

According to Sen. Johnson, Yarbrough's case is an excellent example of disproportionate and unfair sentencing. Compared to sentences received by others for similar amounts of the same drugs (an ounce of powder cocaine and three marijuana cigarettes), Larry's life without parole (LWOP) sentence is clearly excessive. He has been incarcerated for 17 years, more than sufficient for what he actually did—and far longer than what many serve for the exact same offense.

The Oklahoma Legislature's original intent in enacting LWOP was to create an alternative between life imprisonment and the death sentence in capital cases. However, unlike death penalty cases where in order to impose such a sentence the jury is required to find aggravating circumstances, a jury recommending LWOP needs no reason whatsoever. This fact guarantees disproportionate and inherently unfair sentencing. At this time 44 people are serving life without parole sentences in Oklahoma for average drug crimes.

LWOP sentences for drug crimes have not resulted in decreased drug trafficking. Instead, they have committed Oklahoma taxpayers to paying $23,000 per year, per person (at present rates) to lock up a growing number of people for life. Taxpayers also are committed to covering prisoners' medical expenses (expected to triple) as they age, get sick, and die.

The best readily available remedy to rectify such inherently unwise and unfair sentencing is for the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to review LWOP sentences on a case-by-case basis and to recommend commutation of these sentences as they deem appropriate. Case-by-case reviews build in safeguards. There will be those whose sentences – either because of the nature of the crimes they committed or because of their behavior in prison – will not be commuted. Handling these cases through the Pardon and Parole Board instead of the Legislature is the more cautious alternative.

The power to commute any sentence—be it the death penalty or imprisonment—is at the very heart of the governor's Constitutionally-granted clemency power. The Constitution also grants authority to the Pardon and Parole Board to review sentences and to consider recommending clemency to the governor. Reviewing LWOP sentences is part of that job. Recommending commutation of some of those sentences, including life without parole, is the most fair and reasonable way to address the unfairness in sentencing that presently exists.

Larry Yarbrough has never had a single write-up during his incarceration. He has received commendations from the Department Of Corrections and nonprofits for training guide dogs for the blind and disabled. He and his wife Norma are still married after 41 years. They have 5 children and 13 grandchildren, ranging in age from 9 months to 19 years. Before his incarceration, Larry and Norma owned and operated a popular BBQ restaurant in Kingfisher where he was known for giving back to his community. Upon his release, Larry's daughter, Lanita, and her husband plan to open a BBQ restaurant in Pittsburgh, CA for Larry to run.

These are tough times for state governments as well as most Americans. For these reasons, continuing to incarcerate Larry Yarbrough is very poor stewardship of our state's limited resources. According to Charles Savage of the New York Times in a recent article titled "Trend to Lighten Harsh Sentences Catches On in Conservative States," he points out that states fanned by the financial crisis, a wave of sentencing and parole reforms is gaining force as it sweeps across the United States, reversing a trend of "tough on crime" policies that lasted for decades and drove the nation's incarceration rate to the highest — and most costly — level in the developed world. While liberals have long complained that harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenses like drug possession are unjust, the push to overhaul penal policies has been increasingly embraced by elected officials in some of the most conservative states in the country. And for a different reason: to save money.

LWOP for drug crimes is a policy we can ill afford, especially since it has done nothing to deter drug trafficking. Hopefully, these facts will inspire and motivate you to act, and to also get your friends to join you in writing letters to Governor Fallin in support of Larry and ending the injustice of LWOP. Together we can demonstrate the power of the people, step up, and help make the right thing happen.

Original report here

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Massachusetts takes up anti-liberty torch

The state is at the vanguard of a movement to prevent citizens from documenting police brutality

With the Obama administration considering federal civil-rights investigations into police brutality, some local police departments have reacted not by cleaning up their act, but instead by intensifying their ongoing efforts to stop citizens from even documenting police misconduct in the first place.

Earlier this summer, Rochester authorities arrested Emily Good for videotaping police while on her own property -- and then later used parking tickets to try to punish and intimidate those protesting Good's arrest. In Las Vegas, it was even worse -- the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Friday reported that a police not only arrested Mitchell Crooks but then beat him to a pulp -- all for the "crime" of innocently videotaping them from his own driveway. Importantly, Crooks may have been specifically marked for police revenge after he had made headlines in 2002 by documenting Inglewood, California police beating a 16-year-old boy.

The hypocrisy of police trying to stop citizens from videotaping their public actions should be obvious in this, the Patriot Act Age. From warrantless wiretapping to data mining to the proliferation of red-light cameras, the Surveillance State is clearly on the march. And yet, when citizens occasionally exercise their constitutional rights and turn the camera on the Surveillance State itself, they increasingly face the threat of police retribution.

No locale singularly exemplifies this contradiction better than Massachusetts. There, a man named Simon Glik was arrested for taping police officers who seemed to be beating someone on the street. The Boston Globe reports that "the effort [by] police to intimidate [Glik] was clear: The cops warned Simon that, if convicted, he'd never be able to practice law... he was forced to put his job search on hold and to spend money to hire a lawyer to defend him[self]... and the police erased all but one snippet of [his] recording." Worse, when Glik filed a lawsuit for false arrest, the city -- which has been arresting others for videotaping as well -- used the case as an opportunity to try to get a federal court to set a national legal precedent officially sanctioning such arrests (the court has not yet ruled).

As all of this has been unfolding, the same Massachusetts law enforcement establishment so intent on stopping surveillance of police has started building a system of mass surveillance previously unheard of in the United States. As the Boston Herald reports:
Civil libertarians are raising the alarm over the state's plans to create a Big Brother database that could map drivers' whereabouts with police cruiser-mounted scanners that capture thousands of license plates per hour -- storing that information indefinitely where local cops, states, feds and prosecutors could access it as they choose...

"People who aren't wanted for a crime, all of their information is stored in a database that is shared with another government agency," the ACLU's Kade Crawford said.

The double standards here are stunning.

In arguing that arrests of citizen videographers is legal, Massachusetts officials cite the state's 1968 "two-party" consent statute, which requires all parties to consent to being recorded. As the Boston Globe notes, that law wasn't intended to protect police against oversight -- it was "intended to protect the privacy rights of individuals' after "a series of high-profile cases involving private detectives who were recording people without their consent." And indeed, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting notes that in Pennsylvania, one of the other 12 "two-party" states, police that had been arresting videographers were recently compelled "to adopt a written policy confirming the legality of videotaping police while on duty."

Nonetheless, Massachusetts officials are aggressively trying to twist the 4-decades-old "two-party" law protecting citizens' civil liberties into one limiting those civil liberties. Yet, at the very same time, their Big Brother database project completely ignores the "two party" principle -- it is based on the idea that police have an inherent right to record your driving without your consent.

The ideology that ties together up these seemingly conflicting positions is one of privilege. Essentially, Massachusetts law enforcement officials are suggesting that a police officer must agree to be surveilled in a public space, but a mere rank-and-file citizen does not have to agree to be similarly surveilled. In other words, Massachusetts seems to believe a police officer is entitled to special protections that citizens should not have.

Of course, just a few centuries ago, Massachusetts was the very place where foment against this very form of tyrannical thinking first took hold. Out of that uprising came the American Revolution and then a Constitution specifically guaranteeing "equal protection" under the law -- a constitution based on protecting citizens from government power, not the other way around. That this principle is under assault in the original cradle of democracy shows just how far the Surveillance State is now willing to go to protect itself.

Original report here

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Liberty & Justice for Sale

The worst sort of criminal employs the power of public trust to victimize

Corruption of the public trust is far more injurious to society than ordinary crimes of passion, violence, greed, or even lust. It involves a cold, calculated, deliberate, and premeditated state of mind to use the powers entrusted to them by the people as a means to systematically violate their fellow human beings.

There are few acts more despicable than a public officer taking bribes. In other words: putting fairness and justice up for sale. These are a special breed of crook because their opportunity to victimize others is exclusive and comes with a license. They are entrusted by a sworn oath with the power and solemn duty to do justice but they pervert both for personal gain.

No individuals are entrusted with more power over the lives and liberty of others than judges presiding over the people’s courts of law. Judges have a unique and exclusive opportunity to manufacture justice for sale. Some of them are willing to victimize even children, depriving them of their rights and liberty for the sake of lining their pockets with dollars.

Michael Conahan, and Mark Ciavarella, Jr., two former judges presiding over the Luzerne County Pennsylvania juvenile court system, were convicted recently of what prosecutors called a 'kids for cash' racketeering scheme that sent juvenile offenders to privately run detention facilities in return for kickbacks.

Together, they accepted $2.8 million in kickbacks from the owner and builder of two privately-run juvenile detention facilities in return for closing the county’s own juvenile detention center and a guarantee of sending children appearing in court before them to the new private detention center.

Ciavarella often sentenced young first-time offenders to detention and had a reputation for cutting constitutional corners in the process. Many of the kids who appeared in his courtroom, for example, were not represented by a lawyer, and were never advised of their right to counsel. Upwards of 60 percent of these unrepresented children were sentenced to time in a juvenile detention facility, i.e. imprisoned against their will.

All the while, both judges were receiving secret under-the-table payments from the owner of the private detention centers that profited from the large number of kids sent to them. These judges were literally using their judicial office for the purpose of selling young children down the river – depriving them of their liberty for filthy lucre.

Needless to say, in this: one of the worst judicial scandals in American history, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered that all adjudications, an estimated 4,000 cases, involving children appearing before judge Ciavarella be vacated and their records expunged. Judge Ciavarella was sentenced to 28 years in prison and ordered to pay $1.17 million in restitution. Judge Conahan pleaded guilty last year and is awaiting sentencing.

That’s getting off easy. I don’t believe in the death penalty for many reasons, but if any criminal deserves it, these guys surely do. When an ordinary criminal commits a single kidnapping, the death penalty might be authorized by law. These criminal judges committed judicial kidnappings thousands of times over.

They deserve a life sentence, in my opinion as a lawyer and officer of the court, for every abusive detention they ordered, to be served consecutively. They should never enjoy another day of freedom.

No punishment is too severe for a judge of a court of law, entrusted by the public with dispensing justice, putting liberty and justice up for sale.

Original report here

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Monday, August 15, 2011

NYPD goons arrest and hold man on grounds that were too weak to take to court. He was never charged

Internationally renowned street performer Chayne Hultgren says he was locked in a New York prison cell with "no food, no rights"

AN acclaimed Australian sword-swallower was arrested while busking in New York for "brandishing a sword in public". The Space Cowboy - real name Chayne Hultgren, 33, from Byron Bay, NSW - claims police threw him into a packed cell, saying: "Don't tell these guys you swallow."

"After 24 hours locked up I am now released from jail," he said on his Facebook page. "All my performance props have been confiscated but I am a free man. They charged me for 'disorderly conduct' and I was locked up with junkies, sexual offenders and four break-dancers."

Mr Hultgren, who claimed the unofficial world record of swallowing 27 swords at the Irish Street Performance Festival and holds the official world record of 18 swallows at once, said an officer approached him as he performed in front of a large street crowd and said: "I don't care if you are a sword swallower, you were holding a sword in public and I have every right to shoot you."

Mr Hultgren said he was told to tell the crowd to disperse and he'd be back to finish his show in an hour. "As soon as most of the crowd dispersed I was cuffed and aggressively guided into the back of a police vehicle," he said. "I spent the next 24 hours handcuffed and locked up in a cell. No bed, no food, no rights.

"When I was locked in a small cell with 26 other prisoners one of the officers said tauntingly and loudly through the bars 'don't tell these guys you swallow'."

The NYPD confirmed Mr Hultgren's arrest on August 2, at 11.30am, on the corner of 43rd and 7th Sts in Manhattan. "He was disorderly, creating a hazardous condition," a spokesman said. "He was swinging whips and in possession of a sword and had no ... identification."

Mr Hultgren said all his props were in police custody and it was a convoluted process to get them back. "I have a gig this weekend so I have been desperately trying to buy all new props," he wrote. "I ordered a new 4m unicycle, more swords and whips.

"The only thing they let me keep was my bag. So that turned out to be a very expensive street show for me. I even missed my flight because I was in jail. "Total loss for me is in the thousands even though in the end I was not charged or fined. They just let me go." He added on Facebook: "Busking New York sux bigtime!"

Original report here

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Australian police force suppress 'appalling' video of misbehaviour by one of their own

A video showing an anti-terrorism squad officer stripped to his underpants and gyrating his groin in the face of a drunk Aboriginal colleague has been suppressed at the request of Queensland Police.

The suppression order comes ahead of the release of a major review of police disciplinary procedures, raising further questions about the culture within Queensland’s police force and why the officer was not sacked.

The security camera footage, taken at the McDonald’s restaurant in the south-east Queensland town of Kingaroy on March 23 last year, shows Constable Daniel Kennedy straddling the Aboriginal officer while nine other non-indigenous officers watched on.

Constable Kennedy’s actions came to light when police reviewed the footage during an investigation into the Aboriginal officer’s arrest at the restaurant late on the first night of the state’s annual police rugby league carnival.

A Queensland Police report into the incident described Constable Kennedy actions thus: "You approached …removed your shorts, lifted your left leg and gyrated your groin in front of his face."


The Special Emergency Response Team officer’s actions were described as “appalling” by Deputy Commissioner Ian Stewart, who presided over an internal police disciplinary action last November.

"I have seen the footage and I am appalled by your behaviour … I am sure that had members of the public witnessed your behaviour, they would have been affronted by it … In your case, not only did you commit an act resulting in your conviction for a public nuisance offence but, if observed by a member of the public, it had the potential not only to be seen as offensive but also taunting the dignity of [the other officer], together with racial overtones."

Deputy Commissioner Stewart delivered his findings in the presence of Constable Kennedy, who denied it was a racist act.

However, Deputy Commissioner Stewart found Constable Kennedy’s conduct had “tarnished the good image of the majority of members of this organisation, which we strive to maintain …”

“Additionally your conduct had the potential to result in significant publicity and embarrassment to the Service and its members,” he said.

Deputy Commissioner Stewart's report said that Constable Kennedy had kept his underpants on, but an investigation had revealed the incident with the intoxicated and sleeping Aboriginal officer was not consensual.

“I note the argument submitted that your actions were done in jest and not intended to offend your friend,” Deputy Commissioner Stewart said. “I acknowledge there is no evidence you exposed yourself or that there was any contact, deliberate or accidental, between your genital area and [the other officer]. Further [he] has regarded this as a joke.”


Queensland's administrative appeals tribunal, QCAT, has ordered the CCTV footage never be shown.

An application by SBS for its release was denied, in spite of assurances to conceal the Aboriginal officer's identity.

Tribunal member Susan Booth ruled the footage is "capable of offending public decency" and could still cause the officer public ridicule and humiliation.

Former Queensland police inspector Col Dillion, once the highest ranking Aboriginal officer in Australia, retired a decade ago warning of the police culture towards indigenous officers.

“I think it is absolutely reprehensible, the actions of the police … given for starters, the police officer, any police officers for that matter should be setting the highest possible standards of behaviour for society,” he said.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service's Greg Shadbolt said Constable Kennedy’s actions had besmirched the reputations of his colleagues.

“The Queensland police service has the largest vested interest in cleaning up this area because there are many many officers who work long and hard in very trying circumstances, and do a tremendous job, as a general rule, and for them to have their reputation besmirched by conduct of this nature is really beyond the pale,” he said.

“One must feel really sorry for the other officers and wonder what they must think of all this.”

The Aboriginal officer did not lodge a complaint about the incident. He declined to be interviewed by SBS.

$250 FINE

The police disciplinary report states Constable Kennedy “did not believe his actions were inappropriate when he considers the circumstances of the incident. He stated this type of behaviour had occurred at other police football carnivals".

He was immediately stood down from anti-terrorism duties and later pleaded guilty to public nuisance, for which he was fined $250 with no conviction recorded in Kingaroy magistrates court.

Despite suppressing video of the incident, QCAT rejected a police application to suppress an audio recording of the deputy commissioner Ian Steward's disciplinary hearing, citing public interest.

It reveals that Constable Kennedy’s pay was frozen for a year, but this did not prevent his reinstatement to the elite Special Emergency Response Team.

ATSILS’ Greg Shadbolt said the outcome seemed “woefully inadequate”. “As I say, it really does demonstrate yet again the fact that police investigating police in terms of outcomes, simply doesn't work,” he said.

Mr Dillion, now the acting director of the University of Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit, said if a similar incident took place in that institution, the offender would be sacked.

“I'd certainly expect the person would be dealt with in the harshest possible terms,” he said.

In a brief statement to SBS, Queensland's police minister (mr) Neil Roberts said the issue is an internal police matter

A review of police disciplinary procedures ordered by Queensland premier Anna Bligh is due for release by September. It comes after the lack of disciplinary action against police investigators in the Palm Island death-in-custody case of Cameron Doomadgee. The issue of police investigating police is a major concern of the review.

Mr Shadbolt said the facts of the Kingaroy incident were not in question, placing the focus on Constable Kennedy’s punishment. “Anyone else, working for any other organisation would have been dismissed and the question I think the public is asking is should the police have lower standards than the rest of society,” he said.

Queensland Police told SBS the matter had been investigated by its Ethical Standards Command, and that “disciplinary charges were laid against this officer in accordance with the findings of that investigation”.

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

How can anyone not be outraged?

An eighteen-year-old Floridian is pulled over for riding a bike without a night light. A small amount of marijuana is found on him. He is thus in violation of probation for a crime he committed years before as a juvenile. He is arrested and tossed in a jail cell. He suffers a medical emergency and spends hours vomiting and desperately screaming for help. More than six hours pass before he sees a nurse, by which time it is too late. He died a torturous death.

This is the result of one injustice piled atop another: the police searching someone for something to which police in a civilized society would likely respond with a friendly warning, marijuana possession triggering a probation violation that sends someone previously allowed to roam free into a jail cell, and a criminal justice system that is so cruel, overcrowded, and incompetent, that it allows its victims to suffer an unambiguous personal health crisis for hours before attending to them.

This one incident alone should damn the entire drug war and resulting swelling of the criminal justice system. When a basketball star killed himself with cocaine in 1986 it resulted in a national hysteria culminating in stricter penalties and an expansion of the ridiculous, invasive, and since-discredited DARE program. When a kid is killed by the system, all over the possession of a small bit of a mostly harmless substance, the outrage is deafening in its silence.

At atrocity like this summer’s negligent homicide (to put it charitably) of Eric Perez at the hands of the West Palm Beach lockup authorities should shock America out of its longstanding, complacent coma regarding all these issues. Had something like this happened years ago, before it became a completely accepted cost of the drug war and a routine occurrence of modern life, it would have been scandalous and humiliating for the whole official community, one would hope. The entire criminal justice system and American approach to drug policy needs to be radically rethought before this country eats itself alive.

Original report here

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Biased prosecution at the hands of the Coastguard

The Coast Guard administrative law judge whose harsh financial ruling against a former fisherman put the accused out of business, then was overturned through a Cabinet-level apology with reparations of $400,000, has removed himself from overseeing the follow-up to the case.

Judge Parlen J. McKenna has defended his handling of the case against Larry Yacubian, who was a New Bedford scalloper and political activist in 2005 when the case was tried, and asserted Thursday in his motion recusing himself from presiding over the legal fees' assignment that he had no legal reason to do so.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its National Marine Fisheries Service have used the Coast Guard administrative law judge system to hear cases the agencies have brought against fishermen and fishery-related businesses.

The administrative judge's actions in and outside the courtroom were chastised in May by a special judicial master retained by federal Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who called in retired federal magistrate Charles B. Swartwood III to examine the most egregious cases of justice miscarried against the fishing community. The additional probe came in the aftermath of a two-year investigation by the Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser.

Based on Swartwood's findings, Locke apologized to Yacubian, who moved to Florida after his business was destroyed by the penalties imposed by McKenna, and returned the $400,000 to him.

A subsequent motion seeking legal fees, filed by Yacubian's attorney, Pamela Lafreniere, set in motion another conflict with McKenna when he was assigned to hear the fees portion of the case three months after Locke had issued an order to terminate NOAA's contract with the Coast Guard administrative law judge system.

Lafreniere filed a motion on Monday to have McKenna recuse himself from the case. Since then, the Times has reported that McKenna had recruited the entire cohort of Coast Guard ALJs to help him craft a self-defense motion which he introduced to an unrelated case in Alaska. Emails show that he also asked his colleagues to read and advise him about a blog posting critical of his handling of the Yacubian case and the NOAA justice system in general.

In backing off the legal fees hearing assignment, McKenna contrasted his form of judicial action from that operating under the classic rules of American justice, stating that he considered himself not from an independent branch of government, but instead a part of the agency that brings the cases.

"Appearance of bias is the incorrect standard to use in disqualification of an administrative law judge," he wrote, "because administrative law judges work for the agency whose action they review and an 'appearance of impropriety' standard would require recusal in every case ... No justifiable basis exists for applicants and their counsel to claim actual bias or prejudgment in this case despite their efforts to raise issues that have nothing to do with resolving (the) applicant's ... claim.

"Nevertheless, in order to ensure that applicants receive consideration for their ... claim without unnecessary distractions," he continued, "and to uphold the integrity of the Coast Guard's ALJ program from further baseless attacks, I will recuse myself from these proceedings."

McKenna's handling of the case brought by NOAA law agents and litigators against Yacubian for fishing in a closed area was harshly criticized by Swartwood, who found that McKenna flouted an order by a U.S. district court judge to begin anew the penalties portion of the case; instead, McKenna reinstated the harsh penalties sought by NOAA.

Swartwood also concluded that McKenna had created "at least" the appearance of a conflict of interest by traveling to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, immediately after the case with the two NOAA litigators on the case. The trip was financed by NOAA law enforcement, according to documents released under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Referring to McKenna's argument that the "appearance of bias is the incorrect standard" for recusal, Lafreniere told the Times in a telephone interview Friday that she was using the U.S. Supreme Court's standard for impartiality, "not the 'appearance of bias' standard."

"In the motion to recuse. I argued actual bias. He called my client a 'recidivist' in a third-party action," she said.

McKenna wrote that Yacubian was a "recidivist" in a 34-page offering to also recuse himself from an unrelated case ongoing in Alaska. The motion served as a platform for McKenna to rebut the allegations by Swartwood which were adopted by then Commerce Secretary Locke in May.

The Yacubian case and a 10-year push by NOAA law enforcement's effort to prove that the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction was operating an alleged — and never shown — black market fish brokerage have become the case studies of a law enforcement system that has been the focal point of the IG's office and Swartwood probes.

Administrative Law Judge Walter J. Brudzinski and Michael Devine, who heard cases brought against the auction, have also been assigned to hear the legal fees issues still outstanding in that case.

However, Paul Muniz, the attorney from Burns & Levenson for the auction, has not motioned for either judge to recuse himself. He has told the Times he is considering the action, and praised Lafreniere for her action.

Original report here

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