Friday, September 30, 2011

Off the record

The Illinois Eavesdropping Act shields public officials from public scrutiny

On January 13, 2009, Michael Allison brought a digital recorder to the Crawford County Courthouse in Robinson, Illinois, where he was contesting a citation, because he had been told there would be no official transcript of the proceedings. He was immediately confronted by Judge Kimbara Harrell, who accused him of violating her privacy and charged him with eavesdropping, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Because Allison had recorded conversations about his legal situation with police and other local officials, he soon faced four more eavesdropping charges, raising his possible sentence to 75 years. The case against Allison vividly shows how the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, the target of a constitutional challenge that was recently heard by a federal appeals court, undermines transparency, civil liberties, and legal equality.

The law's double standard is clear. It allows police officers to make audio recordings of their encounters with citizens but forbids citizens to do the same without permission. Recording police, prosecutors, or judges is a Class 1 felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years, while recording anyone else is a Class 4 felony with a maximum sentence of three years.

The law seems deliberately designed to shield police from public scrutiny. In a 1986 case involving a motorist who recorded the conversation between two officers while he was being detained in their patrol car, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that eavesdropping occurs only in "circumstances which entitle [the parties] to believe that the conversation is private and cannot be heard by others." The Illinois legislature responded by amending the eavesdropping statute to eliminate that requirement.

Under current law, anyone in Illinois who records cops—even in public, even while they are performing their official duties—can be charged with a felony. Whether charges are brought may depend on how embarrassing the recording is.

In August, for instance, a former stripper named Tiawanda Moore was tried for eavesdropping after she used her Blackberry to record a conversation in which she said two internal affairs investigators encouraged her to drop a sexual harassment complaint against a Chicago police officer. "I think it’s something we can handle without having to go through this process," one investigator says in the recording. The jury acquitted Moore.

Moore's prosecution is one of the cases that the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois cites in its challenge to the eavesdropping law. It is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit to rule that "the First Amendment protects people from criminal penalty for openly audio recording the conversations of police officers in the performance of their official duties in public places and forums, while speaking at an ordinary volume—that is, conversations where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy."

The ACLU says this standard, which the vast majority of states have adopted, is required by the First Amendment. Last month, in an eavesdropping case involving a man who recorded an arrest on the Boston Common because he believed the police were using excessive force, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit agreed that "a citizen's right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment."

Fortunately for Michael Allison, a Crawford County judge found that argument persuasive. "A statute intended to prevent unwarranted intrusions into a citizen's privacy cannot be used as a shield for public officials who cannot assert a comparable right of privacy in their public duties," Circuit Judge David Frankland wrote two days after the 7th Circuit heard the ACLU's arguments against the eavesdropping law. "Such action impedes the free flow of information concerning public officials and violates the First Amendment right to gather such information." Although Frankland dismissed the charges against Allison, prosecutors are expected to appeal, lest uppity citizens get the idea that it's OK to document the public performance of public officials.

Original report here

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cop beats man with Downs Syndrome

This is another example of police attacking innocent people violently in violation of the law. Gilberto Powell was walking the half block from a friends house to his home. Gilberto, who has Downs Syndrome, is around 5 feet tall. He called his parents to tell them he was coming home but before he could walk the short distance he was attacked by Miami police officers.

The officers claim they wanted to investigate a "suspicious bulge" in his pants. Who do they think they are? The TSA?

Now, a bulge is not a crime. And it is only "suspicious" if you have that sort of mentality. But suspicion is not evidence and individuals walking home can't be stopped and frisked for no reason other than a police officer's fervid imagination. Gilberto insists he did what the police officers told him to do but that they started hitting him and then pulled the colostomy bag he wears out of his pants.

When Gilberto's parents got outside their son was bruised and beaten and in handcuffs.

I have said it before and have to say it again: treat the police as you would a rabid dog. Do not go near them. Do not try to befriend them. Do not try to help them. If you see them avoid them. They can't be trusted. Sure, some of them are tame, but you can't immediately tell which is which. I have reported before that people who merely opened their door to cops who were looking for an address have suddenly witnessed these thugs pull their guns and murder their dog because it was barking inside the house.

I also urge parents to teach their children to avoid police whenever possible. The police are not their friends either. As I have shown on this blog multiple times, with video, police officers are not adverse to attacking and beating children either. And all it takes is saying the wrong thing to set these criminals off.

I wish this were not the case. I wish we were still in the America where a police officer would help you or try to peacefully resolve any conflict they find. They resort to violence quickly and with little rational forethought. And the results are that a lot of innocent people get hurt.

Original report here

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Professor Sues Pittsburgh for Zapping Her With Weapon Developed to Fight Terrorists

Difficult to know what to make of this. Is the LRAD device really so harmful? Was she really just a bystander?

An English professor says she suffered "permanent hearing loss, nausea, pain and disorientation" when Pittsburgh police used a Long Range Acoustic Device, developed to fight terrorists, on a peaceful demonstration against the IMF, in which she was not participating, but merely watching. Karen Piper sued Pittsburgh and its police force for negligence, civil rights and constitutional claims, in Federal Court.

"During the G-20 Summit Meeting held in Pittsburgh in September 2009, City of Pittsburgh Police used a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) against civilians on or about the streets of Pittsburgh," the complaint states. "The LRAD, a distance hailing and crowd control device, was developed in response to the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in October 2000, and was originally intended to be used by American warships to warn incoming vessels approaching without permission.

Among other things, it emits harmful, pain-inducing sounds over long distances. The LRAD is a military-style weapon, and it was used for the first time in the United States when the Pittsburgh Police directed it on civilians in September 2009.

Plaintiff Karen L. Piper, a visiting professor at Carnegie Mellon University, was an innocent bystander on September 24, 2009, who suffered permanent hearing loss, nausea, pain and disorientation when the LRAD was activated without any warning. Piper alleges in this 42 U.S.C. §1983 civil rights lawsuit that Defendant City of Pittsburgh and its officials violated her rights under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and that the City of Pittsburgh used the device negligently."

Piper, an English professor at the University of Missouri was a visiting professor at Carnegie Mellon University when the police zapped her. She says she rode her bicycle to Arsenal Park when she heard that protesters were gathering there.

At the time, Piper says, she was working on a book about the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. "Her field of interest included examining whether protestors have any impact on these institutions. ... "Consistent with her academic interest, plaintiff's intention was to take photographs and observe rhetoric on any signs."

She says she "stood on the road beside a wall of police" and watched people "calmly and peacefully milling about in the park."

The complaint states: "At or about 10:30 a.m., plaintiff observed the police marching in formation. Plaintiff, along with numerous journalists, followed the police down Butler Street to the corner of 32nd Street and Liberty Avenue. "Because of the police activity she was observing, plaintiff became concerned and attempted to leave the area."

That's when defendant John Doe Officers Nos. 1-3 "activated an LRAD without warning, causing a continuous piercing sound to be emitted for a number of minutes." The complaint continues: "The LRAD was affixed to a motor vehicle that was about 100 feet away from her and moving along the street. "When the LRAD was activated, plaintiff suffered immediate pain in her ears, and she became nauseous and dizzy. She developed a severe headache. She was forced to sit down and was unable to walk."

Piper says she was "an innocent bystander," and that "When the LRAD was activated, there was no imminent threat of harm to the police or other individuals, and defendants and/or their agents, servants and/or employees had ample and abundant time to determine how and/or when to activate the LRAD."

She says the police "were aware, from warnings by the manufacturer, that the use of the LRAD was capable of causing permanent hearing damage and other injury, and said defendants deliberately disregarded the significant risk of bodily harm," and that they did it with no warning, in fact, that they "deliberately failed to warn".

She seeks damages for pain and suffering, lost earning capacity, "permanent loss of a bodily function," medical expenses, negligence, and constitutional violations.

She is represented by Witold Walczak, by Sara Rose with the ACLU, by Michael Louik with Rosen Louik & Perry, and by Thomas Hollander, all of Pittsburgh.

A spokesman for LRAD said Piper may be exaggerating the hearing damage she allegedly suffered, since the sound she heard could not have been louder than fireworks, custom car stereos, or the siren of an ambulance or fire engine. An exposure of several seconds would not be very harmful since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration allows similar noise exposure for up to 15 minutes a day, according to the company, which added that it disputes the characterization of an LRAD as a weapon.

Original report here

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

CA: Family of man fatally shot by West Covina police accepts $1.5 million settlement

Absurd and contradictory police defense. Guy was shot in the back by them. The cops should have been jailed. One of them already has a conviction

The family of a 24-year-old man shot to death by West Covina police in late 2008 has accepted a $1.5 million settlement from the city to dismiss a lawsuit alleging excessive force and reckless intent, their attorney said Thursday. Omar Garcia of West Covina died Nov. 27, 2008, after being shot 15 times by two police officers in the parking lot behind a Target store.

The City Council authorized a $1.5 million settlement in the case earlier this month, city officials said. Two-thirds of the money will be paid by the city, while the remaining $500,000 will be covered by insurance.

City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman said the settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing. He said it was offered to avoid the possibility of an even larger judgment being awarded by a jury.

Attorney Greg Owen - who represents Garcia's mother, Irma Herrera, and sisters Michelle Celeste Garcia and Jazmin Ortega - said the death stemmed from a case of mistaken identity.

Officers Stephen Delgadillo and Enrique Macias encountered Garcia in the parking lot of the Target store, 2370 S. Azusa Ave., during a manhunt for a suspect who had been involved in a shooting in the area earlier in the day, Owen said.

"When the actual facts of this incident came to light ... we found out that this boy was doing nothing wrong. And, in a case of mistaken identity, was killed by officer Macias, who shot him in the back approximately 10 times," Owen said.

Garcia told his mother he was going to the Target to apply for a job.

Owen said it appeared that Garcia was shot after being mistaken for the man involved in the earlier shooting. "This shooting violated every procedure, all of the training that an officer in West Covina, or any other country receives, but more importantly, it violates the basic moral rule, which is, in America, we respect and cherish human life," Owen said.

The West Covina Police Department has maintained that Garcia was shot by the officers in self-defense after Garcia picked up Delgadillo's baton and tried to strike the officer with it during a scuffle. Los Angeles County district attorney's investigators have concluded the shooting was justified.

In a report on the shooting, Deputy District Attorney Christina Buckley wrote, "...Under these circumstances, we conclude the officers acted lawfully in self-defense and the defense of others."

Owen disputes the claim that Garcia, who weighs 150 pounds, attacked an officer with a baton, citing testimony gathered during videotaped depositions of Macias and Delgadillo. "Officer Macias defended his action by stating... that the reason he shot Omar Garcia was because Omar Garcia picked up his partner's baton off of the ground, raised it over his head and was about to crush that police officer's skull," Owen said.

"Officer Delgadillo, under oath, testified that Omar Garcia never picked up his baton, never held it over his head, and never made a motion to strike him with the baton," Owen said.

Owen said he was especially concerned about the behavior of Macias, who already has a $1 million judgment against him in an unrelated excessive force case. "It's currently being appealed," Police Chief Frank Wills said of that litigation. Details of the previous excessive force case were not available Thursday.

Wills said Owen's account of events in the Garcia shooting is incorrect. Garcia was not shot in the back 10 times, Wills said.

"The deceased did have a baton in his possession. Ballistics show both officers were on the ground at the time they were shooting," he said. "I continue to the support the action of my police officers 100 percent."

According to the district attorney's report, Delgadillo was trying to speak with an uncooperative Garcia and had pulled his baton in response to perceived strange behavior on Garcia's part, including refusing to obey orders or make eye contact.

Macias then arrived on scene, according to the D.A.'s report. Seeing Delgadillo with a drawn baton, and Garcia standing in a "fighting stance," Macias rushed to help and grabbed a hold of Garcia. Garcia then lunged at Macias, the report states, and a fight ensued between Garcia and the two officers. Garcia punched Delgadillo in the face several times during the struggle, Buckley wrote.

Macias told investigators that he saw Delgadillo and Garcia fighting over the baton when Delgadillo fell backward, leaving Garcia with the weapon, according to the report.

When Garcia raised the baton over his head as if to deliver a blow to Delgadillo, "Fearing for his partner's life, Macias drew his gun and started firing at Garcia," the report states. Macias told officials he saw Delgadillo raise his arm in a defensive motion, as if to block an oncoming blow.

In Delgadillo's account to investigators, according to the report, he looked up after falling backward, "He did not see anything in Garcia's hand," Buckley wrote. "While on the ground, he heard three gunshots."

"(Delgadillo) then saw Garcia on the ground pushing up as he reached for and grabbed the baton which was on the ground," the District Attorney's report states. "He feared Garcia was going to use the baton to beat him `to death.' In fear for his life, Delgadillo drew his weapon and fired at Garcia." Macias also continued firing.

Differing stories from the officers are not unexpected in stressful situations like officer-involved shootings, officials said.

In all, investigators found Macias had fired 11 shots and Delgadillo fired four. Macias attempted to use a Taser to control Garcia three times, but the device did not work, officials said.

A portion of the events leading up to Garcia's shooting were captured by a nearby surveillance camera, officials said.

Police have thus far refused to release the tape, citing the pending litigation. The shooting itself is not captured on the tape, Wills said. "Not even muzzle flash," he said.

Owen said Garcia's mother has been devastated by the death of her son, who she lived with. "She spent more time with him than any other human being," Owen said.

A student at Cal State Los Angeles, "(Garcia) seemed like a very well-adjusted young man who was attending college and had a very bright future ahead of him," Owen said.

While Garcia's mother is satisfied with the outcome of the litigation, Owen said, "It goes without saying that $10 million, $100 million would not bring back her son and that part of her life."

Original report here

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Dubious arguments against the death penalty

By Jonah Goldberg. Note that this blog was critical (on 21st.) of the Troy Davis execution. But Jonah has good points too

On Wednesday, two men were lawfully executed. Both insisted they were innocent. If you've been watching the news or following Kim Kardashian's tweets, you've likely heard of one of these men, Troy Davis.

The other death penalty "victim," Lawrence Russell Brewer, was until this week the more significant convicted murderer. Brewer was one of the racist goons who infamously tied James Byrd to the back of their truck and dragged him to death in Texas.

The case became a touchstone in the 2000 presidential race because then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush had refused to sign a "hate crimes" law. The NAACP ran a reprehensible ad during the presidential election trying to insinuate that Bush somehow shared responsibility for the act.

Regardless, Brewer claimed that he was "innocent" because one of his buddies had cut Byrd's throat before they dragged his body around. Forensic evidence directly contradicted this.

Brewer's own statements didn't help either. Such as, "As far as any regrets, no, I have no regrets. ... I'd do it all over again, to tell you the truth."

Brewer, festooned with tattoos depicting KKK symbols and burning crosses, was "not a sympathetic person" in the words of Gloria Rubac of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement.

Which is why we didn't hear much about him this week. Instead, we heard a great deal about Davis. Many people insist Davis was innocent or that there was "too much doubt" about his guilt to proceed with the execution. Many judges and public officials disagreed, including all nine members of the Supreme Court, who briefly stayed the execution Wednesday night, only to let it proceed hours later.

There are many sincere and decent people -- on both sides of the ideological spectrum -- who are opposed to the death penalty. I consider it an honorable position, even though I disagree with it. I am 100 percent in favor of lawfully executing people who deserve the death penalty and 100 percent opposed to killing people who do not deserve it.

When I say that, many death penalty opponents angrily respond that I'm missing the point. You can never be certain! Troy Davis proves that!

But he proves no such thing. At best, his case proves that you can't be certain about Davis. You most certainly can be certain about other murderers. If the horrible happens and we learn that Davis really was not guilty, that will be a heart-wrenching revelation. It will cast a negative light on the death penalty, on the Georgia criminal justice system and on America.

But you know what it won't do? It won't render Lawrence Russell Brewer one iota less guilty or less deserving of the death penalty. Opponents of capital punishment are extremely selective about the cases they make into public crusades. Strategically that's smart; you don't want to lead your argument with "unsympathetic persons." But logically it's problematic. There is no transitive property that renders one heinous murderer less deserving of punishment simply because some other person was exonerated of murder.

Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people including 19 children. He admitted it. How does doubt in Troy Davis' case make McVeigh less deserving of death?

We hear so much about the innocent people who've gotten off death row -- thank God -- because of new DNA techniques. We hear very little about the criminals who've had their guilt confirmed by the same techniques (or who've declined DNA testing because they know it will remove all doubt). Death penalty opponents are less eager to debate such cases because they want to delegitimize "the system."

And to be fair, I think this logic cuts against one of the death penalty's greatest rationalizations as well: deterrence. I do believe there's a deterrence effect from the death penalty. But I don't think that's anything more than an ancillary benefit of capital punishment. It's unjust to kill a person simply to send a message to other people who've yet to commit a crime. It is just to execute a person who deserves to be executed.

Opponents of the death penalty believe that no one deserves to be executed. Again, it's an honorable position, but a difficult one to defend politically in a country where the death penalty is popular. So they spend all of their energy cherry-picking cases, gumming-up the legal system and talking about "uncertainty."

That's fine. But until they can explain why we shouldn't have a death penalty when uncertainty isn't an issue -- i.e. why McVeigh and Brewer should live -- they'll never win the real argument.

Original report here

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Two Calif. Officers Charged over Fatal Beating

Great to see a prosecution coming out of this disgusting incident -- previously covered here on August 8 and July 28. Picture of the victim below after police "attention"

Two police officers were charged Wednesday in the death of a mentally ill homeless man in Southern California who was beaten and repeatedly shocked with a stun gun during his arrest, authorities said.

Officer Manuel Ramos was charged with one count each of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas after a violent confrontation on July 5 with officers, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said at a news conference.

Police Cpl. Jay Cicinelli was charged with one count each of involuntary manslaughter and excessive force, he said.

Rackauckas said a review of the evidence showed Thomas was acting "in self-defense, in pain and in a state of panic." "His numerous pleas of 'I'm sorry,' 'I can't breathe,' 'Help Dad' (were) all to no avail. Screams, loud screams, didn't help," the prosecutor said.

The prosecutor said police officers have a right to use reasonable force in the performance of a lawful duty but citizens have a right to self-defense, even against the police.

Lorie Fridell, an associate professor of criminology at the University of South Florida, said it is highly unusual for a police officer to be charged with murder. "It is quite appropriate in such cases to hold officers to account," Fridell said. "Often, however prosecutors will give officers the benefit of the doubt."

Ron Thomas, Kelly Thomas' father, said he was pleased with the charges but still suffers every day as a result of his son's death. "That's exactly what I hoped for," Ron Thomas said of the charges.. "It makes me feel fantastic that this is happening, it's the justice we need."

Bill Hadden, an attorney representing Cincinelli, didn't immediately return a call for comment. A call to a home number for Ramos rang unanswered. Arraignment was scheduled later Wednesday.

Six officers were placed on paid administrative leave after the incident that occurred while police were investigating reported vehicle break-ins at a transit hub.

Thomas suffered severe head and neck injuries and was taken off life support five days later.

Thomas suffered from schizophrenia and lived on the streets even though he received support from family and friends.

Police said Thomas ran when officers tried to search his bag. A struggle followed when they tried to arrest him for investigation of possession of stolen goods.

Video from a bystander's cell phone taken from a distance showed parts of the bloody encounter in which Thomas can be heard screaming for his father.

Surveillance video aboard a bus showed agitated passengers telling the driver that officers beat and repeatedly used a stun gun during the arrest.

After the incident, the police chief went on medical leave and the embattled City Council hired a law enforcement expert to investigate Police Department practices.

Incensed community members held demonstrations and started an effort to recall the mayor and two councilmembers over the incident. Ron Thomas, the father of the dead man, filed a claim seeking damages from the city.

He has previously released his son's medical records showing Thomas suffered broken bones in his face, choked on his own blood and was repeatedly shocked with two stun guns.

News reports show Cincinelli left the Los Angeles Police Department after losing an eye in 1996 while working as a probationary officer.

Cincinelli, who was 25 at the time, was shot during an on-duty gunfight during a traffic stop less than three weeks after graduating from the Police Academy, according to news accounts.

Original report here

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Police line-ups are 'all wrong': Looking at suspects one by one on a computer would catch more criminals, says expert

Police line-ups should be stopped and witnesses should look at suspects one-by-one on a computer, a study has found.

This would make the choice more accurate and lead to the catching of more criminals, according to research published today by the American Judicature Society.

Using the sequential method would also make it less likely that witnesses will pick the innocents brought in to to fill out the lineup, it said.

Gary Wells, eyewitness ID expert at Iowa State University, said that line-ups seen in films such as The Usual Suspects, and used in many real-life police departments, were 'all wrong'. He found that witnesses should instead look at individuals one-by-one with a detective who also does not know the identity of the real suspect.

This, he said, was known as a double-blind lineup and avoided giving witnesses unintentional cues.

He also revealed that the 'identification parade' should preferably take place on a computer, with the theory being that witnesses using the sequential lineup will compare each person to the perpetrator in their memory. This is in contrast to comparing them to one another side-by-side to see which most resembles the criminal.

Mr Wells said: 'What we want the witness to do is don't decide who looks most like the perpetrator, but decide whether the perpetrator is there or not.'

He said the results confirmed many other laboratory experiments, carried out over the past 35 years, that have found sequential lineups to be more accurate.

But he said some police departments have been reluctant to change their practices.

The study used real-life witnesses who did not know they were part of a study, and was conducted at four police departments in Texas, North Carolina, San Diego and Arizona. The witnesses were shown mugshots of one suspect with five 'fillers', or known innocents.

In the traditional lineups witnesses picked a filler 18 per cent of the time, compared to only 12 per cent of the time when using the sequential method. Witnesses picked the suspect out about a quarter of the time using both methods.

Mr Wells estimated that between 20 and 25 percent of 16,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. are now using the sequential and double-blind procedures.

He said those reforms have been made in the last decade, with some key departments including Denver and Dallas coming on board recently. But he added: 'There's still a long ways to go'. And he said he hoped the study would help 'push reforms forward'.

Original report here

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Severe fallout from a hasty and wrong prosecution in Britain

The nurse cleared of poisoning patients told yesterday how she is too frightened to walk down the street alone.

Rebecca Leighton, 27, said she had been portrayed as an ‘Angel of Death’ after she spent six weeks in custody as police investigated the deaths of several patients from suspected saline drip contamination.

She said the ‘normal life’ she enjoyed before she was arrested had been destroyed.

Miss Leighton, who remains subject to another on-going investigation, told ITV’s This Morning show: ‘It’s hard to even say about having a normal life because now my life isn’t normal.

‘I’m not working. I can’t go outside my house without people taking pictures of me. ‘I can’t walk down the street on my own because I’m kind of a bit scared really, someone’s always got to be with me all the time.’

The ten-minute chat with presenters Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield was billed as Miss Leighton’s ‘first and only interview’.

She described herself as ‘such a caring person’ and told how she ‘loved’ working as a nurse and was ‘passionate’ about looking after patients.

Her 6am arrest at her home over the poisonings at Stepping Hill Hospital, in Stockport, was ‘horrendous, absolutely horrendous’, she said. But, she added she had still thought she ‘would be home for tea-time because surely they know I’ve not done anything wrong’.

Miss Leighton, who appeared to have had a makeover for her TV appearance, said: ‘I pleaded with the police every day, all the time, just please don’t stop looking, don’t stop with me because if you do then surely the person that has done these horrific things is still going to be out there. ‘It worried me so much that the patients, the staff, everybody was still going to be affected by it.’

After being charged with contaminating saline fluids with insulin, Miss Leighton was refused bail for her own protection.

The Crown Prosecution Service dropped the contamination charges earlier this month because of lack of sufficient evidence against her.

Yesterday Miss Leighton claimed the publication of photographs of her partying on nights out had portrayed her in a way that led the public to form the ‘wrong opinion’ of her.

Asked by Schofield to explain the circumstances surrounding the pictures, which included one of her swigging from a wine bottle, Miss Leighton said: ‘I was just being any normal girl, out with my friends having a good time. Everybody I know does that.’

Police continue to investigate the deaths of patients Tracey Arden, 44, Arnold Lancaster, 71, Derek Weaver, 83, and four more potential victims.

Yesterday Miss Leighton said she did not know if she would return to nursing. She said: ‘I’d like to think that I’m a stronger person and have learnt to appreciate life more than maybe what [sic] I did before.’

Original report here

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

US death row inmate Troy Davis issues parting cry

This is a very disturbing case. With 6 out of 7 of the original witnesses subsequently recanting, there is no way this man can he held to be guilty beyond reasonable doubt. And the witness who has not recanted could be the one who actually fired the shots

CONVICTED US murderer Troy Davis has issued a parting cry to death penalty abolitionists urging them to continue the battle after he is executed tomorrow, Amnesty International says.

"The struggle for justice doesn't end with me," Davis said in a letter to supporters released to the public via Amnesty International USA, which posted it on Facebook and on its website.

"This struggle is for all the Troy Davis who came before me and all the ones who will come after me," he said.

"I'm in good spirits and I'm prayerful and at peace. But I will not stop fighting until I've taken my last breath."

A US parole board denied clemency today to Davis, clearing the way for his execution tomorrow in a racially charged case that has become an international cause celebre for death penalty opponents.

Davis, who is black, was convicted 20 years ago of the fatal 1989 shooting of 27-year-old white police officer Mark MacPhail, a married father of a two-year-old girl and an infant boy.

MacPhail had been working nights as a security guard when he intervened in a brawl in a Burger King parking lot in Savannah, Georgia and was shot in the heart and the head at point-blank range.

There was no physical evidence tying Davis, who was 20 at the time of the murder, to the crime and several witnesses at his original trial later recanted their testimony.

During two decades of legal jousting, the campaign to spare his life drew high-profile support from former US president Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI, helping Davis escape three previous dates with death.

Some 2000 protesters gathered, at Amnesty's urging, at the Georgia state capitol today, 24 hours before Davis is due to become the 34th person executed in the United States this year.

The family of the victim have insisted the execution go ahead with MacPhail's daughter telling journalists emotionally how Davis had robbed her of a life with her father.

Original report here

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Another obnoxious arrest by the British police

A wealthy family man was arrested on suspicion of murder yesterday after allegedly stabbing a burglar to death with his own knife.

Businessman Vincent Cooke, 39, was relaxing when he heard a knock at the front door of his detached home.

When he answered he was confronted by two men, at least one armed with a knife, who threatened him and tried to force their way into the £350,000 house in the Cheshire stockbroker belt.

With his wife and young son due home any minute, Mr Cooke fought desperately to keep the men out. In the struggle burglar Raymond Jacob, 37, was stabbed with his own knife and fell to the ground fatally injured. The second intruder fled.

Minutes later Mr Cooke’s wife, Karen, 35, and 12-year-old son Anthony arrived and watched in horror as the raider lay dying.

The incident happened in Bramhall, which boasts millionaire footballers, soap stars and TV presenters as residents.

It is the third time in six months that intruders have been stabbed to death by homeowners. The killings come after the Government pledged to bring in legislation which clarified the law on self-defence in England.

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke promised that householders who used ‘whatever force necessary’ on intruders in their homes would not be committing a criminal offence.

Last night Mr Cooke, who runs a same day courier and logistics business, was being questioned by detectives while his stunned family were being comforted by relatives.

He and his wife drive luxury cars, a gold Maserati and a silver Range Rover both with personalised registration plates, and detectives will be investigating whether they were targeted by the raiders for their wealth.

They will also examine whether the two men were known to Mr Cooke or had done business with him.

But sources close to the case were adamant that Mr Cooke is an ‘upstanding family man who was protecting his property and fearful for his family’s safety’.

A police source said last night: ‘At this moment it looks as if Mr Cooke was confronted at the door of his home by two men, at least one of whom was believed to have been armed with a knife. Officers are examining the possibility that the dead man was stabbed with this knife.’


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Monday, September 19, 2011

Adolf Perry

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Belvin Perry, a judge of some kind in the city of Orlando, county of Orange, state of utter and complete lunacy. Belvin not only thinks he knows more about the law than the average individual—which is almost certainly not true these days—but the Founding Fathers, who wrote the law in the first place, as well.

To all appearances, that's why he cited two fellows named Mark Schmidter and Julian Heiklen for contempt of court when they refused to bow to his illegal decree not to exercise their First Amendment rights on the public plaza outside the petty dictatorship he calls a courtroom.

Heiklen got 155 days—more than five months—for distributing literature about jury nullification to passersby, and Schmidter is expected to get about the same. What is not expected is anything resembling due process. Under these circumstances there is no jury, just a nasty piece of work on the bench who apparently hates the idea of a free people governing themselves.

You can see this pompous self-important little man—the kind who can strut sitting down—on the video linked to below. Unfortunately, he is typical of the rot that presently infects the courts of what was once the freest country in the world. If there's no kangaroo in his family crest, there should be.

Not surprisingly, Orlando is rated as the third most dangerous city in the United States. And why shouldn't it be, when the judges, bailiffs, and jailers—presumed dispensers of law and order—are busy illegally prosecuting individuals for publicly expressing their opinion?

I know that as a short, bald, fat guy with a really stupid name, Belvin has a lot to compensate for. His life was probably hell in grade school. But why, I ask, take it out on the honest and lawful proponents of a legal concept that was ancient when this country was born, and highly thought of by both Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson?

Not to mention various and assorted other Tea Partiers, crackpots, anti-government radicals, and potential domestic terrorists like John Adams, Sir William Blackstone, Justice Samuel Chase, Clarence Darrow, Lord Thomas Denman, Sir Mathew Hale, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Judge Learned Hand, Justice Robert H. Jackson, John Jay, William Kunstler, John Locke, Justice Thurgood Marshall, Massachusetts Justice Theophilus Parsons, Lysander Spooner, Sir John Vaughn, and Justice Byron White.

Then there are the fly-by-night institutions: the Arizona Supreme Court, for one, the Constitution of the State of Maryland, the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, Scheflin and Van Dyke, the Indiana State Constitution, the Yale Law Journal, and the United States Supreme Court.

I'd love to give my readers this clown's publicly-available phone number and office address. Perhaps they could help explain to him why he's being considered for our coveted White Wig Award for judicial behavior consistent with that of the English judges whose insane, evil, and mentally incompetent rulings helped to spark the American Revolution. But the last time we did something like that, the United States Marshals Service, no less, another completely unlawful operation on the part of a runaway super-state (see Article I, Section VIII of the United States Constitution and show me where it authorizes a federal secret police force), threatened to shut The Libertarian Enterprise down.

Instead, please allow me to introduce you to "A Juror's Creed", something I put together about a decade ago, and ask you to spread it around, as widely as you possibly can. The more of us who are aware of a jury's ancient prerogatives, the less hold tyranny has on any one of us.

"As an American juror, I promise to exercise my 1000-year-old right and duty to arrive at a verdict, not merely on the basis of the facts of a particular case, or any instructions that I may be given, but through my ability to reason, my knowledge of the Bill of Rights, and my individual conscience; when needful, I will judge the law itself."

The law, in effect, is what a jury says it is—a very American idea. Juries didn't much like alcohol Prohibition in the 1920s and they refused to convict about 60 percent of those accused of breaking the law, until the government, in order to save face, was forced to repeal what had been an idiotic law. That's why the government, since September 11, 2001, has been careful to evade due process wherever it can, with its renditions and Guantanamo, and every other totalitarian tactic they can think of. As with any two-penny tinpot tyranny, due process gets in the way of kidnapping and torturing their perceived enemies.

The sad, stupid case of the pudgy judge in Orlando—this tubby little strutter—is only a single example in a long, long line of poor, deluded creatures, reaching back into the Stone Age, who have believed they can run your life better than you can, and are willing to kill you and cook you and eat you just to prove it. That attitude is a disease which I hope and trust the next few years will finally cure.

Original report here

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Grandmother barred from looking after her grand-daughter by hostile Missouri officials

The mother of the girl is a druggie so is no help -- but the grandmother is perfectly competent and respectable

Janet’s most-pressing concern is the fight to keep her granddaughter, a little girl for whom she’s been the primary caregiver during most of early life, from being placed up for adoption — possibly by total strangers. In less than 10 days, a court hearing could determine whether or not she succeeds in the fight that begun in earnest 15 months ago.

Almost five years ago, Janet convinced her daughter and the biological father of her granddaughter to sign a document that, after being notarized and filed with the court, would have given her legal guardianship of her granddaughter. While the document was notarized, Janet never filed it. Why? Because she was holding out hope that her daughter would change her ways. But she didn’t.

During the early morning hours of a Thursday during the summer of 2010, police officers and paramedics responded to news of a person lying on the ground in front of an apartment building in the St. Louis suburb of University City. Upon arrival, they found a woman unresponsive and barely breathing. It was Janet’s daughter, the 26-year-old mother of a beautiful little girl. She had overdosed on heroin.

The overdose occurred on one of those rare occasions when Janet was not watching her granddaughter and the little girl was being cared for by someone else inside her mother’s home.

As soon as Janet found out about the overdose, she picked up her granddaughter and took her home, fully expecting she would soon become the girl’s full-time guardian until her daughter was able to care for her again after completing rehab.

A hearing was held two days later and, not surprisingly, Janet’s drug-addicted daughter was angry at her mom and didn’t want her child to go with Janet, the responsible parent against whom she liked to lash out, especially when she was in trouble. And she was in trouble.

Perhaps due to Janet’s daughter’s outbursts during the hearing, custody of Janet’s granddaughter went to another woman, the grandmother of Janet’s daughter’s other child by a different father — a woman acting as a foster parent who is not a blood relative of Janet’s granddaughter. This occurred despite the fact that the judge had allowed Janet to intervene early in the case and said placement of the child with her was NOT contrary to the best interest of the child.

The emergency petition to take the granddaughter into state care was falsified and not warranted, Janet said, since she had had her granddaughter for several days after her daughter’s overdose and had ensured she was safe and well-cared for.

By granting temporary custody of Janet’s granddaughter to someone other than a blood relative (i.e., Janet), Children’s Division appears to have violated Missouri law (Section 210.305, RSMo) which requires the agency to give preference and first consideration for foster care placement to grandparents of a child.

I used the word, “appears,” because there is a loophole in the law that allows Children’s Division to avoid placing a child with a grandparent if they deem such placement as being “contrary to the welfare of the child.”

Children’s Division workers who opt for the loophole must, according to the statute, document in writing why the child was not placed with grandparent. In this case, however, they did not conduct a home study or background check on Janet and, as a result, had nothing upon which to base their decision. Apparently, they simply decided that her grandparent status didn’t matter. Falsified reports by Children’s Division workers and the deputy juvenile officer assigned to the case followed to hinder Janet’s efforts to save her granddaughter.

Three months after the little girl was placed with the foster parent, the Family Court judge in charge of the case said Janet should have immediate access to her granddaughter if she passed a drug test. Interestingly, she passed the drug test as well as five other blood and hair-follicle tests during the past year. Inexplicably, the foster parent never had to take a blood test. In addition, Janet had to undergo a psychological evaluation which the foster parent did not.

Despite the judge’s directive and the fact that Janet passed the drug and psych test hurdles, access to her granddaughter continued to be blocked by the foster parent. No birthdays. No holidays. And, for the first time ever, no Christmas morning celebration. As a result, Janet’s granddaughter’s life changed dramatically.

Since being taken from Janet, the trips the gifted child enjoyed with her — to the zoo, theater and symphony — have not happened. Her other regular activities, including swimming lessons, dance, music and art classes, ended as well.

Over the summer, the little girl spent more than 12 hours a day in daycare, arriving at 6 a.m. and leaving at 6 p.m. daily. This fall, despite objections from Janet and from officials at the girl’s school, the judge allowed her to miss several weeks of school so she could travel with the foster parent to a far-away state.

Original report here

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Woman and daughter die but negligent British police get off Scot-free

Police investigating police again

No police officer will face disciplinary action over the death of Fiona Pilkington who killed herself and her disabled daughter after a decade of unchecked abuse by yobs. Yesterday four officers accused of failing to stop the misery inflicted upon the family – who made dozens of 999 calls – were cleared of misconduct.

The inspector, a sergeant and two constables were said in a report by the police watchdog to have ‘cases to answer’. But Leicestershire Police said internal hearings this week had concluded that the case against the unnamed four was ‘not proven’. It means no individual officer has faced any disciplinary sanction over the case.

A spokesman for the force blamed ‘systems and processes’ for the failure to respond to the family’s desperate pleas for help.

At the time Miss Pilkington was accused of ‘over-reacting’ to the torment inflicted upon her by a gang of youths at their home in Barwell, Leicestershire. In October 2007 she killed herself and her 18-year-old daughter Francecca, who had a mental age of four, by setting fire to their car in a layby.

The yobs, some as young as ten, threw stones and eggs at their home, urinated on their wall, invaded the garden and pushed fireworks through the letter box, leaving the family ‘under siege’. An Independent Police Complaints Commission report found that Miss Pilkington, 38, contacted the force on 33 occasions.

Yesterday the family’s solicitor, Jocelyn Cockburn, said the family felt ‘let down’ by the force and added: ‘Numerous police failings were identified at the inquest and in the IPCC report. ‘It is therefore hard for the Pilkington family to understand why no officer has been found guilty of misconduct.

‘Police very rarely discipline officers for misconduct and criminal charges are virtually never brought. I invite the investigating officer to release to the family his rationale in reaching this decision.’

The force’s deputy chief constable, David Evans, said the misconduct hearings concluded that the mistakes made in the case were ‘of an organisational nature due to the systems and processes in place at the time not enabling officers to provide the most effective service’. He added: ‘The tragic deaths of Fiona and her daughter acted as a turning point for the force in how it prioritised and dealt with anti-social behaviour, linking incidents and identifying vulnerability.’

The inquest into the deaths heavily criticised both the force and the local council. It heard that none of the 16-strong gang was ever prosecuted. At one point one yob told Miss Pilkington: ‘We can do anything we like to you and you can’t do anything about it.’

Mark Goldring, of the charity Mencap, said it was ‘extremely shocking and disappointing’ that no one has been held accountable for the failure to protect Miss Pilkington and Francecca. He said the deaths represented ‘a complete failure in the police’s ability to respond adequately to disability hate crime victims’.

And he called on the IPCC to reopen the case to assess whether sufficient changes to policies and practices have been made to prevent similar failures.

Original report here

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Student wrongfully arrested by dumb British coppers is awarded £20,000

A student who was arrested under the Terrorism Act and kept in custody for six days has been awarded £20,000 compensation by the police. Rizwaan Sabir, 22, who was studying for a master's at Nottingham University, was arrested after downloading a terrorist manual for his research on al Qaeda.

Police arrested him on the university campus on May 14, 2008 on suspicion of possessing extremist material. Mr Sabir was arrested after downloading an edited version of the The Al Qaeda Training Manual from a US government website for his postgraduate research, his solicitor said. He was held for six days before he was released without charge.

After the cash award was announced, Mr Sabir said he was pleased to have cleared his name after a battle lasting more than three years.

A police spokesman confirmed a sum of £20,000 had been agreed to settle Mr Sabir's civil case. 'We stand by the fact that the arrest, detention and obtaining of a warrant of further detention were all perfectly legal, proportionate and necessary in the circumstances as they were in 2008,' a statement said.

'The matter was settled without admission of liability save that the force admitted that one brief search of Mr Sabir and his vehicle carried out in February 2010 was the result of a mistaken belief on the part of the officers involved. This was admitted in November 2010 and the force apologises for this search. 'Nottinghamshire Police has also agreed to amend some records held on Mr Sabir to give them greater clarity.

'Given that all litigation carries with it a risk, this modest monetary settlement was viewed as a sensible way of keeping overall costs to a minimum.'

Following his release from custody, Mr Sabir told ITV Central News: 'It was the most terrifying experience that I have ever had. 'It absolutely broke me. It has been the lowest time in my entire life.' He said he had felt 'the bureaucracy of the state hit me in its hardest form and I feel that the police powers were used in the wrong ways'.

Mr Sabir, who is of Pakistani descent, said: 'There is no smoke without fire. There's fire and the fire is that I am Asian and I'm Muslim and I have got a beard and that's the fire so there is smoke.'

Mr Sabir, who is currently a PhD student at the University of Strathclyde researching the UK's domestic counter-terrorism policy, was arrested after the manual was discovered on a friend's computer.

It is understood Mr Sabir had sent the 1,500-page document to the friend - who was also arrested on May 14 under the Terrorism Act and later released without charge - because he had access to a printer.

A statement issued today by Bhatt Murphy Solicitors on Mr Sabir's behalf said the manual was 'well established as a document used for research in the field of counter-terrorism policy', was referred to in standard textbooks and was widely available.

The statement said Mr Sabir brought proceedings against Nottinghamshire Police for false imprisonment and breaches of the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Human Rights Act 1998.

He claimed that false information on Nottinghamshire Police records, including a clear but unfounded assertion that Mr Sabir had been convicted of a terrorist offence, had led to Mr Sabir being subject to numerous stops and searches.

Mr Sabir said the police 'have been forced to account for the wrong they did to me. 'But I am one of the lucky ones. I cannot forget all those other innocent people like me who have suffered at the hands of the police but do not have the chance or means to vindicate their names.'

Michael Oswald of Bhatt Murphy said: 'Clearly, the police have a difficult and important job to do in their counter-terrorism role, however, they must nonetheless act within the law and must be held to account when they do not.

'Through his remarkable effort and fierce determination over the last three years, Mr Sabir has been able to hold the police to account for their failings.'

Original report here

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Amazing case: Australian single mother sues slimy cop -- and wins

She represented herself in court against a range of top legal brains and beat them all

I have in front of me a copy of the District Court judgment of today's date in the matter of Eaves v. Donnelly in which Renee Eaves was awarded the sum of $93,000 against Barry John Donnelly and the State of Queensland.

Ms Eaves is a very attractive blonde model from whom (I surmise) constable Donnelly wanted sex. He apparently was such a low character that he thought he could coerce her into it. She did not oblige him.

So he launched a campaign of harassment against her, secure in the assumption that a dumb blonde could never do anything to touch a Queensland cop.

He arrested her repeatedly on trumped up charges, all of which were thrown out when they came to court.

It was then that Renee showed her steel. She was NOT just a pretty face but a woman determined to get justice against the scum concerned.

And she stuck at it for years. She of course complained to the CMC -- where police investigate police -- and they rejected her complaint.

She then began to get media coverage of the matter, hoping that would shake some action loose. It didn't but it stressed out the cop. He went on stress leave for a year and then resigned.

But Renee still felt that the police had to be held to account -- to discourage oppression of other women by police. So she launched a damages claim in the District Court, where she showed she is not only a steely blonde but a smart one. She repeatedly cross-examined successfully.

During her long battle to get into the District Court, however, Renee ran out of money. Everything about the law is expensive and her means were slender. She in fact ran out just before the matter was due to come up so it looked as if her long battle was going to be for nought.

At that point I stepped in and paid her legal costs from that point on. I had never even met her but I have had a loathing against scum police ever since the extraordinary Barry Mannix case -- where the corrupt police got off Scot-free.

The real villain in this case, however is not the scum cop but rather the police service and the CMC who did nothing to pull him into line or attempt to make amends for his deeds. Except for the extraordinary courage of Ms Eaves, the guilt of the cop in the matter would never have been established.

And in the end it is the taxpayer who will pay -- well over $100,000 all up when legal costs are included.

Original report here

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I Was Arrested for a Law that Doesn’t Exist

By Kris Bailey

Here is the story about my arrest August 26th, and the reasons for it. I met Chris Nielsen, owner of Electric Cab of Austin, during my recent campaign for Austin City Council.

Chris has been waging a three-year-long battle with the City of Austin over his idea for a green energy business giving pedestrians rides in low-speed electric vehicles–all on a “tips only” basis. He does not charge for these services, as the mobile marketing company generates its revenue from advertising on the sides of the vehicles.

There is no law actually prohibiting him from operating this business, it is true, but, the enforcement side of the city–the police–have determined that the lack of a law regulating a business constitutes operating in violation of a law. Nielsen’s drivers have received around 200 tickets and arrests now, over a law that does not exist.

The Austin City Council has had this issue in front of them multiple times, Chris said, yet never seems to vote on it, always deciding instead to continue to “study” it, thus delaying it a few more months.Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent “studying” his very small business. The Urban Transportation Commission has recommended multiple times that the city issue him a permit to operate. Yet, our Austin City Council refuses to act, and ignores the business repeatedly and pretends that nothing is wrong.

I have been told by multiple City Council members that nothing is “preventing” this business from operating. I met with multiple council members and made several phone calls, wrote e-mails, etc…. and came to realize that Chris Nielsen was right: He is being ignored, and the City of Austin does not wish this business to exist. Why? The taxi lobby is concerned about competition, and donated $36,700 between all of the sitting members of the city council and the Mayor. I’m not making any direct accusations against anyone here, but I will say it gives the impression that we have private businesses buying harassment of their competition.

So, I drove a cart for him. I gave two rides on Friday night. The first was to a couple of women who, when dropped off, handed me a few dollars and thanked me. I did not charge them–they voluntarily handed me the money. At this point, three APD officers stopped me and wrote me a ticket for “Operating without a permit” and “No chauffeur’s license.” I tried to explain that the permit and license did not exist, but they didn’t care. I asked, multiple times, if they had read the ordinances I was accused of violating, and the officers refused to cite the law I was allegedly breaking. They told me if they saw me operating again, they would arrest me. (Read here to see that to be a chauffeured vehicle, requiring permit, as defined by Austin City code, there must be a passenger that is being charged a fee).

I decided that the Austin Police Department does not have the right or the authority to shut down a business on a whim. I picked up another person, and gave him a ride. I dropped him off where he asked to go. The police officers saw him hand me $4 (again, I did not charge him) and immediately came to me and put me in handcuffs. I was arrested without discussion or hesitation, and taken directly to jail. It was quite the experience. I got to spend the night with a lot of the late Friday evening drunks, one of them throwing up all over the floor right next to me. I stayed in jail until I was released the next morning.

Every single officer I interacted with in jail–granted, they work for a different department: county officers have no problem trashing the city police–made comments about what a waste of time my arrest was. I could hear them talking about it the entire night, and none of them supported my charges nor the fact that I was there. The officer taking my mugshot and fingerprints showed my file to everyone else working in the jail, commenting about how incredibly stupid my arrest was, and making multiple remarks about the priorities of our police chief.

My arrest was for a law that did not exist, I have done nothing wrong, and our City Council refuses to even discuss that there could be a problem. In the meantime, a small business is being quietly bankrupted by the city with impound fees and arrests of its employees. Another driver, a 19-year-old girl, was arrested just last week for the same non-existent charge that I was.

I am appealing to anyone who cares about green energy, anyone who cares about small businesses, anyone who cares about police accountability, anyone who cares about wasted resources, anyone who thinks incidents like these should not happen: Please, please, write to the Austin City Council members and tell them what an injustice they are committing. It does not matter where you live, the issue of governments shutting down businesses concerns everyone across this country. Please show your support for us. We are helping keep drunk drivers off the streets, don’t charge for our services, and desperately desire to contribute to this community that we love so much.

Original report here

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A victory for civil liberties

Official photography phobia again

THE FIRST Circuit Court of Appeals, which sits in Boston, struck an important blow for civil liberties late last month when it ruled that a man arrested for taping Boston police on the Common in 2007 could go forward with his lawsuit against the city. The standard for suing police is rightfully high. A plaintiff can sue only for violations of “clearly established rights.’’ But that is exactly what happened when police arrested Simon Glik for taping them.

Glik was walking on the Common when he saw a group of officers arresting a man with what seemed like excessive force. Glik pulled out his cellphone and started recording video and audio from about 10 feet away. The police responded by arresting Glik, charging him with wiretapping, and confiscating his phone. Although Glik was soon freed and the charges dropped, he sued the city over his unlawful arrest. The Police Department defended itself, not by claiming that the arrest was legal, but by claiming that the right to tape police is not “clearly established’’ by the First Amendment.

The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit wisely disagreed. It declared that the “filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place’’ came within the core protections of the First Amendment, with voices included. The court found this to be clearly established and deeply rooted in precedent.

Nonetheless, there are still Americans arrested every year for recording the police in states spanning the country from Texas to Maryland. The increased use of smartphones means that police are far more likely to be recorded in the line of duty than in the past. This may be understandably unnerving, but officers need to learn to accept the scrutiny rather than lash out with unlawful arrests.

The right to hold public officials to account, from the president down to the local beat cop, is fundamental to a free and open society. It may now be exercised with new technology, but the principle is as old as our nation itself.

Original report here. (Via POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Nasty California cops

They hate self-help. You must be dependent on them, useless though they may be

We’ve all heard the saying: no good deed goes unpunished . . . and that’s exactly what happened to a South Pasadena resident who was issued a ticket by police for his charitable act.

When a major traffic light in the area went out Thursday morning, Alan Ehrlich took matters into his own hands, directing traffic at Fair Oaks and Huntington avenues.

“I grabbed a bright orange shirt that I have and a couple of orange safety flags. I took it upon myself to help get motorists through that intersection faster,” said Ehrlich.

Before Ehrlich stepped in, traffic was backed up for more than a mile and it took more than 30 minutes to get through the busy intersection.

Ehrlich said the Sept. 8 incident wasn’t the first and that the light goes out regularly. “It was just kind of chaos of cars . . . there were stop signs up. But people were challenging each other to get through the intersection,” said Richard Gerrish who works at an office located at the intersection.

Gerrish said Ehrlich cleared up the mess in 10 minutes. After 15 minutes, South Pasadena police say they finally received a call about their newest traffic officer.

Police responded to the scene and told Ehrlich to stop and issued him a ticket, but never stepped into direct traffic themselves.

“I don’t know if this ticket is $50 or $400 dollars. It’s a small price to pay for the greater good,” Ehrlich said.

South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Payne said he did not have the man power needed to staff officers at Fair Oaks and Huntington Thursday and that is safer to allow traffic to back up. “We have limited resources . . . we need to prioritize them. One of the major intersections out at rush hour in our city should be a priority,” Ehrlich added.

He already has plans to address the matter at an upcoming city council meeting. Police and the city of South Pasadena say they currently have no plans to change any procedures.

Original report here

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Man died after being restrained by Australian police in urban park

POLICE used a neck restraint on a man during a scuffle in a Brisbane park before he became unconscious and later died, an inquest heard today.

Carl Antony Grillo, 42, died in the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital after the altercation with officers at Spring Hill on September 14, 2009.

Grillo was wanted by police for failing to appear in court in Caboolture Magistrates Court. He had been charged with drugs and weapons offences as well as breach of bail after being released from prison the previous month.

The Brisbane Coroners Court today heard one of the officers involved in Grillo's apprehension had used a neck restraint - a technique taught by the Queensland Police Service.

During their internal investigation of the incident, police said one of the officers had been in a scuffle with Grillo before he ended up on the ground. Another man helped that officer restrain Grillo before he was rolled into the recovery position.

Investigators said a second officer arrived and was talking to Grillo, but then the 42-year-old's breathing became shallower and an ambulance was called.

Witness Leith Phillips said she worked in an office block nearby and watched the drama unfold with her workmates. "We could hear some commotion outside. Because it kept going, we went out and had a look," she said.

Ms Phillips described two men pushing another "scruffy" looking man to the ground, who was tattooed and dressed in black. Once on the ground, she said the two men kneeled on his shoulder and lower back to restrain him. "The guy on the ground was sort of thrashing his head from side to side on the concrete," Ms Phillips said.

She said a third man arrived with a set of handcuffs, but the other two didn't get off him even after he was cuffed. She said one of the men looked around before giving the man on the ground a few quick hits to his head. "To me, it looked unnecessary," Ms Phillips said. "There were two guys on him, he was handcuffed, he wasn't going anywhere."

Ms Phillips agreed the hits were more like jabs but that they happened twice, and she discussed it with her colleagues. "We didn't believe there was a reason they needed to do that," she said.

Ms Phillips said she saw the men flip the tattooed man over and start talking to him, and she could see he was still breathing when they put him on his front.

But about five minutes later, she said they turned him over a second time and checked his vital signs. "When they got on the phone, we knew what they were doing. We assumed they were phoning the ambulance," she said.

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

MO: Forced confession backfires: Jury acquits

Evidence of police thuggery undermined their case

Thomas Evans Jr. cracked a smile as Circuit Court Judge Benjamin F. Lewis read the jury's verdict Thursday night.
The Bellwood, Ill., native had been in custody for 14 months after being charged in the June 2010 shooting of 44-year-old Matthew "Woody" Ervin in Cape Girardeau. A 12-person jury found Evans not guilty of second-degree murder and armed criminal action.

"He finally gets to go back home," said his father, Thomas Evans. "It's been a tough year."

The verdict came after more than two hours of deliberation.

Evans' attorney, Daniel Moore, said the case came down to three key witnesses -- Evans and Cape Girardeau Major Case Squad members Donald Perry and Jeremy Weadon. Perry and Weadon interviewed Evans three times a few days after the shooting, and footage and testimonies about those interviews proved Evans' innocence, Moore said.

"All the other witnesses really didn't matter in this case," Moore said. "It's what they did in those interviews that mattered."

Perry and Weadon interviewed Evans for more than eight hours and heard three different stories from the suspect.

In the first interview, footage showed Evans denying any involvement in the shooting, which took place near the intersection of Park Drive and North Fountain Street. The footage's audio cut in and out throughout the interview, leaving jurors and investigators with roughly 45 minutes of audio.

The two other interviews lacked audio.

During the second interview, Perry and Weadon told Evans DNA evidence and fingerprints in Ervin's car placed him at the crime scene. Weadon testified that in the interview Evans said a fourth party came out of the shadows and shot Ervin. Both Perry and Weadon testified that Evans had denied shooting Ervin at least 40 times.

An affidavit filed by authorities in the case alleges that in a third interview with police, Evans said Ervin made threats and appeared to be retrieving a gun from his vehicle, so he fired two shots at him out of self-defense. The shooting allegedly occurred after Evans and a Charleston, Mo., teen, Armster "Bud" Robinson III, met Ervin at a south-side convenience store in Cape Girardeau.

Moore argued that the confession was coerced because Evans was led to believe that he would be set free if he admitted shooting Ervin in self-defense. During his testimony, Weadon said he and Perry had offered scenarios for Evans to confess to, and the self-defense story was among them.

Evans testified that during the third interview, which lasted more than four hours, he had grown tired and was refused a phone call. The officers said that he could only use the phone if he confessed, he testified.

Once he admitted to shooting Ervin in self-defense, Evans wrote an apology letter to Ervin's family because Perry and Weadon suggested it would help his case, Evans testified.

Moore questioned the Perry and Weadon's interviewing methods and provided two still shots from the interview that show Evans in a corner and the two officers speaking to him and Perry poking Evans' head with his finger. Moore said the tactics persuaded Evans to fabricate the story because he was tired and scared.

"These tactics aren't waterboarding, but they are still damaging psychologically," Moore said.

In addition to questioning the interview tactics and the confession, Moore wanted to have Brandon King and Ollie Welch testify. King, who is in prison for assaulting a police officer, submitted a written statement to police July 1, 2010, alleging Welch shot and killed Ervin that night. Welch was subpoenaed but did not appear in court.

Judge Lewis did not allow King to testify in front of a jury because of Chambers v. Mississippi, a Supreme Court Case that prohibits hearsay evidence alleging someone else committed a crime to be submitted.

"He told me he was a murderer," King testified with no jury present.

Evans plans to go home to Illinois and be with his 1-year-old son, Moore said. "This is something he'll remember forever," Moore said. "I hope he learns and grows from it."

Original report here

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Friday, September 09, 2011

Freedom by jury

We should be celebrating September 5 with at least as much exuberance and respect as we celebrate July 4 or Thanksgiving. It’s Jury Rights Day.

Little is made of the date. Most people are completely unaware of its historic significance and have never heard that jurors have rights. Yet it was on that date in 1670 when a group of jurors in London used their right and power to invalidate an unjust law.

We can draw a direct link between several of our First Amendment guarantees to jurors who decided that some laws are so bad that they would refuse to convict defendants prosecuted under those laws, even when directed to do so by a presiding judge.

It’s jury nullification. Some jurors risked their own freedom to exercise that right.

In 1670, William Penn was arrested for preaching the Quaker faith to “an unlawful assembly.” The facts of the case were clear. He did violate the law as written, but four of the twelve jurors voted to acquit. The judge threw them in jail and tried to starve them into changing their vote. Within four days, three of the jurors caved in, but juror William Bushell held out, eventually getting his case to the Court of Common Pleas. The chief justice ruled in favor of Bushell, saying jurors could not be punished for their votes.

The concept of nullification crossed the Atlantic with the English and was used by American colonists in the case against John Peter Zenger. In 1735, Zenger was accused of seditious libel for his editorials attacking the royal governor of New York. The law was clear. It was illegal to publish anything critical of a government official, even if the criticisms were true, and Zenger did publish critical remarks. The jury acquitted Zenger in spite of the judge’s charge that truth was no defense and that they were to decide only whether the material had been indeed been published.

Nullification was used later to weaken the Fugitive Slave Laws. In 1852 Lysander Spooner, a Massachusetts lawyer wrote, “[The law] was so obnoxious to a large portion of the people, as to render a conviction under it hopeless....”

It’s also been argued that women’s suffrage could have come about as soon as 1873 had the judge in the Susan B. Anthony case informed the jurors of their rights or allowed Anthony’s lawyer to introduce the concept. Anthony was on trial for registering to vote in federal election, illegal for women at the time. As it was, the judge directed a guilty verdict and the jury obeyed. There’s no guarantee jurors would have voted to acquit Anthony had they known of their right to disregard the instructions, but maybe women would not have had to wait almost 50 years more before they were allowed to vote legally had the jury known.

While the Supreme Court ruled in the 1890s that judges were not required to advise jurors of their right to acquit despite the facts, the right still exists. Consider this from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, U.S. v. Moylan, 1969:
If the jury feels the law is unjust, we recognize the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the law as given by a judge, and contrary to the evidence.... If the jury feels that the law under which the defendant is accused is unjust, or that exigent circumstances justified the actions of the accused, or for any reason which appeals to their logic or passion, the jury has the power to acquit, and the courts must abide by that decision.

In 1920, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes — in Horning v. District of Columbia — was even more direct, observing that “the jury has the power to bring a verdict in the teeth of both law and fact.” (Ollie, you really nailed that one.)
Jurors are, or least should be, a fourth branch of government, the branch comprising ordinary citizens, who have the ability to keep in line the other three branches.

Several states include provisions in their constitutions saying jurors have the right to judge the law as well as the facts, yet people are being thrown in jail for simply handing out leaflets telling people about nullification.

Nullification gives the ordinary person a means of keeping the government lawful by protecting people from unjust laws.

It also gives feedback to legislators — if they would listen — about what the average person deems proper or improper when it comes to criminal legislation. It’s more honest and unbiased than any telephone survey could ever be. There are no leading questions, no ambiguity, no possibility for anyone to pretend the jurors really meant to convict when they voted to acquit.

Jury nullification is no panacea for society’s ills. Murderers have been acquitted of their crimes because of the politics of racism. But it’s better for a few guilty people to go free than to imprison even one person for breaking an unjust law.

Nullification is freedom by jury. It makes the phrase “liberty and justice for all” actually meaningful.

Original report here

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

British cops raid man who then "stabs himself" to death

Big coverup apparent. Best guess is that the guy produced a knife when he felt threatened and that instead of restraining him, the cops stabbed him with it. He was only a black, after all

Police who carried out the raid on the home of Smiley Culture, in which the reggae star allegedly stabbed himself to death, are unlikely to face any charges.

Police claim Smiley Culture, real name David Emmanuel, stabbed himself in the heart while officers were searching his home for evidence of drugs trafficking.

In a confidential letter leaked to the Guardian, IPCC commissioner Mike Franklin told the singer's family no evidence was found to imply any police misconduct.

He said: 'The [IPCC] investigation has identified aspects of the operation which were not satisfactory, and criticisms have been made of some of the officer's actions.

'However, these do not meet the threshold for misconduct under the police misconduct system.'

Mr Emmanuel's family have bitterly criticised the Met Police officers involved in the incident, none of whom have been suspended.

They are also angry over the IPCC's decision to treat the officers as witnesses rather than suspects, meaning they cannot be forced to answer questions in a formal interview.

Mr Emmanuel's family was told that he stabbed himself while making a cup of tea, despite the presence of officers in his home.

They question why the four officers involved in the raid handcuffed Mr Emmanuel after his fatal injury and want to know why the officer in the kitchen at the time refused a direct request by the IPCC's lead investigator to give a formal interview.

Shanice McConnachie, Mr Emmanuel's 17-year-old daughter, told the Guardian: 'Their story just doesn't add up and until it does, I can't believe that my dad killed himself.'

The only action the officers can now face is if the Met initiates an 'unsatisfactory performance procedure', which can result in dismissal, but which the IPCC cannot direct.

The teenage daughter of reggae star Smiley Culture has told of her disbelief at the outcome of the IPCC investigation into the death of her father. Shanice McConnachie said her father was a 'calm and spiritual person' who would never have the kind of outburst police say led to his alleged suicide.

In an article written for the Guardian newspaper, the 17-year-old told how her father was excited about his life and always working towards the future. 'I can't imagine him decideing to throw his future away, whatever was happening to him at any one moment,' she said. 'Added to all that, he was scared of needles – he hated them – so the idea he would kill himself with a sharp knife seems insane.'

Ms McConnachie said her father's death has changed her deeply and left her with sleepless nights. 'Until I get to the bottom of it, I won't know what peace is,' she said.

Mr Emmanuel, who was 48, found fame as Smiley Culture with the Eighties hits Cockney Translation and Police Officer. His autobiographical 1984 hit Police Officer tells how he was caught in possession of cannabis but let off when the officer recognised him as a reggae artist.

Merlin Emmanuel, Smiley Culture's nephew, to whom the IPCC sent the letter outlining the outcome of its investigation, told the MailOnline he was disappointed but not surprised by the decision.

'If we look historically speaking about the other families [who have lost relatives in police custody] we didn't hold out much hope,' he said. 'We did think that in the particular unique circumstances in which Smiley died at least some officers would be found to have questions to answer.'

He was particularly stinging in his criticism of the IPCC, saying the police watchdog 'have no real authority to procure justice for the ordinary citizen.'

Since 1990 there have been a total of 940 deaths in police custody, according to the charity Inquest.

'At the end of the day, we would have expected some kind of justice because if they didn't go to his home that morning Smiley would still be here,' the younger Emmanuel said. He added: 'In cases like ours it seems that we just feel like we are up against a great Goliath and we are not equipped to handle them.'

Original report here

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