Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More bad law coming up

Amend S. 1867 to Prevent Indefinite Detention of Americans!

Drafted in secret by Senators Carl Levin and John McCain, S. 1867, the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act contains a dangerous provision allowing American citizens to be detained by the military under the Authorization of Use for Military Force (AUMF) against Afghanistan.

Rep. Justin Amash, one of only five Republicans to vote against the House version earlier this spring, wrote on his Facebook page, the act would “permit the federal government to indefinitely detain American citizens on American soil, without charge or trial, at the discretion of the President.”

Completely ignoring the Constitution, Senators Levin and McCain are basically creating a provision giving the (current and future) President dictatorial powers to decide whom the military should arrest and whether they should be tried in military tribunals or civilian courts at the President's whim.

Thankfully, Senator Paul has introduced an amendment (SA 1062) to repeal the offending Sec. 1031 of S. 1867.

You can help stop this egregious provision from passing by contacting your senators today at 202-224-3121 and urging them to vote YES on Senator Paul's Senate Amendment 1062 to strike Sec. 1031 of S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act.

Original report here

Further commentary

Congress is now considering legislative language to mandate indefinite military detentions of US citizens suspected of present or past associations with alleged terrorist groups, with or without evidence to prove it. More on that below.

The 2006 Military Commissions Act authorized torture and sweeping unconstitutional powers to detain, interrogate, and prosecute alleged suspects and collaborators (including US citizens), hold them (without evidence) indefinitely in military prisons, and deny them habeas and other constitutional protections.

Section 1031 of the FY 2010 Defense Authorization Act contained the 2009 Military Commissions Act (MCA). The phrase "unprivileged enemy belligerent" replaced "unlawful enemy combatant."

Language changed but not intent or lawlessness. Obama embraces the same Bush agenda, including keeping Guantanamo open after promising to close it, allowing torture there and abroad, and treating US citizens as lawlessly as foreign nationals.

MCA grants sweeping police state powers, including that "no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause for action whatsoever....relating to the prosecution, trial, or judgment of a military commission (including) challenges to the lawfulness of (its) procedures...."

MCA scraped habeas protection (dating back to the 1215 Magna Carta) for domestic and foreign state enemies, citizens and non-citizens alike.

It says "Any person is punishable... who....aids, abets, counsels, commands, or procures," and in so doing helps a foreign enemy, provide "material support" to alleged terrorist groups, engages in spying, or commits other offenses previously handled in civil courts. No evidence is needed. Those charged are guilty by accusation.

Other key provisions include:

• legalizing torture against anyone, letting the president decide what procedures can be used on his own authority;

• denying detainees international law protection;

• letting the executive interpret or ignore international and US law;

• letting the president convene "military commissions" at his discretion to try anyone he designates an "unprivileged enemy belligerent," detaining them indefinitely in secret;

• denying speedy trials or none at all;

• letting torture coerced confessions be used as evidence in trial proceedings, despite US and international law prohibiting cruel and inhuman treatment at all times, under all conditions, with no allowed exceptions;

• letting hearsay and secret evidence be used; and

• denying due process and judicial fairness overall.

On May 21, 2009, Obama addressed national security and civil liberties issues, including Guantanamo detainees, military commissions, and torture.

Saying his "single most important responsibility as president is to keep the American people safe," he bogusly claimed Al Qaeda "is actively planning to attack us again (and) this threat will be with us for a long time...."

He added that uncharged detainees "who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people" (with or without evidence to prove it) will be held indefinitely without trial.

Obama's March 7, 2011 Executive Order authorized military commission trials for Guantanamo detainees with revamped procedures, despite pledging to close the prison.

Congress Considers New Freedom-Stripping Legislation

On October 17, 2011, the ACLU addressed Section 1031 of S. 1253: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, saying it "significantly curtails existing protections against indefinite detention without charge or trial."

It goes beyond previous laws by hardening them extrajudicially.

The last time Congress authorized indefinite detentions for uncharged US citizens without trial was in 1950. The Emergency Detention Act provision of the Internal Security Act authorized incarceration for those considered likely to commit espionage or sabotage.

It was never used, then repealed by the 1971 Non-Detenton Act, stating:

"No citizen shall be imprisoned or otherwise detained by the United States except pursuant to an Act of Congress."

At issue was never again subjecting US citizens to lawless internment the way Japanese Americans were treated in 1942, forcing loyal citizens into War Relocation Camps.

Section 1031 of S. 1253 "would be the first exception to the statute's protections." Subsection (d) provides US citizens "little or no" indefinite detention protections domestically or abroad.

The provision refers solely to "citizens or lawful resident aliens of the United States." However, the Constitution fully protects them.

"Section 1031 could cause cleared naturalized United States citizens and cleared immigrants to be sent to a foreign country, even in the absence of any wrongdoing."

Subsection (c) provides four options:

• indefinite detention without charge;

• military commission trials;

• trial by another tribunal; or

• transfer "to the custody or control of the person's country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity."

Even someone erroneously arrested and cleared of wrongdoing could be held indefinitely without charge, given non-civil trials, or sent abroad.

Post-9/11, Arab and/or Muslim Americans lawlessly experienced "roundups" because of their faith and ethnicity. Latino immigrants face similar abuse.

Section 1031 would authorize similar practices. Military forces could be used. US citizens would be terrorized, detained and held indefinitely without charge or trial, based solely on suspicions, baseless allegations or none at all.

No reasonable proof is required, just suspicions that those detained pose threats. Under subsection (b)(1), indefinite detentions can follow mere membership or support for suspect organizations.

US citizens at home and abroad could be detained. Presidents would have unchecked authority to arrest, interrogate and indefinitely detain law-abiding citizens if accused of potentially posing a threat.

Constitutional, statute and international law won't apply. Martial law will replace it. As a result, anyone for any reason or none at all could be indefinitely detained for life without charges or trial.

Section 1031 exceeds the laws of war. Its ambiguities and excesses would institute extrajudicial national security state terror. No one anywhere would be safe.

It calls "covered persons" anyone captured or detained, even unconnected to hostilities. In other words, the executive could order anyone indefinitely incarcerated on his say alone. The provision would exceed current presidential authority.

Like the companion House bill, detention would be authorized based on alleged prior associations with suspect groups. US military personnel anywhere in the world would be able to seize US citizens and others.

Anyone could be incarcerated for life with no possibility for redress. Section 1032 requires suspects held in military custody, outside constitutionally mandated civil protections.

Due process and judicial review won't apply. Police state lawlessness could terrorize anyone suspected of terrorist group ties without proof.

In other words, presidents could order anyone imprisoned for life without cause. Despotic regimes operate this way. So would America more extrajudicially than ever.

Tyranny will replace constitutional law. Middle of the night arrests could become common. No one anywhere would be safe, including unjustly accused citizens.

The ACLU calls indefinite detention without judicial review "an appalling abuse of power. We know that our government has already mistakenly detained hundreds of people on suspicion of terrorism over the past 10 years."

"Many have languished in custody for years with no way to even assert their innocence or address the evidence against them. All people are entitled to due process."

Imagine new likely power abuses, including claiming OWS protesters threaten America.

Imagine human and civil rights workers, as well as anti-war activists targeted.

Imagine anyone challenging wealth and power interests at risk.

Imagine an America more than ever not fit to live in, and nowhere to hide.

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, November 29, 2011

Police 'killed deaf cyclist with stun gun after he failed to obey instructions to stop'

A police officer killed an elderly, deaf and mentally disabled man riding his bicycle by shooting him with a Taser stun gun after he failed to obey instructions to stop.

Roger Anthony, 61, was killed as he made his way home in Scotland Neck, South Carolina, after officers responded to a 911 call about a man who had fallen off his bicycle in a car park. The caller told dispatchers that the man appeared drunk and that it looked like he had hurt himself.

Officers said they repeatedly told Mr Anthony to get off his bike, but when he didn't respond, they shocked him. The state Office of the Medical Examiner hasn't yet determined a cause of death.

Family members claim Mr Anthony had hearing problems and suffered from seizures. Now they're considering whether to file a lawsuit against the town. His brother Michael said: 'What did they tase him for? It's hurting me. It's really hurting me.'

Scotland Neck Mayor James Mills said he wouldn't blame the family for suing. 'There has been no information that this man was a threat to anybody,' he said. 'If I was a family member, I'm sure I'd be thinking the same way.'

Mills said he has tried to get information from the police department about what happened to Mr Anthony, but they have turned him away.

Police Chief Joe Williams says the officer is on administrative leave while the SBI conducts its investigation. He declined to comment further. Anthony's family said they hope the case is resolved soon.

Mr Anthony's niece, Porsha Anthony said: 'I'm sad. I lost an uncle. 'Hopefully it will be rectified so that not another family in Scotland Neck has to go through this'.

The State Bureau of Investigation in South Carolina said they are looking into Mr Anthony's death.

Original report here

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

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wisconsin exonerated Forest Shomberg, then abandoned him

It's hard to get a conviction overturned when the original trial judge is presiding. It's even harder when the prosecution is opposed. So attorney Byron Lichstein was not optimistic when he appeared before Dane County Judge Patrick Fiedler on Nov. 12, 2009, seeking the dismissal of Forest Shomberg's conviction for the sexual assault of a UW-Madison student in 2002.

"I was thinking our best shot was going to be in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals," says Lichstein of the Wisconsin Innocence Project at UW Law School. Plus, he adds, "I always try to manage expectations because I don't want a client to have false hope."

But at about 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, after a two-day hearing, Fiedler issued his ruling. Based in part on new DNA evidence, all charges against Shomberg were dropped and he was free to go.

But where to? Shomberg, 45 at the time, had just spent six years behind bars, two of them in the state's most notorious prison, the Wisconsin Secure Facility Program (formerly Supermax) in Boscobel, where he was confined most of the day to a six-foot-by-six-foot cell.

Lichstein lent Shomberg a cell phone so he could make arrangements to be picked up at the Dane County Jail, and jail staff rustled up some civilian clothes for him to wear. Eventually Shomberg's fiancée at the time came to get him.

There had been no preparations for reintegrating Shomberg into the community, acknowledges Lichstein. "We hadn't been in touch with social workers or family to get a support system in place."

Shomberg is now back in jail, serving out a one-year sentence for possessing a firearm he bought to commit suicide. Due to a prior felony conviction, Shomberg is prohibited from having a gun.

Lichstein and other supporters say Shomberg did not stand much of a chance when he walked out the courthouse door a free man two years ago. "There was no transition," says Michael Lieberman, Shomberg's current attorney. "There was nobody there to help give him any structure."

And there's a sad twist. Had Shomberg's 2002 conviction stood, the state would have provided him upon release with, among other services, counseling and job assistance. "Ironically, he would have been entitled to more benefits upon release if he had actually been a rapist and served out his entire sentence," Lieberman wrote in a sentencing memo to the court.

Keith Findley, founder and co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, says this is a common plight facing all those exonerated by the state. "If you're guilty of a crime, you get more support from the state when you're released than if you're innocent."

Lichstein does not fault the Department of Corrections for this lapse. "They have no authority over people whose conviction is overturned," he says. "There is nothing crafted to deal with this kind of situation."

But the state fails to make reparations to exonerated people in other ways too. "Lawsuits are almost impossible to bring because most of the actors have various types of immunity from lawsuits," says Findley.

And the Wisconsin Claims Board — authorized to compensate individuals injured in a variety of ways by the state — is now "horribly out of date," says Findley. "It's the least adequate compensation package of any in the nation."

Shomberg is still waiting for resolution on the wrongful imprisonment claim he submitted to the board. Even if he prevails, the most Shomberg could receive is $5,000 per year of incarceration, with total compensation capped at $25,000. "The compensation amounts are so horribly outdated and grossly inadequate they're really a slap in the face of the people who have been wrongly convicted," says Findley.

With advances in DNA technology, and an increasing number of wrongful conviction rulings over the last 10 to 15 years, this is an area that needs addressing, says Lichstein.

Findley is working with state Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) on draft legislation that would update the state's monetary compensation for victims of wrongful conviction and provide them with other types of support once released from prison.

The bill "taps into existing social services" and makes the system responsible for ensuring that exonerated people know about resources and how to access them, says Findley.

People released after a wrongful conviction react in a variety of ways, he says. "Some go out and rise above it and enjoy inspiring success. Others really struggle, but everyone who goes through this is damaged in one way or another. [Wrongful conviction] is a very damaging thing to do to a human being."

A victim of repeated child sexual assault, Shomberg struggled with panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder and attention hyperactivity disorder even before his six years in prison. He remains sensitive to loud noises from the time spent at the Wisconsin Secure Facility Program, and his vision is permanently damaged from, as his attorney puts it, "staring at walls just six feet away for 23 hours a day."

After being released, Shomberg battled depression and had trouble finding work. He sought help for his drinking problem but, without anyone monitoring his progress, did not follow through.

Because Shomberg is now back in the system, he will have access to services. "Treatment is finally available to him," says Lieberman.

After finishing out his one-year incarceration sentence — he has about six months more to go — Shomberg will be on supervision for two years and assigned to a federal probation officer, says Lieberman. Shomberg will spend his first year outside prison in a halfway house, where he will have structure and receive alcohol treatment.

Says Lieberman: "He will transition back from being an inmate to being a free person again."

Original report here

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

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Post-conviction DNA testing proposal stirs debate among advocates, DAs

Massachusetts lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would grant convicted criminals the right to test DNA evidence that could prove their innocence. But district attorneys in the state have raised specific concerns that, while they support the concept of DNA testing, the bill has major flaws.

The proposed bill was passed unanimously by the state Senate during the summer and is currently pending approval in the House of Representatives.

Massachusetts is one of two states, along with Oklahoma, without a post-conviction DNA testing law. In addition to providing the post-conviction DNA testing, the proposed bill would also require the state to preserve evidence in a trial for the length of the convict’s prison term.

Gretchen Bennett, director of the New England Innocence Project, said the proposed bill would provide clear mechanisms to allow post-conviction DNA evidence testing. Bennett said this is a better alternative to keeping post-conviction DNA testing a decision for judges, who in many cases were the ones to deliberate over the convict’s trial. “The problem is right now we don’t have a process,” Bennett said. “It’s up to individual judges. Instead of judges’ opinion, it should be process. Justice should be evenly administered across the commonwealth. Everyone should know the rules and play by the rules.”

Bennett emphasized that the proposed law would not allow convicts to be exonerated simply based on the DNA testing results and that a DNA test request would not be considered a motion for a new trial. But Bennett said the proposed law could allow the defendants to obtain the test results for use at a potential new trial.

Currently, the ability for prison inmates to have evidence in their trials tested for DNA is governed by Rule 30 of the Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure. Rule 30 allows convicts to argue their innocence in court, despite the number of appeals filed previously, if a judge decides that justice has not been done.

However, Bennett said that in the cases she is advocating for, to prove that justice has not been done, it first requires DNA testing of evidence that prison inmates currently don’t have a right to.

“Our system is obviously fallible, as is every human system,” Bennett said. “Even if it’s a tiny percentage, it’s still a few people, and a few people too many. This (wrongful conviction) could happen to anyone and absolutely ruin their lives. I would not want to spend a day in prison, let alone years.”

District attorneys across the state have said that they support the concept of post-conviction DNA testing.

“We are committed to the imperative and the principle of justice,” said Bristol County District Attorney Samuel Sutter. “And justice mandates that we do everything we can to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent.”

However, Sutter and other district attorneys have identified several aspects of the currently proposed post-conviction DNA testing bill now on Beacon Hill that they consider major flaws.

Sutter said one major flaw is that the proposed bill allows “virtually unlimited opportunity” to DNA testing for defendants who professed their guilt through an extensive colloquy with a judge during their trial, resulting in lengthy prison sentences.

“To me, that’s not reasonable,” Sutter said.

While there have been 23 post-conviction DNA testing exonerees in other states who pleaded guilty during their case, Sutter said this has never happened in Massachusetts, perhaps because the colloquies are so extensive here.

Sutter added that the only caveat in this situation would be a North Carolina v. Alford plea, which, if made during a trial, allows the defendant to enter a guilty plea (in the hopes of avoiding a harsher sentence) while also maintaining that he did not commit the crime. This type of plea is very rare in Massachusetts because the court wants certainty, Sutter said.

Another flaw Sutter identified is the cost of unlimited motions for post-conviction DNA testing — testing that costs thousands of dollars — and the cost of unlimited preservation of evidence.

Cape Cod and the Islands District Attorney James O’Keefe, who is vice president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, brought up one example in which requests allowed for post-conviction DNA testing in anything except mistaken identity would result in a harmful and counterproductive situation. His example was a conviction for aggravated rape and murder of an elderly woman, with the defendant claiming it was consensual, before later requesting for DNA testing.

O’Keefe said the currently proposed bill does not allow a judge to consider the circumstances of the defendant, while Rule 30 does.

Despite the flaws Sutter pointed out, the Bristol County District Attorney stressed that the basic principal of access to DNA testing to exonerate the innocent is something he and his colleagues completely support.

Original report here

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

Saturday, November 26, 2011

IL: Two men angry over what they say is wrongful murder conviction

Harold Richardson and Michael Saunders didn’t mince words about how miserable they felt for what they say is their wrongful conviction. “I’m mad as a m----------- right now,” Richardson, 33, said Friday — his first day of freedom after 17 years in prison for the 1994 murder and rape of Nina Glover. “I lost the Christmas spirit, all of that [while I was incarcerated]. I’m hoping to get it back now.”

Saunders, who also spent 17 years behind bars for the prostitute’s slaying in Englewood, said he’d be lying if said he wasn’t bitter. “I’m very, very angry,” the 32-year-old told reporters outside Cook County Jail. “There’s a lot of resentment.”

On Wednesday, Criminal Court Presiding Judge Paul Biebel Jr. tossed out the men’s convictions and ordered a new trial for them and two others. Biebel, in his ruling, cited mostly new evidence that linked dead felon Johnny Douglas’ DNA to Glover’s body.

Officials with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office said they were reviewing the judge’s order. But Saunders expects that prosecutors will eventually recommend that the charges be dropped.

“The proof is already in the pudding. Everyone knows we didn’t commit this crime, and we’re just waiting for our day in court for us to be vindicated,” he said. “I’m here for the long haul.”

Saunders, who said he was beaten into confessing to the crime, said he wanted to enjoy the day and spend time with his 17-year-old daughter.

Richardson said he was planning “to chill” with family, friends and lawyers later in the evening.

Despite their anger and bitterness, both men had smiles on their faces Friday. “It’s a new beginning, man, and I’m just happy to be free,” Saunders said. “This is the most beautiful day of my life. …Words can’t describe how I’m feeling.”

Terrill Swift, 34, and Vincent Thames, 34, have already been released after serving more than a dozen years for the crime.

Original report here

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

Friday, November 25, 2011

Australian police force loses one -- and it costs them

Supreme Court of Victoria rules person is entitled to do runner if not under arrest

A SUPREME Court judge ruled today that a person who is not under arrest is entitled to do a runner from police seeking to question them.

Justice Stephen Kaye said Sydney man Andrew Hamilton was under no obligation to stop and speak to police when they approached him after receiving a complaint over an unpaid restaurant bill.

The judge said that it was an ancient principle of the common law that no one has to stop and speak to police or answer their questions, and there was no legislation in Victoria that alters that right. "The respondent (Mr Hamilton) before being placed under arrest did not have any obligation to stop when requested to do so, or to answer questions asked of him," Justice Kaye said.

The judge dismissed an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions and made a costs order in favour of Mr Hamilton.

Mr Hamilton had a charge of resisting police thrown out earlier this year after a magistrate found it was not illegal for him to bolt and that he had resisted nothing.

It was alleged he ran from a Taco Bill restaurant in March last year after an argument about an unpaid $136 bill.

Justice Kaye said that in the appeal against the magistrate's decision, the DPP argued that the Crimes Act imposes a duty on a person to state their name and address to an officer if it is believed on reasonable grounds they have committed an offence.

But the judge said it was conceded the police who tried to stop Mr Hamilton never got to the stage of asking for his name and address because he bolted.

"(The Crimes Act) does not contain any provision which expressly empowers police to detain a suspect, or take a suspect into custody, for the purposes of questioning the suspect," Justice Kaye said. "The conferring of such a power on a police officer would be a substantial, and indeed radical, detraction from the fundamental freedoms which have been guaranteed to the citizen by the common law for centuries."

The court heard that when approached by police in Collins St, Mr Hamilton, 24, ran and was chased on foot and in a squad car.

Ignoring police sirens and calls for him to stop, Mr Hamilton - who was later cleared of responsibility for the restaurant bill - was eventually arrested near Flinders St station.

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

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

Thursday, November 24, 2011

British cop tries to destroy evidence

A veteran policeman is fighting to save his job after being sacked for trying to hide a dead colleague's affair from his family.

After Detective Constable Ian Morton died in a car crash, Sergeant Neil Salter asked another officer to destroy his phone in case it contained 'awkward' text messages, the High Court heard.

But that officer instead reported Sgt Salter to his superiors at the Dorset Police, and the long-serving sergeant was asked to resign.

A tribunal ordered that he should be reinstated at a lower rank, but the police force is now appealing that decision, arguing that Sgt Salter's 'operational dishonesty' made him unfit to continue his 22-year career.

Whilst investigating DC Morton’s death in October 2008, Sgt Salter uncovered evidence that he was, unbeknownst to his partner, having an affair with a female special constable from another force, with whom he had spent the night before his death.

He therefore instructed a junior officer to 'find and destroy' DC Morton’s mobile phone, which he feared would contain compromising texts.

After an internal disciplinary inquiry, Sgt Salter - who fully admitted a 'one-off aberration' - was 'required to resign' by the Dorset Chief Constable in November 2009, Mr Justice Burnett heard yesterday.

The independent Police Appeals Tribunal stepped in to save Sgt Salter’s career in July last year when it directed his reinstatement in the force, at the demoted rank of constable. But in court John Beggs QC, for the Chief Constable, argued that Sgt Salter had tried to 'suborn a junior officer' in 'a deliberate and premeditated attempt to destroy evidence' in the midst of a criminal investigation.

He told the judge: 'Put shortly, such operational dishonesty, from a supervising officer of many years’ standing, cannot be tolerated within the police service where honesty and integrity are of paramount importance'.

Due to his unblemished record of police service, Sgt Salter had been 'allowed the dignity of resignation rather than being dismissed', the barrister added.

However, Michael Ford, for Sgt Salter, said his motive 'was to protect another officer’s family' and he swiftly admitted 'a one-off aberration in an otherwise unblemished career'. He was 'genuinely sorry for what had happened'.

He had quickly apologised to other officers and the junior colleague he instructed to destroy the mobile phone had said Sgt Salter acted out of 'misguided loyalty towards the family of DC Morton to protect them from further upset'.

No evidence was in fact destroyed due to the junior officer’s 'courage' in informing his superiors and Sgt Salter 'accepted that he made a very bad decision', the court heard.

However, the chief constable's lawyer argued that to allow Sgt Salter back on the force could damage the public’s 'trust and confidence' in the police.

Mr Justice Burnett has reserved his decision on the Chief Constable’s appeal and will give his ruling at a later date.

Original report here

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Extraordinary couple weds after each spent more than 15 years in prison on murder charges before being exonerated

Sonia Jacobs and Peter Pringle had something unique in common when they tied the knot at a star-studded ceremony in New York. Both served at least 15 years on Death Row, one in America and one in Ireland, after being convicted of killing police officers..

And both were finally freed after their murder convictions were overturned when they were able to prove they had been unjustly accused.

Their extraordinary story was revealed following the wedding attended by actresses Brooke Shields, Marlo Thomas and Amy Irving.

'We have each lived a nightmare,' said Ms Jacobs, 64, before the ceremony. 'Now it's time to live our fairy tale,' she added.

The couple met in Galway, Ireland, at an Amnesty International conference where Ms Jacobs was speaking out against capital punishment.

Ms Jacobs, known as 'Sunny', was a 28-year-old 'vegetarian hippie' when she was arrested after a 1976 shootout with two policemen in Florida in which the officers were killed.

She was a passenger in the car with her husband, Jesse Tafero, but the driver, Walter Rhodes Junior, struck a deal with prosecutors and blamed the married couple for the shootings. A jailhouse informant also told police that Ms Jacobs confessed she was involved.

It was only after her husband, who had a prior criminal record, was executed in a Florida electric chair in 1990 that the informant recanted and Rhodes admitted he had fired the fatal shots.

She was eventually released in 1992 nearly 17 years following her arrest, after the conviction was overturned on repeal.

When he first heard the mother-of-two's story, Mr Pringle, 74, said he was 'blown away by the horror of what happened to her. 'I knew I had to speak to her,' he told the New York Times.

The Irishman knew better than most what she had gone through. He was sentenced to death for the 1980 murder of two policemen during a bank raid in Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon, said to have been carried out by a radical faction of the Irish Republican Army.

His June 8, 1981, hanging was commuted by the Irish president and the conviction was quashed after evidence emerged showing his 'confession' was written before he'd even been interviewed about the killings. By that time, he'd spent 15 years behind bars.

After their first meeting, the couple teamed up in the US and more than a dozen other countries to give speeches about human rights and campaign for abolishing the death penalty.

'Sure, Peter and I were also physically attracted to one another, but it was deeper than that,' Ms Jacobs told the Times. 'You know what happens to attractive, it becomes wrinkled and fat.'

The couple now lives at Mr Pringle's cottage home in Ireland.

'Sunny teaches yoga, I live on a pension. We have two hens, two ducks and eight goats. We both milk the goats and Sunny makes cheese. It's really a nice, simple life,' said Mr Pringle.

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, November 22, 2011

WA: Perverted black cop pleads guilty in shooting case

Sounds like a plea bargain with minimal penalties

The Mount Rainier officer who allegedly lured a 20-year-old man to his home to be in a pornographic video, then shot him when he tried to flee, pleaded guilty Monday, according to the Washington Post.

Gene Gillette, a 3 and ½ year veteran with the police, pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree murder, attempted fourth-degree sex offense and use of a handgun, according to the Post.

A grand jury previously indicted the 27-year-old on multiple charges, including attempted murder and sexual offense, in connection with a July 2 shooting in Capitol Heights.

A victim in the shooting, a 20-year-old man, said he was lured over to Gillette's residence when he was told there would be women to shoot a pornographic film, sources earlier told ABC7.

Once the victim arrived, he found no women at the residence. Instead, sources say, Gillette wanted him to perform sexual acts with him. When the victim tried to flee in Gillette's personal car, the officer opened fire, hitting him four times and seriously wounding him.

Gillette originally said that he had shot the victim in self-defense while he was being carjacked. He later claimed that the relationship was consensual and he acted in self-defense because he was being robbed.

Sources earlier confirmed that at the time of the July 2 shooting Gillette was already being investigated for another incident where he allegedly discharged his weapon in his home.

In that case, the claim is that Gillette tussled with a man whom he'd lured to his home on the false pretense of a concert after-party.

The victim claims that when he realized Gillette wanted to perform oral sex on him he tried to get away, sources say.

A fight ensued, sources says, and the man discharged Gillette's weapon. Nobody was hit.

Original report here

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

New arrest in Texas wrongful conviction case


Michael Morton spent nearly a quarter century in prison for his wife's murder before authorities realized they had the wrong man and set him free. Now police believe they have finally found the real killer.

The man suspected of beating Christine Morton to death in her bed in Austin in August 1986 — and linked to the slaying of another woman under chillingly similar circumstances while Morton was wrongly imprisoned — was arrested Wednesday, Morton's attorney, John Raley, told The Associated Press. It's the latest twist in a case that has prompted a separate investigation into the former prosecutor turned judge. Morton's attorneys claim the prosecutor withheld evidence at Morton's trial that could have led police to the suspect decades earlier and prevented him from striking again.

The man arrested Wednesday was Mark Alan Norwood, 57, who public records show worked as a carpet layer in the Austin area in 1986. He is being held on a capital murder charge in Williamson County, north of Austin, where the Morton slaying occurred, according to the Williamson County sheriff's office.

Jail records did not list an attorney for Norwood and the sheriff's office said it had no information on whether he had a lawyer.

Norwood has been charged in only the Morton slaying, but the daughter of the second victim said investigators also informed her of the arrest.

"After so many years, it kind of stops being sad and just becomes a happy moment," said Caitlin Baker, whose mother, Debra Masters Baker, was beaten to death in her bed in January 1988. She lived not far from the Mortons. At one point, Norwood lived closed to her. "We're just really happy and unbelievably thankful, and ready for the case to move forward," Baker said.

Authorities discovered a connection in the two cases after Raley, teamed up with the New York-based Innocence Project and spent years battling for additional testing of a bloody bandanna found near the Morton home using techniques not available in 1987. DNA from that bandanna matched that of a hair discovered at the scene of the Baker slaying.

But Morton's attorneys now allege their client may never have been convicted if the prosecutor who tried the case, Ken Anderson, hadn't concealed key evidence from the defense — potentially leaving the true killer free to kill Baker.

Morton has declined to be interviewed since his release Oct. 4. A ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturning his murder conviction won't formally take effect until later this month.

Raley said he spoke to Morton after hearing about Wednesday's arrest. "Michael is happy and numb at the same time. He knows this is a good day for justice, but it comes at the end of a long tortuous route that has cost him dearly," Raley said.

Morton has always maintained his innocence, even when offered an early release if he expressed remorse for his crime. He said that on the morning of the slaying, he left his wife and the couple's 3-year-old son to head to work early at an Austin Safeway where he was an inventory manager. He said an intruder must have killed her.

The Baker case, meanwhile, languished unsolved for more than two decades. Morton's release brought some new hope, but Caitlin Baker continued to say that for her mother's case, nothing had changed.

On Wednesday, there was finally a major break — though she said that for her and her family, "closure's not even an option."

"We may get answers, but I don't think they'll be acceptable," Baker said. "They're never going to be enough."

Anderson, who was appointed as a state district judge in 2002 by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, recently spent more than six hours answering questions from Morton's attorneys during a closed-door deposition as part of an investigation into the allegations of concealed evidence. Anderson has not returned repeated calls from the AP about the Morton case.

Among the evidence Morton's lawyers say Anderson concealed from the defense was a statement that Christine Morton's mother gave to the lead investigator, police Sgt. Don Wood. She told Wood that her grandson said he watched his mother get killed and that her attacker was a "monster," not his father, as police suspected. She implored Wood to try to find this monster.

They say Anderson also didn't tell Morton's defense lawyers that Christine Morton's credit card was used in San Antonio two days after her death and that a forged check in her name was cashed several days later. Michael Morton testified during his trial that his wife's purse had been taken from the home.

The State Bar of Texas has also begun investigating allegations of wrongdoing by Anderson. It licenses attorneys in Texas and can discipline them, though most attorneys say investigations of judges are rare.

Original report here

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

Sunday, November 20, 2011

MS: Massive brutality by jail officers

Charles Johnson (above) has just been acquitted of the offenses for which he was jailed

Facing allegations of inmate beatings at the Raymond Detention Center, Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin has fired 9 more detention officers.

The investigation into excessive force used on a handcuffed and shackled inmates remains on-going. This comes on the heels of the alleged jail-house beating of inmate Charles Johnson.

The photos were allegedly taken inside a Jackson hospital by 4 of the 9 jailers who were fired. They show Charles Johnson, 32, severely beaten. A cigarette was placed in his mouth allegedly by the guards who took the photo's. Johnson was jailed February 16 for murder and the armed carjacking of a Fed Ex truck driver.

Sheriff McMillin says his investigation is not over. "With the publicity given these two cases that there will be additional complaints and as they come in they will be verified as to the truthfulness of those reports." Sheriff Malcolm McMillin launched an internal investigation with the new round of firings. "If we have a violation of orders, if we have use of inappropriate force, we are going to take the appropriate action as a result of that."

17 jailers at the Raymond Detention Center were initially fired from their jobs. The sheriff says only one has been reinstated. Sheriff McMillin had previously fired 8 guards after a separate incident of alleged brutality at the jail. Both cases of allegedly brutality have been turned over to the FBI for a possible criminal investigation.

Original report here

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

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Parents who named children 'Adolf Hitler' and 'Aryan Nation' have newborn baby Hons taken into custody

This is a travesty of justice. There is no evidence that the children have been harmed in any way

The newborn baby of parents who named their previous children 'Adolf Hitler' and 'Aryan Nation' has been taken into custody by welfare officials. Deborah Campbell was told to hand over her baby Hons immediately after she gave birth at Hunterdon Medical Center, New Jersey on Thursday.

Deborah and her husband Heath Campbell made headlines in January 2009 when a supermarket refused to decorate a birthday cake for their son Adolf Hitler, now five.

He and siblings Aryan Nation, four, and three-year-old Honszlynn Hinler Campbell - believed to be a reference to Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler - were also taken into care shortly afterwards.

Authorities maintained it was done because of violence, not their Nazi-inspired names.

Pasquale Giannetta, an attorney for the couple said state child services representatives took custody of the Hons at the hospital. Mr Giannetta said a court hearing has been scheduled for Monday to determine whether the agency will keep custody. Agency officials declined to comment.

In court filings, the agency says the children were in danger because of previous violence in the Campbell home.

Last month, the parents were found not guilty of child abuse but they have yet to receive their children from protective custody.
Children Adolf Hitler Campbell, 5, with sisters JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, 4, and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, 3

The pair said they gave their children their names simply because they liked them and they were unique, not equating to child abuse.

Keith and Deborah Campbell get to see their children for two hours every week and contend that the only reason their children were removed was due to their children's names.

Mr Campbell has said that the names of his children will not be changed. 'I don’t sleep, I don’t eat much. I miss my kids. Miss their pitter patters on the floor,' their mother told NBC 10 in October. 'It’s hard. I fall asleep with their pictures.'

Following the judge's decision, the family were told the children may be home by early December.

'Can't wait for the decision,' Mr Campbell said after hearing the news. 'Can't wait for them to come home.'

Mrs Campbell says her children were removed after she requested a birthday cake for their son at a local grocery store to read, 'Happy Birthday Adolf Hitler.' While the first store refused the request, Mrs Campbell says a Walmart's bakery in Pennsylvania obliged.

But immediately following the boy's birthday the parents were summoned in reports of child abuse or neglect. In 2010 a New Jersey appeals court ruled that there was sufficient evidence of abuse or neglect in the home because of prior domestic violence - the Campbells have denied despite a gag order - causing the children's removal into foster care. The authorities had said it had nothing to do with their names.

'Actually, the judge and DYFS told us that there was no evidence of abuse and that it was the names!' Mr Campbell said after last month's hearing. 'They were taken over the children's names,' he insists.

But court records last year stated that both of the children's parents had been victims themselves of childhood abuse and while unemployed, were suffering from unspecified physical and psychological disabilities.

'They beg to come home all of the time,' Ms Campbell said to NBC10 last month. 'They beg to see their dad, they want to see their dad all the time.'

Original report here

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Australia: Trigger-happy W.A. cop is REAL scum

And the police union is supporting him!

THE policeman under investigation for firing a warning shot at a car in Nollamara yesterday has been convicted of bashing his wife and is already facing another Internal Affairs Unit probe.

PerthNow can reveal that Niko Westergerling, 39, is under investigation by internal affairs officers amid claims he unlawfully accessed the WA Police database.

The revelation comes just months after the senior constable was convicted and fined $2000 for a brutal attack on his wife during a heated argument at their Innaloo home in February.

Subsequent claims then arose that he had misused the secure police database to access information unrelated to his police work.

Despite the conviction, Sen-Constable Westergerling was allowed to remain in the job.

Sen-Constable Westergerling has been stood aside from duty while internal affairs officers investigate the circumstances surrounding the Nollamara shooting.

It is understood both inquiries - yesterday's shooting and allegations of misusing the police database - will now be conducted simultaneously.

In March, Sen-Constable Westergerling narrowly avoided jail and was fined $2000 after admitting to repeatedly punching and kicking his wife during a heated argument on February 14 while he was off duty.

Defence lawyer Gabrielle Clarke said her client accepted full responsibility for his behaviour, which he had described as "unacceptable and disgusting".

Senior WA police say the officer did not appear to have any valid reason for firing two shots at a black station wagon in Nollamara in the city's northeast early yesterday afternoon.

The car sped off and police have today said there were no reports of injury to any of the five occupants, believed to be three adults, one 17-year-old and a three-year-old. The car was found by police at about 10am today and investigators from the IAU are interviewing two occupants of the vehicle.

Detective Superintendent Tony Flack told reporters the policeman was with two female officers carrying out a routine traffic stop of a driver who was not wearing a seatbelt. He said the driver gave a false name and when the officer asked her to accompany him to a police station, she wound up her window and sped off.

It was then that the officer drew his weapon and fired at the vehicle.

"The Internal Affairs Unit can't find at this time any valid reason for the discharge of this firearm," Det Supt Flack said. "WA Police do not condone the use of firearms to stop motor vehicles." "There are other methods of stopping and detaining motor vehicles and it would not be appropriate and the WA Police do not condone the use of firearms to stop motor vehicles."

Det Supt Flack said criminal charges against the officer were "more than a possibility".

Police are still searching for a second woman who was in the car, but police today revealed there were up to five people in the vehicle at the time of the shooting.

Supt Flack today told reporters the car was stopped because at least one of the passengers was not wearing a seatbelt. The driver then gave police a false name and attempted to flee at high speed.

"The officers had cause to stop a black Holden Zaphina station wagon. We now believe there were up to five persons in that motor vehicle and they pulled this vehicle over for a routine traffic stop. We believe this was for a simple seatbelt offence committed by the driver. "One of the officers who subsequently has been found to have discharged the firearm approached the vehicle, asked the driver for her details. It is believed the driver gave a false name.

"The male officer then did a check on the inboard police computer. It was subsequently found that the name was false and the officer requested the driver accompany him back to Mirrabooka to establish her identity. "The driver has refused this request, wound up the window and driven away. To this point our inquiries establish that the officer has drawn a firearm and discharged the firearm on two occasions.

"It's unknown if the two rounds struck the vehicle or whether they caused any injury to the occupants.

Supt Flack said the senor constable would be confined to administrative duties and stripped of his firearm pending the outcome of the internal investigation. “He will be office-bound and without access to firearms,” Supt Flack said.

He also revealed the officer had recently been disciplined over another case of "poor judgment" but refused to reveal details.

It is believed the latest incident could result in the Police Commissioner having to make a decision on the officer's suitability to remain in the job.

Supt Flack added: "He has a history that is not relevant to this particular incident, but he does have a history that we will assess in its totality, and then we will make a recommendation to the Commissioner of Police about things like judgment, practical intelligence, tolerance to stress."

He also said there was concern about the time it took the officer to notify the Police Operations Centre about the incident. "Our inquiries reveal that they were not immediately notified and this notification's occurred sometime after the event," he said.

"One would expect that there would have been a notification by the officers to POC and one of the things we'll be looking at is why the officers chose to notify their office, rather than getting on the radio. It's a concern to us, they manage operations on the road and we would have expected a radio call to POC."

Initial interviews with the officers indicated the occupants of the vehicle were not hit, however Superintendent Flack said "the potential for serious injury is high" if the two rounds struck the wagon. "That discharge was made in a suburban area, occupied by a number of houses and the potentiality and the danger will be assessed as part of the investigation," he said.

WA Police Union president Russell Armstrong said the union would continue to provide support to Sen-Constable Westergerling. "We will look after the officer and we will continue to support him into the future," he said. Mr Armstrong backed the senior constable saying he was was an experienced officer and he must have had good reason to draw and fire his weapon.

He said it was too early to draw conclusions and he was surprised Supt Flack had indicated so early in the investigation that the discharge of the firearm appeared to be unjustified.

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Australia: Third inquest opens into 20 year-old murder-suicide cold case

Atherton is a small town and police didn't want to rock the boat. Hence their absurd claims and utter negligence

JULIE-ANNE Leahy had her "bags packed" to escape an abusive marriage just days before she disappeared and was found dead with her best friend in a car up a disused bush track, an inquest heard.

Police almost immediately ruled Atherton accountant Vicki Arnold killed her friend and then shot herself in a bizarre murder-suicide pact in a 20-year-old north Queensland cold case that has baffled investigators.

State Coroner Michael Barnes opened an unprecedented third coronial inquest into the Arnold and Leahy deaths and will explore the possibility a third party killer may have escaped justice after police botched the crime scene.

Friends told the inquest how the two women were "chalk and cheese" with Arnold, 26, a depressed loner aching for a family life while Leahy, 27, was a "strong and outspoken" mum housewife trapped in an abusive relationship with financial problems. "She (Leahy) had her bags packed. She was leaving," friend and police sergeant Bernard Wilce said.

He said he was still astounded by the thought gentle-natured Vicki killed her friend and then herself.

He told of an anonymous call to police alleging a white van was spotted driving out of the Cherry Creek track murder scene about the time the women disappeared on a midnight fishing trip on July 26, 1991.

Ex-husband Alan Leahy, a carpet layer who was having an affair with his wife's 16-year-old sister at the time, has been subpoenaed and is due to give evidence in the second week of the inquest in December.

Leahy had been bashed with a rock the size of a grapefruit, her throat cut and was shot twice in the head. Arnold had a gunshot wound in the thigh and fatally another gunshot wound behind the right ear.

Atherton businessman, blacksmith and Australian representative target shooter John Wilkinson told how he obtained the .22 semi-automatic Ruger rifle for his former book-keeper two weeks before the women were found dead. He said Arnold told him she wanted it for a friend who lived on a cattle station but he vehemently denied cutting down the barrel.

"Sure, I've got the knowledge and the ability. But I absolutely deny I cut it down. "Whoever cut it off knew what they were doing. "I just hope you find whoever did it."

A video re-enactment shown to the court found it was physically possible to put the sawn-off gun behind the right ear and pull the trigger.

Officers used a white 1984 Nissan Patrol, same make and model, and a female police officer of the same build as Arnold holding a sawn-off .22 Ruger rifle sitting in the footwell of the passenger seat. Arnold's body was found slumped in the seat with her hand resting on the rifle.

Counsel assisting the coroner Ralph Devlin, SC, said the inquest would examine the possibility of any third party in the killing. But Mr Devlin admitted the odds are against them given the fog of time, faded memories of witnesses, a contaminated crime scene and an almost complete lack of scientific and physical evidence.

"It is hard to exaggerate the failures (in this case)," Mr Devlin told the inquest.

He said only two bloody fingerprints were taken from the butt of the rifle, none from the knife, none from inside the car, and critically, no tests for gunshot residue were done on the hands of Arnold. "It was a missed opportunity at the outset. "And it would have been determinative in this case."

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

(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, November 15, 2011

Australia: Suing the NSW stormtroopers again, the lawyer of Middle Eastern appearance

ADAM HOUDA says he's had enough. The Sydney lawyer, who specialises in criminal law, has been wrongfully arrested, detained or questioned by NSW police six times in 11 years. Now he is suing the police - for the third time.

In the latest incident, Mr Houda says he was arrested as he walked along a footpath at about 7pm on September 13 in Woods Road, Yagoona. Police deny he was arrested but admit he was spoken to.

Why was he stopped? "Once again they said I was a suspect in a robbery," Mr Houda told The Sun-Herald. And he has no doubt it was because of his Middle Eastern background. Racism, he said, is alive among some police, particularly in the Bankstown area.

A senior lawyer who knows Mr Houda put it bluntly: "The cops don't like the clients he represents or the community he represents."

Mr Houda said he doesn't know whether he is being deliberately targeted. "I don't know what it is - but what are the chances of it happening six times?"

Mostly, he has been arrested in the street wearing casual clothes, sometimes walking with relatives and friends. Other times he has been going to, or returning from, morning or evening prayers. After one arrest he was subjected to a humiliating body search. Several times arresting police have said they thought he was a suspect in a robbery or that he might have been carrying a knife.

He was arrested by the police for the first time in 2000 at Burwood Local Court after an altercation with an officer inside the courthouse. A Supreme Court judge later awarded Mr Houda $145,000 in damages and described the police treatment of him as "shocking".

In an incident on September 16 last year, Mr Houda and two male relatives were walking in Yagoona, near the Sefton Golf Club, just after 8pm. Two plain-clothes constables were patrolling the area in an unmarked car.

As Burwood Local Court later heard, the two officers earlier that evening had been sent an email from a Detective Senior Constable from Bankstown. It stated in part: "Over the last five days there has been an increase in robbery offences in the Chester Hill area and surrounds."

It then detailed four robberies which involved offenders of Middle Eastern appearance between ages 15 and 20. Two of the offences involved knives. The email concluded by saying: "Any groups of young M.E. males numbering from two to five need to have their bona fides checked."

The court heard that the two constables both said simultaneously "that's them" and stopped Mr Houda and his relatives for the purpose of carrying out a knife search. For Mr Houda, this was the fifth time this had happened.

One of the police, Constable Bernard Underwood, told the court Mr Houda had said in an aggressive tone: "Let me guess, we look like the ones who did it." Constable Underwood said he replied: "Well, actually, you do, mate." Mr Houda was charged with two offences - refusing a frisk search and resisting arrest. His two relatives were also charged.

When the matter came before Burwood Local Court recently, Mr Houda was represented by one of Sydney's leading barristers, Phillip Boulten, SC. The court heard that Mr Houda did not look like any of the offenders and, at 35, was clearly not in the right age bracket. It also heard that one of his relatives had grey in his beard.

In a judgment delivered on October 7 and obtained by The Sun-Herald, the magistrate, Michael John Connell, threw out all the charges against the three men and was critical of the actions of the police. "The officers could not have had a reasonable suspicion that the three men were suspects in any of the robberies," he said.

Constable Underwood and a colleague had a "limited knowledge" and a "vague" understanding of the relevant legislation and had exceeded their powers. "When the police act, it is important that they do so in accordance with that legislation," the magistrate said. "Unfortunately, in this case, this did not happen."

Mr Connell said: "At the end of the day, here were three men of Middle Eastern appearance walking along a suburban street, for all the police knew, minding their own business at an unexceptional time of day, in unexceptional clothing, except two of the men had hooded jumpers.

"The place they were in could not have raised a reasonable suspicion they were involved in the robberies, given the distance from them. "There was just as high a probability that the men had done nothing wrong and, more importantly, were not carrying a knife or knives."

That matter, and the latest incident on September 13, form the basis of his coming lawsuit. (The second lawsuit was settled on a confidential basis.)

Mr Houda said on Friday he wanted to put a spotlight on what was happening to him and other members of the Middle Eastern community to try to stop it from taking place.

SOURCE. (Via Australian police news)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Man sues Australian authorities over negligent DNA testing

A MAN who was charged with a double murder then had the charges withdrawn is suing over a DNA bungle. Russell John Gesah, 46, is claiming negligence and wants damages.

He is suing the State of Victoria, along with several current and former Victoria Police employees, including ex-chief commissioner Simon Overland. Mr Gesah says he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, according to court documents.

He was charged in July 2008, with the 1984 murders of Ferntree Gully woman Margaret Tapp, 35, and her nine-year-old daughter Seana. The Herald Sun reported at the time that a sample from the murder scene, where Seana was sexually assaulted, was compared with 400,000 DNA profiles on the national database. Police alleged a match was found to Mr Gesah.

But the charges against him were withdrawn two weeks later.

The Herald Sun reported a double-check found an unrelated exhibit containing Mr Gesah's DNA was tested on the same day and in the same place as material from the Tapp crime scene, generating a risk of contamination.

The discovery sparked a review of every crime solved by DNA in Victoria in the 20 years since the technology had been introduced. In all, about 6000 cases were reviewed.

In a statement of claim filed in the Supreme Court at Geelong this year, Mr Gesah said police failed to adequately investigate possible contamination of his DNA sample with the sample obtained from clothing belonging to Seana Tapp.

According to court documents, Mr Gesah says he was a Torres Strait Islander living in Queensland at the time of the murders and had never been to Victoria.

Original report here.

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

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Scotland Yard chief fired after boasting he took drugs while trawling web for women who wanted sex with a man in uniform

A Scotland Yard chief inspector was sacked today over claims he boasted of taking drugs on an interactive dating website, the Independent Police Complaints Commission said.

The watchdog said the 46-year-old - who has not been named - told website users he was a serving police officer who had committed criminal offences including drug-taking and a sexual offence.

He was also found to have used his position to advertise himself online in an attempt to meet sexual partners while in uniform.

His behaviour on the internet amounted to gross misconduct, the watchdog said.

An earlier investigation by Kent Police had found that there was insufficient evidence to pursue any criminal allegations.

IPCC commissioner Mike Franklin said: 'Police officers, by virtue of the powers vested in them, hold positions of authority and trust in our communities.

'Those who discredit their role cannot expect to continue to serve the public and, as in this case, they should be dismissed.'

Two days of evidence proved the officer committed 'gross and discreditable conduct', police said.

Commander Peter Spindler, director of professional standards at the Met, said: 'Officers and staff may believe that what they do online, whether on duty or off-duty, is either anonymous or doesn't have any impact on others.

'This is not the case. The Metropolitan Police Service will pursue any allegations regarding improper online activity as vigorously as any wrongdoing offline.

'We expect our employees to behave professionally, morally, ethically and with the utmost humility and integrity in all areas of their lives. Anything short of this will not be tolerated.'

Original report here

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

Friday, November 11, 2011


I always feel validated when I see my opponents on the defensive, even if I’m not necessarily the one who put them there. So I couldn’t help experiencing a twinge of gratification when I read Lt. Chris Piombo of the Lodi, California Police Department “setting the record straight on asset forfeiture laws” in the Lodi News-Sentinel. He doesn’t write anything false, but he only tells half the story, and here’s where he gives the game away:

"There seems to be a misconception that law enforcement as a whole seizes money, cars, homes, etc., and that we get to keep the money or profits from sale to supplement our budgets or that we get to use things such as seized vehicles for our own benefit. This is not necessarily the case."

True, it’s not necessarily the case. Piombo continues by detailing the requirements for forfeiture in California and how forfeiture funds must be spent under California law. What he doesn’t tell his readers is how the federal forfeiture law and its equitable sharing program work.

Under federal law, property can be forfeited with a preponderance of the evidence (as opposed to the beyond a reasonable doubt standard used in criminal trials) and without any criminal conviction. Also, up to 80 percent of the proceeds can be sent back to the local law enforcement agency that initiated the forfeiture.

Those funds are supposed to be spent on law enforcement purposes, but there is little oversight on equitable sharing funds. I wrote about the consequences of that lack of oversight just last week, pointing out that a prosecutor in Piombo’s own state was using her equitable sharing dollars as a de-facto campaign fund.

Furthermore, the lack of due process rights for property owners at the federal level and the relative generosity of the equitable sharing program towards local law enforcement agencies encourage police and prosecutors to work around their state laws. So, yes, California has a relatively stringent asset forfeiture law, but it doesn’t make much difference when local law enforcement can ignore those requirements by taking their cases federal.

Original report here

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Breath test coverup

Amanda Culbertson has a conscience, which is another way of saying that she wasn’t well-suited to government “work.” Until recently she was employed by the Houston Police Department as a crime lab supervisor. In 2009, she became aware of serious problems with the reliability of the department’s roadside blood alcohol testing vehicles, more commonly known as BAT vans.

Over the past decade, hundreds of police departments nation-wide have purchased the vehicles with the help of federal grants. The testing device deployed in them, the Intoxilyzer, is considered infallible by law enforcement agencies and most trial judges. However, the Kentucky-based company that manufactures the the Intoxilyzer has refused to disclose its source code. Without access to the source code, the device's findings are unverifiable. As one defendant points out, the machine could simply be a gimmicky random number generator, rather than a finely calibrated scientific instrument.

In 2008, it was discovered that a supervisor for the Houston Police Department had falsified BAT van inspection records for at least the previous eighteen months, thereby calling into question test results in at least 2,600 cases. When Culbertson was appointed to supervise the inspections, she learned that indifferently trained police officers allowed the units to overheat, which would skew test results. In addition, a glitch in the system caused the much-heralded Intoxilyzer to reset every time the air conditioner was turned on.

Over the course of several months, Culbertson tried to get officials in the police department and the Harris County DA’s office to address her concerns. None of them was interested in disturbing what had become a very profitable scam.

In June, Culbertson and two of her colleagues quit their jobswith the HPD. “We could no longer choose between a paycheck and our integrity,” Culbertson explained. Not surprisingly, she was called to testify by attorneys representing some of the hundreds of people facing DUI charges as a result of BAT van tests.

In professional terms, Culbertson landed on her feet: She was hired by a laboratory at Lone Star College that had a contract to conduct breathalyzer analysis for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. Shortly thereafter, the Harris County Commission – at the initiative of DA Pat Lykos – ended its contract with the Lone Star College lab. In effect, Lykos – in an act of vulgar retaliation-- arranged for Culbertson to be fired.

Harris County’s 185th criminal court grand jury, which had been investigating problems with the BAT vans, called Culbertson to testify, along with former Harris County Prosecutor Brent Mayr. Lykos dispatched two members of her flying monkey corps – assistant DAs Carl Hobbs and Steve Morris – to “monitor” the grand jury testimony.

Since Lykos and her office were suspected of covering up the use of tainted evidence and retaliating against a whistleblower, the DA and her underlings were barred from being present in any capacity other than as sworn witnesses. Accordingly, when Lykos’s minions materialized during Culbertson’s testimony, the Grand Jury Foreman ordered them to leave. When that directive was ignored, the Foreman instructed the Baliff to remove them or place them under arrest.

Lykos unsuccessfully sought a court order compelling the grand jury to grant access to her underlings. When that effort failed, the DA's office exploited a back-channel to obtain official transcripts of the grand jury testimony. That led to a summons from Judge Susan Brown to Hobbs and Morris, along with court reporters Javier Leal and Katherine Chagaris, who face the possibility of contempt citations and the prospect of six months in jail.

The Harris County grand jury's insurrection caused consternation in the DA's office, and astonishment in the local media. "All too often in the past, Harris County grand juries have functioned as rubber stamps providing prosecutors with indictments without impartial scrutiny of their substance," notes the Houston Chronicle. Of course, this is true of practically every grand jury since the enactment of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure in 1946....

What is happening in Harris County is not an example of a grand jury going "rogue," but rather one behaving exactly as it should. It is interposing itself on behalf of the public by investigating a federally subsidized revenue-collection racket, and the abusive prosecutor who presides over it. Hopefully its example will prove to be contagious.

More here

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

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

CA: Pomona cops kill again

Pomona Police Brutality, Racism? Family of Andres Avila, Beaten and Shot Dead by Cops, Calls for Federal Investigation

​Looks as if the murder and manslaughter charges against Fullerton police officers for the fatal beating of homeless man Kelly Thomas may have inspired the family of another officer-involved-shooting victim to challenge the actions of local law enforcement in nearby Pomona.

Andres Avila, 26, a former student at Mt. San Antonio College, was gunned down on a Sunday morning in an alley outside the Super Inn on West Holt Avenue. According to the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, who is now handling the investigation (along with the District Attorney), Avila and his girlfriend had spent the night of October 15 in his car, as she was sharing a hotel room with her family. When two officers approached the vehicle at 8:40 a.m. ...

... they claim Avila got out of the car and became violent. So they shot him dead.

The victim was completely unarmed, according to Luis Carrillo, the attorney now representing his family in a lawsuit against the city of Pomona. Avila's relatives are asking for "unlimited damages." The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin outlines the allegations:

In the claim Carrillo alleges police have made false statements about Avila, violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force, and subjected him to false arrest, false imprisonment, battery, negligence, state civil rights violations and wrongful death.
Avila's own history with Pomona police may have put him on defense the morning he was shot. Strangely, he's the same young man who filed a personnel complaint after friends videotaped him getting beat up by cops at a Fourth of July house party.

Today, at the 6:30 p.m. Pomona City Council meeting, Avila's family plans to take the weighty accusations on behalf of their lost loved one to an institutional level: They're asking that the city itself (who, remember, is already being sued for Avila's death) call in the feds to investigate the larger implications of the shooting/beating.

According to the Daily Bulletin, their attorney has already asked as much of the U.S. Department of Justice. From his letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder:

"A Federal investigation is needed into the Pomona Police Department 'pattern and practice' of excessive use of force against the minority communities, and the pattern and practice of 'racial profiling' of Latino residents, for the sole purpose of towing their vehicles."
In the immediate aftermath of Avila's death, nearly all crucial details of the October 16 incident -- like whether Avila was armed, or otherwise threatened the lives of the officers -- were concealed.

And in the weeks since, the Pomona Police Department has remained tight-lipped, saying only that the sheriff and D.A. "will make a determination as to the legality of the the shooting at the conclusion of their investigation."

We've contacted sheriff's homicide Detective Gene Okada for updates on that front. As for the D.A.'s office -- a recent ruling that Long Beach cops killed resident Douglas Zerby out of self defense isn't too encouraging. But in that case, both cops and neighbors mistook the water nozzle in Zerby's hand for a gun. Pomona police seem to have a less obvious argument for killing Avila.

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, November 08, 2011

CA: Trigger-happy cops riddle man holding a water hose with bullets

Fatal shooting of man holding black nozzle was lawful, D.A. says. The two Long Beach police officers who mistook the pistol-grip water hose nozzle for a handgun acted in self-defense, an inquiry concludes. The victim's family vows to seek a federal investigation.

Two Long Beach police officers who shot and killed a 35-year-old man last December when they mistook a black water hose nozzle for a gun, acted lawfully in self-defense, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said Thursday.

"The evidence examined in this investigation leads to the conclusion that this was a tragic mistake of fact," said Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley in a letter to Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell.

The findings show that at the time of the shooting Douglas Zerby had an object believed by witnesses and responding officers to be a handgun, and that his position was consistent with someone having both arms extended straight out and pointing the object at an officer.

The findings identify the officers as Victor Ortiz, a 10-year veteran, and Jeffrey Shurtleff, a six-year veteran.

The shooting, which occurred Dec. 12, was investigated by the Long Beach Police Department, the district attorney's Justice System Integrity Division and the Los Angeles County coroner's office.

"The family is disappointed but not surprised that the district attorney didn't have the courage to prosecute these officers for negligent homicide," said Brian Claypool, attorney for the Zerby family.

"This is a joke, it's a joke," said Zerby's sister, Eden Marie Biele. "We're going to demand a federal investigation; we're going to demand justice."

The family plans to hold a news conference Friday to ask for a federal investigation into Zerby's death.

Claypool said Ortiz and Shurtleff should have been prosecuted because they failed to identify themselves as police officers and did not order Zerby to put down the nozzle. The attorney also said a third officer observing Zerby through a rifle scope should have been able to determine that the object in Zerby's hands was not a gun.

An autopsy showed that Zerby's blood-alcohol level was 0.42% and that he also had Valium and THC in his system at the time of his death. Claypool said that such a high blood-alcohol level would have made it hard for Zerby to be acting in an aggressive manner, as police maintained.

"So the million-dollar question is: What happened?" Claypool said. He said the family will push forward with a civil lawsuit against the Police Department.

According to the results of the investigation, officers arrived at the house in the Belmont Shore neighborhood around 4:40 p.m. after a neighbor reported a man with a handgun in his backyard. He was later identified as Douglas Zerby.

Zerby sat on a landing with his back to an apartment located behind the house. He was holding what police believed was a handgun, pointing it to his side and waving it around as Ortiz and Shurtleff took cover inside the house. The officers did not attempt to identify themselves to Zerby, nor did they order him to drop his weapon.

Ortiz, who was armed with a shotgun, stood near a sliding door, 38 feet from Zerby. Shurtleff stood behind a kitchen window, 23 feet away.

The officers observed Zerby and requested additional officers, a police helicopter and the Police Department's Mental Evaluation Team. But when Zerby pointed the object at Ortiz, Shurtleff opened fired multiple times. Ortiz fired after Shurtleff began shooting.

Zerby was pronounced dead at the scene. A black pistol-grip water nozzle with a metal tip was recovered.

Biele said that because the officers never identified themselves as police and never told her brother to drop what was in his hands, Zerby was deprived "of the most fundamental act of due process."

Original report here

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

Monday, November 07, 2011

Sixteen NYPD officers arraigned on ticket fixing scandal

This past Thursday evening and Friday morning 16 NYPD officers surrendered to prosecutors at the Bronx courthouse to face criminal charges stemming from a ticket fixing scandal. Meanwhile, hundreds of officers staged a rally in support of those arraigned.

Prosecutors have dropped the hammer on sixteen NYPD officers who were indicted this past Friday morning at the Bronx criminal courthouse in relation to their role in a massive ticket-fixing scandal that has rocked the police force.

The Bronx District Attorney's Office unsealed a sweeping indictment against the 16 officers who are charged with a barrage of felonies that include: conspiracy, larceny, forgery, tampering with public records, official misconduct, perjury and obstruction of justice.

Among those involved are two sergeants, a lieutenant and several police union delegates.

According to Bronx DA Robert Johnson, the officers utilized various methods to render tickets legally irrelevant or make them disappear altogether.

Officers would reportedly either physically remove tickets from the precinct stationhouse after they'd been written or doctor them so the tickets would be dismissed.

In other cases, the cops would call officers who had written the summonses and tell them to lie under oath so that the cases would be dismissed.

According to prosecutors, the cops reportedly cost the city between $1 million and $2 million in lost revenue from the tickets they fixed.

Most of the people the officers reportedly fixed tickets for were relatives and friends or friends of relatives and friends. In other cases the officers are alleged to have accepted bribes from wealthy businessmen and politically well-connected local figures to fix their tickets. The bribes typically included money, free meals and even Yankee tickets or other expensive gifts.

The charges against the officers are the culmination of a three-year investigation by the Bronx DA's office and the NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB).

Officer Jose Ramos, the original target of the massive probe, was arrested this past Thursday evening as he left a parent-teacher conference for his stepdaughter.

Ramos and his purported relationship with a local Bronx drug dealer by the name of Lee King served as the catalyst for the sweeping probe.

While investigating the rouge officer's ties to the drug dealer, investigators caught Ramos on a wiretap talk about fixing tickets, thus sparking the larger probe.

Ramos, though an officer sworn to enforce the law showed no regard or respect for it and even displayed utter contempt. On one secret recording by authorities the rogue officer is heard telling a drug dealer, "I stopped caring about the law a long time ago."

Bronx prosecutor Omer Wiczyk noted that Ramos had even once boasted that, "he could carry a dead body in the back of his car and get away with it because he was a cop."

During Ramos' indictment, the Bronx DA's office revealed that the delinquent officer even offered his police patrol car to help a drug trafficker move a large stash of heroin out of Manhattan. Wicsyk told a judge and packed courtroom that Ramos sold his shield and violated his oath.

More here

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

Sunday, November 06, 2011

A malicious and hurtful British prosecution -- thrown out by the jury

This is a country where even rapists are sometimes given a mere "caution"

The ordeal that has blighted all our lives for so long began one Saturday in September last year. Meera, just back to her home from a day’s filming, urged our daughter to accept an invitation to a friend’s party.

Milli took her mother’s advice to take her nose out of her books, borrowed a backless dress from a friend and went. She also wore a giant ring on her middle finger which I had bought her when we visited Macy’s in New York together the previous summer, en route to a father-and-daughter trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The party was for twins (both Milli’s schoolfriends), their sister’s 21st birthday and their parents’ 50th birthdays – a three-in-one reason to celebrate for the thoroughly decent Hale family of Woodford Green in North-East London. The Hales had erected a marquee in their garden, brought in a live band and DJ and provided champagne and cocktails all night for about 200 people.

Also at the party was part-time model Christian Pannell. Milli was dancing with a group of girlfriends as Pannell, together with his friends, who at Milli’s school called themselves ‘The Team’, began prancing around behind the girls.

My daughter felt some drink hit her back. She instinctively threw her arm up to deflect the hand and glass away, and her heavy ring shattered the glass, sending splinters on to Pannell’s face.
Not for a moment had she meant to harm Pannell – she wasn’t even sure who was throwing the drink around. Nor was it a drunken accident. The prosecution accepted she was not drunk.

But Pannell’s injuries were serious enough for him to be taken to hospital, where he received stitches.

It was this apparently blameless accident that would shape the dark months ahead of us. Pannell’s father Johnny, a former nightclub owner in King’s Cross, London, accused our daughter of glassing his son. He told Meera on the phone that he would ‘take her to the cleaners’.

But later that evening Meera was on the phone again. I could have drowned in her tears as she gave me the dreadful news that an old-fashioned police ‘meat wagon’ had arrived to take our darling daughter away. She was being arrested on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm. As a journalist, I knew well that this was no minor accusation. The charge carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

At the police station our sweet, innocent girl was put into a room with two gurning drunks. When she finally emerged from being questioned, we all hugged. Meera broke down and I held her up, assuring her it was all one big mistake. Little did I know.

Painstakingly, as we awaited the police investigations over the next months, we began our own enquiries, seeking witnesses to prove Milli’s innocence.

But by now the most horrible bile against our daughter was emerging. Together, the internet and some pupils from her school became her judge and jury. She was ‘a slag’. She needed ‘to be put in front of a firing squad’. Schoolfriends and mates shunned her and abused her. The hate campaign against her was vicious and merciless.

What could Meera do? Only spend countless nights hugging her, sitting with her, trying desperately to take her mind off things. But Milli was not impervious to the abuse. What 17-year-old could be? Slowly I watched my poised, well-balanced daughter descend into a depressed, sullen introvert. She developed a glazed look in her eyes. Where she was once engaged, she became withdrawn and resentful.

Her defence mechanism was becoming clear: the venom had become too much and she was shutting out the world. She hid in her bedroom, switched off her mobile and shut down her Facebook page.

Just as we thought we were coming through the worst of it, the news arrived. Milli was being charged with assault causing actual bodily harm. I have never seen Meera so racked with grief. She is a wonderful mother who has brought up two children with the right amount of love and discipline. They are unspoilt by the celebrity status heaped on her. I could not wish for a better woman to care for my child.

So it broke my heart when, after that awful spring and summer, she collapsed in court after seeing Milli in the dock for the first time, flanked by prison guards. The trial was a brutal test of nerves. The old arguments were rehearsed. But after 14 months and a four-day trial, the jury took minutes to clear Milli and allow her to walk free from the dock.

As Pannell and his father stalked from the court, the judge invited Meera, Milli, Sanjeev and me to leave through his private exit. There, in the low November sun, the 12 jurors walked past and gave us a thumbs-up. The four of us hugged and cried tears of relief.

My daughter should never have been charged. A great deal of money and time was wasted. She lost her innocence in the most insensitive fashion.

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