Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Heroic major sues British Army over 'cover up' that got him blamed for friend's death in battle and ruined his career

A highly respected officer is planning to sue the Army after he was wrongly blamed for the death of a colleague in Afghanistan.

Major Jonny Bristow saw his career ruined because senior officers said his tactical and leadership errors were responsible for the death of Captain James Philippson – even though a coroner blamed a lack of basic equipment.

Major Bristow, 44, who commanded hundreds of British and Afghan troops, quit the Army in disgust after top brass stuck to their official line for more than five years

Now his call for an official apology has been backed by Tory MP and former Army officer Tobias Ellwood, who said there had been a 'cover up' and that his treatment brought shame on the military.

In June 2006 Captain Philippson became the first British soldier to be killed after UK forces were deployed to Helmand province. The 29-year-old officer of the Royal Horse Artillery was shot in a night fight near the Taliban stronghold of Sangin.

At an inquest at Oxford, coroner Andrew Walker dismissed claims in an Army report that Major Bristow's poor decision-making had cost Capt Philippson his life. And he condemned the lack of kit such as night-vision goggles and machine guns.

The coroner said: 'To send soldiers into a combat zone without basic equipment is unforgiveable, inexcusable and represents a breach of trust between the soldiers and those who govern them. They were defeated not by the terrorists but by the lack of basic equipment.'

Despite the damning ruling, the Army refused to apologise to Major Bristow, of Crawley, West Sussex.

The former officer, who served in the Royal Scots Regiment, claims the damage to his reputation left him unable to find a permanent job in the security industry. When prospective employers Google his name, he says, they find articles blaming him for the death of a fellow officer.

And the fact that the conclusions of the Army's Board of Inquiry (BOI) report are so publicly available has even impacted upon Major Bristow's private life. While on a date, he says, his companion brought up the incident, which she had seen on the internet.

Now he is demanding an apology from Defence Secretary Philip Hammond and a statement clearing his name – otherwise he says he will take his case to the High Court. His supporters believe he has a strong case for constructive dismissal.

In a formal complaint to the Director of Personal Services, Major Bristow wrote: 'My reputation has been damaged. I wish to establish why such a fundamentally flawed report was allowed to be ratified.

Furthermore, I sincerely believe the integrity and credibility of the Army's judicial system has been damaged. Those officers who wrote the report should be held to account for their actions and made to understand the damage and distress they have caused.'

On June 11, 2006, Major Bristow led a 20-man party to rescue a patrol ambushed by the Taliban. The patrol was surrounded by gunmen hiding in the darkness. On their approach, Major Bristow could not see the enemy because he had not been issued with night vision goggles.

Also, a lack of machine guns meant his men were outgunned. The group came under heavy fire which killed Capt Philippson. Major Bristow completed another tour of Afghanistan in 2010, but later that year, with the Army still not having replied to his formal complaint, he was forced to take a job training reservist recruits in Glasgow.

Disillusioned, he took voluntary redundancy, leaving this year.

The Ministry of Defence said last night: 'Our thoughts remain with the family of Capt Philippson. A military Board of Inquiry concluded in 2007 that his death was not caused by one factor but was linked to a number of contributory issues.'

Original report here

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bodybuilder 'who beat girlfriend black and blue' walks free from court when she fails to give evidence (because blundering British prosecutors told her wrong time to appear)

A young woman whose boyfriend allegedly beat her 'black and blue' says she has been denied justice after he walked free from court because of a Crown Prosecution Service blunder.

Harriet Atkinson, 22, was wrongly told to attend court in the afternoon for the trial of fitness trainer Lewis Rookyard who denied a charge of assault by beating.

But unknown to her, the trial where she was due to give evidence against her former lover had been fixed to start in the morning at South East Suffolk magistrates court in Ipswich.

Officials realised she had been given the wrong time when she did not appear at 10am and a police car was sent to pick her up.

The prosecutor applied for the case to be postponed for 30 minutes, pointing out that Miss Atkinson was on her way and was in no way to blame. But magistrates rejected the application and dismissed the case due to her non-attendance.

Miss Atkinson, who works in the fashion industry, said: 'It was the fault of the CPS that I was given the wrong time for the trial to start - but it was just a case of human error which I can understand.

'What I am really angry about is that the magistrates threw the case out even when they were told that I was not at fault for being given the wrong time and I was on my way.

'My ex-boyfriend should have stood trial so that the magistrates could have decided whether he was guilty or not after hearing all the evidence.

'The authorities are constantly saying that they take domestic violence seriously and I knew that I had to do the right thing by going to the police. 'I had all the trauma of waiting eight months to get justice while I was constantly going over it all in my head, and it was all for nothing.'

Magistrates decided there might not be enough time to complete the trial on the day if they waited for her and it would be unfair on Rookyard, 22, to wait for a new date.

The CPS has apologised for the error and is considering seeking a Judicial Review to try and get the High Court to rule that the magistrates acted incorrectly. The unusual move could set a new legal precedent for future cases if it goes ahead, although the magistrates' decision in Miss Atkinson's case cannot be overturned.

Miss Atkinson claimed she was attacked and pinned to the floor by Rookyard after they argued early on New Year's Day at his family home in Ipswich. She said she was left with a black eye, a cut to her face and bruises to her arms and chest caused by him grabbing and hitting her.

Miss Atkinson went back to a friend's house and telephoned police to make a complaint of assault at 11am and was interviewed by a woman police officer at 3pm the same day.

Miss Atkinson who lives near Ipswich also posed for photographs showing her injuries, and was told in a call and an email from a Witness Care assistant to attend court at 1.45pm on September 5, in time for a 2.15pm start. Other prosecution witnesses including the police officer in the case were told to attend at the same wrong time.

Miss Atkinson said:'I first realised something was wrong when I got a call from my dad at 10.10am on the day of the trial, saying a man from Witness Care had rung to ask where I was as I was supposed to be in court.

'We had to rush around and the police came round to pick me up along with my mum and my sister. We were only a ten minute drive away and we met our dad at court just before 11am. 'But when we got into the building we were told that the case had been dismissed. The prosecutor was really angry when he explained what had happened. I was left in a complete mess and in tears. I didn't know what to do. 'A lot of the ushers and the security staff were disgusted. I was left feeling like I had been kicked in the teeth. It has completely destroyed my faith in British justice.

'If it happened to me again, I don't know if I would bother going to the police.'

After complaining to the court, Miss Atkinson and her father David were sent letters from Deputy Justices clerk David Carson who was the Legal Adviser in the case. He told them that the magistrates had taken note of case law where cases had been dismissed due to the non-attendance of witnesses. The clerk also claimed the magistrates had taken into account the nature of the offence, the earlier adjournment and the likely further delay caused by a further adjournment.

Mr Carson insisted the court was not at fault for her being given the wrong date, saying: 'The court's procedures did not fall down. The current trial date and time was notified to the parties who were also present when it was fixed.'

He stated that the case had had now 'concluded' due to the dismissal of the charge, and added: 'I appreciate this not the reply you have been looking for.'

Miss Atkinson cannot face the prospect of seeking a private prosecution as it could cost her thousands of pounds and she already feels so badly let down by the courts

Grace Ononiwu, the Chief Crown Prosecutor for the East of England Crown Prosecution Service, described it as 'a very serious matter'. She said: 'This case was listed for trial at 10 am on the 5th September, 2012, at South East Suffolk Magistrates Court.

'The prosecutor was made aware that witnesses had been warned for 2.15pm rather than 10am and applied to adjourn the case to later in the morning to give them an opportunity to attend. This application was refused by the court and therefore the case could not proceed any further.'

A CPS spokeswoman added: 'We are looking into whether a Judicial Review of the case at the High Court is appropriate and are seeking counsel's view on the matter. 'The High Court cannot overturn the decision of the magistrates, but it can rule on whether the correct procedures were followed. It is certainly an unusual situation.'

Mr Rookyard refused to comment at his family's semi-detached home.

Original report here

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Why Firing a Bad Cop Is Damn Near Impossible

Over the summer, a still from a surveillance camera showing a police officer kicking a handcuffed woman in the head went viral on Facebook and email. The text below the picture read, "Rhode Island police officer Edward Krawetz received no jail time for this brutal assault on this seated and handcuffed woman. Now he wants his job back. Share if you don't want this to happen." The allegation was wild enough to pique the interest of the rumor-debunking site, which determined that the story was, in fact, true.

In 2009, Officer Edward Krawetz of the Lincoln Police Department arrested Donna Levesque for unruly behavior at a casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island. While seated on the ground with her hands cuffed behind her, Levesque kicked Krawetz in the shin. Krawetz responded by cocking back his right leg and nailing Levesque in the side of the head, knocking her over. In March 2012, Krawetz was convicted of felony battery despite his claim that he kicked Levesque in "self defense." The 10-year sentence he received was immediately suspended, and Krawetz was ordered to attend anger management classes.

But he wasn't fired from the Lincoln Police Department. Under Rhode Island law, the fate of Krawetz's job as a cop rested not with a criminal court, or even his commanding officer, but in the hands of a three-person panel composed of fellow police officers—one of whom Krawetz would get to choose. That panel would conduct the investigation into Krawetz's behavior, oversee a cross-examination, and judge whether Krawetz could keep his job. The entire incident, in other words, would be kept in the family.

The same was true for Rhode Island Police Officer Alfred Ferretti after he followed two women home while in uniform and exposed himself; for Officers Robert Neri and Robert Lobianco after they were found having a threesome while on duty; and for Officer Nichalas Laprade after two women reported that he stared at them while masturbating as he drove down I-95 in his personal vehicle.

All of these Rhode Island cops, and many more like them across the county, were able to keep their jobs and benefits—sometimes only temporarily, but always longer than they should have—thanks to model legislation written and lobbied for by well-funded police unions. That piece of legislation is called the "law enforcement bill of rights," and its sole purpose is to shield cops from the laws they're paid to enforce.

The inspiration for this legislation and its similarly named cousins across the country is the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights, introduced in 1971 by New York Rep. Mario Biaggi (D), at the behest of the Police Benevolent Association. Having once been the most decorated police officer in the country, Biaggi didn't need much convincing to put forward the union-friendly bill.

Biaggi pushed for the POBOR until March 1987, when he received two indictments back-to-back. The first was for accepting a paid vacation from Brooklyn Democratic Leader Meade H. Esposito in exchange for using federal funds to bail out a company in Esposito's neighborhood. A second indictment handed down three months later charged Biaggi with extorting $3.6 million in cash and stock options from a small Bronx machine shop called Wedtech. Both charges resulted in convictions and Biaggi's resignation from Congress.

While Biaggi's bill never made it through Congress, police unions didn't wait for city managers or police department higher-ups to write their own. Benevolent associations in Maryland successfully pushed for the passage of a police bill of rights in 1972; Florida, Rhode Island, Virginia, New Mexico, and California followed suit before the 70s were over. The 1980s, 90s, and 2000s saw still more states adopt police bill of rights at the behest of police unions.

The rights created by these bills differ from state to state, but here's how a typical police misconduct investigation works in states that have a law enforcement bill of rights in place:

A complaint is filed against an officer by a member of the public or a fellow officer. Police department leadership reviews the complaint and decides whether to investigate. If the department decides to pursue the complaint, it must inform the officer and his union. That's where the special treatment begins, but it doesn't end there.

Unlike a member of the public, the officer gets a "cooling off" period before he has to respond to any questions. Unlike a member of the public, the officer under investigation is privy to the names of his complainants and their testimony against him before he is ever interrogated. Unlike a member of the public, the officer under investigation is to be interrogated "at a reasonable hour," with a union member present. Unlike a member of the public, the officer can only be questioned by one person during his interrogation. Unlike a member of the public, the officer can be interrogated only "for reasonable periods," which "shall be timed to allow for such personal necessities and rest periods as are reasonably necessary." Unlike a member of the public, the officer under investigation cannot be "threatened with disciplinary action" at any point during his interrogation. If he is threatened with punishment, whatever he says following the threat cannot be used against him.

What happens after the interrogation again varies from state to state. But under nearly every law enforcement bill of rights, the following additional privileges are granted to officers: Their departments cannot publicly acknowledge that the officer is under investigation; if the officer is cleared of wrongdoing or the charges are dropped, the department may not publicly acknowledge that the investigation ever took place, or reveal the nature of the complaint. The officer cannot be questioned or investigated by "non-government agents," which means no civilian review boards. If the officer is suspended as a result of the investigation, he must continue to receive full pay and benefits until his case is resolved. In most states, the charging department must subsidize the accused officer's legal defense.

A violation of any of the above rights can result in dismissal—not of the officer, but of the charges against him.

Because of these special due process privileges, there's little incentive for police departments to discipline officers. In most cases, it's more financially prudent to let a District Attorney or outside law enforcement agency do the heavy lifting, and then fire the officer if he's convicted. This is the only "easy" way, under police bills of rights, for departments to get rid of bad cops--which essentially means the only way to get rid of bad cops is if some other law enforcement agency can make a felony charge stick. This is the biggest problem with law enforcement bills of rights--they encourage police departments to let external forces determine what behavior is unacceptable. That's eventually why Rhode Island's Krawetz resigned his post.

But Rhode Island is by no means an outlier.

More here

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

England schoolboy rugby star locked up - 'for filming police having break in a bar while on duty'

A man was arrested, handcuffed and put in a cell overnight after filming police officers apparently having a coffee break in a bar while on duty.

Management trainee Jake Coplestone, 20, claims that when police handed back his iPhone containing the footage, the handset had been tampered with repeatedly in a crude attempt to crack the password – resulting in it being ‘locked’ for 42 years.

But he was able to retrieve the 51-second video, and show it to The Mail on Sunday. It shows five officers relaxing late in the evening in the Azuza, a bar and coffee shop, during a weekend shift in Marlborough, Wiltshire, five weeks ago.

Mr Coplestone claims that following the filming he was approached by two of the officers and accused of being drunk and disorderly, then arrested.

Wiltshire Police dispute his account and claim he was warned to leave the area because he was committing a public order offence, but was arrested when he returned.

However, the force last night launched an investigation into his allegation that he was arrested because he had filmed the officers.

Recalling the incident, Mr Coplestone and one of his friends said he was approached by the officers who had seen him filming. The friends say the officers discussed whether to arrest 6ft 5in Mr Coplestone under Section 60 of the Public Order Act, then decided on ‘drunk and disorderly’ after he protested.

At this point, Mr Coplestone says, he was seized by one of the officers and led off to a car park behind the Azuza venue just off Marlborough High Street where police patrol vehicles were parked.

Mr Coplestone says he was handcuffed and bundled into a vehicle and taken to the custody suite at Swindon. There, he claims he repeatedly asked to be breathalysed to prove that he was not drunk but that was refused.

Wiltshire Police policy is to offer breathalyser tests only to drink-driving suspects. Instead, he says, he was put in a cell overnight and released the next day.

Mr Coplestone says his mobile phone was returned five days later – after the intervention of his solicitor and on condition he paid an £80 fixed penalty – but it was blocked, with a screen message saying ‘iPhone is disabled, try again in 22,461,058 minutes’.

With help from a software programme ironically named Jail Break, he was able to unlock the phone and retrieve the film.

Mr Coplestone, who played rugby for a south-west England under-16 squad, said: ‘The only logical explanation for my phone being disabled for 42 years is that someone had been trying to access my files to delete the video footage of officers in the club. I was not drunk and disorderly and I believe the only reason for my arrest was my taking footage of the officers standing at the bar.

‘I’m discussing what to do, including court action and a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, with my solicitor.’

Chief Superintendent Paul Mills, Head of Local Policing, said in a statement: ‘No formal complaint has been made and the Force have not seen the alleged footage. However, due to the serious allegations being made by Jacob Coplestone, this will now be subject to an investigation by the Force Professional Standards Department who are responsible for the oversight of all conduct matters attaining to police officers and staff.’

Ch Supt Mills said records showed Mr Coplestone chose to pay the fixed penalty rather than have the matter heard in court.

Mr Coplestone’s allegations, if upheld, will add to the Wiltshire force’s tarnished reputation. The IPCC is already investigating failures in the case of murdered Becky Godden. Taxi driver Christopher Halliwell couldn’t be tried for the crime, even though he confessed, as detectives had denied him his rights under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

Last year Deputy Chief Constable David Ainsworth, 49, hanged himself after 13 female staff made 26 separate complaints against him of inappropriate sexual advances.

Original report here

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Man calls British police for help -- so they kill him

They could have simply walked away when he failed to come out of his room. There was no reason for them to do otherwise

A coroner criticised a police force today after 'serious deficiencies' in procedures were exposed by an inquest into the death of a former cage fighter who died in custody after he was pepper-sprayed by officers.

Jacob Michael, 25, died by misadventure as a result of 'cocaine induced excited delirium', an inquest jury agreed, but also found that a catalogue of police failures may have contributed to his death.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Michael’s mother, Christine Michael, said she was 'disappointed' by the verdict and said she still held the police responsible.

The coroner listed a number of police failures, including: failures in police training, 'serious gaps' in the knowledge of operational officers, lessons were not learned as it was the second death in a relatively short period of time after a person was arrested and they had not recognised Michael needed urgent medical attention.

Cheshire Police said lessons had been learned and that a range of improvements had already been put into action.

The inquest was told that Mr Michael called police on August 22 last year after he believed somebody had pulled a gun on him.

He then locked himself in his bedroom in Lacey Street, Widnes, and was restrained by police officers after a struggle.

Police officers said Mr Michael threatened them with a hammer, which led them to incapacitate him with pepper spray.

Mrs Michael, who wept in court on hearing the jury’s verdict, said: 'I’m very disappointed, but we didn’t have much faith in getting a good result.'

She said: 'He should have been left in his room. He dialled 999, he hadn’t done anything wrong. He should have been left alone for us to deal with. It was an abandoned phone call, they should have just left and left Jacob and he’d be alive today.'

Mr Michael was arrested for alleged affray and taken by police van to a custody suite with his hands cuffed and his legs in restraints.

Footage taken from the police van and the custody office was shown to the inquest in which Mr Michael, who was known as Jake, can be heard repeatedly saying 'please' and 'sorry'.

The footage shows Mr Michael face down in the cell with his hands cuffed and his legs restrained - moments before police realised he was unwell. Two police officers can be seen with their feet on his leg.

The four-week inquest heard that Mr Michael was a cocaine user who would occasionally 'binge' on the drug, and had been taking it on the weekend prior to his arrest. He had also been warned by doctors about the adverse effects cocaine could have on his heart.

The jury of eight women and one man at Warrington Coroner’s Court, sitting at Daresbury Park Hotel, reached its verdict after more than two days of deliberations.

Reading their narrative verdict, Nicholas Rheinberg, the Coroner for Cheshire, said: 'Partying and his heart’s susceptibility to cocaine probably contributed to the death.'

The 'fear, flight and fight' response caused during the arrest 'may have also contributed to the death', the jury found.

The jury also ruled that 'ineffective' police training, procedural failures, failures to carry out a 'timely assessment' and a lack of communication may have also contributed to the death.

In a statement delivered through the family solicitor, Kate Maynard, Mrs Michael added: 'We believe that if the police had not stormed into Jacob’s bedroom then he would still be alive. Instead he died on the floor of Runcorn custody suite while handcuffed, face down and with police officers treading on his legs.'

A spokeswoman for Cheshire Police said the constabulary has already acted on information from the findings after a review by the Independent Police Complaints Commission into its processes, procedures and training.

New systems include: improved training around the condition of excited delirium; redesign of transport vans to improve the ability of drivers and escorting officers to monitor detainees; an ongoing roll-out of the issue of “long” handcuff keys to assist in the speedy removal of handcuffs.

Deborah Coles, co-director of campaign group INQUEST, said: 'This was a shocking death. Yet again, another inquest into a death following use of force has found failures at an individual and senior management level, and those responsible must be held to account.'

Original report here

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Friday, October 26, 2012

“Officer safety”

I despise the bogus concept of "officer safety". What a completely disgusting justification for anything some corrupt cop (redundancy alert) wants to do to you.

Why would a reaver's safety be more important than mine or anyone else's? Why shouldn't I be able to disarm and cuff any cop I encounter as a safety precaution? You know, just until I ascertain that he is not a threat to me or to anyone else ("the public")? Who is actually more likely to shoot whom? Well, check out the statistics for yourself.

I don't shoot people whom I claim were driving "too fast", or whose tires I claim crossed a painted stripe, just because they don't wish to be stopped and robbed or kidnapped by me. Cops do. I don't shoot people who are trying to get away from me. Cops do. I don't break into people's houses because they are doing something I don't like, and then murder them if they resist. Cops do. I don't rob, kidnap, or murder people for growing some kind of plant. Cops do. So exactly who is endangered by whom?

I don't feel endangered by some guy with a holstered gun on his hip, unless he also wears a badge. Cops do. I don't even feel endangered by most people who have unholstered their gun- unless, once again, they hide behind a badge. Cops flip out over that. The reason I don't is that I am not a coward, I am not paranoid, and I don't go around escalating situations that I initiate. It's that simple.

If a LEO feels he needs to violate people for his own "safety", it indicates to me that he knows he is guilty of doing things that normal people know are wrong. A guilty conscience- probably combined with an instinctual knowledge that his victims would be ethically justified in killing him for his evil behavior- makes his own safety become his primary concern. It shows that he is a violator and a coward, and somewhere deep inside he probably knows it.

If a cop is concerned about his safety, he can do the same things others do for safety. Wear a seatbelt- or not; don't look down the barrel of your gun to see if it's loaded; don't initiate car chases; don't trespass; don't rob; don't be an aggressor; don't stick your tongue into light sockets; don't harass people who are minding their own business; and don't interfere with travelers. Distilled down: don't be an idiot or a prick and your safety factor increases exponentially.

But this is too hard for people whose brains are encumbered with the Enforcer Defect.

They want to be able to be a bad guy and still go home at the end of their shift- after doing the wrong thing for hours at your expense. Well, Officer, the rest of us have just as much right to go home at the end of your shift as you do. And unless we are stupid enough to seek you out, our lives are worth more than yours could ever be. We didn't start it. And we outrank you, since you are supposed to be our servant. You're a butler-gone-bad.

Your cowardice, paranoia, and your sense of entitlement is an indication that you can't be trusted with any amount of "authority". You need to go find an honest job and stop being a predator. Unfortunately most cops can't handle a real job- especially one that has real risks beyond the minuscule "risks" their preferred "career" entails. That's obvious since they keep being cops.

Original report here

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Defend the right to carry cash and travel unmolested

Thanks to the hard work of Americans for Forfeiture Reform policy analyst Scott Meiner, AFR has been asked to submit an amicus brief in an asset forfeiture case that is being appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Meiner describes the Terrence Durr seizure and litigation in his post, “A Peculiar Idea of Proof“:

United States District Judge Clay D. Land has ordered the forfeiture of $21,175 seized from two ex-convicts by Deputy Drew Crane, of the Harris County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office.

Neither of the men were convicted, arrested, or charged. No drugs or drug paraphernalia were reported on the men from whom the currency was seized. The claimant of the currency, Terrance Durr, has a 1996 felony drug conviction and a subsequent parole violation. Durr also has documented gainful employment–including an 8 year work history as a draft technician with Adam’s Beverage, an Anheuser Busch distributor.

The government presented no specific cognizable evidence of any drug transaction (or intended drug transaction) linking the currency to any specific illicit behavior. Durr presented evidence of why he had a substantial amount of cash on his person. The court found Durr’s evidence, and reasoning, unpersuasive.....

What the ruling appears to boil down to is

* Durr is an ex-con;

* Durr had a fairly large amount of currency;

* The police wanted his currency;

* The police found his currency;

* Police recorded a positive K9 alert on his currency and on his companion’s vehicle;

* The officer said that the vehicle smelled of alcohol and marijuana;

* Durr cannot prove that his money was not intended, or derived from, something to do with drugs to the satisfaction of the court; and

* Thus, the government has “proved” that Durr’s cash constitutes proceeds traceable to an exchange for a controlled substance.

This is utter nonsense. Durr may have intended to use the money for narcotics. Or perhaps he was going to do something else. We do not know. Nobody else knows either–except maybe Terrance Durr.

Durr presented evidence that he intended to travel to Atlanta, GA to negotiate with a bank on the imminent foreclosure of a dilapidated rental property that he owned. Prosecutors easily poked holes in the sensibility of his plan. However, they failed to offer evidence that the money was drug related–unless we are to assume that the means, a criminal record, and unreliable evidence meet the burden. Following this standard of proof would add a lot of forfeiture victims.

There are infinite possibilities as to how he got the money and to what he intended to do with it–whether they be licit or illicit. But reasonable jurisprudence ought to tether forfeiture to a showing of substantial connection between specific articulated criminal acts and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

AFR’s amicus brief will likely focus on the insufficiency of the nexus issue (that is to say, the complete government’s inability to establish a nexus between any crime and the seized cash and Judge Land’s breathtaking leaps of logic to justify the forfeiture).

Original report here

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

US judge orders piracy trial to test IP evidence

Illegal file download The case will test whether an IP address is sufficient evidence

A landmark case in the US will test whether internet piracy claims made by copyright firms will stand up in court.

Such cases rely on identifying the IP address of machines from which content was illegally downloaded as evidence of wrongdoing. Experts have questioned whether the IP address is sufficient evidence because it identifies an internet connection rather than an individual.

An adult film studio must take cases to court, a judge has ruled.

Malibu Media has instigated 349 mass lawsuits, 43 in Pennsylvania this year. Most of the cases are settled out of court.

In one lawsuit, five of the anonymous defendants protested when their internet service providers were ordered to reveal their identities. In a motion filed to the court they accuse Malibu Media of pursuing the cases "to extort settlements".

Judge Michael Baylson, of the Pennsylvania District Court, summarised their issues: "Among other things, the declaration asserts that the BitTorrent software does not work in the manner plaintiff alleges, and that a mere subscriber to an ISP is not necessarily a copyright infringer, with explanations as to how computer-based technology would allow non-subscribers to access a particular IP address."

He went on: "In other words... there is no reason to assume an ISP subscriber is the same person who may be using BitTorrent to download the alleged copyrighter material." Because of these doubts, he said that a trial was needed "to decide who's right".

Because an IP address is assigned to a connection rather than a device it is often unclear who is using it. It is also possible, if a householder has not secured his or her wi-fi connection, for a neighbour or passerby to use it.

The TorrentFreak news site, which first reported the news, said: "Without a doubt, the trial is expected to set an important precedent."

Increasingly copyright holders in the US have begun mass lawsuits against thousands of individuals accusing them of illegally downloading copyrighted material via file-sharing service BitTorrent.

By studying BitTorrent sites the copyright owners gather IP addresses linked to illegal files. Via court orders they force ISPs to reveal the identities of the owners of the computers.

The UK faced a similar case in 2011 when solicitor Andrew Crossley brought a trial against a group of alleged illegal downloaders.

The use of IP evidence was raised but the focus of the case became the way ACS Law had conducted itself, described by the judge as "amateurish and slipshod". Judge Colin Birss QC accused Mr Crossley of bringing the "legal profession into disrepute" and the case was dismissed.

Currently, UK-based Ben Dover Productions is pursing claims against 2,845 O2 customers accused of illegally downloading pornographic films.

Original report here

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

British detective suspended for solving a murder without following the rules to the letter

In a speech on crime yesterday, David Cameron [British PM] said he wanted to see “no-nonsense policing” and a law and order system that is “tough but intelligent”. Yet tell that to the family of the murder victim Rebecca Godden-Edwards, denied justice by the courts; or ask Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher of Wiltshire Constabulary what he thinks, as he sits at home after being suspended from his job despite finding Rebecca’s body.

The story of what has happened to Det Supt Fulcher would drive anyone to despair for the sanity of our legal system. He was heading an investigation into the disappearance of 22-year-old Sian O’Callaghan in March 2011. She was last seen leaving a nightclub in Swindon and hundreds of people joined the search for her after she was reported missing. The police quickly had a suspect: Christopher Halliwell, a taxi driver whose vehicle had been seen in the area.

Five days into the hunt, Halliwell was arrested. Det Supt Fulcher believed that Miss O’Callaghan might still be alive, so instead of following to the letter time-consuming rules for questioning suspects, he authorised an “urgent interview”, without the presence of a lawyer. As a result, Halliwell led police to the body of Miss O’Callaghan, whom he had stabbed to death and dumped in a remote area just over the Berkshire border. But Mr Fulcher was not prepared for Halliwell’s next remark: “Do you want another one?” He then took the investigation team to the exact spot in Gloucestershire, in the remote corner of a field near Lechlade, where years earlier he had buried the body of Rebecca Godden-Edwards. Three hours after being detained, he was then taken to Swindon’s police station and given access to a solicitor.

Last Friday, Halliwell was convicted of the murder of Sian O’Callaghan and sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum tariff of 25 years. But no evidence was offered in the case of Rebecca Godden-Edwards, because Mr Fulcher had failed to follow the strict guidelines for questioning as laid down in the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE). As a result, her family has been denied justice and the career of the detective who brought her killer to book hangs in the balance.

PACE rules were introduced for a very good reason – to stop the police browbeating suspects into confessions that turn out to be false. But there is something wrong when their inflexibility could put someone’s life at risk. Mr Fulcher had to act expeditiously because he did not know Miss O’Callaghan was already dead. What would people be saying now if Halliwell had stonewalled at a police station for 48 hours while his victim lay dying? Mr Fulcher would doubtless still be sitting in his office, having played everything by the book; but sometimes the book does not tell the full story.

In fact, different rules apply in fast-moving terrorism investigations and other circumstances where delays may mean the difference between intercepting a bomb and the deaths of dozens of people. As Mr Fulcher saw it, he was using these special powers to save a life, but he seems to have dragged them out too long. At a pre-trial hearing, the prosecutor, Ian Lawrie QC, told the judge that Mr Fulcher “had to balance the defendant’s right to silence and Sian’s right to life” and that “he was an experienced officer making a judgment call”. But Mr Justice Cox disagreed, calling them “significant and substantial breaches of the code in circumstances deliberately designed to persuade the defendant to speak”.

Well, of course he was trying to get him to speak: five days had passed since Miss O’Callaghan’s abduction and time was of the essence. The people who draw up laws such as PACE do not have to make the on-the-spot, life-or-death assessment that fell to Mr Fulcher. The upshot of the judge’s ruling was that the charge of murdering Miss Godden-Edwards was formally dropped on what would have been her 30th birthday. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is now investigating Mr Fulcher on two counts – the original breach of PACE guidelines and the release of information to the media, for which he was suspended by his force.

Like many of our public services, the police are hidebound by regulations that brook little in the way of common sense. PACE needs to be reviewed to ensure that if an officer acts in good faith in order to save a life or protect someone from injury then the evidence is still admissible. Either let the jury decide whether a suspect has been bullied into a false confession; or insist that other corroborating evidence must be available for a conviction.

Mercifully, the circumstances in which Mr Fulcher found himself are rare, but the old adage that hard cases make bad law is no consolation for the family of Rebecca Godden-Edwards, whose grief is compounded by the failure of the system to provide them with justice. They and Miss O’Callaghan’s relatives think the detective is a hero and he certainly appears to have been shabbily treated by his bosses. But more importantly, which police officer will not now think twice before doing what Mr Fulcher did? The next time a victim of crime may die as a result of the delay.

The legal system is supposed to protect not just the rights of suspects but also of victims. In his speech, Mr Cameron said that victims’ voices need to be heard “not just in court but in the heart of government as well”. Is anyone really listening?

Original report here

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Woman Slapped With Felony For Posting Photo to Facebook

A Texas woman has been arrested and charged with a felony for posting a publicly available photo of an undercover police officer to her Facebook profile.

Melissa Walthall, according to reports, retaliated against the officer for his testimony in a drug case against her friend George Pickens.

But it wasn't Walthall who set the officer's unveiling in motion. Instead, Pickens found the photo and his brother, Bobby Stedham, according to a federal affidavit, made garage sale-style signs that identified the officer, the Dallas Morning News reported.

It was a photo of one of those signs that Walthall posted, leading to her felony charge.

According to the affidavit, law enforcement learned of the Facebook post when a woman tipped off the Mesquite police yesterday (Oct. 14). The affidavit described the act as a “viable threat to that officer’s safety.”

The felony retaliation charge, however, may be baseless. According to the Texas Penal Code, retaliation occurs when "a person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly harms or threatens to harm another by an unlawful act."

If the photo was publicly viewable on the Internet, it may be difficult to prove that Walthall or Stedham broke any laws beyond copyright infringement — a civil offense — and that may even be a stretch, Pixiq pointed out.

Original report here

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

British rape detectives face tough new guidelines after rogue police officer sabotaged 13 cases

Police who investigate rape claims will be ordered to follow tough new guidelines after an officer sabotaged 13 sex crime investigations.

Ryan Coleman-Farrow, a former Scotland Yard detective, faces jail for allowing alleged rapists to escape prosecution and then forging police files to cover up his negligence.

His actions meant 12 women were robbed of justice and the chance of seeing their alleged tormentors put on trial.

Coleman-Farrow’s deliberate refusal to help victims once again puts pressure on Scotland Yard’s Sapphire unit, which is supposed to be the gold standard for rape investigations across the country.

Another detective from Sapphire is also under investigation for allegedly sabotaging rape cases in a similar way to Coleman-Farrow.

Yesterday the new head of the sex crime unit pledged to get tough on poorly performing officers. Detective Chief Superintendent Mick Duthie is introducing more ‘robust processes’ within his unit to avoid ‘repeating the mistakes of the past’.

He outlined a radical blueprint for combatting rape crimes. The chief is hoping to use licensing laws to shut down pubs and clubs where high levels of rape and sexual assaults take place.

However critics branded his plans as a ‘diversion’. A spokesman for Women Against Rape said: ‘These so-called prevention strategies are a diversion from what’s needed. We want thorough unbiased investigations and prosecutions so rapists are caught and convicted, and rape is discouraged.

‘Telling men not to rape will have no effect when the reality is that 93 per cent of rapes don’t reach conviction. Victims want their attackers prosecuted for rape, not for some unconnected crime. ‘What makes women vulnerable is that the authorities side with the rapist rather than the victim. Victims are disbelieved, especially if they have been attacked before.’

Coleman-Farrow, is expected to be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court later this month for failing to investigate rapes, pursue suspects or submit evidence over a three-year period. His activities left 11 alleged sex attackers at large.

The second officer, a detective constable who has not been named, is on bail until January while an investigation continues. He was arrested in June on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.

Colleagues claimed he had altered crime documents by inserting statements from the Crown Prosecution Service and senior officers to indicate that no charges were to be brought in rape and sexual abuse cases when no such decision had been made.

The officer was involved in 63 cases - 26 of which are continuing, and 37 in which he claimed the inquiry was completed.

Each case is being reviewed and at least two women have already been told by detectives that their cases are being reopened.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission - which was involved in investigating both cases - is also carrying out a third investigation into the working practices of the Sapphire following repeated concerns about the way it has been functioning.

The focus on Sapphire comes after senior officers claimed three years ago that it had been reformed following a series of scandals in which two serial rapists were left at large to rape and abuse hundreds of women.

Failures in Sapphire were exposed by the cases of John Worboys, a black-cab driver and one of Britain’s most prolific serial rapists, and Kirk Reid, a south London chef who raped and sexually assaulted more than 71 women over eight years.

Det Chief Supt Duthie yesterday pledged to increase supervision of his officers by restructuring Sapphire into five or six large regional teams.

He also pledged to reduce the ‘unacceptable’ 13 hours it takes on average for victims to be interviewed and medically examined after reporting rape.

When asked about officers who failed to investigate rapes properly, he said: ‘It is a big responsibility investigating rape. If we get it wrong, a rapist walks free. I don’t want that to happen on my watch. ‘It’s damaging to the organisation and damaging to the Sapphire brand. That’s why we are restructuring to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

One of his biggest challenges is the big fall in the reporting of rapes in greater London over the last year, which appears to buck the national trend.

Women’s groups blame a loss of confidence in the police due to the high-profile failures by Sapphire in the past five years.

Det Chief Supt Duthie said that although reporting of rapes was down, detections were up since he had taken over - with 330 men charged between April to September this year compared with 259 in the same period last year.

Original report here

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

British film director sues after being arrested and held in U.S. jail 'for three months without trial or chance to post bail'

British film director Duncan Roy is suing the Los Angeles County Sheriff after, he claims, he became 'lost' in the prison system for three months - with no option to post bail and no legal recourse.

The director was caught in what the LA Times called a 'Kafka-esque corner of America's immigration war', after his name was flagged up by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Despite having the means to post a £35,000 bail on an extortion charge, the director, whose best-known film is a semi-autobiographical account, 'AKA', instead became trapped in a vicious circle.

The County Sheriff would not accept bail until custom officers had cleared his records - but somehow Roy was lost in the system and a 'ICE hold', which normally lasts 48 hours, was never lifted.

Roy, who is recovering from testicular cancer, said he suffered a nervous breakdown during his 89 days inside. Four other plaintiffs are making similar claims against the department, in a lawsuit being filed by the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) today.

According to the LA Times, Roy was arrested on November 15 in Malibu on an extortion charge.

He was in the country legally - but was identified as a suspected legal immigrant when his fingerprints were put through the system.

When this occurs, all bail possibilities are held - which the ACLU breaks a 'fundamental principle' of justice.

But for Roy, it was worse, for while a hold should be a straightforward procedure, it turned into a three-month nightmare from which there was 'no escape',

It is claimed there are thousands of people who get trapped in similar situations - although the ACLU says in its suit that the holds system may itself have been put on hold in the last week.

Roy's arrest followed issues with the foundations of his L.A. property, after the director says he received a late-night phonecall saying his house foundations were faulty, reducing the property's value.

Further incidents led to Roy calling his ex-boyfriend and saying, as Roy tells the LA Times: 'I said: "You've conned me out of $500,000, and why don't you take the house back? I'll give you the house back for $500,000 - or I could just blog about what you've done to me.' I threatened to blog about him.'

The next day, Roy was called to the Sheriff's Department for a meeting - and was arrested for extortion.

While he believed his arrest was an over-reaction, instead he found himself on a 'never-ending Möbius strip', spending the first night in cell with no blanket while his lawyers scrambled to release him.

But Roy's bondsman, Morris DeMayo, said: 'The minute he got arrested, it was one weird incident after another. The jailer basically said, "We have an ICE hold, so we can't accept the bond." There was just a runaround.'

Two days later at an arraignment, the judge set bail at $35,000 but was told about the ICE hold, and Roy was remanded to county custody.

This was Los Angeles County's Men's Central Jail - which Roy said was 'theatrically unpleasant. 'You're being shouted and screamed at. You're not allowed to look anybody in the eye - you have to look at the floors at all times. It was an understandably barbaric situation.

There he claims he was left for long periods without food, and was kept incarcerated except for a once-weekly trip to a roof.

The rest of the time he spent in a small cell, awaiting news that never came, trapped in what the ACLU calls a 'legal dead zone' between the ICE and the Sheriff's office.

Jenny Pasquarella, of the ACLU of Southern California, said: 'A lot of time, when you talk to immigration about a person who is in custody, they say, "We can't do anything about it because the person's not in our custody. Talk to the Sheriff.". 'Then you talk to the Sheriff and they say, "We can't do anything about it. We didn't place the hold." 'They keep pointing fingers at each other.'

Roy, who says he is innocent of the charges, even debated pleading guilty after three months - during which Christmas and New Year passed him by.

Finally, an fellow prisoner told Roy about the Esperanza Immigrants Rights Project, a Catholic-based charity. He was able to make contact and: 'This woman literally turns up at the dorm, Susanne Griffin. And she's wearing a bright pink suit. 'She said: "My boss doesn't usually take individual cases, but I think we can take yours."

'They took my passport information to prove that I was here legally.' And 24 hours later he was free - because Griffin knew 'exactly who to call at ICE'. When she explained the situation, the hold was lifted.

ICE told L.A. Weekly: 'Because he had no prior criminal convictions and did not otherwise fall into ICE's enforcement priorities, the agency rescinded the immigration detainer and Mr. Roy did not come into ICE custody.'

Roy said: 'You are literally spat out of the jail. Then they pull you through a door, and you're outside. And it's the weirdest feeling. I'm on the street at 3 o'clock in the morning, waiting for the bail guy who's going to take me home.'

The LA Times said that Roy 'still seems very much in shock, speaking in a calm, almost disembodied voice that suggests the toll has not sunk in'.

He said: 'I still keep an eye on the roads in case a police car comes. I'm terrified they're going to take me back there.'

Ironically, the whole drama started when Roy prepared to sell his house for a move to Berlin. But, due to the charges, he now cannot leave America. But at least this time, his prison is a whole country and not a small Kafka cell.

Original report here

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Student is quizzed for eight hours by British police and charged with fraud after headphones he sold on eBay for £140 got lost in the mail

Presumption of innocence? Fuggedaboudit!

A medical student was arrested and held for eight hours, had his fingerprints and DNA taken and his laptop and mobile phone seized – because a pair of £140 headphones he sold on eBay went missing in the post.

Faris Quayum, 24, spent seven weeks living in fear that a conviction would mean the end of his medical career before prosecutors dropped the case at the first court hearing.

Yesterday, Mr Quayum accused the police and prosecutors of a 'scandalous waste of resources' and said he planned to sue Derbyshire Police over his ordeal.

'It was very stressful — a conviction could have spelled the end of my medical career before it has even begun. I have no previous convictions and I find it incredible how much money and resources have been wasted on this case – with Lancashire and Derbyshire police involved, plus my £1,500 legal fees, paid for out of legal aid because I am a student.

'Why would I risk my five-year university course – which costs me around £8,000 a year in accommodation alone – to make just £140? Why would I try to con someone? 'The whole affair is ridiculous. I feel like the victim and I plan to sue the police for what they did.'

Mr Quayum's ordeal began last May when he sold the Beats by Dr Dre headphones to a buyer from Lancashire.

The customer later told him they had not arrived and Mr Quayum, who is studying at St George's, University of London, offered a refund 'three or four times', on the understanding that he would be able to claim the value of the lost item back from Royal Mail himself.

He did not, however, alert the Royal Mail. The buyer refused to accept the offer and two months later two police officers arrived at Mr Quayum's family home in Littleover, Derby, where he was revising for exams.

He said they urged him to 'admit what you have done' and that the matter could be resolved by paying back the buyer. Mr Quayum refused and was charged with fraud. His bank statements were seized along with his phone and computer.

He said: 'Police knocked on my door and told me the matter would be quickly dealt with if I just admitted I'd taken the money and not sent the goods.

'The buyer specifically declined the option of paying an extra £15 to have the headphones sent by special delivery because he only wanted to pay £5 for normal postage.

'I've sold hundreds of items in the past through eBay and never had a problem. I've never ripped anyone off in my life.'

Mr Quayum's ordeal only ended on September 10, when he arrived at Derby magistrates' court to be told that witnesses had declined to make a statement and that prosecutors considered the incident a civil rather than a criminal matter. However, his laptop – containing his coursework – and other belongings were not returned for another five weeks.

A CPS spokesman said: 'Following a review, it was decided that there was no longer a realistic prospect of a conviction.'

An eBay spokesman said it worked with law enforcement agencies when necessary.

Royal Mail spokesman James Eadie said: 'We would always encourage anyone sending items of value, or where confirmation of delivery is required, to use the appropriate tracked service.'

Original report here

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

British Keystone Kop Tasers blind man

A "terrified" blind man has been hit with a 50,000 volt Taser gun after UK police mistook his white stick for a Samurai sword.

Stroke victim Colin Farmer, 61, collapsed to the ground in shock after he was hit in the back with the gun while walking down the street in Chorley, Lancashire.

Police had received reports of a man walking through the town armed with the deadly martial arts weapon and raced to the scene to hunt down the offender.

Meanwhile Mr Farmer, who has suffered two strokes and walks at a "snail's pace", was on his way to the pub to meet friends for a drink and did not realise anything was afoot.

He had no idea a police officer had mistaken his thin white stick for a machete and ordered him to stop before pulling the trigger on the Taser gun.

Mr Farmer cried out, "I'm blind! I'm blind!" while collapsed on the floor but was still handcuffed by the officer from Lancashire Police.

"The whole thing was like being trapped in a nightmare," he told the Chorley Guardian.

Mr Farmer said he heard shouting on the street but did not know what it was about and thought he was about to be "attacked by some hooligans".

He was then struck by the Taser and fell to the ground, dropping his white stick on the floor before a policeman handcuffed him.

He was taken to Chorley Hospital for treatment and was later released following the incident at about 5.45pm last Friday.

Chief Superintendent Stuart Williams, from Lancashire Police, said: "We received a number of reports that a man was walking through Chorley armed with a Samurai sword and patrols were sent to look for the man.

"One of the officers believed he had located the offender. Despite asking the man to stop, he failed to do so and the officer discharged his Taser.

"It then became apparent this man was not the person we were looking for and officers attended to him straight away.

"Lancashire Constabulary deeply regrets what has happened. We have clearly put this man through a traumatic experience and we are extremely sorry.

"We have launched an urgent investigation to understand what lessons can be learned and the matter has also been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission."

Mr Farmer is reportedly considering legal action against the force.

Original report here

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Justice System’s Imprisonment of Innocent Citizens

It is frequently said that a civilized people would rather let ten guilty men go free than put one innocent person in prison. I would revise the ratio, myself, yet we are starting to get a glimpse into just how often innocent people are convicted in this country.

Damon Thibodeaux is the 300th convict exonerated through DNA evidence. He is an innocent man who was threatened and intimidated into giving a false confession that never withstood a cursory comparison to the facts. Not only was he innocent, but one of the crimes to which he confessed—sexual abuse—appears never to have happened to the murder victim.

These releases have blown a hole in the myth that the justice system almost never damns the innocent. Some would suggest that the return of these individuals’ freedom shows the system is working—yet for years they have been deprived of their birthright of liberty, and rarely ever receive restitution . Moreover, many more remain imprisoned and are likely never to be released.

Thibodeaux’s ordeal reminds us that even when the facts appear to clearly prove the prosecution’s case, behind-the-scenes criminal justice shenanigans often obscure the picture seen by jurors. The Washington Post reports that among exonerations in the last five years, “as many as a quarter of the cases involved a false confession.” This might shock Americans who have never learned about the way police interrogators can psychologically manipulate suspects, breaking them down hour by hour, until the suspects no longer have any conception of reality or identity.

Research out of the University of Michigan indicates a 2.5 percent to 4 percent error rate in capital cases. And in June, “researchers examining biological evidence from hundreds of Virginia rape convictions between 1973 and 1987 determined that new DNA testing appeared to exonerate convicted defendants in 8 percent to 15 percent of cases.”

This means that for the 140,000 on death row or serving life imprisonment alone, “many thousands of innocent individuals could be in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.” In some categories of offenses, it would seem the U.S. is getting awfully close to an error rate that would mean letting everyone out of prison would satisfy the moral standard that imprisoning an innocent person is worse than letting ten guilty people go. This sounds crazy, but that is the degree of injustice our system has wrought.

Unfortunately, most innocent people will probably never be released, since the vast majority of cases resulting in DNA-based exoneration involve rape where there is DNA evidence to test. There are many more cases in which confessions and eyewitness testimony—two notoriously unreliable forms of proof—are the main ways prosecutors secure convictions. Compounded by the highly problematic reliance on plea bargains, and we see how things can get so awful.

It is almost a certainty that thousands of innocent Americans are behind bars, potentially subject to brutal conditions, violence, and very often rape. This of course does not even touch on those who are punished for peaceful acts that should not be crimes in a free society—like drug or gun ownership or illegal immigration—nor does it take account of the many property criminals who would be more humanely and justly handled through restitution to their victims rather than imprisonment; nor does it consider the hundreds of thousands imprisoned on petty parole and probation violations where no one was actually hurt. Maybe if the criminal justice system were only focused on violent crime, it could better ensure that fewer innocents were locked up, but even this would require eternal vigilance on the part of the people.

Despite the criminal justice system comprising one outrageous injustice mounted atop another, this gets very little attention in mainstream discourse. Why?

Perhaps it is because this reality poses a major inconvenience for the dominant forms of modern political ideology. The progressives believe government is more humane and efficient than the market, and if a system of checks and balances, due process protections, and unanimous jury verdicts has failed so utterly in protecting the rights of the innocent, it only demonstrates why we might not trust it with running education, protecting the environment, or guaranteeing health care to all. Modern conservatives, on the other hand, believe that, while government deserves suspicion in the areas of welfare and regulation, the criminal justice system is a proper role of government and that liberal criticisms have served to coddle criminals and weaken the state’s ability to protect the people from crime. Thus, they trust government with the unparalleled powers of execution and imprisonment where they would distrust it to run the economy or care for the needy. Yet on all fronts, government deserves much less trust, not more.

It is no wonder that almost any other issue is more likely to be discussed in the national debates than the horrible state of our criminal justice system. Countless innocent people are being abused and have had their lives stolen from them by overzealous prosecutors and police, biased judges, and jurors willing to give the state the benefit of the doubt. This one of the greatest injustices in modern American life and exposes the immoralities in pro-government ideologies that have come to dominate modern politics.

So long as this is the system we have, jurors concerned with actual justice need to become far more vigilant. The presumption of evidence means that prosecutors and police should not be given the benefit of the doubt, as they typically are. Independent Institute Senior Fellow Robert Higgs’s rule of thumb is: “whenever any government functionary, especially one connected with the so-called criminal justice system, makes a statement, presume that it is a lie. It may not be, of course, but unless overwhelming independent evidence is adduced in support of it, the odds are that it is a lie.”

This might seem cynical, but that is the proper attitude with which to approach the legal system. Only a principled skepticism can possibly keep the system functioning anywhere close to the ideal, where people are treated as innocent until proven guilty.

Original report here

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bungling British Fraud investigators

Bungling is British

Flamboyant property tycoons Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz could sue the Serious Fraud Office for £100million following the collapse of Britain’s biggest-ever fraud inquiry.

The brothers – who were arrested as they prepared to stage a champagne party on their yacht in Cannes – were questioned as part of an investigation into the collapse of Icelandic bank Kaupthing.

However, the inquiry quickly became bogged down in legal disputes which exposed procedural blunders by SFO officials.

Yesterday, in a humiliating climbdown, the agency dropped its inquiry into Robert, 52, just four months after ending its case against his 55-year-old brother.

Now Robert is threatening to join Vincent, who has issued a £100 million ‘letter before action’ over compensation. The claim would almost certainly break the agency, which faces questions over its future and ability to handle the most complex cases.

The brothers – who are said to have had a combined wealth of £4billion before the 2008 banking crisis – are renowned for their playboy lifestyle.

They bought their first property – a £47,000 one-bedroom flat in London’s Marble Arch in 1979 – after their father, the Shah of Iran’s former jeweller, gave them £1million with which to go into business. Just six months later, they had sold it for £73,000.

Before long, the brothers were major London landlords, renting out flats to students and tourists. Soon after, they founded their company, Rotch. The pair have continued to live a jet-set lifestyle. In 2010, despite reports that he lost £1billion in just 24 hours in the collapse of the Icelandic banks, Robert had allegedly commissioned a 200ft yacht.

In a statement yesterday, SFO director David Green said he has discontinued the investigation because there is ‘insufficient evidence to justify its continuation’.

The SFO moved in during a probe into the collapse of Kaupthing, one of three Icelandic banks which failed in October 2008.

The fraud inquiry was one of the biggest-ever seen in Britain, with a senior Tory donor, at least one multi-millionaire and a leading luxury property developer all being dragged into the net. They are now not under suspicion. At one point, investigators even considered sending undercover officers into the Mayfair nightclub Annabel’s to gather evidence.

The Iranian brothers, who once owned 1 per cent of all British residential property, were arrested in March last year after questions were raised over the circumstances in which they secured huge cash loans against their property portfolios while also being depositors. The close links between the bank and one of its major investors was key to a 2,300 page report ordered by the Icelandic parliament.

In July, the High Court set aside warrants against both Tchenguizes, after finding that they had been unlawfully obtained. A month later it ruled the agency had acted unlawfully and unfairly in its search of the Tchenguizes properties.

In a damning verdict two judges questioned whether the SFO was adequately funded and accused it of being incompetent.

Earlier this year it also emerged that the SFO had secretly offered to accept a £50million payment to charity from Robert in return for closing its investigation.

The climbdown is another setback for the organisation following a series of high-profile failures.

In 2006 the SFO caved into pressure by halting the investigation of alleged corruption at BAE Systems. Its cases against employees of DIY chain Wickes and Durex maker SSL also collapsed.

In a statement, Robert Tchenguiz said he ‘welcomed the decision by the SFO to clear him formally of any wrongdoing in the collapse of Kaupthing Bank’. He added: ‘I look forward to closing this chapter and getting on with business.’

An SFO spokesman insisted a closed case was not a failed case. He added: ‘It would be unrealistic to expect every investigation to lead to a prosecution.’

Original report here

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Three freed under an Alford plea now aiming for complete exoneration

Alford pleas are just ass-covering for the authorities

It was a case that stunned the nation including, it would seem, Johnny Depp. Few failed to be gripped by the gruesome tale of three eight-year-old boy scouts, killed in Arkansas almost 20 years ago, and the teenagers charged with their deaths.

Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin were sentenced to death in 1993 but have staunchly maintained their innocence ever since.

Last year they gained their freedom, with the help of the Pirates of the Caribbean star and other high-profile names who developed an interest in their case. The three became the subjects of a series of documentaries called Paradise Lost which captured Depp's attention and inspired him to help pay the legal fees to free them.

Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, musician Henry Rollins, and filmmaker Peter Jackson also contributed to the fund and the trio were released in August 2011.

They got involved in the case after reading Echols' 399-page memoir, Life After Death, penned from his death row cell.

Jackson has since produced another documentary, called West of Memphis, which premiered last month.

Echols and his two co-defendants stepped free from jail after agreeing to an Alford plea, allowing them to maintain their innocence while pleading guilty, though not fully exonerating them.

Echols still has three counts of capital murder on his record, he said, which has caused him trouble trying to enter Canada and will restrict his right to vote next month.

Exoneration is now his main focus as he works to rebuild his life in Salem, Massachusetts with his wife Lorri Davis with whom he will be promoting his book mid-November.

The first battle for Echols and his legal team will be to force the exposure of 200 pages of FBI documents connected tot he case that have never before been seen. They also want some pieces of evidence to be revisited, echoing claims made in 2007 that DNA taken from the crime scene did not match any of the three men convicted.

'I do know that they never had any physical evidence attaching me or [Misskelley and Baldwin],' he said.

'They actually had physical evidence putting [Hobbs - one of the murdered boys' stepfather] at the crime scene and we have several witnesses who have come forward who said relatives told them he did it.'

Aside from legal issues, Echols is still learning how to deal with his freedom, which has brought with it 'crushing anxiety and stress'.

He described how he 'constantly trips down stairs,' the result of spending 15 years with chains on his feet, and struggles to use cutlery having not been allowed to use knives during mealtimes.

'I have to learn all of that, sometimes over again,' he said. 'Now I’m just trying to find my way from point A to point B.'

Original report here

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Family torn apart by false cruelty allegations

Opinionated medical evidence again

A mother whose family was ripped apart after her partner was wrongly jailed for child cruelty has won a five-year legal battle to get her children back.

Jennie Gray’s children were taken away following accusations that her two-month-old daughter Ellie had suffered ‘shaken baby’ injuries at the hands of her boyfriend Ben Butler, the children’s father.

Butler, 32, was jailed over the allegations and forced to share a prison cell with a convicted child abuser.

His conviction was quashed after fresh medical evidence suggested Ellie’s head injury was caused at birth, and he was freed in 2010 after serving four months of his 18-month sentence.

But it took another two years for the parents to persuade judges and social workers that Ellie and sister Isabella should be returned to their 32-year-old mother, an artist.

High Court judge Mrs Justice Hogg praised the parents as she ruled the two girls should be allowed to go home to their mother.

She said: ‘The last five and a half years must have been an extraordinarily difficult time for the parents . . . [They] have weathered the storm. They have each been resilient and determined, and shown tenacity and courage.

‘I hope now that the record is put straight, that with their tenacity they will be able to put behind them those difficulties and look forward to a more positive future. I wish the parents well: they too deserve joy and happiness.’

The family’s ordeal began in 2007 when Mr Butler, a removal man, noticed Ellie had gone limp and was gasping for air.

The new father called an ambulance and the baby was taken to hospital and diagnosed with bleeding on the brain, bleeding in the eye and swelling of brain tissue –injuries typical of a ‘shaken baby’ who has been deliberately injured.

Mr Butler, from Sutton, Surrey, insisted he had not hurt his daughter and Miss Gray supported him. But the couple, who were not living together, were arrested and Mr Butler was charged with grievous bodily harm and cruelty, and subsequently convicted and jailed.

He described the ordeal as ‘horrendous’. He said: ‘I was put with sex offenders. I never spoke to the guy I shared a cell with – it’s like being put in a mental hospital when you’re not mental. It was just a horrible, dirty feeling where everyone is on a different wavelength.’

Ellie made a full recovery but social services took her and sister Isabella away from Miss Gray.

Ellie was allowed to live with her grandparents, Miss Gray’s parents, but Isabella was put into foster care and social workers said she should be adopted. Mr Butler’s conviction was quashed as ‘unsafe’ in 2010, but he and Miss Gray faced a court battle for their daughters.

Mr Butler was allowed to see Ellie only twice a year, for two hours at a time, at a social services contact centre, and Miss Gray was allowed to see her only six times a year.

Miss Gray said: ‘I was told at one point that if I went against Ben it would be to my advantage and I’d have more chance of getting my daughter back. It’s outrageous.’

Mrs Justice Hogg said Ellie, five, and three-year-old Isabella, should be returned to their mother. She added: ‘It is seldom that I see a “happy end”. It is a joy to oversee the return of a child to her parents.’

Original report here

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Chicago police terrorize law-abiding househhold

No apology and no compensation for damage they did

Paul Brown was working on his computer in his north suburban home when police smashed in the front door, pointed guns at and handcuffed him and other family members, and ransacked the house in a search for drugs.

The authorities had burst in immediately after a postal worker delivered a package to the home that they said contained marijuana. But a search of the house found no further contraband, and officers left without making an arrest.

Brown, outraged, said he was sure the cops had the wrong house. Police maintained they had the right place, but the target of their investigation wasn’t there at the time.

Brown, a 58-year-old who works in building design, said he supports law enforcement in general. But he said innocent bystanders shouldn’t be subject to such dangerous and damaging searches without any compensation.

“I was scared to death,” he said. “I really felt like a hostage. These guys are supposed to be on my side.”

The package delivered to the home in a middle-class neighborhood on Adelphi Avenue was addressed to someone named Oscar, who Brown said has never lived there and is unknown to him.

Brown would have liked police to pay for the $3,000 leaded-and-stained-glass door, lock and frame they broke, to clean up the mess they made, and to apologize. Police say that won’t happen.

Well of course that isn’t going to happen. Because the police aren’t on your side, Mr. Brown. They’re fighting a war. And you got in the way.

Sullivan did not release the complaint that states the evidence upon which the warrant was based, citing the ongoing investigation. But, he said, “we had a valid warrant, and it was a good search.”

After another member of the household accepted the package outside as he arrived home, officers knocked on the door and announced themselves, and waited an unspecified “reasonable” amount of time, as required by law before breaching the door, Sullivan said.

Brown disputed that, saying his 77-year-old mother-in-law was about 15 feet from the door but did not hear anything, and his two small dogs, who always bark when someone knocks, were silent.

Brown said the people who conducted the raid were dressed in SWAT-style clothing with black sweaters that said “police,” though at first he didn’t even realize who they were. He said they handcuffed and questioned him, along with his son-in-law, who had accepted the package but never opened it, and his son-in-law’s brother, who live in the house along with Brown’s daughter, wife and mother-in-law.

Notice how rarely the victims of these raids actually hear the knock-and-announce the police claim to have given? Going back to English common law, the entire point of the knock-and-announce requirement was to preserve the sanctity of the home—to give the occupants an opportunity to avoid the violence of a forced entry. Over the last 25 years or so, its purpose has changed to protect the police. Today, they announce themselves only so you won’t attempt to shoot them when they break down your door seconds later. The Supreme Court has ruled that as few as eight seconds between knocking and entering is sufficient. That’s hardly enough time for someone who is, say, sleeping to wake up and answer the door. And even if you could, the courts have also ruled that police can break down your door without waiting if they hear movement or see a light go on inside the house. The fear is that these could be indications that someone inside is arming themselves. Because the safety of police is more important than the safety of the rest of us, the fact that movement or light in the house could mean someone is merely trying to answer the door doesn’t really matter.

All of which means the centuries-old principle that the knock-and-announce requirement is necessary to preserve the home as a man’s castle and place of sanctuary . . . is as dead as Kathryn Johnston.

Sullivan said police have to enter such raids in a rush with overwhelming force, to prevent people from flushing or destroying evidence, and to prevent anyone from attacking police. Though Lake County MEG personnel have never been shot during such a raid, officers elsewhere have, and MEG officers have found guns next to dangerous criminals in the past, Sullivan said, making it a potentially dangerous mission.

Got that? Preserving a quantity of illicit drugs small enough to be quickly flushed down the toilet so the person in possession can later be prosecuted is a higher priority than not subjecting innocent people to having their doors torn down, physical abuse, and the terror of having guns pointed at their heads. Oh, and officer safety. Officer safety takes priority over everything else. Everything. Better a 77-year-old woman get rush, knock to the floor, and handcuffed than a single cop wearing Kevlar, holding an assault weapon, and carrying a ballistics shield be “attacked.”

He acknowledged that Brown might not be aware of any illegal activity by anyone in the house but said, “some people have secrets.” He added that police still expected to close the case with an arrest. As of Friday, Sullivan said there were no new developments in the case to report, and court records in Lake County showed no criminal charges filed in the case against members of Brown’s household.

Again, it’s about the priorities on display, here. Because one guy who may or may not be a relative of acquaintance of these people may have committed a marijuana offense, Sullivan sees nothing wrong to subjecting the entire family to the terror, violence, and danger of a tactical police raid.

“I understand when you walk away (without an arrest), that brings up a lot of questions,” Sullivan said. “But there’s a series of checks and balances … to make sure we’re doing everything right. We are concerned about the public as much as they are about themselves.”

So how did those checks and balances work out for Brown, his wife, his brother-in-law, and his mother-in-law? Let’s be clear, here. The “checks and balances” Sullivan is referring to here could better be called “formalities.” And when you tear down a man’s door, scare the hell out of him and his family, acknowledge they all may well be innocent, then refuse to repair the damage you’ve caused or apologize for what you subjected them to, “We are concerned about the public as much as they are about themselves” is so transparently false, I can’t help but wonder if Sullivan was smirking when he said it.

Original report here

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Friday, October 12, 2012

British cop befriended pedophile

A policeman sent a sordid 'joke' to a paedophile about raping a colleague and provided the pervert with a 'shoulder to cry on' when he was on bail for sexual abuse, a court was told.

As well as befriending sex offender Robert Meade, Paul Woollard also used a police computer to run checks on him - and is now fighting to save his career at the High Court.

Wiltshire Chief Constable, Patrick Geenty, is adamant that Mr Woollard must be sacked and is challenging the 'bizarre' and 'irrational' decision of the Police Appeals Tribunal (PAT) to order his reinstatement on the force and issue him with a final warning.

John Beggs QC, for Mr Geenty, told the court Mr Woollard had used his police email address to send Meade a series of explicitly-worded messages including one which read: 'Just waitin for the women to come and open up. I might rape her as theres noone else here (sic).'

Meade, who Mr Woollard knew through a shared interest in cricket and angling, admitted sexual activity with a 14-year-old girl at Swindon Crown Court in October 2009 and was jailed for a year.

Mr Beggs, in his written submissions to the court, conceded there was no evidence Mr Woollard knew about Meade’s crime when he sent the 'rape joke' email, but added that he had 'continued to associate' with his friend even after he was charged and on bail.

He had also committed flagrant breaches of the Data Protection Act by repeatedly accessing the 'Niche' police intelligence computer to look up details about Meade, the QC told the court.

Mr Geenty’s predecessor as Chief Constable, Brian Moore, had ordered Mr Woollard’s dismissal from the force but, in May last year, he was overruled by the PAT which directed he be reinstated and given a final warning.

Challenging that ruling, Mr Beggs argued: 'No reasonable tribunal could have imposed a sanction other than dismissal for an officer found gulity of such a cumulative litany of allegations which undermined public confidence in the reputation of the police service'.

Describing parts of the PAT’s reasoning as 'bizarre', the QC asked: 'How would a Wiltshire victim of rape react to learning that a sexual offences trained officer "joked" about raping a woman himself? Would that encourage her to come forward to Wiltshire Police?'

He added: 'How would a man on the Devizes omnibus view the fact that one of his local officers, on duty, is sending foul emails to an inappropriate associate, joking about home-made and barely legal pornography and masturbation.

'How would a local citizen respond to the knowledge that one of his local officers is lending a shoulder to cry on to a child sex offender on bail?

'What would the 14-year-old victim of Robert Meade, or her parents, or her friends, or other victims of sexual assault think of the police if they discovered that Mr Woollard accessed intelligence about Meade’s offence not for the proper policing purpose of detecting crime, but to check up on his friend?'

Hugh Davies, for Mr Woollard, conceded that his misconduct had been serious and that the court would be 'wholly unimpressed' by his behaviour. However, he had expressed remorse and the case did not concern his 'honesty and integrity'.

Urging Mr Justice Wyn Williams to find that 'a lesser outcome than dismissal' was acceptable, the barrister said the Chief Constable 'does not have a monopoly of wisdom' on what is and is not behaviour justifying the termination of a police officer’s career.

Emphasising that Pc Woollard had not accessed police intelligence 'at the direction of Meade', the barrister argued that the overall effect of the allegations he faced was 'misleading and prejudicial' and that dismissal should not be 'the default sanction' in such cases.

The language used by the PAT in condemning PC Woollard 'could hardly be stronger' and it had clearly not underestimated the seriousness of his misconduct, he added.

Mr Justice Wyn Williams has now reserved his judgment on the Chief Constable’s appeal until a later date.

Original report here

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