Friday, May 31, 2013

Officials: Man gunned down by FBI agent was unarmed

A Chechen man who was fatally shot by an FBI agent last week during an interview about one of the Boston bombing suspects was unarmed, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

An air of mystery has surrounded the FBI shooting of Ibragim Todashev, 27, since it occurred in Todashev’s apartment early on the morning of May 22. The FBI said in a news release that day that Todashev, a former Boston resident who knew bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed during an interview with several law enforcement officers.

The FBI has provided few other details, saying that the matter is being investigated by an FBI review team that may not finish its probe for several months.

“The FBI takes very seriously any shooting incidents involving our agents and as such we have an effective, time-tested process for addressing them internally,” FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said in a statement Wednesday. “The review process is thorough and objective and conducted as expeditiously as possible under the circumstances.”

The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Wednesday called for an independent investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Officials said the division and local prosecutors are already reviewing the case.

At the time of the shooting, Todashev was being interviewed about his possible connection to a triple murder in Waltham, Mass., on Sept. 11, 2011. Law enforcement officials said he had acknowledged involvement in the murders and had implicated Tsarnaev. Officials said Todashev was not suspected of involvement in the April 15 Boston bombing.

Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police four days after the bombing. His younger brother, Dzhokhar, was captured later that day and remains in custody.

In the statement about Todashev’s shooting issued on the day of the incident, the FBI said that an agent, along with two Massachusetts State Police troopers and other law enforcement personnel, were interviewing “an individual” in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing investigation when a “violent confrontation was initiated by the individual.”

An agent sustained non-life-threatening injuries, later described by one law enforcement official as “some cuts and abrasions.”

Initial reports citing anonymous law-enforcement individuals provided conflicting accounts of what happened. Some law enforcement officials said Todashev wielded a knife and others suggested that he attempted to grab the FBI agent’s gun.

One law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said Wednesday that Todashev lunged at the agent and overturned a table. But the official said Todashev did not have a gun or a knife. A second official also said Todashev was unarmed.

An official said that according to one account of the shooting, the other law enforcement officials had just stepped out of the room, leaving the FBI agent alone with Todashev, when the confrontation occurred.

The shooting followed hours of questioning by the law enforcement officials that had begun the night before.

Todashev’s father said after the shooting that he didn’t believe the FBI’s account of why they killed his son.

“My son could never commit a crime, I know my son too well,” Abdul-Baki Todashev, who lives in Chechnya, told the Daily Beast Web site. “He worked helping disabled people in America and did sports, coached other sportsmen. The FBI made up their accusations.”

Todashev, a martial arts fighter, met Tamerlan Tsarnaev in fighting circles in Boston before Todashev moved to Orlando.

Todashev’s family said he had a ticket to fly to Russia this month and planned to spend the summer in his native Chechnya.

Original report here

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Australia: Police may be charged over the death of Brazilian student Roberto Laudisio Curti

A NUMBER of police officers who chased, restrained or tasered Brazilian student Roberto Laudisio Curti could be prosecuted for their role in the fatal confrontation.

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) yesterday announced it had given a brief of evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions recommending that the DPP give "consideration" to prosecuting possibly as many as five police officers.

The PIC did not reveal the nature of the charges that could be laid or the identity of the officers who had been singled out for possible charges.

The brief of evidence was believed to contain witness statements including those from medical specialists, some of whom gave evidence at last year's two-week inquest into the death.

Mr Curti, 21, nicknamed Beto, died early on March 18 last year after he was chased by up to 11 police officers through Sydney's CBD for stealing, while high on LSD, two packets of biscuits from a convenience store. Once he was captured he was tasered nine times and up to three cans of capsicum spray were used.

The struggle ended when Mr Curti was found to be not breathing and with no pulse. Police then began CPR.

Mr Curti's family said last night they hoped the DPP would give it "proper consideration" as they were still dealing with the "awful images of Beto being repeatedly tasered and capsicum sprayed on the ground".

The family said they were disturbed by the fact the officers were still patrolling the streets "despite the Coroner's findings of recklessness and the Ombudsman's criticism of the critical incident investigation".

In November, State Coroner Mary Jerram delivered a series of scathing findings but stopped short of recommending charges be laid, instead recommending five officers face disciplinary charges. The inquest raised questions about the dangers of use of Tasers and Mr Curti's family blamed the police for taking his life.

The PIC said it would announce whether charges would be laid when the DPP has responded to the brief.Curti died while he was in Sydney to learn English. He was staying with his sister who is married to an Australian man.

It was the morning after a night out with friends celebrating St Patrick's Day.

Original report here

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

London Police Took 20 Min to Respond to Muslim Beheading, But Quickly Arrest 85-Year-Old British Woman for Islamophobia

Priorities, priorities. Witnesses claim it took London police 20 minutes to show up and stop the two Muslim killers. The official police narrative is something like 9 minutes for the unarmed police and 14 minutes for the armed police (those crazy Americans with their guns everywhere, really.)

But when it comes to something truly serious, like protecting Muslims from elderly British women, then the coppers were on the case.

“An 85-year-old woman has this afternoon been arrested after abuse was hurled at Muslims outside Gillingham Mosque. The pensioner was handcuffed and taken away in a van by officers attending the Canterbury Street mosque for Friday prayers. As worshippers gathered outside the venue, a woman at a nearby bus stop shouted: “go back to your own country”.

The arrested woman, from the Maidstone Road area of Chatham, was taken away by officers at about 1.45pm and is now in police custody. A Kent Police spokesman said: “An 85 year old woman from Chatham was arrested on suspicion of a public order offence.”

This woman survived WW2 and presumably learned all the wrong lessons about resisting fascism. But if she had been a Muslim beheading a British soldier, she could have just strolled away while the police took 20 minutes to come around.

And the same police that could not be bothered, when it came to protecting Muslims from angry Britons shouting things, then no expense was spared and no time wasted.

An extra 1,200 police officers were deployed on the streets of London after an impromptu English Defence League protest descended into violence in Woolwich, south-east London, following Wednesday’s terrorist attack.

EDL leader Tommy Robinson, was among a group of around 250 men, who gathered in Woolwich near the scene of the terror attack, chanting anti-Islamic slogans.

Mr Robinson told supporters: “They’re chopping our soldiers’ heads off. This is Islam. That’s what we’ve seen today.”

He added: “They’ve cut one of our Army’s heads off on the streets of London. Our next generation are being taught through schools that Islam is a religion of peace. It’s not. It never has been. What you saw today is Islam.

Well that’s a crisis. People are speaking the truth. Can’t have that.

If two Muslims butcher a soldier in broad daylight, the police will one day show up. But if 250 men chant that this sort of butchery represents Islam, then 1,200 officers have to be sent in to keep the peace. And by peace, we mean Islam.

In Bristol two men were detained following allegedly racist messages that appeared on Twitter following the terrorist murder. A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said two men aged 22 and 23 were being questioned over the incident.

He said: “The men were arrested under the Public Order Act on suspicion of inciting racial or religious hatred. They are currently in custody. Our enquiries into these comments continue.”

If the authorities had been similarly motivated to take in Muslims who incite racial and religious hated in the name of Islam, the attack in London would never have happened.

But why bother learning any lessons? Just shoot the messenger.

The spokesman added: “These comments were directed against a section of our community. Comments such as these are completely unacceptable and only cause more harm to our community in Bristol. “People should stop and think about what they say on social media before making statements as the consequences could be serious.”

Yes, do stop and think. You wouldn’t want to end up in jail for asking why the authorities are ignoring Muslim terrorism.

Original report here. (Via POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mother who spent 22 YEARS on death row for brutally killing son, four, to go free in days after judge finds she was set up by a crooked cop

An Arizona mother who had spent 22 years on death row after being found guilty of murdering her four-year-old son is set to be released.

Debra Jean Milke's guilty verdict was overturned earlier this year - but now prosecutors have failed to file an expected appeal meaning she will be released in just weeks.

Known as Death Row Debbie, 48-year-old Debra Jean Milke's was found guilty in 1989 for the gruesome slaying of her toddler son Christopher who was shot three times in the back of the head and dumped in the desert.

But a US Circuit Court of Appeals judge has agreed with her lawyers that ruled that the conviction had been due in part because of a crooked cop who had a history of lying under oath.

Milke's conviction was overturned on March 14th allowing prosecutors to launch an appeal to hold a retrial within 30 days. No application for a retrial has been filed which means she could soon be a free woman.

The move marked a surprising turn in a case that made national headlines due to the brazen and disturbing nature of the crime.

Prosecutors said in December 1989, Milke dressed up her son Christopher in his favorite outfit and told him he was going to see Santa Claus at a Phoenix mall during the holidays.

Instead, he was taken into a ravine in the desert by her boyfriend, Roger Scott and another man called Styers and shot three times in the back of the head as part of what prosecutors said was a plot by Milke and the two other defendants to collect a $50,000 life insurance policy.

Milke, who was not present at the crime, was convicted in 1990 of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, child abuse and kidnapping on the strength of testimony by Phoenix Police Detective Armando Saldate, who said she confessed to the crimes.

The detective testified that Milke told him she had contemplated having an abortion while pregnant with Christopher and had complained to Styers about her son.

Styers was hardly an ideal babysitter. He had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder stemming in large part from an incident during the war when he shot and killed a young Vietnamese boy who had climbed onto a truck transporting Styers and other Marines in Vietnam, according to court documents.

In his 1985 personal journal, now part of court records, Styers wrote: 'Losing sleep because of dreams in Viet-Nam [sic] Seeing kids including my own and wondering if I'm going to do something to hurt them, and remembering the ones I had to kill.'

With Christopher in the car, Styers picked up his good friend Roger Scott.

The two men did not take Christopher to see Santa. Instead, they drove Christopher into the desert, where Styers emptied three bullets into the boy's head.

The Phoenix police department's star interrogator, Det. Armando Saldate Jr., was called in on his day off to separately question the three.

In a matter of hours, Saldate had secured a speedy resolution to the horrific high-profile holiday crime. The detective said she confessed to conspiring to the murder, although she protested her innocence and denied the claim.

The three suspects were tried separately, convicted, and sentenced to die.

Milke would have been the first woman executed in Arizona since the 1930s had her appeals run out.

The Arizona Supreme Court had gone so far to issue a death warrant for Milke in 1997, but the execution was delayed because she had yet to exhaust federal appeals.

During her original trial, the prosecution failed to disclose information about a history of misconduct by Detective Saldate.

That record included multiple court rulings in four other cases that Saldate either lied under oath or violated suspects’ Miranda rights during interrogations.

Prosecutors are required to provide a defendant’s lawyers with material that might support a not-guilty verdict, including material that could undermine the credibility of a prosecution witness.

There was no other witness or recording of the purported confession by Milke, who has proclaimed her innocence.

In court proceedings and press interviews, Milke professed her innocence, claiming Saldate had a history of lying under oath and had fabricated her confession.

The trial amounted to ‘a swearing contest’ in which the judge and jury ultimately believed the detective over Milke, but they didn’t know of his record of dishonesty and misconduct.

The ruling reversed a US District Court judge’s ruling and ordered the lower court to require Arizona authorities to turn over all relevant personnel records for the detective.

In 2009, defense attorney Michael Kimerer said his client maintains her innocence and was a loving mother who still grieves her son’s death.

‘Our main concern is the fact that I have a client that never confessed and a police detective who said she gave a confession,’ Kimerer said then. ‘There was no tape recorder, no witnesses, nothing. Just his word.’

In March the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Milke's conviction in what Chief Judge Alex Kozinski dubbed a 'troubling case.'

He called into question what he said was Saldate's possible 'misogynistic' attitude towards vulnerable civilian women over whom he had power and noted Saldate had a documented history of lying under oath.

Kozinski's blistering 60-page opinion and other court records shed light on the alleged police corruption, prosecutorial overreach and judicial carelessness that fused into a miscarriage of justice that might have sentenced an innocent woman to death.

Milke testified she didn't know Christopher had died until Saldate informed her of his death in an interrogation room.

She said she was 'in shock' and 'reeling' but the detective moved close to her and put his hands on her knees.

She told the jury she hadn't understood her Miranda rights and had asked for a lawyer, but instead Saldate continued interrogating her and twisted her words into a fake confession.

'She was one of the worst witnesses I've ever seen,; recalls Phoenix journalist Paul Rubin, who covered the trial.

Although he destroyed his notes of the interview and failed to tape record it, Saldate testified that Milke confessed she worried that Christopher would grow up to be just like his father, a substance-abusing ex-con.

That's why she 'wanted God to take care of Christopher,' Saldate testified.

After Milke was convicted, her defense investigators spent 7,000 hours poring over court records.

They discovered eight separate cases in which judges determined that Saldate either had lied under oath or violated the constitutional rights of people he interrogated.

But Hendrix, the judge, still decided that Saldate was more credible than Milke

Court records indicate that neither Styers nor Scott would testify against Milke.

In overturning Milke’s conviction, the appellate court didn’t find her innocent. 'Milke may well be guilty, even if Saldate made up her confession out of whole cloth,' Kozinski wrote.

'After all, it's hard to understand what reason Styers and Scott would have had for killing a four-year-old boy.

Then again, what reason would they have to protect her if they knew she was guilty?'

Milke, now 49, was jailed the day after Christopher's death. She is one of three women on death row in Arizona and has been behind bars for 25 years and on death row for 22 years.

The two men convicted in the Milke’s case, Roger Scott and former Milke roommate James Styers, are also both on death row.

Scott confessed during a police interrogation and led detectives to the boy’s body, but neither Scott or Styers would testify against Milke.

Original report here

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Monday, May 27, 2013

A Prosecutor, a Wrongful Conviction and a Question of Justice

Edwin Oliva, a 29-year-old petty thief and drug addict, says he was a wreck as he sat in a chair in the Brooklyn District Attorney's office in winter 1995. A year earlier, he'd told police a lie that helped implicate a possibly innocent man in a murder. Now, prosecutors wanted him to repeat his story in court; he wanted to take it back.

Oliva says he had been on a crack and heroin binge at the time he'd made his initial claim, and that he told prosecutors he implicated the man only because of relentless pressure from police. A statement he had signed — asserting that he had heard a young man named Jabbar Collins discussing a murder plot days before a man wound up shot to death in a Brooklyn apartment building — was a fiction that detectives had fed him.

But the prosecutors, Oliva says, weren't having it. Collins, the man Oliva had fingered, had already been arraigned based in part on Oliva's word. Collins, then 21, was sitting in a Rikers Island jail cell awaiting trial, and the Brooklyn District Attorney's office was intent that he stay behind bars for a very long time. Oliva was going to be a critical witness, whether he liked it or not.

When Oliva refused to testify, the prosecutors, led by senior Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney Michael Vecchione, threatened to charge him with conspiracy to commit murder, Oliva says. Prosecutors then held Oliva for several days at Lincoln Correctional Facility, a minimum-security prison in Harlem. But Oliva held firm.

"I refused to testify to a lie," he said in a sworn statement submitted years later in federal court.

Vecchione's team, Oliva says, finally found a way to leverage him: Oliva was out of prison on a work release program, so prosecutors got the privilege revoked, and on March 1, 1995, Oliva was transferred to Ulster Correctional Facility, a maximum security state prison two hours north of New York City.

Oliva was brought back to the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office for a meeting with Vecchione's partner, Assistant District Attorney Charles Posner. According to Oliva, Posner told him that he could have his work release privileges restored if he'd testify against Collins. "I felt trapped and desperate," Oliva said. "And so I agreed."

Oliva took the stand against Collins, insisting that his testimony was not a result of any agreement with prosecutors. And Vecchione, in a powerful closing argument, vouched for Oliva's credibility.

"He saw something. He heard something," Vecchione told the jury. "Someone asked him about it. And he is telling what he saw and he is telling what he heard. Nothing else."

Jabbar Collins was convicted of murdering Abraham Pollack, a rabbi from the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, and spent the next 15 years in prison. But he eventually gained his freedom through a rare federal petition in 2010, one asserting that prosecutors and police had invented, distorted and withheld evidence in his case. And now Collins is suing for $150 million, naming the individual prosecutors and detectives as defendants along with the city.

Based on an assortment of prosecution and government documents, as well as a number of sworn statements, Collins and his lawyer have asserted a staggering array of misconduct on Vecchione's part:

Vecchione, they charge, coerced an illiterate drug addict named Angel Santos to testify against Collins by physically threatening him and sending him to jail for a full week. Vecchione, they claim, persuaded a minor drug dealer named Adrian Diaz to testify by chasing him down in Puerto Rico and helping him avoid violating the terms of his probation. In court, they maintain, Vecchione suborned perjury; he concocted cover stories about how Collins' family threatened one or more witnesses. And while Collins spent a decade and a half in a state prison, Vecchione oversaw an effort to deny Collins access to the information that might have freed him.

In a series of filings in state and federal court, the Brooklyn District Attorney's office has refuted Collins' claims of misconduct. Officials say Oliva was promised no deal for his testimony; Santos took the stand voluntarily; Vecchione took no special steps to protect Diaz in exchange for his testimony; and the office handled Collins' requests for records in good faith.

Today, Vecchione, 63, remains a senior figure in the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes. Hynes has stood by him, heralding Vecchione as a principled lawyer and an effective prosecutor. Both Vecchione and Hynes refused to be interviewed for this article.

Benjamin Brafman and Alan Dershowitz, two prominent defense lawyers who say they have known Vecchione for years, cautioned against concluding Vecchione was guilty of what has been alleged.

"These allegations are based largely on unproved claims made in an adversarial complaint," the lawyers said in a letter. "They have not yet been subjected to the full truth testing mechanisms of a judicial proceding."

"In our view," they asserted, "Mr. Vecchione has not been found to have committed any judicial misconduct."

A review of Vecchione's career shows that he has been a lightning rod for criticism for years. In a 1993 murder case, Vecchione was accused of withholding a cooperation agreement between himself and a key witness. State judges have chastised him for over-the-top behavior in court. Some defense lawyers, judges and former colleagues have said Vecchione is an all-too-willing lieutenant to Hynes, a loyalist interested in making headline-producing cases and then winning them at all costs.

Vecchione's aggressive pursuit of Clarence Norman, the onetime Brooklyn political kingpin, failed to produce what the district attorney's office most hoped it would — evidence that judgeships were for sale in Brooklyn.

Vecchione tried to prosecute a former FBI agent for helping arrange the murders of gangsters, only to have the case fall apart in embarrassment when it was revealed that Vecchione's chief witness was disastrously unreliable.

And just last year, a prosecutor leading a sex trafficking unit overseen by Vecchione resigned amid accusations that she had withheld a victim's recantation in a high-profile rape case.

For many legal experts, defense lawyers and advocates for the wrongly convicted, Vecchione is a prominent example of a troubling aspect of the American criminal justice system: Prosecutors who are implicated in misconduct often seem immune from meaningful punishment.

A recent investigation by ProPublica looking at more than a decade's worth of court records found that New York judges don't routinely refer prosecutorial misconduct to state panels that handle attorney discipline, even when they overturn convictions and upbraid prosecutors for constitutional violations. State disciplinary panels, when they do get referrals, rarely impose meaningful sanctions. The city's district attorneys lack the will to punish their subordinates, perhaps out of fear of embarrassment. All told, ProPublica found 30 cases in which judges reversed convictions based on misconduct by New York City prosecutors. Just one of these prosecutors was publicly disciplined.

The pattern is much the same across the country. The Northern California Innocence Project reviewed 12 years of court opinions and found that California prosecutors were hardly ever disciplined after convictions were overturned because of their misconduct.

Frederic Block, the federal judge presiding over Collins' civil lawsuit, has expressed something like amazement at Hynes' unwillingness to sanction Vecchione.

"I'm just puzzled why the district attorney did not take any action against Vecchione," Block said in court last fall. "To the contrary, he seems to ignore everything that happened. And an innocent man has been in jail for 16 years."

Hynes appears more willing to investigate detectives who might have helped make bad cases. Earlier this month, his office said it would review 50 murder cases handled by a single retired Brooklyn homicide detective. The action came after Hynes supported the release of a man who had been wrongly convicted based on the work of the detective, Louis Scarcella. So far, there's been no indication that Hynes' review of that case, or the larger case review, will extend to the prosecutors who investigated side by side with Scarcella for years, attending the same possibly suspect lineups, accepting the now supposedly dubious confessions, vouching for the witnesses Scarcella helped identify.

Collins' lawyer, Joel Rudin, is not at all surprised. Rudin has a long record of holding the city's prosecutors accountable. He's won millions of dollars in settlements from the city for wrongfully convicting people, and maintains a long list of cases in which prosecutors have broken ethics rules to win convictions, all without disciplinary sanctions. Often those prosecutors have been promoted after state and federal judges have excoriated their conduct.

Rudin's allegations against Vecchione and the office he works for are built on a formidable assortment of depositions, prison records, sworn affidavits and a review of state appellate court records. Rudin is scheduled to depose Vecchione on June 14.

Jabbar Collins — guilty or not — never got a fair trial. Two federal judges have declared it so. Both have been unsparing in condemning the conduct of Vecchione. Block, who is handling the civil lawsuit, has said in open court that he's eager to dig deeper.

"This was horrific behavior on the part of Vecchione," Block said. "We are going to have a civil proceeding, and all of this is going to be uncovered. I kid you not."

Hynes, meanwhile, does not seem outwardly concerned about Vecchione's record, or any damage it might have done to his office.

More here

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

The continuing forfeiture scourge

A federal crime wave is sweeping the nation, and prosecutors and G-men could not be happier about it. The Wall Street Journal reported that government “forfeiture programs confiscated homes, cars, boats, and cash in more than 15,000 cases [in 2010]. The total take topped $2.5 billion, more than doubling in five years, Justice Department statistics show.”

Beginning in 1970, Congress enacted legislation to permit the seizure of property of Mafia organizations and major drug smugglers. In succeeding decades, more laws were passed, expanding their scope far beyond organized crime. Federal agents can now seize private property under almost 400 different federal statutes.

In the old days, possession was nine-tenths of the law. Nowadays, gossip has become nine-tenths of possession. Under asset-forfeiture laws and regulations, thousands of American citizens are being stripped of their property solely on the basis of rumors and unsubstantiated assertions made by government confidential informants. Due process for property rights nowadays amounts to a policeman’s giving a citizen a receipt for the cash the policeman seized for no reason from the person — and allowing the citizen to sue the police department to get some of his money returned.

In the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, one of King Arthur’s knights stumbles upon a mob of peasants wrangling over whether a suspect is actually a witch. The leader of the mob proposes using the most scientifically advanced test available — checking to see if the accused witch weighs more than a duck. After the suspect fails the duck test, the joyful peasants drag her off to be burnt.

Justice has made great progress in the subsequent 1,000+ years. Nowadays, law enforcement is not allowed to seize a person’s life savings unless a dog wags his tail — or barks — or paws the ground — or otherwise shows a positive alert.

The Wall Street Journal last year reported the results of a Delaware drug sniff:

"Jorge Jaramillo, a construction worker, says he couldn’t afford a lawyer after more than $16,000 was seized from him last year in a traffic stop. “I had all of $20 left,” he says. In a Delaware federal-court filing, the Justice Department argued the money was related to drug dealing. It pointed to air fresheners in the car, which could mask the smell of drugs, and a fast-food bag containing cigar tobacco, which the filing said was often a sign that the cigar wrapper had been used to smoke marijuana. The filing also said a police dog had signaled that the cash carried residue of illegal drugs. Such “dog sniffs” are a common but controversial feature in forfeitures."

Jaramillo eventually got his money back — but only because one of the nation’s top forfeiture defense attorneys, David Smith, took his case on a pro bono basis. In most cases, defendants cannot afford the price of an attorney to fight the government to reclaim their property.

Federal judges have denounced dog sniffs as an unreliable test for drug trafficking at least since the 1980s. But federal prosecutors still invoke such tests to create a pretext to stuff the government coffers with private property. (The Supreme Court is currently deliberating on a case involving canine alerts.)

Original report here

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Farmer accuses police of acting illegally after they refuse to hand back shotgun he fired at thief

More bastardry from the British police. They HATE self-defence

A farmer, who shot at a metal thief as he attempted to get away in a van, has hit out at police after they refuse to hand back his guns. Bill Edwards, 21, says he has struggled to find work six months despite being cleared of attempted murder because his guns are the tools of his trade.

The man from Scalby, Scarborough claims the police have acted illegally by keeping his property.

He was arrested last summer on suspicion of attempting to murder scrap metal thief David Taylor after he shot at Taylor’s van, loaded with stolen metal from remote farmland at Whin Covert, Riggs Head near Scarborough in North Yorkshire.

Mr Edwards’ four shotguns and two rifles - worth at least £3,000 - were all confiscated when he was arrested last August.

When he was finally released from police bail on December 20, he was given a letter from North Yorkshire Police stating they were going to review his suitability to hold a firearms certificate.

He always maintained he only turned his shotgun on the van because he feared for the life of his mother Louisa Smith, 50, as Taylor sped towards her while he fled the scene.

Taylor claimed that he was simply trying to getaway because Mr Edwards was shooting at him. He was later caught by police in a nearby village after a high speed chase.

Mr Edwards and his mother caught Taylor and an accomplice loading stolen metal cables into the back of his Ford Transit after spotting that outbuildings had been tampered with. The thieves jumped into the van and drove it towards the pair as they desperately dialled 999 for help.

Mr Edwards fired his shotgun, which was loaded with lightweight rabbit shot, several times, hitting the van’s windscreen and bodywork. No one was hurt. Police eventually caught Taylor when Mr Edwards gave chase and gave a running commentary on his mobile phone. But the crook was only charged with metal theft.

The 39-year-old from Scarborough escaped with just a £100 fine for theft after claiming he had been ‘traumatised’ by Mr Edwards shooting at him.

His father Gary, 67, said: ‘It's ironic because when this first happened he was a local hero. The farmers who employ him were queuing up to offer him work.

‘But the police have his guns and his firearms certificate and it seems legally they can take as long as they like to reach a decision.

‘They are still treating him like a criminal for defending his own property and his mother.

‘Bill does not have any work and feels very badly let down by the police.’

Mr Edwards added: ‘They have also got my air rifle which doesn't even require a certificate to possess.

‘They are the tools I need and not having them is costing thousands as my crop is being eaten by pests and I could not have lambs this year without controlling vermin.

‘When I work for other farmers they also require me to control pests. Not being able to do so prevents me getting work and if I do it is low pay.

‘Clay shooting is, was also my main hobby and social activity.’

He argues that once his firearms were taken off him, the police no longer had any legal right to retain them. Legally, Mr Edwards could buy guns and ammunition because his certificate has not yet been revoked.

However, he would need to present his firearms certificate - which the police have also retained.

Mr Edwards added: ‘They are breaking the law. I am left very disappointed with the police as they have illegally held my property since August.

‘Since no further action was taken in December and the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] made a very positive statement regarding my case, the police still have not communicated their decision on whether I am still fit to hold the firearms I need.’

The national representative body for shooting sports, the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, supports Mr Edwards’ cause.

Senior Firearms Officer Matt Perring said: ‘A gun is absolutely essential to a farmer. ‘There is nothing like having your own gun to control the land. ‘Otherwise the land owner can ask anyone else with a shotgun certificate to do the job.’

He said employers needed farm workers who were trusted to carry guns to stop pests and vermin attacking crops. Mr Perring said: ‘Otherwise it's like asking someone to put up a fence with a broken arm.’

Mr Edwards said his family has lost thousands of pounds through theft and damage caused in a number of raids on their land.

North Yorkshire Police Professional Standards are still looking into a complaint from the family into how the whole case was handled.

A police spokesman said: ‘The investigation into Mr Edwards' complaint is still ongoing and so we are not yet in a position to comment.’

Original report here, (Via POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Australia: Guilty until proven innocent?

NSW Police repeatedly swear, scream and punch two men in a dramatic video allegedly filmed in a western Sydney park.

The arrests now form part of an internal investigation.

Reportedly filmed on May 4 at 12.44am in Bigge Park, in Liverpool in Sydney's west, the two-minute video shows a police car pull up in the park where a group of young men is loitering.

Officers jump out of a car and one of them grabs one of the men in a neckhold and wrestles him to the ground. The police officers yells: "D***head get on the ground."

A second officer suddenly runs across the park to where a second young man sinks to his knees. The officer grabs the man and yells: "Get on the ground. Get on the f**king ground." "Do as you are f**king told."

As the officer handcuffs the man's hands behind his back, he keeps yelling at him: "Don't f**king move."

Posted on YouTube on May 20 by a user named SydneyCamera, the video has comments that purport that the two men were later released without charge.

NSW Police issued a statement: "Police were called to Bigge Park at Liverpool on May 4 this year, following numerous reports of a violent brawl. The arrests now form part of an internal investigation and further comment is inappropriate."

Original report here

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Australia: Killer did the right thing: NSW judge concedes at last

When he saw a man holding a knife to a woman's throat, 72-year-old Keith Harold Allen made a judgment call and shot him. It was almost certainly the right thing to do, a NSW Supreme Court judge says.

The actions of Allen, who spent two and a half years in custody and is now terminally ill with lung cancer, were vindicated in court on Wednesday, when Justice Michael Adams handed down his reasons for acquitting the elderly man of murder last week.

Allen shot 35-year-old Todd Sutton in the head after Mr Sutton threatened to kill Allen's landlady and boss on a farm near Mudgee in NSW's central west on December 4, 2010.

The seven-day trial heard Mr Sutton chased the woman, who was his partner, around the yard with a blocksplitter - a type of axe - before cornering her in the kitchen and leading her outside, holding a knife to her throat.

Allen, who worked as a greyhound keeper on the property, fired two shots in quick succession, hitting Mr Sutton first in the shoulder and then in the head.

He then told the woman to call police, walked back to his caravan, sat down and had a beer before making his own triple zero call.

"There's no problem with me darling," Allen said in the phone call played during the judge-alone trial. "I'm sitting here calmly."

He told police he was distraught that he had taken a man's life, but that he opened fire to stop Mr Sutton cutting the woman's throat.

The crown case was that while Allen's first shot was fired in defence of the woman, the second was done with intent to kill, after Mr Sutton had let her go and was no longer posing a threat.

But Justice Adams did not accept Mr Sutton had let go of the woman after the first shot and said the evidence of a child who was on the property at the time was not reliable on that point.

He said Mr Sutton was "drunk and enraged" and Allen "made a judgment call ... that was so far from being wrong, let alone criminal, that it was almost certainly right".

"He acted from beginning to end to protect (her) from sustaining very serious injury and possible death and he did so reasonably, considering the means he had at his disposal," Justice Adams said.

Allen was convicted of three firearm offences but released from custody last week.

He was not in court for the judgment on Wednesday.

Original report here

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Different Sort of Bullying

David Friedman

There has been a good deal of talk in recent years about the evils of bullying and what to do about it. Almost all of what is discussed seems to be bullying of low status people by low status people, largely schoolchildren bullying schoolchildren. There is another sort of bullying that is unfortunately common in our society, arguably a more serious problem, and the subject of less, or at least less uniform, condemnation. Some examples are illustrated by two of my recent posts and one older one.

The first is anti-smoking rules carried beyond the point at which they can plausibly be defended as protecting non-smokers. My example is a proposed rule to ban all smoking from my campus. Smoking is already forbidden in buildings and, I'm pretty sure, near the entrance to buildings, so the proposal would have only a tiny effect on exposure to second hand smoke. I am a non-smoker, find cigarette smoke mildly unpleasant, and cannot remember having ever been significantly bothered by it on campus. The document circulated on the ban asserted a number for total excess mortality due to second hand smoke that I argued in my post on the subject was doubly bogus—it misrepresented the claim it was based on, and that claim was almost certainly based on cherry picked data. And, even if the number were correct, it would say little about the effect of the small additional reduction due to the proposed rule.

One motive for such a rule—whether it has passed or will pass I do not know—is probably paternalism, the theory that if you make smoking sufficiently inconvenient smokers may give it up. But I suspect that another motive is bullying. People, unfortunately, enjoy pushing other people around. Such a rule lets people who disapprove of smoking make life more unpleasant for those who smoke, demonstrating the power of the former over the latter.

My second example is the behavior of police officers. There are obvious reasons why police officers would wish other people to be deferential towards them, since the more extreme forms of non-deference can, in that context, be lethal. If the only people who talk back to them are criminals, mostly criminals about to attack them, that provides a useful signal of when to be on their guard. Making things unpleasant for people who demand a badge number (I once got arrested for assisting someone else to do so), point a cell phone camera at them, or in other ways fail to acknowledge their status and authority, is one way of getting that deference.

There are also obvious reasons why people in general want other people to be deferential towards them, making a profession which legitimizes the demand for deference and makes it possible to enforce it with the threat of death, injury, or prison, attractive to those with that taste. Which I think helps to explain the increasingly common pattern of unnecessary SWAT style raids, kicking in doors, pointing guns at innocent people and ordering them to lie on the floor, shooting dogs.

I do not think it would be hard to come up with other examples in both categories. People like pushing other people around. Doing so is generally safer and more effective when you have the power of the law on your side. One way to do so is to make rules or pass laws that make life harder for people you disapprove of, whether smokers, gays, or college students who get drunk and have sex. Another is to get a position one of whose perks is the right to order other people around—and, in some contexts, threaten, assault, beat, even kill anyone who objects, with minimal risk of suffering any criminal penalties for doing so. That includes TSA agents whose opportunities are limited to vandalizing checked luggage and ordering people to stand still while being patted down, and police officers with a wider range.

Original report here

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Australia: Man bashed by police to sue

A MAN allegedly bashed by police under the Surfers Paradise police station has launched legal action against the state of Queensland.

Noa Begic was arrested after a night out in Surfers Paradise in January last year and taken to the basement of the local police station, where CCTV footage appeared to show him being punched and thrown to the ground by officers.

The Courier-Mail posted exclusive footage of the incident on its website and all charges against Mr Begic were later dropped.

However, he has now taken legal action, engaging high-profile law firm Maurice Blackburn to sue the state of Queensland in a civil suit. He is believed to be seeking a six-figure settlement.

A close friend of Mr Begic said it was taking a long time for the mental scars to heal after the ordeal. "He was very anxious about police for a long while as you can imagine," said the friend. "He is trying to get on with his life and sees this as a chance to close the door on that chapter."

Two of the four officers allegedly involved in the incident remain suspended from duty while the Queensland Police Service's Ethical Standards Command runs its own investigation.

Mr Begic had been drinking with friends after finishing his shift at a Surfers Paradise restaurant when he was approached by police officers. He was arrested and taken to the basement of the nearby police station.

CCTV then appears to show a handcuffed Mr Begic being flung to the ground before being punched several times in the head by one of the officers as he is pushed into the back of a police wagon.

One of the officers is then shown pouring a bucket of water over what looks to be a puddle of blood on the basement floor.

Mr Begic was charged with being a public nuisance and obstructing police after he allegedly directed numerous loud and abusive comments towards officers patrolling the Surfers nightclub strip.

The charges against Mr Begic were thrown out last June. Mr Begic has also asked the Queensland Police Service to pay his legal costs from that court action.

The ethical standards investigation into the affair continues, while an investigation is also under way into an officer accused of leaking the CCTV footage to the newspaper.

Original report here.  (Via Australian police news)

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Freed from prison after wrongful conviction, man now “just enjoying life”

Nathaniel A. Johnson spent nearly four years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Recently exonerated, he struggles with questions of why police didn’t follow up on clues that would have proven his innocence.

In the days after Nathaniel A. Johnson’s exoneration for an armed robbery he didn’t commit, he shopped for new clothes, slept in his own bed and, on a whim, took a walk outside. “Just enjoying life,” Johnson said. After nearly four years behind prison bars and a razor-wire fence, Johnson is a free man and his name has been cleared. A judge recently set aside the guilty verdict that put him in prison. “I still can’t believe it happened to me, and I can’t believe it’s finally over,” Johnson told The Buffalo News. “There were plenty of times I wanted to stop fighting because it seemed like nobody was listening.” Johnson all along denied any involvement in the 2009 armed robbery at a North Buffalo convenience store. Thanks to some lawyers who did not give up and a family friend starting a new career as a private investigator, the case against the 44-year-old roofer and construction worker unraveled. But he still lost those four years.

Nearly two weeks have passed since his release. Amid his relief, though, are the nightmares about waking up back in prison.

And he wonders why God put him through the ordeal. “They say God does things for reasons,” Johnson said. “I still don’t understand why He let this happen to me though.”

Johnson, who friends know as “Tony,” was arrested four years ago today, May 12, 2009, and charged with using a gun to steal $3,000 from the Wilson Farms store at Delaware and Tacoma avenues around 4:30 a.m. April 23.

Early in the investigation, detectives had a key piece of information: a license plate number for the getaway car. An off-duty police officer happened to pull into the store parking lot as the robber sped away.

But when police ran the plate number, it came back to a car that did not match the description of the getaway car. Figuring it was the wrong plate number, Buffalo detectives focused on another lead. They discovered that Johnson, who resembled the description of the robber, frequented another nearby Wilson Farms, where his then-girlfriend worked the night shift. Johnson sometimes entered areas of the store considered off limits to anyone but employees.

Police showed a photo array that included Johnson’s picture to the manager of the robbed store. The manager identified Johnson as the robber.

During the trial, prosecutor Paul Michalek Jr. used Johnson’s regular presence at the other store to bolster the prosecution’s theory the robbery was committed by someone with inside knowledge of how Wilson Farms stores operate.

The girlfriend agreed to testify for the prosecution, and she told jurors that Johnson had commented to her during one of his visits that the Wilson Farms would be easy to rob.

The prosecutor did not disclose to Johnson’s defense attorney during the trial that the girlfriend had a drug charge pending against her. She was granted an adjournment in her case.

“She had her own charges, so she threw me under the bus,” Johnson said. “Whatever they wanted her to say, she said. She was manipulated by the district attorney.”

Trial testimony from the Wilson Farms manager proved pivotal. He identified Johnson as the robber.

“Once you have a positive identification, where a victim says, ‘That’s him,’ You’re in trouble,” said defense lawyer John R. Nuchereno, who did not represent Johnson at trial but later worked to set aside the verdict.

Jurors found him guilty. And that might have been how it ended, had it not been for Kathie Kuwik. A private investigator, Kuwik is a friend of Johnson who did not believe he was the robber.

“They had a suspect, and that’s all they were interested in,” she said. “They weren’t worried about getting to the bottom of it. They weren’t worried about getting to the truth of it.”

Kuwik sat through trial testimony and came away wondering why police had not looked more closely at the getaway car.

She also had received her private investigator’s license around the time of Johnson’s trial.

So she did some investigating herself. Testimony revealed the license plate number came back to a car used by a woman whose boyfriend also had access to the vehicle.

The boyfriend was Jabari H. Spencer. Kuwik learned he was being held in the Erie County Holding Center on charges related to two Kenmore Avenue armed robberies in 2009, one on June 10 and the other on July 3, just a few months after the Wilson Farms robbery Johnson was accused of committing.

During the trial, Kuwik went to the woman’s home, where she saw two cars in the driveway, including a green Mercury with the plate number that police had early in their investigation. The other unregistered car did not have plates on it. But it matched the description of the getaway car. “All he did was switch the plates, so it wouldn’t come back to him,” Kuwik said.

Too late for evidence: She rushed back to the courthouse to alert Johnson’s lawyer, Giovanni Genovese. But he had already wrapped up his closing argument. It was too late to introduce new evidence. “It was evidence that we unfortunately did not have at the time of the trial,” Genovese said. “At the time, we did the best we could with what we had.”

And Johnson was convicted and sentenced to prison. Vincent F. Gugino, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo, appealed the conviction.

The appellate court denied Johnson a new trial, but Gugino’s work helped pave the way for Nuchereno’s work. Gugino and law intern Patrick Sheldon dug into the Spencer connection.

Sheldon found photos of Johnson and Spencer and placed them side by side. Although Johnson is 15 years older, the two look remarkably alike.

“I’ve done this for 25 years, and I’ve never found somebody so innocent. It jumps out at you,” Gugino said.

Gugino was so convinced of Johnson’s innocence that he pushed the county’s assigned counsel program to find a lawyer to take the case a step further. That is how Nuchereno entered the case. Nuchereno cited in his motion the new evidence.

Assistant District Attorney Michael J. Hillery handled the appeal work in the Johnson case. When Hillery saw Nuchereno’s motion, he alerted District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III, who decided to take another look at the case.

Sedita assigned Joseph Riga, his chief investigator, to conduct what he called an exoneration investigation. Riga, the former head of the Buffalo Police homicide unit, completed his work convinced that Johnson was the wrong guy for the crime, Sedita said.

“I asked him, what are the chances Mr. Johnson is innocent? And he said 100 percent,” Sedita said. Sedita’s office joined Nuchereno in seeking dismissal of the indictment.

“It was clear as clear can be: This man was 100 percent innocent, and he maintained it all along,” Nuchereno said. “This is everybody agreeing this man is innocent. This is not a technicality. This is a finding of innocence.”

Judge criticizes prosecutors:

Nuchereno credited Sedita for not obstructing Johnson’s exoneration, but State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns expressed concern about how the District Attorney’s Office handled the case.

Before Burns granted the motion, he said he found the case “troubling.” And the judge noted that if Johnson had not brought the new evidence to light, the District Attorney’s Office probably would not have uncovered the injustice on its own.

“The investigation by the police and the DA was sloppy, and you’ve got flimsy identification, and they didn’t look at the car,” said Gugino, the Legal Aid lawyer. “They didn’t put two and two together. We named Jabari Spencer in our brief. We said, ‘This is the guy.’ ”

But Sedita said his office worked as quickly as possible to investigate.

A screening process implemented in 2009 to weed out prosecutions of innocent defendants before trial has resulted in “dozens and dozens” of exonerations, Sedita said. “Unfortunately, none of the screening methods worked in this case,” he said.

Sedita would not comment on whether his office would now charge Spencer with the Wilson Farms robbery. Spencer, 29, is serving time in Collins Correctional Facility for one of the store holdups. He was sentenced to 10 years on a first-degree robbery conviction and will not be eligible for release until 2018.

After the hearing, Johnson returned to Orleans Correctional Facility to retrieve his personal items and was supposed to be freed that day. But the prison did not receive a certified copy of the judge’s order, so his release was delayed until the next morning – yet another indignity in a cycle of them for Johnson.

Johnson said he does not harbor resentment toward those who helped convict him. He has not talked of seeking compensation from the state for the wrongful conviction.

“This has all been about clearing his name,” Nuchereno said. “He’s got his credibility back, and that was important to him. He will look into that, but that’s not his goal now. Right now, he just wants people to know.”

“I think we were more angry about it than him,” said Virginia Ackley, a woman who is like a mother to Johnson. “He knew we believed in him, and he knew he didn’t do it.”

Johnson lived for about a decade with Ackley and her husband, George, in a Riverside duplex, and since his release he has moved in with them again in their Cheektowaga home.

Johnson does not believe any amount of money can compensate him. “No matter what they give you,” he said, “it’s not going to bring back the time you lost.”

Original report here

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Is this nurse serving 30 years for murders that never happened? Compelling new evidence suggests 'Angel of Death' is innocent

To the judge at his trial, Colin Norris was an 'arrogant and manipulative man with a real dislike of elderly patients'. A cold-blooded serial killer, he had been convicted of murdering four elderly women – and almost killing a fifth – by injecting them with insulin.

For his crime he was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in jail. He is serving his sentence in the forbidding, maximum-security jail HMP Frankland, near Durham, alongside Soham murderer Ian Huntley.

Other inmates regularly contaminate his food with bodily fluids and sharpened foil from coffee jars that can be fatal if swallowed.

But now, compelling new evidence suggests not only that Colin Norris, the former nurse who was dubbed 'the angel of death', is innocent, it also hints that his 'victims' in two Leeds hospitals were not murdered at all – that they died instead of natural causes.

The prosecution at Norris's trial in Newcastle in 2008 said the women all died from hypoglycaemia, extreme low blood sugar, which causes the brain and other major organs to cease functioning.

It was claimed this condition almost never arises spontaneously – suggesting it was triggered by injections of insulin.

There was no direct evidence that Norris injected them with anything.

But it was argued that he was the 'common factor' in their deaths because he was looking after them all when they died. The odds against this happening by chance were therefore 'overwhelming'.

But now, a series of scientific studies has shown that hypoglycaemia often arises in elderly patients admitted to hospital for other reasons – in as many as ten per cent of cases.

At the same time, an investigation by Paul May, the veteran campaigner against miscarriages of justice, and Louise Shorter, the former producer of the BBC Rough Justice programme, has revealed that at least six women who were never looked after by Norris at all died from hypoglycaemia in the hospitals where he worked in the same period.

Yet Operation Bevel, the West Yorkshire police inquiry into the alleged murders at Leeds General Infirmary and St James's, took no account of these further deaths. Apparently officers were fixated on Norris as a suspect. Their chief superintendent had reviewed the Harold Shipman case, after which police were criticised for not catching Shipman soon enough.

Norris was jailed for life in 2008. Now 37, he has already lost one appeal which was fought on narrow legal technicalities.

But the fresh evidence unearthed by May and Shorter is now being 'actively pursued' by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which has the power to refer the case back for a further appeal.

Yesterday, speaking by phone from prison, Norris made a moving statement to The Mail on Sunday, relayed via his mother, June Morrison. 'All I want is for the facts to speak for themselves,' he said.

'I am not the angel of death. I am an ordinary man trapped in a living nightmare. I never killed anyone.

'My family and friends have stood by me, and for that I thank them from the bottom of my heart. But they have done so because they know the truth – not only that I am incapable of committing them, but the crimes I am convicted of never took place.'

Norris's 'nightmare' began early on the morning of November 20, 2002, when Ethel Hall, 86, a patient recovering from an operation to repair a broken hip on ward 36 at Leeds General Infirmary, was found unconscious. Mrs Hall had a long history of losing consciousness for mysterious reasons which had never been diagnosed, and had suffered from pernicious anaemia for 20 years.

In fact, she had passed out the previous afternoon, when she had been given oxygen and recovered.

This time, however, there was no reviving her. It was Norris, who was covering the night shift, who discovered she was suffering from severe hypoglycaemia, and she was given glucose injections.

Her blood sugar level returned to normal, but she did not recover, dying three weeks later.

Meanwhile, a lab in Guildford, Surrey, found that her blood contained a high level of insulin, which, it was claimed, could not have happened naturally.

The police began an inquiry. It was led by Detective Chief Superintendent Chris Gregg, who just 18 months earlier had reviewed the 22 West Yorkshire deaths associated with Britain's most prolific serial killer, Dr Harold Shipman.

Shipman is thought to have killed some 250 patients in his care by giving them overdoses of heroin. The Shipman case had made police extremely sensitive to possible murders by medical personnel because he had been allowed to get away with his crimes for years.

They decided Norris was a suspect on the basis of remarks he made to colleagues on the night Mrs Hall fell ill, claiming they were 'sinister'. Yet all they consisted of were statements such as, 'I don't think Ethel looks right,' and that he had a 'funny feeling' about her. None of his colleagues told police they believed he had contributed to her death.

On December 11, Norris was arrested, questioned and held for 29 hours. He answered all questions freely, denying that he gave her an insulin injection, or did anything else to harm her.

The first Mrs Morrison knew of what had happened to her son was when he phoned her after his release, on police bail. 'I couldn't believe I was hearing him right,' she said.' He was trying to be calm, but I came off the phone and had a good cry. Then we went down to Leeds to see him.'

The Guildford lab test was to be a mainstay of the case against Norris. Mrs Hall, it suggested, did have a high level of insulin in her blood. In some people this can happen naturally, but when it does, there is normally a high level of another substance, too, an enzyme called C-peptide – which was not present in the sample from Mrs Hall.

However, normally two tests should be done on separate samples to confirm such a result.

Moreover, the lab had breached its own protocols by conducting its single test on a sample taken from Mrs Hall after she had been given glucose – which, say experts, can distort the results.

Now, new evidence has emerged that she may have been suffering from a condition known as insulin auto-immune syndrome, which causes insulin levels to rise dramatically without C-peptide. There is a simple chemical test available which establishes whether this syndrome is present. It was not carried out.

But at least there was evidence that Mrs Hall's blood contained insulin. In the other four cases which the Operation Bevel team examined over the following three-and-a-half years while Norris remained on bail, all that could be said with confidence was that the patients had hypoglycaemia – these patients' insulin levels had not been tested at all.

More here

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Friday, May 17, 2013

The Persecution of Rita Hutchens

Sandpoint, Idaho resident Rita Hutchens is an opinionated 57-year-old quilt artist whose work has earned her international notoriety. Given that Hutchens is also an outspoken proponent of constitutionalist views, it’s possible that some people have taken issue with her political opinions.

Hutchens has never harmed or threatened another human being. Yet local officials, led by Bonner County Deputy Prosecutor Shane Greenbank -- an inventively dishonest official -- are trying to make a criminal out of her. Failing that, they might simply seek to have her imprisoned indefinitely in a psych ward.

Around midnight on April 16, three Bonner County Sheriff’s Deputies invaded Rita’s home while she was asleep and half-clothed on her living room sofa. The deputies were enforcing a bench warrant issued several weeks earlier after Hutchens had failed to appear for a preliminary hearing on a misdemeanor charge.

In Idaho, as elsewhere, it is exceptionally rare for police to serve warrants after sundown. In its ruling in the 2011 case Idaho v. Skurlock, the Idaho Supreme Court recognized that at night time people “have a heightened expectation of privacy that should not be disturbed by a knock on the door and the presentation of a search warrant.” In addition, executing a warrant at night “increases the likelihood of violence because nighttime searches cause an abrupt intrusion on sleeping occupants in a home, thus increasing the potential for a violent reaction from the occupants.”

The bold and valiant deputies who kicked in Rita Hutchens’s door at midnight acted in the serene confidence that they had no reason to expect a violent reaction on the part of their terrified victim.

The officials responsible for the Stasi-style midnight raid maintain that there was an element of urgency because she is suspected of a violent crime, to wit: battery on a city official at Sandpoint City Hall last August 12. If they are in a particularly creative mood, city authorities might embellish that charge by saying that it involved an impact weapon.

The implement of mayhem allegedly employed by Hutchens in the supposed assault on Deputy Clerk Melissa Ward was not a club, a set of brass knuckles, or throwing stars. It was a ballpoint pen.

No, really.

Furthermore, according to the sober and dutiful public servants who witnessed the attack, Hutchens did not hurl that potentially death-dealing projectile at Ward; instead, she threw it down on a tabletop, and the terrorized agent of the public weal was injured by a ricochet.

Somehow, Ward stoically fought through her trauma and finished her shift without being treated by paramedics. Significantly, although she did fill out a police report, Ward never swore out a criminal complaint.

Hutchens filed a subpoena demanding that Ward, the alleged victim, provide a sworn and signed criminal complaint.

Last November 14, the Idaho First District Court granted a motion by Sandpoint City Attorney Scott Campbell to quash that subpoena, ruling that “requiring Ms. Ward, the victim in this matter, to provide a signed complaint is unreasonable.”

What this means is that there is no victim of record in the August 12 “battery” incident, and no criminal intent behind Hutchens’s actions – unless, of course, Greenbank wants to pretend that this middle-aged woman deviously set up a bank-shot for the purpose of wounding the clerk. On the basis of his behavior toward Hutchens – another example of which we will examine anon -- I’m convinced that Greenbank and his comrades possess sufficient cynicism to make that claim.

The patently spurious nature of the charge against Hutchens is brought into focus once it’s understood why she had visited City Hall: She was there to review public records related to an incident in 2011 in which she was assaulted and illegally arrested by Sandpoint police officer Theresa Heberer.

At the time of her encounter with Officer Heberer, Hutchens was in the middle of evicting a deadbeat tenant (who, as it happened, had been arrested the previous day on outstanding warrants). She visited her property to determine if the power and water had been shut off. When Hutchens drove by the property – making two passes when she saw the renter talking with Officer Heberer – the tenant claimed that Hutchens had been “stalking” or “harassing” her. On the basis of that complaint from a manifestly unreliable source, Heberer got into her patrol vehicle and followed Hutchens to her home.

Heberer demanded that Hutchens submit to an interrogation. Hutchens, who didn’t want to be bothered by a police officer – what decent and rational person would? – replied that she had nothing to say, invoked the Fifth Amendment, and turned to enter her home. Heberer responded by committing criminal trespass, then compounded that crime by seizing Hutchens and violently throwing her to the ground.

When her supervisor arrived on the scene, Heberer claimed that the encounter began with a traffic stop dealing with an expired registration. This was a lie, of course. Seeking to find some charge to justify the criminal violence inflicted on Hutchens, Heberer and her supervisor pored over the statute book and eventually decided to charge the victim with “resisting and obstructing” a police officer.

That charge was entirely without merit – a fact recognized by Magistrate Judge Barbara Buchanan when she threw it out of court.

“There was no reason to touch her,” Judge Buchanan observed. “She did not have to answer [Officer Heberer’s] questions. She has a Fifth Amendment right not to do that…. You can’t be charged with resisting and obstructing for exercising your Fifth Amendment right, and she did have every right to say, `I don’t want to answer your questions, I want to go in my house.’ There is no basis for an arrest, there is no reason for a search warrant.”

Unlike Melissa Ward, Hutchens was physically harmed by Heberer’s assault, in addition to suffering the indelible injury of being handcuffed and unlawfully detained. She filed a $250,000 damage claim with the City of Sandpoint, which was rejected by Idaho Counties Risk Management Program. So she filed a notice of tort claim announcing her intention to sue the city for violating her civil rights.

It was in preparation for that lawsuit that Hutchens was researching public records at City Hall on August. As she did so, she was followed by a city official who carried a digital recorder and may well have been trying to bait her into some kind of actionable misconduct.

As Sgt. Riffel noted in his official report of the incident, “Rita Hutchens… has a fairly tense relationship with the City, and has pending lawsuits against them.”
Had he possessed a particle of moral discernment and a rudimentary sense of honor, Riffel would have recognized that the battery complaint was an act of petty retaliation against a citizen regarded as an irritant. His reaction should have been to shake his head in disgust, put away his notebook, and tell the “victim” and her cronies to behave like adults. But this would have meant defending the rights of a Mundane, which would be impermissible.

Accordingly, Riffel – acting in the interests of Tax Feeder solidarity – filed his report and swore out the probable cause affidavit.

The criminal complaint against Hutchens, which was composed by Greenbank, is a masterpiece of bureaucratic hyperbole. It claims that Hutchens “did willfully and unlawfully use force or violence upon the person of Melissa Ward by striking Ward with a pen, or, in the alternative, did actually, intentionally, and unlawfully touch or strike the person of Melissa Ward against her will by striking Ward with a pen.” This, sniffs Greenbank with the practiced pomposity of a pampered parasite, was a grave offense “against the peace and dignity of the State of Idaho.”

Ward suffered no injury. There is no evidence that Hutchens intended to do her any harm. By way of contrast, judicial notice has been taken of the incontrovertible fact that Officer Theresa Heberer did “willfully and unlawfully use force or violence” upon the person of Rita Hutchens in an assault that did injure the victim.

It is precisely because Hutchens is seeking redress for the criminal violence she suffered at the hands of Heberer and her comrades that Greenbank – acting on behalf of the local political class – is seeking to imprison her.

As his florid description of Hutchens’s purported offense demonstrates, Greenbank is a bit of a drama queen. This got him into trouble in his last gig, during which he afflicted the residents of neighboring Kootenai County. During opening arguments in a September 2008 domestic violence trial, Greenbank – who at the time was Deputy Prosecutor for Kootenai County – broke down in tears and theatrically asked for a tissue as he recounted the alleged crimes of the defendant.

This display left First District Judge Fred Gilber thoroughly unimpressed. Chastising Greenbank for trying to manipulate the jury, Gilber declared a mistrial. Predictably, Greenbank’s initial reaction was to lie, insisting that he hadn’t been crying and certainly had “no intent to appeal to the passions of the jury.” However, the trial transcript documents that he admitted, “I did have tears running down my face, I did have snot running down my face.”

Nor was this the first time that Greenback or his colleagues had sought to manipulate a jury. As he declared a mistrial, Judge Gilber pointed out: “In [a] recent case the Court of Appeals has singled out the Kootenai County Prosecutor’s Office for appealing to the passions or prejudice of the jury.”
For the last six months, Hutchens has been acting as her own attorney.

Greenbank, who has no appropriate credentials, claims that she has exhibited “unusually behaviors and affects – both in court and in her filings. It is evident that her mood is changeable, and her thoughts are disorganized.” He filed, and was granted, a motion ordering Hutchens to undergo a mandatory psychological evaluation.

Embedded in that May 2 order is a remarkable claim that was introduced by Magistrate Judge Debra Heise without a particle of supporting evidence. Listed among the examples of Hutchens’s “unusual behaviors and affects” was the act of “battering the assigned prosecuting attorney [Greenbank] outside of court when he served papers to her in the clerk’s office….”

That description would lead the untutored reader to assume that Rita Hutchens, a 57-year-old woman who stands about 5’1” and weighs all of 110 pounds, boldly attacked the intrepid paladin of the public weal in full view of witnesses, and somehow managed to avoid being dragged away in chains.

What actually happened was that Greenbank shoved a sheaf of legal papers in Hutchens’s face – and she replied in kind by shoving them right back at him. In other words, just as she had “battered” Melissa Ward by accidentally striking her in the arm with a ballpoint pen, she “battered” Shane Greenbank by pushing papers at him. Although this would hardly be enough to injure a child, it should be acknowledged that on Greenbank’s previous performance, trivial contact of this kind would be quite enough to make him cry.

It should also be noted that Greenbank’s sense of moral outrage over crimes of violence is oddly adaptable. While he is treating Rita Hutchens as if she were a public menace, last August he agreed to a plea bargain by a man accused of hog-tying one handicapped 12-year-old child, and choking another one. The assailant in that case agreed to misdemeanor charges that led to a total of two weeks in jail.

The May 2 order for Hutchens to undergo a mental evaluation specifies that Dr. Carl Haugan, a “designated licensed psychiatrist,” will file a report on Hutchens’s mental condition by May 23. If she refuses to cooperate, the order explains, “the report shall so state and shall include, if possible, an opinion as to whether such unwillingness of the defendant was the result of mental disease or defect.”

Judge Heise – whose trough is filled with a $107,043 annual salary plundered from more honest people in the private sector -- clearly sought to prejudice the evaluation by imputing to Hutchens, as a matter of record, “unusual behaviors and affects” as well as a tendency toward “violence” – as supposedly demonstrated in the two instances of “battery.” If, on the other hand, Hutchens refused to submit to an evaluation foreordained to find her incompetent, her refusal is to be taken as proof of her mental incapacity.

Not surprisingly, Hutchens has refused to play her scripted role in this cynical charade – in defiance of threats to have her arrested and jailed for defying the court order. If Hutchens were taken into state custody, it’s entirely possible that Greenbank would seek to have her involuntarily committed for psychiatric treatment. While thus detained, she would be unable to pursue her lawsuit against the City of Sandpoint – which is almost certainly the point of this entire campaign of official persecution.

Original report here

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Australia: Woman sues police after six months in prison

Arrested on an allegation. No attempt to check the facts

A south-west Sydney woman is suing the NSW police for malicious prosecution and false imprisonment after she was charged with intent to murder and jailed for six months pending a trial, only for the matter to be dropped due to a lack of evidence.

Palestinian-Australian Hayam Abed, 51, says she was the victim of false allegations, concocted by her ex-husband Khalil Younis and his new wife, Wafaa, which police had accepted without properly examining the evidence.

The NSW District Court heard this week that on the evening of December 8, 2006, after a series of ongoing and, at times, violent disputes between Ms Abed and the Younises, Mrs Younis rang the police.

She said Ms Abed had leapt over the six-foot fence separating their properties in Austral with a large knife.

Ms Abed then allegedly smashed and crawled through the bathroom window, before threatening to kill Mrs Younis.

Police arrived soon after and arrested Ms Abed, charging her with breaking and entering with intent to murder.

"I said to the police, 'Why?' " Ms Abed told the court.

"I said I want to change my clothes . . . I'm going to the police station in my clothes for the bed, but they refused.

"I screamed to the police, 'I need my headscarf!' They say 'no'."

She was refused bail and sent to Mulawa women's prison where she remained for the next six months until prosecutors advised all charges should be dropped because the evidence would not support a conviction.

In her statement of claim, filed by her solicitor Anthony Porthouse, Ms Abed said she was incapable of leaping over the fence at the time because she was suffering from two broken ribs, allegedly inflicted by the Younises the day before.

Police were allegedly made aware of this fact but failed to investigate it further until April the following year, when they obtained the X-rays showing the broken bones.

"You have got this sharp, six-foot Colorbond fence that this woman supposedly leapt over like Superman, not once but twice," Ms Abed's barrister David Higgs, SC, said.

The court also heard the broken glass from the bathroom window, which Ms Abed supposedly climbed through, was lying outside the house, suggesting it had been broken from the inside.

The knife Ms Abed supposedly carried had no fingerprints or DNA on it.

Phone records showed that at the time Ms Abed was, on Mrs Younis' account, breaking into her ex-husband's home, she was on the phone.

"If there is a lead that can bear on the possible innocence of the accused, it should be followed up," Mr Higgs said. "The police didn't follow it up."

Ms Abed said her time in prison contributed to the depressive disorder she now has, and is suing the police and the Younises for punitive and aggravated damages.

But the court also heard this week that Ms Abed and the Younises had been engaged in disputes, at times violent, since they divorce and Mr Younis returned from Palestine with a new wife. Ms Abed had been arrested by police and became the subject of an apprehended violence order.

The Younises maintain their allegations against Ms Abed are true.

The police will argue they acted properly in arresting and charging Ms Abed given the seriousness of the criminal allegations against her, and the subsequent investigation was run normally and appropriately.

Original report here

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Former British woman cop 'leaked confidential intelligence and tactics'

A former woman police officer allegedly disclosed confidential intelligence and tactics, a court heard today.

Rebecca Swanston, 28, of Hampshire Police, is alleged to have logged onto information systems including the police records management system and passed on confidential intelligence.

Swanston, who today faced three charges of misconduct in public office, also allegedly failed to report a man for possessing class A drugs, plus confessions to assaults and other offences.

Instead of upholding the law, she shared details with the intention of frustrating ongoing probes, detection of crime and the apprehension of offenders, prosecutors claim.

Swanston, who was based at Southampton Central Police Station, is alleged to have committed the offences over a 10-month period between January and October last year.

Swanston, from Portsmouth, appeared at Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court this morning for a brief hearing to hear the charges against her.

Dressed in a purple and black dress, she stood to hear the counts against her. Magistrates asked if she understood the allegations, from prosecutor Zoe Martin, and she replied 'yes'.

She denies wilfully neglecting to perform a duty as a holder of a public office from January 1 to October 18, 2012.

The allegations of misconduct include accessing intelligence on the records management system other than for a policing purpose, passing confidential police information to a Miguel Sewell and failing to report his possession of class A drugs and his confession to an assault with a weapon.

She also denies disclosing confidential police information to a Robert Morris, failing to report a confession, advising him about police procedures and giving him two police shirts.

The third count relates to accessing and leaking information and briefings about a suspect, Tariq Khan, to be passed onto him with the intention of frustrating an ongoing probe into serious offences.

Magistrates adjourned the case for trial and Swanston was bailed to appear at Winchester Crown Court for a plea and case management hearing on June 4.

She must sleep at her home address, not enter a given area and her passport must remain logged with Hampshire Police. These conditions have been in place 'for some time', the court heard.

Original report here

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Desensitization training: Police practice fighting “angry parents”

From time to time, I have been highly annoyed with the school that my daughter attends. I have set up meetings with teachers, principals, and administrators. I have brought in paperwork and pleaded my case on a variety of topics. I have made scathing remarks. Once, I even had the utter audacity to argue a point with the principal with my daughter right there in the room, which is apparently a no-no because it “undermined the authority of the principal”.

However, I haven’t yet gone on a rampage against which the police would need to come in and defend the school against me. They must do things differently in Puyallup, Washington.

Did you catch that? “The idea was to test the response of police and firefighters to a situation that was right out of the news headlines.”

What news headlines? I read a lot of news every day and these “angry parents” taking over a school at gunpoint, requiring SWAT intervention, somehow completely escaped my notice!

Well, it must be true, because the police officer in charge said, “We’ve been dealing with this across the country for years.”

Where? When?

It’s very obvious what this actually is. It is desensitization training.

de·sen·si·tize: "to make emotionally insensitive or callous; specifically: to extinguish an emotional response (as of fear, anxiety, or guilt) to stimuli that formerly induced it."

So, by this definition, they want to make it easier for normally moral people to perpetuate an attack on a group of people that would ordinarily not be their targets. They don’t want these officers to have hesitation caused by anxiety or guilt before unloading on an “angry” mom or dad at a school.

This is very similar to the recent scandal of the targets of gun owners that were supplied to the DHS in order to make it easier for them to fire upon everyday people. The targets included an elderly woman, an elderly man, a little boy, and a pregnant woman in a nursery.

Once upon a time, police were there to protect people like parents, children, the elderly, and pregnant ladies. But the lines are being drawn and great effort is being undertaken to create a new breed of villains for the “authorities” to fight – and those villains are us.

Original report here

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Florida Man Flees Seatbelt Stop on Foot, Cop Runs Him Over and Kills Him

Channel 13Channel 13Shortly after 12:30 a.m. this morning a Volusia County Sheriffs deputy saw Marlon Brown driving without a seatbelt, and attempted to pull him over. When Brown kept driving, the deputy gave up pursuit while reporting a fleeing vehicle. Almost immediately, reports the Daytona Beach News-Journal, officers with the DeLand Police Department (the county and city share a dispatch system) said they'd spotted the vehicle and began their own pursuit. What happened next absolutely should not have:

Two DeLand police officers got behind the car as it headed west on Beresford Avenue. Brown did not stop and made a left turn on South Delaware Avenue, a dead-end street that ends near an empty lot. Brown stopped the car and ran from it, as one DeLand patrol car stopped behind Brown's Toyota Camry. The other patrol car, driven by Officer Harris, drove past on the left of the other stopped patrol car and struck Brown, who was running, with the right front, Montes said.

Harris then ran over Brown, killing him on the spot, Montes said.

At the scene behind some apartment buildings at 901 S. Delaware Ave., tire tracks lead from the paved road into the empty lot for more than a hundred yards, running over bean plants and knocking down a chain link fence. This is where witness Sabrina Waldron said the car stopped on top of Brown.

Waldron said Brown's car pulled along the woods and stopped.

"There was no need to run him down," Waldron said. "After the car hit Marlon and landed on him the back end of it was up in the air."

The Deland Police Department is refusing to comment on the case until the Florida Highway Patrol concludes its investigation. The only information it's released at this point is that the officer who killed Brown, 25-year-old James Harris, has been on the job since August, has an otherwise clean record, and is now suspended. As for Brown: One explanation for his decision to not pull over may be that his license was suspended and he was on probation. But really: Chasing people over seatbelt violations? Isn't that a bit much?

This incident--like the one Brian Doherty noted in which a NYPD patrol car pursuing a dirt bike slammed into it and killed one of the passengers--didn't need to happen. But it seems DeLand police simply aren't very good at chasing pedestrian suspects.

Original report here

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