Sunday, June 30, 2013

Three British goons face misconduct charges after woman who was seven months pregnant was 'assaulted, stripped and handcuffed for 11 hours in cell'

Three police officers are facing charges of gross misconduct after a heavily pregnant woman claimed she was assaulted, left half-naked and handcuffed for 11 hours while in custody.

Lynette Wallace, 42, was seven-and-a-half months pregnant at the time and went into premature labour days after the incident.

Her baby Charna, now nearly two, was born 10 weeks early by emergency caesarean and was treated with a ventilator in hospital. Miss Wallace claims she now has developmental problems caused by her premature birth.

An Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation found an inspector and two sergeants 'had a case to answer' for gross misconduct charges regarding the amount of time Miss Wallace was handcuffed, while one sergeant was also accused of failing to help her get childcare for her other six children. It also recommended two other sergeants and two PCs face disciplinary proceedings in relation to the incident.

Miss Wallace's claim that the stressful situation caused her to go into labour early was not part of the investigation.

The mum-of-six, from Aspley, Nottinghamshire, was held on suspicion of blowing up a car in 2011 but charges were later dropped.

She was pregnant with her seventh child when she was arrested at her home on July 7 on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life and intimidating a witness.

She was taken to the force’s Bridewell custody suite in Nottingham where she claims she was told to remove her trousers, which she agreed to do.

After telling officers she had a history of self harm she claims they forcibly removed the clothing from her top half, cutting her bra off with a knife, The Guardian reported.

She was left handcuffed in the cell for 11 hours before she was interviewed and was then 'repeatedly punched in the arm by police officers' when she refused to be handcuffed again as she was in pain. She said: 'The police officers jumped on me and assaulted me and left me in handcuffs for 11 hours while I was heavily pregnant.

'The assault caused me to go into premature labour which almost killed my baby. I am extremely angry and want justice.'

Miss Wallace was also very worried about her children, as no-one was there to pick them up from school.

The next day Miss Wallace was charged with witness intimidation and arson and appeared before Nottingham Magistrates who remanded her in custody. She was taken to Peterborough Prison but started suffering cramps and bleeding.

An ambulance was called to the prison and she was taken to hospital where she had an emergency caesarean section on July 11, giving birth to Charna who weighed just 3lb 3oz.

Miss Wallace said: 'At one point, I wasn’t sure if she was going to live or die. It was a nightmare, I have never gone through so much stress in my life.'

The three police officers will face the charges at a gross misconduct hearing next month, where they could face dismissal from the force.

An IPCC spokesman told MailOnline it had previously decided not to refer the case to the CPS for criminal charges but it was now 'reconsidering'.

He said: 'The IPCC has independently investigated the treatment of a woman while she was in police custody at Bridewell custody suite in Nottingham in July 2011. Among the woman's complaints were that unnecessary and unreasonable force had been used against her and that she had been left in handcuffs for extended periods.

'At the conclusion of the investigation, the IPCC has recommended a number of officers face disciplinary proceedings and that that three police officers have a case to answer for gross misconduct.

'The IPCC is reconsidering an earlier decision not to refer its final investigation report to the CPS and will be discussing this with relevant parties.'

While a spokesman for Nottinghamshire Police said it had received the IPCC report in March and was acting on the recommendations.

'Until disciplinary proceedings, due to take place in July, are completed, and until the IPCC makes public its report, it would not be appropriate to make further comment,' he added.

Original report here

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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Australia: Battle to get police thug Arndt punished still ongoing

The Police service is protecting him. It's only a very persistent victim that is giving hope of justice

A POLICE officer who assaulted an elderly homeless man in a mall seven years ago has failed to stop the Crime and Misconduct Commission trying to have him disciplined.

Bruce Rowe was assaulted in Brisbane's Queen Street Mall in 2006 when some police officers pinned him to the ground and Constable Benjamin Arndt kneed him.

Constable Arndt was found guilty of assaulting Mr Rowe and fined $1000, with no conviction recorded, after a private prosecution.

After the CMC referred a complaint from Mr Rowe to the Queensland Police Service, an assistant commissioner decided Constable Arndt needed only "managerial guidance'', and there was no disciplinary action.

The CMC has applied to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal for that decision to be reviewed, on the ground that Constable Arndt should have been disciplined for misconduct.

Constable Arndt tried to strike out the CMC application, saying it lacked substance and the tribunal did not have jurisdiction to deal with it.

The tribunal heard when the CMC first investigated Mr Rowe's complaint, it found there had been an illegal assault and referred a report to the QPS for any disciplinary action.

In February, the QPS told the CMC that managerial guidance had been provided to Constable Arndt.

The officer was told no further action would be taken in relation to the complaint and no adverse reference would be put on his personal file, the tribunal heard.

Tribunal member Michelle Howard said the CMC Act allowed the tribunal to review specified decisions made about police officers if the CMC applied.

While Constable Arndt argued there had been no reviewable decision, Ms Howard found there had been a decision in relation to an allegation of misconduct regarding the unlawful assault.

On May 10, she found that it was a reviewable decision that was made within the appropriate time and dismissed Constable Arndt's application.

Original report here. (Via Australian police news)

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Friday, June 28, 2013

POLICE dog savaged boy, 10, as he played in his grandmother's back garden despite the dog being under police control

A police dog has attacked and seriously injured a ten-year-old boy while on a lead held by an officer.

Tom Cutbill was fixing a scooter in his grandmother’s garden when he was mauled by the dog, which was searching for suspected metal thieves.

Yesterday his father Martin said the attack left him ‘disgusted’ and ‘completely and utterly shocked and amazed’.

Tom spent three nights in hospital, where he needed surgery to clean up and treat puncture wounds to his right leg. Mr Cutbill, 40, said his son was now ‘starting to take his first steps on crutches’.

Speaking at the family home in Rowley Regis, West Midlands, the warehouse manager added: ‘My son has gone through a terrible time. There were quite a few puncture wounds and tears to the skin. ‘He’s had two operations, one to clean up the wounds to stop the risk of infection and the next one to seal the wounds.

‘We haven’t heard much from the police.’

Mr Cutbill and his wife, Alison, said they expected their son would be well enough to speak to police about the incident today.

The dog and his unnamed handler were searching for four men seen running off after allegedly trying to steal copper wiring at Oldbury, two miles away, when Tom was bitten.

The handler had the animal on a one-metre lead when it followed a scent into the garden of Tom’s grandmother, Bev Bakewell, 52.

Yesterday, she said what happened next was like ‘something out of a horror movie’.

The handler, thinking the garden was empty, bent down to look under a car on the drive to his right. As he did so, the dog – a German shepherd-Belgian Malinois cross called Shadow – bit Tom, who was shielded from the officer’s view by a garden gate on the left.

Mrs Bakewell said she heard screaming and looked out of her window to see ‘this great big dog which had hold of Tom’s leg’.

She added: ‘The police didn’t even give any kind of warning they were coming into the garden, no shouts of “Police” or anything, they just barged in. ‘Tom was lying on the grass near the gate and the dog just went for him.

‘That dog was still on the leash held by the policeman. ‘It should have been well under control. There’s no way the attack should have happened.’

West Midlands Police yesterday said Shadow’s experienced handler was ‘absolutely gutted’ by what had happened.

Chief Superintendent Chris McKeogh offered a ‘full and direct apology’ to the family, adding: ‘It is an appalling incident, but a very, very rare event.

‘I have never seen anything like this happen before. The handler had not seen the boy. If he had known there was a ten-year-old boy behind the gate he would have reacted differently to the situation.

‘The boy has suffered bites both above and below the knee. There is no doubt it was both a mentally and physically traumatising experience.’

Chief Superintendent McKeogh said that the following day Shadow and his handler passed a ‘rigorous assessment with flying colours’ and were ‘deemed to be OK to go back on duty’.

Chief Inspector Ian Marsh said: ‘We apologise unreservedly for what has happened.

‘Police dogs and their handlers receive intensive training and play crucial roles in the arrest of suspects day in day out. 'But on the very rare occasions where things go wrong, it’s vital we understand why and learn the lessons to ensure it doesn’t happen again.’

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating the incident, which happened on Sunday afternoon. A spokesman said: ‘The IPCC received a referral from West Midlands Police concerning a police dog biting a ten-year-old boy on Sunday.

‘After assessment, the IPCC has decided to supervise an investigation by the professional standards department of West Midlands Police. ‘The IPCC will agree the terms of reference for the investigation and be updated on its progress. ‘At the end of the investigation we will need to be satisfied the terms of reference have been met.’

Original report here

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

British businessman who claimed he was sleepwalking when he raped a woman while on bail for a similar attack is jailed for 12 years

The sleepwalking defense was a great racket for a while but seems mostly to be losing these days

A businessman who claimed he was sleepwalking when he raped a woman while on bail for an almost identical attack on another has been jailed for more than 12 years.

Gary Forbes, 29, of Houghton, Tyne and Wear, raped his first victim as she lay asleep in bed with her boyfriend after a party in October 2011, Newcastle Crown Court was told.

While on bail for the attack he raped a second woman at a house party six months later. Forbes pleaded guilty to the first rape but denied the second, saying he was sleepwalking at the time.

As a result the victim lived through months of delays, fearing she would have to give evidence in court, before he finally admitted his guilt.

Katherine Dunn, prosecuting, told the court: ‘The defendant had pleaded not guilty and had stated he was relying on a sleepwalking expert to support his defence he was asleep when he committed the offence.’

The court heard the case in relation to the second victim was adjourned on many occasions while Forbes pursued the sleepwalking defence, which he eventually dropped.

Miss Dunn added: ‘The complainant feels he manipulated the system and made her suffer more than she already was.’

Judge Simon Hickey told Forbes his sleepwalking claim and the resulting delay would have made the victim’s plight worse.

The judge said: ‘It impacts much more when the victim is anticipating having to relive the offence again in court. The significant feature aggravating the matter is you were on bail for a very serious offence on another woman.’

The court heard when the first victim woke up during the attack, Forbes claimed ‘she wanted it’.

When the second victim woke up during the latter, almost identical attack, he said: ‘Not again, oh no, not again.’

Both victims have said their ordeals have had an enormous impact on their lives.

Nick Lane, defending, gave the court references to Forbes’s previous good character. The court heard Forbes set up an IT business in 2010.

Mr Lane said: ‘The business struggled, like all new businesses do, and he began to drink and use recreational drugs as a way of coping with the stress he was experiencing at the time.’

He said Forbes, who has been the target of attacks by inmates while on remand, has had successful relationships, adding: ‘He is not someone who has entrenched, negative views towards women.’

Forbes, who pleaded guilty to two rape charges, was sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison and must sign the Sex Offenders Register for life.

Original report here

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

British Police blunders allowed rapist to escape justice for 16 years

Wendell Baker’s victim never truly recovered from her ordeal and died more than a decade before he was finally convicted today after standing trial for a second time under changes to the double jeopardy rules.

He was acquitted of the rape in 1999 after a judge ruled that the Metropolitan Police had unlawfully retained a DNA sample from him that linked him to the assault.

This decision was overturned by the Law Lords the following year, and the 800-year-old double jeopardy law, which prevented defendants from being tried twice for the same crime, was modified in 2005.

However, when Scotland Yard detectives reinvestigated Baker’s attack with a view to putting him on trial again, they discovered that they had lost the case files.

It was only by obtaining copies of the documents from his original defence solicitors that they were able to bring a fresh prosecution.

Baker, now 56, broke into the home of 66-year-old Hazel Backwell in Stratford, east London, in January 1997.

Demanding money, he tied her up with electrical flex and beat her so viciously that he broke her ribs before raping her and locking her in a cupboard under the stairs.

Miss Backwell could have died if she had not been found 15 hours later by a friend who noticed that her milk was standing uncollected on her doorstep.

She died in 2002 but helped to secure his conviction by giving evidence from beyond the grave.

In a statement read to the court, she said: “I just thought finish it, end it, get out. I just didn't know way was going to happen next. I thought I was going to die.”

An Old Bailey jury unanimously found Baker guilty after deliberating for just over an hour.

Adjourning sentencing to Friday, Judge Peter Rook told him: "This is the most serious of cases and it is my duty to consider if a life sentence is appropriate in your case."

Original report here

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Friedman 1988 Sexual-Abuse Conviction Was Justified, a very limited Report Says

Jesse Friedman, the Great Neck, N.Y., teenager whose role in a sexual abuse case a quarter-century ago was portrayed in the Oscar-nominated documentary “Capturing the Friedmans” and came to symbolize an era of sensational, often-suspect accusations of child molesting, was properly convicted and should not have his status as a sexual predator overturned, according to a three-year review that was released on Monday.

Jesse Friedman served 13 years in prison after he and his father, Arnold, were convicted of molesting children at their home in Great Neck, N.Y. His father committed suicide in prison.

In a 155-page report written with very little ambiguity, the Nassau County district attorney, Kathleen M. Rice, concluded that none of four issues raised in 2010 in a strongly worded ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit were substantiated by the evidence.

Instead, it concluded, “By any impartial analysis, the reinvestigation process prompted by Jesse Friedman, his advocates and the Second Circuit, has only increased confidence in the integrity of Jesse Friedman’s guilty plea and adjudication as a sex offender.”

The review concludes another chapter in a case that came to national attention after the 2003 release of the film, which portrayed both the breakup of a deeply troubled family and what was characterized as a flawed, biased police investigation and judicial process. The case led to guilty pleas in 1988 by Jesse Friedman, then 18, and his father, Arnold Friedman, who ran a popular computer class at his house on Piccadilly Road in the affluent Long Island community of Great Neck.

The report’s conclusion was not entirely unexpected, even by Mr. Friedman and his advocates, given the explosive nature of the charges, the impossibility of a definitive finding on many of the allegations more than 25 years in the past and the high bar for prosecutors to overturn convictions, especially those based on confessions.

Still, Mr. Friedman’s lawyer, Ron Kuby, and the film’s director, Andrew Jarecki, reacted with disappointment and anger, saying the report was a biased whitewash by the office that originally botched the case. Mr. Kuby promised to pursue appeals.

“D.A. Kathleen Rice has made a craven, but not surprising, political decision in failing to admit to the wrongdoing of the Nassau County D.A.’s office and former sex crimes chief Fran Galasso, in the face of overwhelming evidence of Jesse’s innocence,” Mr. Jarecki said.

Mr. Kuby said that the district attorney’s office had fought Mr. Friedman’s efforts at every turn and that this was just more of the same.

“My immediate reaction is that we have spent three long years in a pointless waste of time waiting for D.A. Rice to issue this report,” Mr. Kuby said.

“Fortunately, the conclusion of this bogus reinvestigation clears the way for the Friedman team to return to court based upon the new evidence we’ve collected as well as the increasing likelihood of obtaining the original case documents.”

The review led both to evidence supporting the conviction and to evidence suggesting it should be overturned. Perhaps most powerful for the defense was a detailed and chilling statement that it obtained from Ross Goldstein, a high school friend of Jesse Friedman, who was the only person other than the Friedmans convicted in the case. Mr. Goldstein said his confession had been a lie coerced by intimidating police conduct and the threats of a draconian sentence.

In its 2010 decision, the Second Circuit reluctantly upheld the verdict on technical grounds but harshly criticized the trial judge, prosecutors and detectives in the case. The court said there was a “reasonable likelihood” that Jesse Friedman, who served 13 years in prison before being released in 2001, was wrongfully convicted and suggested that Ms. Rice reinvestigate the case. Arnold Friedman died, apparently a suicide, in prison in 1995.

Yet Ms. Rice’s report, in all instances, found that the preponderance of evidence pointed toward upholding the conviction. And her report comes with a limited, but potentially powerful, seal of approval in a case that is also being played out in the court of public opinion.

When she began her review, Ms. Rice, a Democrat first elected in 2005, appointed a four-member independent advisory panel to guide and oversee the work. It included Barry Scheck, a founder of the Innocence Project and one of the country’s leading advocates for overturning wrongful convictions.

The report was prefaced by a four-page statement by the panel. It said its job was about process more than findings. It did not reinvestigate the case itself, and it was not given access to key documents like grand jury records and interview reports.

Still, it commended the investigation, and said that if the evidence had pointed toward exoneration, “we have no doubt the Review Team was prepared to recommend without reservation that Friedman’s conviction be overturned.”

The statement, signed by all four members, said it was not the role of the panel to make an ultimate judgment about Jesse Friedman’s guilt, but added: “We do have an obligation to express a view as to whether we believe the conclusions expressed in the Review Team’s report are reasonable and supported by the evidence it cites. We think they are.”

The report centered on four points raised in the film and by the appeals court: that the case may have been tainted by repeated police interviews that pushed children toward confessions; that children may have been hypnotized to recover memories not based on fact; that the case was distorted by a “moral panic” that created false accusations and a predisposition toward conviction; and that Jesse Friedman’s guilty plea may have been unlawfully coerced by the police, prosecutors and a hostile judge.

The review rejected them all. It said that though some interviews late in the case may have been flawed, the rapid pace and early flow of accusations from children in the classes indicated that the allegations arose from spontaneous accounts, not from investigators pushing children toward accusations. It said the first child interviewed reported improper behavior, 12 children leveled accusations of illegal sexual behavior at Arnold Friedman in the investigation’s first two weeks and, five weeks into the investigation, 13 boys described criminal behavior by Jesse Friedman.

It said, that despite one student’s account in “Capturing the Friedmans” of making allegations after being hypnotized, any use of group therapy or hypnosis came after all the indictments were filed. It disputed the one account of hypnosis in the film.

The review said the Friedman case was “in no way similar” to other notorious cases of its time, like the McMartin preschool case, which produced allegations of satanic ritual abuse of children but ended with no convictions. The review said that the children in this case were twice as old as in that one and that many victims complained of abuse early rather than through months of questioning.

And it said Jesse Friedman had competent legal representation, weighed his options intelligently and pleaded guilty after determining it was “the optimal strategy” in light of the available choices.

It cited other evidence damaging to Mr. Friedman’s case — students and parents who stuck by their accounts and added fuller details, a psychiatric evaluation conducted for his defense that labeled him “a psychopathic deviant” and a telephone interview with Arnold Friedman’s brother, Howard Friedman, in which, according to the report, he said: “Jesse is guilty and you’re going to ask me how I know. Because Arnold told me.” He said Arnold Friedman had confessed that both he and his son had “misbehaved” with children in the class, but it is not clear from his statements what that misbehavior might have entailed.

Still, the panel and the review team cited the enormous difficulty in getting to the truth because of the passage of time, incomplete and shoddy record keeping and faded memories. Participation was entirely voluntary, so only some of those involved in the case took part in the investigation. Only three original accusers repeated their accounts to the review team. And many of the figures in the case gave different accounts at different times, making evaluation difficult, the investigators said.

Most glaring of the conflicting accounts was the one given by Mr. Goldstein, who said that “every single thing” in his grand jury testimony had been a lie and that he had been “coached, rehearsed and directed” by a prosecutor and a detective to tell the story they wanted, which was devastating for Jesse Friedman’s defense. The review said his recantation was unreliable.

Ms. Rice said in a statement that “instances of wrongful conviction are real and exist in far greater numbers than any of us would like to admit.” But she added: “The case against Jesse Friedman is not one of them.”

Original report here

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Chicago: Wrongful Conviction Hearing thwarted

The anticipation was palpable in Courtroom 307 of the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building on Monday as Judge Maura Slattery Boyle ascended to the bench. Two prisoners had waited 20 years for this moment: a showdown with the Chicago cop they claimed had framed them, and the jailhouse snitch he had allegedly recruited for the job.

"Petitioner calls [Det.] Reynaldo Guevara," said Jennifer Bonjean, Armando Serrano's lawyer. Serrano and his co-defendant, Jose Montanez, eyed Guevara intently as he took the stand at an ongoing hearing to determine whether the prisoners should win new trials.

The retired detective had aged considerably since they last saw him at their 1994 trials for the murder of Rodrigo Vargas, shot as he left his Humboldt Park apartment for work. Guevara's wavy black hair had thinned and greyed, while his ample girth now rolled over his belt buckle. The trademark bling was gone. Guevara had lost his swagger, Serrano and Montanez thought.

But he was the same man who, they claimed in court documents, fabricated evidence that unjustly sent them to prison. Finally, the tables were turned in recent years when Guevara was accused of coercing witnesses to falsely testify in their case -- and more than 40 others.

Serrano and Montanez wondered what he could possibly say to rebut the damning evidence presented so far at this hearing on their claim of innocence. Turns out, not much.

"Mr. Guevara, are you currently employed?" Bonjean asked.

"I take the fifth amendment," Guevara replied.

"Did you ever coerce [witnesses] to provide false testimony against Mr. Serrano and Mr. Montanez?"

"I remain my Fifth Amendment rights."

"Did you give [a jailhouse snitch] money to offer false testimony?"

"I remain my Fifth Amendment rights."

Bonjean wanted Guevara to respond to questions about his alleged brutality that led a neighborhood teen to falsely swear he saw Serrano and Montanez commit the murder, about accusations by the widow of the murder victim that Guevara had blatantly lied to recruit her as a witness, and about the deals he offered a heroin addict to tell a tall tale that the duo had confessed to him. There also was the matter of a $21 million jury award against the city for Guevara's wrongdoing in another case. But Guevara persistently took five.

When prosecutors had no questions, Guevara lumbered from the courtroom, averting the glares of more than 20 family members of the prisoners.

After a break, Francisco Vicente, the State's star witness at the original trial, was called to testify -- for the defense. Vicente had alleged in 1994 that Serrano and Montanez admitted shooting the victim during an armed robbery. A decade later, he repudiated his testimony in a sworn statement to journalism students at Northwestern University, saying he had only become the State's witness because prosecutors gave him a sweet deal - six years total for three armed robberies that could have landed him behind bars for life. Guevara had brokered the deal, Vicente told the students, and regularly slipped him cash, cigarettes and clothing.

On the stand, Vicente's wiry frame, darting eyes and shaved head made him look like a hairless rodent. If he felt trapped, it was because the State's Attorney's Office has adopted a new policy -- to selectively bring perjury charges against government witnesses who recant their trial testimony. There was only one way out for Vicente -- to follow Guevara's lead in answering questions.

"Did you give false statements to Det. Guevara?" asked Russell Ainsworth, Jose Montanez's lawyer.

"I would like to exercise my constitutional right," replied Vicente.

"Which one?" the judge interjected.

"Uh, the Fifth," Vicente answered.

"Did you testify falsely at the trial of Armando Serrano and Jose Montanez?"

"I plead the Fifth."

Prosecutors asked about his original statements to law enforcement and if he had been "induced" by the Northwestern team to repudiate his trial testimony, but Vicente monotonously declined to answer any further questions. He was excused by Judge Boyle and scurried from the courtroom out a back door.

As Monday's proceedings came to a close, Bonjean renewed her claim of prosecutorial misconduct, revealing new evidence from the state's attorney's files that she said proved wrongdoing by the trial prosecutors. Bonjean had alleged in court pleadings that assistant state's attorney Matthew Coghlan "suborned perjured testimony" at the trial, and fellow prosecutor John Dillon "secretly and fraudulently secured" almost a year of additional time off for Vicente to which he was not entitled -- and failed to disclose this deal to the defense.

But prosecutors vigorously objected to hearing the claim, and Judge Boyle closed the colloquy by saying, "At this time, I do not see anything lending itself to prosecutorial misconduct."

The judge set July 10 as the next date to hear additional evidence in the case before she rules on the motions for new trials.

Outside the courtroom, Bonjean compared Det. Guevara to disgraced Comdr. Jon Burge, incarcerated for lying about torturing suspects on the South Side. She also wondered if cronyism was the real reason for not considering the evidence against the prosecutors: Coghlan is now a criminal court judge whose courtroom is down the hall from Boyle's, while Dillon is still an assistant state's attorney.

To sum up, two decades after the murder convictions of Armando Serrano and Jose Montanez, the lead detective and the lead snitch invoked the Mob's oath of silence while allegations of prosecutorial misconduct were suppressed.

It is a case of injustice and concealment that is staggering, even by Cook County standards.

Original report here

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Australia: Fat-assed Victoria police couldn't even be bothered by a DEATH

A Victoria Police investigation into the violent death of a patient at a state-run psychiatric hospital was "manifestly inadequate", with crucial physical evidence not collected and potential witnesses not questioned, a scathing report by the homicide squad has found.

Detective Senior Sergeant Sol Solomon described "catastrophic failures" of basic police investigatory procedures as he presented his report to the Coroners Court on Monday as part of the inquest into the death of Fred Williamson at the Austin Hospital's psychiatric unit in Heidelberg in March 2008.

"The deceased and his devoted family deserved far better service than they have received in this situation. Quality control processes … failed on all levels," Senior Sergeant Solomon said.
Fred and Roma Williamson with their son Fred.

Fred and Roma Williamson with their late son Fred, centre. Photo: Jason South

Mr Williamson, 52, was found in a pool of blood on the bathroom floor inside the locked room of another patient. He was found with a plastic bag covering part of his head and had suffered several injuries indicating a possible assault.

Despite Mr Williamson's injuries and the bizarre nature of his death, Heidelberg detectives and uniformed officers attending the scene determined on the day that it was not suspicious, concluding that suicide or misadventure was the most likely cause.

Their conclusion meant that neither the homicide squad nor forensic crime scene investigators were called to attend and potential witnesses, including staff and patients, were not interviewed. The room was cleaned soon after the incident, destroying any forensic evidence.

In 2011, Fairfax Media reported the Williamson family's disappointment with the police investigation and coroner Paresa Spanos's request that Senior Sergeant Solomon, then a 19-year veteran of the homicide squad, review the case.

Senior Sergeant Solomon told the inquest that his review had identified a "number of aspects" that did not support the suicide scenario. These included an assessment by Mr Williamson's treating psychiatrists that his risk of self-harm was extremely low, extensive blood spatter patterns at the scene, the fact that Mr Williamson had been recently assaulted twice by other patients and an autopsy report that showed injuries indicating possible assault.

He said important evidence, such as the plastic bag found over Mr Williamson's head, had not been collected or examined by forensic experts and had since been lost. A cloth towel reportedly found near or inside the plastic bag was also not examined and its whereabouts were unknown.

Senior Sergeant Solomon also found anomalies in statements by uniformed police regarding their claim that no footprints were at the scene when photographs suggested otherwise.

"I cannot reconcile or understand how the attending members could have come to the conclusion they came to [so quickly]," he said. "I have attended hundreds of crime scenes and deaths and I've never seen anything like this."

Senior Sergeant Solomon said senior police attending the scene had failed to show leadership and that Mr Williamson's family had received a "manifestly inadequate" investigation.

Two senior plain-clothes detectives who were called out on the afternoon of Mr Williamson's death were also strongly criticised by Senior Sergeant Solomon, who found they should have taken control and treated it as a potential crime scene. Police records indicate the detectives spent less than 40 minutes at the scene before leaving it to uniformed officers.

A uniformed junior constable was left with the task of preparing the brief for the coroner with very little or no supervision.

Ms Spanos said the inquest had heard evidence that a junior constable was given the job of preparing the coronial brief - her first- on the basis of a local police convention that deemed the officer who drove the car to the scene also did the paperwork. Senior Sergeant Solomon said he had not heard of such a convention and described it as "absolutely outrageous".

"With a shoplifting it might be OK, but you're talking about a man's death," he said.

Original report here

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ex-wife sues former husband over compensation for the 24 years he spent in prison for crimes HE DIDN'T COMMIT!

Police tunnel vision again

Steven Phillips spent 24 years in a Texas prison for a string of sexual assaults it was later determined he didn't commit.

For his decades of unjust incarceration, the state of Texas awarded him nearly $6million in compensation after his August, 2009 release, which is in accordance with a relatively new Texas law that specifies the amount of compensation exonerated prisoners are to receive.

Then came the legal bills - his attorneys charged him more than $1million for work they claim to have done to lobby Texas lawmakers to increase the amount of compensation for exonerees.

Then came his ex-wife.

Phillips and his former bride, Traci Tucker, were expecting their first child in 1982, when Phillips was first charged in the case that ultimately would send him to prison for more than two decades. They divorced nearly 10 years later, in 1992, after Phillips says they 'grew apart.'

Now the two are engaged in an ongoing legal battle over compensation she claims she is owed for wages lost by her former husband's incarceration. “He was a victim of a wrongful justice system, and his family was also,” Tucker tells the Texas Tribune.

Last year, a Dallas County judge awarded Tucker more than $150,000 of Phillips' compensation, a ruling Phillips has since appealed.

The case is likely headed to the Texas Supreme Court, where justices will determine what - if any - sort of compensation former spouses of exonerated prisoners should receive.

In 2009, the Texas Legislature passed the Tim Cole Act, which raised the compensation for exonerated prisoners to $160,000 for each year a person was wrongfully imprisoned. For the 24 years Phillips spent behind bars, he received a lump-sum payment of more than $2million. Additionally, he will receive a monthly annuity of about $11,000, as well as medical and education benefits from the state.

But Phillips contends that the compensation is not for lost wages. Rather, he claims in his appeal, it's a mandatory payment he is owed under the law for his time spent behind bars.

Texas state Senator Rodney Ellis, one of the architects of the Tim Cole Act, seems to agree.

In an affidavit filed in the case, Ellis writes that the legislature never intended to compensate exonerees for lost wages; otherwise it would have been based on their income prior to their incarceration and be subject to taxes (as the law is written, compensation for exonerees is tax-free).

Ellis notes that the Legislature recognized that a man cannot support his children while in prison, which is 'we drafted the compensation statute to include any child support payments and interest on child support arrearage that are owed by the exoneree.'

The affidavit was not allowed into evidence.

Another of the law's architects, state Senator Rafael Anchia, says lawmakers had failed to consider former spouses of exonerees when drafting the law. 'This is an example of the law of unintended consequences,' he says 'We did not think about entitlement by spouses who had become divorced from these innocent men while they were in prison.'

Regardless of the law, Tucker says she had every intention of sticking it out with Phillips while he was in prison. “To me, marriage was for life, and I was going to be with him forever, and we were going to get through this — or so I thought,” she says.

Prior to the divorce, Tucker claims she visited Phillips frequently and provided him with money to buy things in the prison's commissary. At his trial, Tucker was Phillips' star witness.

The string of sexual assaults for which Phillips was wrongly convicted happened in 1982. Several women were attacked and forced to perform sex acts at gun point. At least two of the victims wrongly identified Phillips.

Tucker provided Phillips' alibi, testifying that he couldn't be the person committing the assaults because she was with him when some of the assaults took place.

Phillips was convicted anyway and sentenced to two 30-year prison sentences. He subsequently pleaded guilty to several other, similar crimes to avoid what would likely have been a life sentence had he been found guilty.

In 2001, Phillips began learning about DNA and - with the help of the Innocence Project - was able to have his DNA tested against DNA found at the scenes of crimes supposedly committed by him. The DNA didn't match. However, it did match a convicted sex criminal Sydney Alvin Goodyear.

'This is one of the worst cases of tunnel vision we’ve ever seen. Police seized on Steven Phillips as a suspect and refused to see mounting evidence that someone else actually committed these crimes,' said Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck. 'Sidney Goodyear was a one-man crime spree who could have been stopped much sooner if police had followed the evidence instead of locking onto an innocent man.'

After the Dallas crimes for which Phillips was wrongfully convicted, Goodyear committed at least 16 other sexual assaults and related offenses in multiple states.

Of the lawsuit and inflated bill from his attorneys, Phillips - who says he has no ill-will against his ex - sums his situation up as follows: 'When the cheese is on the table, the rats come out.'

Original report here

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Friday, June 21, 2013

British police acted unlawfully at demonstration by filming woman and asking for her personal details

A woman 'kettled' by police, before being filmed and told to hand over personal details during a 2011 trade union rally was treated unlawfully, the High Court said today.

The Metropolitan Police argued they were legally entitled to obtain, and retain, the information for crime prevention purposes before allowing Susannah Mengesha to leave.

But Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Wyn Williams, sitting in London, ruled they had acted outside their powers.

Scotland Yard will now have to delete any records of Miss Mengesha taken at the demo, including on film and camera.

'The absence of any statutory power to obtain identification in the circumstances in this case establishes conclusively the unlawfulness of the police action in requiring (Ms Mengesha) to be filmed and give her name and address and date of birth before she was released from containment,' Justice Moses said.

Ms Mengesha, a law graduate and caseworker at the Bar Pro Bono Unit, was corralled in a crowd of protesters for two hours on November 30 2011 at a trade union march against public sector pension cuts. She was acting as a legal observer.

The march, which started at Lincoln's Inn Fields in central London, proceeded to Piccadilly Circus in the West End.

Some of the crowd, including Ms Mengesha, were blocked in at nearby Panton Street. Police said the containment was 'necessitated by a reasonably apprehended imminent breach of the peace'.

While the judges agreed that containment was necessary, they declared being filmed and having to give the police personal details as 'the price of release' a step too far.

Their ruling will be welcomed as important backing for the freedom to protest without the 'chilling' effect of being forced to hand over particulars.

The judge declared: 'It was not lawful for the police to maintain the containment for the purposes of obtaining identification, whether by questioning or filming. 'It follows that it was not lawful to require identification to be given and submission to filming as the price for release.'

Ms Mengesha, who is now training to be solicitor, was allowed out of the kettle some two hours later at 5.52pm. The filming and taking of personal details occurred when the police assessed that containment was no longer necessary.

Ms Mengesha said some 100 detainees were searched for 'offensive weapons or dangerous instruments' before their release - but were also told they had to give their personal details to obtain their freedom. She was 'tagged' - filmed close up under bright lights - for identification purposes by a civilian employee of the police and gave her name, address and date of birth to a police officer.

Demonstrators were filmed 'individually in close-up, from front and back' and the images linked with their personal details. In those circumstances, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects private and family life, became engaged, said the judge.

While the Met Police had a published policy of overt filming and photography, 'there is no such published policy on the retention of images and personal details'. So the interference with the claimant's rights enshrined in Article 8 was not 'in accordance with the law'.

A Metropolitan Police Service spokesman said later: 'We are aware of the judgment today and will now give it our full consideration and take forward any learning.'

James Welch, legal director for campaign group Liberty, said: 'It shouldn't have needed a court to tell the police they can't require personal details and compulsory filming before releasing people from a kettle. Any law student could have worked that out. The courts have been clear that kettling is a last resort - it should never be abused as a tool for bullying demonstrators.'

Original report here

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mom's Crime? Asking To See the (Nonexistent) Arrest Warrant for Her Son

Police in Slaton, Texas, took exception when a 32-yeReasonar-old mom had the nerve to ask to see the arrest warrant for her 11-year-old son. Rather than show it, or leave, they arrested the by-the-book mother and hauled her in to spend the night behind bars. The son who was the supposed focus of their attentions? They left him unmolested.

From MyFoxLubbock:

"Slaton police came to this woman's house, who wishes to remain anonymous, to arrest her son. But by asking one simple question, she found herself behind bars instead.

"I told him, 'I will release my son to you upon viewing those orders.' Those were exactly my words," The complainant said. "He said, 'This is how you want to play?' He took two steps back, turned around to the officer and said, 'Take her.' They turned me around, handcuffed me, and took me in."

The complainant said she was aware police would be coming to apprehend her 11-year-old son based on a criminal complaint, and that she just wanted to see the warrant. As it turns out, that warrant didn't exist. She spent the night in jail while her son was left at home."

It turns out that the police had no warrant because the "the directive to apprehend was not signed until May 30," which was the day after they showed up at the house. That probably explains why the kid wasn't arrested during the visit, even as his mom was.

The Slaton Police Department has offered to apologize — if the family agrees not to sue. Well, good manners aren't the local authorities' strong point, we already know.

Original report here

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ohio cop arrested; accused of crimes against a child

An on-duty Youngstown Police officer is arrested by his own department, and accused of misconduct with a child.

On May 30, Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene received information from Children Services that during an interview with a young sexual assault victim, she alleged feeling victimized all over again. This time, by the Youngstown Police officer handling her case.

Sheriff Greene immediately reported the allegations to Youngstown Police Chief Rod Foley and they agreed to call in the state's Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Now, instead of enforcing the law, Detective-Sergeant Robert Lodwick is accused of breaking it.

The Youngstown Police patrol supervisor was pulled off the road and asked to return to police headquarters sometime during the early morning hours Friday and that's when he was arrested.

As Lodwick appeared by video arraignment before a Judge, it was made clear that he was in protective custody and receiving threats from other inmates who had to be locked down.

Youngstown's Chief Prosecutor Dana Lantz requested a $50,000 cash bond on each of the felony charges, and told Judge Robert Milich, "The victim in this case is the victim of a rape case wherein he was the detective assigned to that case, and by right should have been protecting her, not soliciting her as alleged in the complaint."

The Judge ordered that Lodwick be held on a total bond of $100,000 cash.

Lodwick did not enter a plea to the felony charges of illegal use of a minor in sexually oriented material and importuning.

If Lodwick is able to make his bail, the judge has ordered that he be placed on house arrest and he is not allowed to have any contact with the young victim.

Lodwick, a 13-year veteran of the police force is married with a child and is an Iraq War veteran, who was promoted to a supervisory position in the Youngstown Police Department in December of 2012.

Authorities say he copied a disc of naked photos of his 14-year-old victim and solicited her over the Internet or cell phone for sex. Sources say he has confessed to the crimes.

"Two words come to my mind. Disappointed and disgusted," said Youngstown Police Chief Foley.

In just over a week, the undercover probe of Sergeant Lodwick allegedly cemented the case against him, according Joe Dietz, the Special Agent Supervisor of BCI's Cyber Crimes Unit.

"Based on our initial interview with the victim -- one of our cyber crimes agents became involved in an undercover chat with Sergeant Lodwick," said Dietz.

The investigation moved quickly to gather enough evidence to secure an arrest, and the priority was to protect the young victim and the public.

"They expect to trust us. We felt that we lost that trust a little bit today and we have to gain it back. This is why we needed to do this very quickly. Hopefully, there's not other victims out there," said Chief Foley.

Lodwick is currently on paid administrative leave.

Original report here

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Police sergeant faces the sack after he is caught on CCTV grabbing drunk 14-year-old boy by the throat in cells

A police sergeant who grabbed a drunken 14-year-old by the throat and branded him a 'horrible little individual' faces the end of his career after he was convicted of assault.

Sgt Steven Rea, 39, of Chelsfield, Kent, was caught on CCTV attacking the teenager in the custody area of Bexleyheath police station in southeast London.

The Met Police officer then advised subordinate police officers who were propping up the boy: 'I tell you what - let him drop.'

When the victim appeared to slump over the sergeant's desk during the incident last October 13, Rea said: 'Get off my desk, you horrible little individual.'

Rea claimed he only tried to lift the teenager up but District Judge Jeremy Coleman rejected his defence after a trial at Westminster Magistrates Court.

The judge said: 'In the custody suite he [the victim] was being difficult and irritating. However, he was not being violent.

'Sgt Rea decided to use shock tactics and he agrees that CCTV shows him accurately and he did this in order to gain his cooperation.

'He had lost his temper and left the neutral area behind his desk. What he did next was completely out of character.' The assault Rea then perpetrated on the boy went well beyond 'necessary force, albeit after provocation', the judge said.

William Emlyn-Jones, defending, told the court: 'This finding will undoubtedly bring this career to an end.'

Relatives of Rea openly wept in the gallery as the verdict was read. CCTV footage played in court showed how Rea attacked the boy as he was lying on a bench at the police station.

Rea was behind his desk when he told the teenager: 'Right your [custody] clock starts now, young man'.

The boy then raised his middle finger.

Rea moved around his desk and shouted: 'Now you have f****** upset me, get up, stop being a p****', before picking the victim up by the throat and roughly shoving to the floor and then across the room.

The boy had been arrested earlier in the night after the theft of a bottle of vodka from Iceland.

Questioning Rea about the assault on October 13 last year, prosecutor Carl Kelvin asked: 'How is that compliant with your officer safety training on how to deal with people who are an unknown risk or potentially show aggression?'.

'I took a calculated risk in what I did', Rea replied.

Mr Emlyn-Jones claimed his foul language merely added 'emphasis' and did not reflect any 'anger'.

Rea claimed he only tried to lift the boy, adding: 'I expected him to lift himself with my assistance.'

His barrister hailed him as an 'exemplary character' and a 'public servant'.

'The use of force was not just necessary but clearly unavoidable by his [the victim's] conduct. Something had to happen - something had to be done about him. 'He couldn't couldn't be allowed to just loll about in the custody area. The only question is whether he [Rea] used reasonable force. 'All he did in fact was try and pick him up. He didn't slap him, or punch him, or kick him.

The judge accepted that the victim had been 'deliberately uncooperative' but said there was no doubt the sergeant's actions amounted to assault by beating.

Stan Fitzpatrick, an inspector at Bexleyheath Police Station, had told the court earlier that Rea was 'a credit to my team.' 'I certainly would have him back anytime', he said.

Rea was handed a six month conditional discharge and costs of £500.

He denied the charge but was convicted of assault by beating.

Detective Chief Superintendent Alaric Bonthron, MPS Directorate of Professional Standards said: 'The custody sergeant has responsibility for the welfare of those within the custody suite especially the young and vulnerable.

'The public has a right to expect that anyone brought into a custody suite will be treated in an appropriate manner.

'Steven Rea let everyone down when he assaulted this boy and it is right that he has been convicted at court.'

Original report here

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Northern Ireland and payout for wrongful conviction in bomb plot

The Department of Justice made a mistake when it decided it cannot compensate a man wrongly convicted of an IRA plot to bomb soldiers, a judge ruled.

In the High Court, Mr Justice Stephens quashed the department’s decision taken in Gerard Magee's case and ordered it to consider whether to exercise a discretionary power on his bid for a pay-out.

After a non-jury trial in 1990 Mr Magee (48) from Carrickmore, Co Tyrone was found guilty of involvement in an alleged bid to kill soldiers on patrol in Antrim. He served half of a 20-year jail term before being released under the Good Friday Agreement.

His convictions were quashed in 2001 after the European Court of Human Rights held that he only made a confession after being denied access to a lawyer for two days, breaching his right to a fair trial.

A year later the NIO refused his bid for compensation on the basis that the overturning of his convictions was not based on any new or newly discovered fact.

Mr Magee made a fresh application following a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2011 involving Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney and Derry journalist Eamonn MacDermott, who were both cleared on appeal of murdering an RUC officer in 1977.

It held that the test for payments to those wrongly convicted should be redefined.

But despite asking the authorities to review his case, the Department of Justice stated in March 2012 he was ineligible.

Lawyers for Mr Magee issued judicial review proceedings, claiming the refusal to deal with the claim for compensation was unreasonable. They contend it breached the department's duty to make payment.

Ruling on the case yesterday, Mr Justice Stephens rejected an argument that the authorities were under an obligation.

But he held that there is a discretionary power to reconsider the Secretary of State's decision.

Following the verdict Mr Magee's solicitor, Fearghal Shiels of Madden and Finucane, confirmed he will now be pressing the Justice Minister, David Ford, for compensation.

Original report here

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

NY: State appeals Dan Gristwood's $5.5 million verdict for wrongful conviction

Syracuse, NY -- Lawyers for the state have filed a notice saying they might appeal a $5.5 million wrongful imprisonment verdict awarded to an Oswego County man.

The state filed the notice last week with the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, and has 60 days to follow through with an appeal of the verdict awarded to Daniel Gristwood.

If it's filed and Gristwood prevails, he probably won't see his money for at least another nine months, said his lawyer, Thomas Shannon.

Ed J. Thompson, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Syracuse office, declined to comment.

The interest on the verdict goes up $1,369 a day, Shannon said. The interest has already reached more than $1 million from the date in April 2011 when state Court of Claims Judge Nicholas Midey found the state liable, Shannon said.

If the state follows through with the appeal and it takes nine months, that would tack on another $370,000 in interest and bring the total to nearly $7 million.

Gristwood, 46, runs a small-engine repair business out of his Pennellville home. He's said he's planning to use the money from the verdict to help his five children and five grandchildren.

"He's frustrated," Shannon said of Gristwood's reaction to the state's filing. "He wishes it were over. But this is out of everyone's control."

It does appear that the state's lawyers plan to follow through with the appeal because they've asked for copies of all the exhibits from the trial, Shannon said.

The state could appeal both the amount of Midey's verdict and his finding that the state was liable.

Midey ruled in May that the state must pay Gristwood for the nine years he spent in prison on a crime someone else committed.

Gristwood was freed from prison in 2005, two years after Mastho Davis admitted he was the man who attacked Gristwood's wife, Christina Gristwood, with a hammer as she slept in the Gristwoods' Clay apartment in 1996.

Midey found that state troopers coerced a false confession from Gristwood in 1996.

Gristwood testified in a Court of Claims trial two years ago that his time in prison was a "living hell, " and that the years of separation from his children severely strained his relationship with them. Two psychologists - one for Gristwood and one for the state - agreed that he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression from being wrongfully convicted and imprisoned.

Christina Gristwood suffered severe brain damage and was paralyzed on one side in the attack.

Davis first admitted he was the attacker, although he didn't know the victim's name, during a 2003 court appearance on an unrelated crime. After authorities took no action, he walked into the Syracuse Police Department and again a few months later and told officers he'd beaten a woman with a hammer seven years earlier.

Gristwood was convicted in 1996 of attempted murder and sentenced to 12 1/2 to 25 years in prison. State Supreme Court Justice John Brunetti set Gristwood free in 2005 based on Davis' confession.

Davis attacked three other strangers in the 10 years after beating Christina Gristwood. The last was in 2006, when he broke into the home of a 75-year-old woman in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and beat and raped her. He was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Original report here

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

The foul British police again

A businessman who confronted suspected burglars raiding his premises at night could be jailed after he grabbed one of the gang’s weapons and used it to fight back.

Andrew Woodhouse, 43, claims he was chasing thieves off his property when one of them ‘came at’ him with a wooden stick.

In the scuffle, he managed to grab the stick and used it to injure the man’s legs before holding him down and screaming at his wife to call the police.

After a series of burglaries at his paving firm in Abergavenny, South Wales, Mr Woodhouse thought he might finally have helped to bring one of the robbers to justice.

But then police arrested Mr Woodhouse as well and held him in a cell for 18 hours.

He has been charged with grievous bodily harm with intent and will appear before magistrates on Thursday, along with the two men he apprehended.

‘I was scared. It was pitch dark, they had hoods on and I was getting hit,’ the father of five said last night.

‘I can’t see what else I could have done. I thought it was a man’s right to protect his property. I’ll fight to clear my name.’

While the law was changed a few months ago to protect those who use force against burglars, the rules apply only at home, not if thieves are chased outside.

Mr Woodhouse’s case has led to calls for the Crown Prosecution Service to show ‘common sense’ in dealing with those who defend themselves outside, with MPs calling the decision to prosecute him ‘astonishing’.

If found guilty, he could face a sentence of life imprisonment.

Mr Woodhouse was in bed with his wife Lisa at their detached home in the village of Govilon when his burglar alarm went off at about 12.30am. The alarm is fitted to his business premises on an industrial estate a mile from his six-bedroom £350,000 home.

He drove to the estate, where he saw two men trying to steal diesel from the engines of his fleet of vehicles. His wife, 42, said: ‘He shouted at them to stop and when they turned and ran he chased them.

‘One of them turned and faced Andrew. He was holding a stick. Andrew defended himself, he grabbed the stick off the bloke and whacked him with it.

‘The fellow was on the floor screaming at him. It all happened so quick, it was dark, I’m not sure anyone knew what was really going on.’

As Mr Woodhouse held Kevin Green, 52, the other alleged burglar, Timothy Cross, 31, is said to have returned with a third man, both carrying planks.

Mrs Woodhouse had, by this time, also driven to the scene. She said: ‘When I got there Andrew was chasing one of the chaps. He saw me and shouted, “Get the police, get the police”.

‘The police arrived and Andrew admitted he’d whacked the chap with the stick. The police said he had two broken legs and a broken wrist. They arrested Andrew and took him into custody. I didn’t see him until 6pm the next day.’

Police charged Mr Woodhouse with causing grievous bodily harm with intent because he used ‘unreasonable’ force.

His wife said: ‘I fail to see where there was any intent on Andrew’s part. He didn’t intend to get up in the middle of the night to assault anyone. All he did was protect his property.

‘People may think he took the law into his own hands but what was he supposed to do, stand by and watch?’

Mr Woodhouse employs six staff including two of his sons at the family business, which was set up 20 years ago. The firm has lost £15,000 in recent years to thefts of diesel and tools.

There is much support for him locally. He claims to have collected about 50 character references, including ones from a policeman and a priest.

MPs are calling on the CPS to drop the case against Mr Woodhouse and his local MP, Tory David Davies, said he would raise the issue in Parliament.

‘If someone came at him with a piece of wood, my sympathy is with the hard-working businessman, not with the people breaking into his property,’ he added.

Gwent Police said the 52-year-old man arrested at the scene had been taken to hospital with ‘serious leg and arm injuries’. A spokesman added that the decision to charge Mr Woodhouse was taken after CPS advice.

Original report here. (Via POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Lazy British cops who left a killer's home without realising his dying girlfriend was in his bedroom are CLEARED of blame

Two officers confronted murderer David O’Sullivan, 28, on his doorstep after neighbours reported hearing a commotion on Christmas Eve. O’Sullivan, who had scratches on his arm and other signs of a struggle, told officers: 'Everything is OK.'

They then left the house as mum-of-three Charmaine Macmuiris, 37, was lying fatally wounded just feet away.

She was found dead at O’Sullivan’s home on Christmas Day and he was jailed for life earlier this week.

Dyfed-Powys Police referred their investigation to the Independent Police Complaints Commission after O’Sullivan was charged with murder. The watchdog then referred the case back to the force to investigate itself.

An internal review found no wrong doing by the officers who left the scene without checking for Ms Macmuiris inside.

A Dyfed Powys Police spokesmn said: 'The extent of police attendance and engagement at the address in Carmarthen on the 24 December 2012 was disclosed in full in court.

'Dyfed Powys Police referred it voluntarily to the IPCC, and they concluded it should be referred back to Dyfed Powys Police to investigate. 'No issues of concern were identified in relation to police actions or response on that night.'

The investigation which cleared the officers was revealed after O’Sullivan was jailed for life on Monday at Swansea Crown Court for the murder at his home in Carmarthen, South Wales.

Prosecutor Patrick Harrington QC told the court: 'When police officers asked him about cuts to his arm he said he had punched a hole in the wall. 'But it is clear serious violence began inside the house with strong indications there was more than one assault.

'The second and fatal attack saw him use a knife to stab her to death.'

The court heard how O’Sullivan, who was well known to police, was a jealous and controlling boyfriend. He stabbed Ms Macmuiris to death at his home in Carmarthen, west Wales, after becoming convinced she was seeing other men behind his back.

The court heard how close police officers came to finding her before she died from her wounds. But her bloodied body was only found the next day when O’Sullivan’s parents came to celebrate Christmas with him.

Original report here

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Dubious Brooklyn DA to be cross-examined

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes has been ordered to give a sworn deposition in the $150 million lawsuit brought by man wrongfully convicted of murder.

Brooklyn Federal Court Magistrate Judge Robert Levy ordered Hynes on Wednesday to submit to the deposition in the wrongful-conviction case of Jabbar Collins over the objections of city lawyers. “I think it is inevitable that his deposition is going to have to be taken,” Levy said in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Collins, 37, who served more than 15 years in prison for the 1994 murder of Brooklyn Rabbi Abraham Pollack, said he was looking forward to his attorney grilling Hynes under oath.

“I think it’s finally vindication to confront him and have him answer questions under oath why he permitted the horrendous misconduct in my case to occur and why he failed to do anything about it,” Collins said after the hearing.

Levy also ordered that Hynes’ top aide, Michael Vecchione, who prosecuted Collins, be deposed on June 21. Hynes’ deposition is set for August 19.

The 78-year-old Brooklyn prosecutor, who is seeking reelection, told the Daily News Wednesday that he has nothing to hide.

“I’m one of two DAs in New York City that has a special Conviction Integrity Unit and the only one investigating my own cases looking for wrongfully convicted inmates,” Hynes said.

“We set David Ranta loose recently after we reinvestigated,” he said referring to a Brooklyn man who served 22 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

The Collins case was gutted by accusations that prosecutors coerced witnesses to testify at the trial and failed to turn over evidence to the defense.

A key witness insisted last month that Vecchione, now chief of the DA’s rackets bureau, threatened to bash him over the head with a table and jail him if he didn’t testify against Collins.

“Mike Vecchione has been pilloried in ways I’ve never seen before and he has no recourse because he’s a public official,” Hynes said.

Federal Judge Dora Irizarry tossed Collins’ conviction, noting with regret that she did not have the authority to complete the hearing into prosecutorial misconduct.

City lawyers objected to Levy’s order that Hynes be deposed, contending it was too early in the discovery process.

“We are disappointed in today’s ruling, but we feel that DA Hynes will confirm that the city acted in good faith in this case,” said Arthur Larkin, senior counsel of city Law Department’s Special Federal Litigation Division.

Original report here

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Chicago: Why Prosecutors Fear Widow's Testimony in Wrongful Conviction Case

Wilda Vargas was widowed by a gunman's bullets in 1993. Her testimony helped convict two Humboldt Park men who have steadfastly professed their innocence. Now she wants to set the record straight by testifying at a court hearing that will determine whether the men win new trials. Why are Cook County prosecutors fighting hard to keep her off the stand?

Twenty years ago, Vargas thought she knew who murdered her husband, Rodrigo, as he was leaving for work. That's because a detective told her he'd solved the crime. Area 5 Det. Reynaldo Guevara persuaded the widow that Armando Serrano and Jose Montanez were the killers. He said he was sure, among other reasons, because an informant had come forward to report that the duo had confessed to him.

But Det. Guevara failed to tell Vargas that the so-called informant was actually a jailhouse snitch -- a stick-up man who got a sweet deal in exchange for testifying in her husband's case. The detective also failed to tell her that the snitch was a heroin addict whom Guevara had slapped around before ordering him to fabricate the confession. She would not learn about this evidence for 12 years. And, it would take even longer for her to discover that Guevara had lied to her about supposedly damning ballistics evidence in the case.

Meanwhile, Guevara convinced Vargas in 1993 that an incident the day before the murder was vitally important. While at a gas station, she saw her husband exchange words with several men who seemed to follow them after they headed home. Since her husband had paid for the gas with a roll of bills, the motive for the murder was robbery, Guevara told her. The men, he said, were Serrano and Montanez. At trial, the widow recounted the incident, and though she misidentified the defendants in court, she figured that justice had been done because the judge found them guilty.

Fast forward a decade. In 2004, the jailhouse snitch admitted to Northwestern University journalism students that he had lied on the stand, a recantation he has repeated to a succession of defense attorneys. Two years later, Vargas met with other journalism students and volunteered that she had nagging doubts about whether the gas station altercation had led to her husband's murder. It had been a minor dust-up, the men had not followed them all the way home and she had not gotten a good look at them, she acknowledged in an affidavit.

Last summer, while preparing for an innocence hearing based on the snitch's recantation -- and evidence that now-retired Det. Guevara hadinduced false statements in at least 40 other cases -- lawyers for Serrano and Montanez showed up at the widow's home. She welcomed them inside and, sitting around her dining room table, she repeated the concerns she had expressed to the students.

Although Vargas had remarried and moved on with her life, she remained deeply troubled by whether the right men had been convicted, she told Jennifer Bonjean, Serrano's pro bono lawyer. Vargas worried that the real killer might still be on the loose. "'I want to know the truth about who killed my husband and the father of my children,'" Bonjean quoted her as saying. Then the widow blurted out something she had not told the journalism students.

After the murder, she and Det. Guevara had driven around Humboldt Park looking for the car that she had seen at the gas station. Guevara suddenly stopped next to a tan Buick that he knew belonged to Jose Montanez, a local gang member, and pointed to a hole in its side. "'That's a bullet hole,'" he declared. "'Tests prove it matches the bullets used to kill your husband.'" Must be the car from the gas station incident, she figured, so the suspects had to be guilty. In that moment, Vargas became a witness for the prosecution.

When Bonjean explained that a bullet hole in a car can't be matched with ballistics from a crime scene, and that no such evidence had been introduced at the trial, Vargas' brown eyes widened and her jaw dropped. "'He lied to me!'" she said angrily. She promised to show up at the hearing and tell her story to Judge Maura Slattery Boyle, who will soon decide the fate of Montanez and Serrano.

On May 15, without being subpoenaed, Vargas drove from the western suburbs to the George N. Leighton Criminal Court Building on the city's Southwest Side and stood outside Judge Boyle's courtroom, expecting to testify -- this time, for the defense. She waited patiently, wondering what was happening. Hours passed.

Inside, Bonjean was imploring the judge to allow the widow to take the stand. But prosecutors vehemently objected, claiming that Vargas had nothing new to add. They also argued that her testimony would be improper because her affidavit was not part of the original innocence petition filed by previous lawyers.

Bonjean had repeatedly asked the court for permission to update the petition to include Vargas' revelations. But to no avail. The judge sided with the prosecutors, as she had throughout the hearing.

The widow was told to go home, filled with more doubt than ever about whether she and her children would ever learn the truth.

Family members of the prisoners wondered the same thing. They had waited for this hearing for nine years, ever since the snitch recanted; it seemed like the injustice had only been compounded. In court that morning, a veteran prosecutor had called their loved ones "mutts." Courtroom spectators gasped. Serrano's sister shouted, "That's flat-out racist." The prosecutor apologized on the spot, and State's Attorney Anita Alvarez's spokesperson later characterized the comment as "unfortunate and inappropriate" to Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn.

But shutting out the widow of a murder victim is not just a slip of the tongue. It reflects a conscious effort by prosecutors, who claim they are advocates for crime victims' families, to thwart their testimony when it proves inconvenient. It reflects a culture that is more concerned with maintaining a conviction than finding the truth.

The hearing is scheduled to resume on June 17, when Det. Guevara and the snitch have been subpoenaed to testify. The families of the prisoners and the murder victim are united in demanding justice. Will prosecutors continue to stand in the way?

Original report here

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Black Arizona man charged with DUI -- even though a blood test showed zero alcohol

Jessie Thornton sleeps during the day and runs errands and works out during the night. "My wife, she's an ER nurse and works three 12-hour shifts, so I adjusted my schedule to be like her schedule," said Thornton.

The 64-year-old retired firefighter moved to a Surprise retirement community from Ohio.

Jessie says his late hours have put him in the police spotlight.
"I've been stopped 10 times in Surprise and given four tickets, it's amazing," said Thornton.

His latest incident with Surprise police officers prompted Thornton to hire a lawyer with plans to sue the department.

Around 11 p.m. Thornton, according to Surprise Police Department paperwork, was pulled over for crossing the white line in his lane. "He (the officer) walked up and he said 'I can tell you're driving DUI by looking in your eyes,'" said Thornton.

The 64-year-old says his eyes could have been red because he had just left LA Fitness where he was in the pool swimming.

"I take my glasses off and he says, 'You've got bloodshot eyes.' I said, 'I've been swimming at LA Fitness,' and he says, 'I think you're DUI,'" said Thornton. "He (the officer) goes, 'Well we're going to do a sobriety test.' I said, 'OK, but I got bad knees and a bad hip with surgery in two days.'"

Medical documents show Thornton was scheduled to have hip replacement surgery two days after the incident.

According to the police report, the officer notes that Thornton does have a hip and knee problem.

Thornton said two other officers arrived and he conducted the sobriety test. "At one point, one of the officers shined the light in my eye and said, 'Oh, sorry,' and asked the other officer if he was doing it right,'" said Thornton.

Thornton said he was then placed in handcuffs and told to sit on the curb. "I couldn't even sit on the ground like that and they knew it and I was like laying on the ground, then they put me in the back of an SUV and when I asked the officer to move her seat up 'cause my hip hurt she told me to stop whining," said Thornton.

According to documents provided to ABC15 from the City of Surprise, Thornton was taken to police headquarters where he took a breathalyzer test. The test, according to the police documents came back with a blood alcohol level of 0.000. "Yes, I do the breathalyzer and it comes back zero, zero, zero," said Thornton.

While in custody, a "DRE" or drug recognition expert is called to test Thornton. "After he did all the tests, he says, 'I would never have arrested you, you show no signs of impairment,'" said Thornton.

The Surprise resident is right. The police documents show the drug recognition officer wrote, "I conducted an evaluation of Jessie, in my opinion Jessie was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol." According the documents from the Surprise Police Department, the blood analysis showed no drugs were detected in Thornton's blood.

Jessie's car had been impounded and the MVD notified of the DUI charge. "I then get this message that my license is being suspended and I have to take some sort of drinking class or something," said Thornton.

According to the police documents, Thornton was later released to his wife. "She was at work and had to come get me, it was a mess, I couldn't believe it," said Thornton. "On top of that my car was impounded on a Friday night and they said I couldn't get it until Monday.."

Thornton now claims this wasn't DUI. "It was driving while black," said Thornton. "This is a case of D-W-B, driving while black," said Thornton's attorney Marc Victor.

Victor's office has filed a notice of claim against the City of Surprise seeking $500,000.

"It's not totally about the money, although I'm already out more than $5,000, that's $5,000 that I don't have," said Thornton. "This is not the way American citizens ought to be treated by officers or treated by anybody for that matter," said Victor.

To be clear, ABC15 provided the Surprise Police Department an opportunity to talk about Thornton's incident, however, due to standard policy, the Department was unable to comment due to pending legal action. The DUI charge was recently dropped, but Victor's office claims it's not enough.

"Here he (Jessie) is being harassed for no other reason than the color of his skin," said Attorney Charity Clark. "It's frustrating that somebody had to go through this type of experience, they poke and prod him and arrest him for nothing."

Thornton said his daughter, who is in law enforcement, has filed an official complaint with the City of Surprise. "Listen, I was a firefighter and firefighters work hand in hand with police officers, I have nothing against police officers, this just wasn't right."

As for Jessie's hip, medical documents show he did have hip replacement surgery days after the arrest.

"I just don't want any of this to happen to somebody else," said Thornton.

Original report here

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Australia: Watch-house bashing revealed on CCTV

(At least one of the victims was black. But the black threw the first punch)

FOOTAGE of a police officer repeatedly punching a prisoner and dragging another through a watch-house by his neck has been shown to a public hearing held by Western Australia's corruption watchdog.

The footage, taken by CCTV cameras at the Broome watchhouse in WA's Kimberley region, shows the same senior constable involved in two separate incidents less than three weeks apart earlier this year.

After viewing the footage, Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan served a loss of confidence notice on the 31-year-old constable, who has since resigned from the force.

In the first incident on March 29, the officer appears to place a teenager arrested for obstructing police in a neck hold before dragging him inside after he refused to leave a police van.

As the hysterical girlfriend of the teenager looks on, the youngster is placed in a padded cell and stripped - as numerous other officers watch.

In the second incident captured by CCTV, a man is seen swinging a punch in the Broome watch-house after being arrested for public drinking.

The senior constable reacts by swinging several hard punches. Then, as the prisoner lies on the floor, the officer appears to drop his knee twice on the head of the man, who goes limp.

The prisoner is then dragged inside where another camera shows him flying forward through a doorway onto the hard floor with his hands cuffed behind him.

As other police look on, another officer removes the man's shorts and searches them.

Some time later, when the detainee is back on his feet, the 31-year-old constable is alleged to have said to him: “Nice face, ****.” He then added: “Nothing wrong with mine. You punch like a faggot.”

The detainee suffered a broken finger and swelling to his eye, according to Gail Archer SC, counsel assisting the Commissioner Roger Macknay of the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC).

The public hearings into the incidents, beginning today, were ordered by the CCC.

Ms Archer said the hearings would investigate the use of force by the officers, and what other officers at the station could - and should - have done.

Two other officers were stood down over the incidents, although one of them, a 38-year-old female, has since returned to her duties.

Commissioner Macknay ruled that the identity of the two arrested men and the former officer should be suppressed during the hearing, while the CCTV footage would not immediately be released to media.

Original report here

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Sunday, June 09, 2013

57,000 suspects are left in bail limbo as British police 'drag their feet' with one man waiting three-and-a-half years to find out if he will be charged

Thousands of criminal suspects are ‘left dangling’ on police bail for months before they are told if they will be charged.

More than 57,000 people are on this type of bail – where conditions are set by the police rather than the courts – including 3,000 for more than six months.

One fraud suspect is still on bail three years and seven months after being arrested, a survey found.

Many of those arrested and bailed will ultimately not face charges. In some cases, suspects are suspended from their jobs while allegations against them are investigated.

The Law Society, which represents solicitors, is calling for a 28-day limit on police bail, after which it said officers should be required to go before a magistrate to justify further bailing of a suspect.

Freedom of Information requests by BBC Radio 5 Live found at least 57,428 suspects were on bail in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, while 3,172 have been on bail for more than six months. In Scotland, bail is set by the courts, not the police.

Scotland Yard has more than 12,000 suspects on bail, including 910 for over six months. In London, a man, 45, has still not been told if he will be charged after he was arrested in October 2009 on suspicion of fraud.

Senior police officers appear divided on the issue, with Andy Trotter, the head of the British Transport Police, calling for a six-month limit on bail. However, the Association of Chief Police Officers said that bail was an ‘essential tool in securing justice’.

Richard Atkinson, chairman of the Law Society’s criminal law committee, said: ‘It is not unusual for people to be on bail for several months while fairly routine investigations meander their way to a final decision.

‘Because there is no requirement for the police to act within any time, there is an attitude among some officers of “let’s put off until tomorrow what we could have done today” and things are just left to drag along.’ He said one suspect accused of stealing a bicycle had been left on bail for seven months.
Peak: The largest number of bailed individuals are in London, with 12,178 waiting to hear from the Metropolitan Police

The largest number of bailed individuals are in London, with 12,178 waiting to hear from the Metropolitan Police

Civil liberties campaigners have condemned the excessive use of police bail, which allows officers to restrict suspects’ activities. This can include forcing them to live at a certain address, handing over their passport and making them report to a police station on a regular basis.

There is no time limit on how long bail can continue and how many times it can be renewed.

Earlier this month, Mr Trotter told The Mail on Sunday: ‘In the past, police have released people without bail and that hasn’t stopped us continuing the investigation, particularly if they are unlikely to abscond. We have re-arrested them at a later stage when we have had sufficient evidence. That way, they are not left dangling.’

But Chris Eyre, Acpo spokesman and chief constable of Nottinghamshire, said: ‘Police bail is an essential tool in securing justice. It allows investigators to ensure every possible avenue is explored, while those arrested need not remain in custody.’

Steve White, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said the lack of resources made it more difficult for investigations to be concluded quickly.

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We continue to keep police bail provisions under review to ensure they strike the right balance between protecting an individual’s right to civil liberty and allowing police to carry out thorough criminal investigations.’

Original report here. (Via POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

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