Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bad news for anyone whose appearance resembles that of a known criminal

This will lock up a lot of innocent people

You look familiar—says the cop with the smartphone. And never mind that FBI specifications allow for a faulty match up to 20 percent of the time; local, state, and federal law enforcement officers based in California's San Diego and Imperial counties have quietly taken to the streets with federally funded tablets and smartphones to match the faces of people they meet with databased photographs. If the experiment proves successful, in government terms, you can probably expect the blend of cops, mobile devices, and facial recognition software to come to a sidewalk near you.

For the Center for Investigative Reporting, Ali Winston writes:

On a residential street in San Diego County, Calif., Chula Vista police had just arrested a young woman, still in her pajamas, for possession of narcotics. Before taking her away, Officer Rob Halverson paused in the front yard, held a Samsung Galaxy tablet up to the woman’s face and snapped a photo.

Halverson fiddled with the tablet with his index finger a few times, and – without needing to ask the woman’s name or check her identification – her mug shot from a previous arrest, address, criminal history and other personal information appeared on the screen.

Halverson had run the woman's photograph through the Tactical Identification System, a new mobile facial recognition technology now in the hands of San Diego-area law enforcement. In an instant, the system matches images taken in the field with databases of about 348,000 San Diego County arrestees. The system itself has nearly 1.4 million booking photos because many people have multiple mug shots on record.

The little-known program could become the largest expansion of facial recognition technology by U.S. law enforcement. Amid an international debate over collecting and sharing huge amounts of data on the public, this pilot program is putting that metadata to use in the field in real time.

Managed by the Automated Regional Justice Information System (ARJIS), a joint project of 75 government agencies, and funded by the National Institute of Justice, the Tactical Identification System combines traditional mugshots with controversial (and not entirely reliable) facial recognition software, and puts it in the hands of police officers in the field. The system deployed in California appears to draw only from booking photos at the moment, but many states have already linked facial recognition technology with their driver's license databases, multi-purposing everybody's least favorite photos into de facto police lineup images. Police lineup images with uncertain access control and, as mentioned, a high potential for false positives. It's probably safe to assume that, if the Tactical Identification System approach is replicated elsewhere, police mobile devices will be linked with that wider range of photo databases.

So, when do police officers in San Diego and Imperial counties whip out their smartphones to identify passers-by? During arrests, of course, but also during other encounters with the public.

One Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who provided a testimonial said he used the device during a warrant sweep in Oceanside. While on the sweep, the agent wrote, his " ‘spidy senses' were tingling" about the immigration status of a neighbor of the person he was pursuing.

He decided to run the man’s picture through the facial recognition software. The agent discovered the man was in the country illegally and had a 2003 DUI conviction in San Diego.

"I whipped out the Droid (smartphone) and snapped a quick photo and submitted for search," the immigration agent wrote in his testimonial for the Automated Regional Justice Information System. "The subject looked inquisitively at me not knowing the truth was only 8 seconds away. I received a match of 99.96 percent. This revealed several prior arrests and convictions and provided me an FBI #. When I showed him his booking photo, his jaw dropped."

You never know when your photo will be snapped. So remember to comb your hair before going out in public.

Original report here



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Friday, November 29, 2013

Switched at birth Japanese man awarded payout by hospital

A 60-year-old Japanese man switched at birth says he would like to "roll back the clock", days after winning a lawsuit against the hospital that mistakenly cast him into a life of poverty.

The man told a packed Tokyo press conference that he was shell-shocked when he learnt the truth, saying his life would have been starkly different.

"I've wondered how on earth could this happen. I couldn't believe it. To be honest, I didn't want to accept it," he told Japanese media late on Wednesday. The man was not identified.

"I might have had a different life. I want (the hospital) to roll back the clock to the day I was born."

A Tokyo district court this week ordered the hospital to pay Y38 million ($400,000) in damages over its 1953 blunder which saw the man switched with another baby boy who was delivered just 13 minutes later.

The court ruled that Y32 million should go to the man and the remaining Y6 million to his three biological brothers.

It is not clear if the hospital, which has not commented on the bizarre case, will appeal.

The man, an unmarried truck driver, would have grown up as the eldest of four brothers in a wealthy family where the siblings enjoyed a lavish lifestyle including private tutors.

Instead, he was raised on welfare by his non-biological mother who also supported older siblings after her husband passed away.

The family had few frills in their one-room apartment except for a radio, according to the man who studied at night school while working in a factory.

"It was like she was born to experience hardship," the man said of the woman he knew as his mother. She is now also dead.

The man has been helping to take care of his non-biological brothers, one of whom had suffered a stroke.

The decades-old mistake was uncovered when the wealthy family's three younger brothers had DNA testing done on their oldest sibling - who looked nothing like them - after their parents died.

They checked hospital records and confirmed the identity of their biological eldest brother last year.

The four are now working on building a relationship to make up for lost time.

But the man switched at birth said he cried daily for several months after learning the truth.

"As I saw pictures of my (biological) parents, I wanted to see them alive. I couldn't hold back tears for months every time I saw their pictures."

One of his brothers "told me that we will have 20 more years to live so we should make up for lost time", he added.

"I was happy to hear that and I want to do it."

The wealthy family's non-biological eldest son runs a real-estate company while his three siblings work for major firms, media reports said.

The mothers in both families had seemingly suspected they had been raising the wrong babies.

"I think my foster mother might have sensed it," the man said, noting physical differences from the siblings he grew up with.

His real brothers remember their mother saying her first baby came back from his first bath in hospital wearing the wrong clothes.

Original report here

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Woman freed after spending 20 years in prison for satanic ritual child abuse as evidence ruled to be faulty

A woman who has spent 20 years in jail for engaging in ritual child abuse has been released on bond after the district attorney’s office decided physical evidence against her was faulty.

Fran Keller, 63, and her husband Dan, 71, were sentenced to 48 years each in jail after therapists testified that they helped three children recall memories of satanic rituals and sexual abuse at their Oak Hill preschool in Austin, Texas.

The couple were convicted in 1992 of the alleged sexual abuse of a three-year-old girl at their home-based day care center but the only physical evidence came from an emergency room doctor who testified that internal lacerations on one child were evidence of abuse. In court documents filed earlier this year, Dr Michael Mouw says what he thought were lacerations were actually normal physiology.

The couple have always maintained their innocence and yesterday Fran Keller walked out of Travis County Jail in Austin, Texas a free woman.

Fran Keller's attorney, Keith Hampton, said: ‘The case was a true witch hunt because the investigators actually believed that this was part of a wide satanic conspiracy.’

He said the therapist's techniques — which were used to convince the children, parents and investigators that the Kellers committed human sacrifices, flew the children to Mexico and dismembered human bodies in cemeteries — have been debunked.

Prosecutors put two constables on trial in connection with the Keller case, but the judge dismissed those charges a year after the Kellers were convicted.

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg issued a statement saying she agreed to release the Kellers on bond after learning of Dr Mouw's testimony.

She said: ‘I agreed that there is a reasonable likelihood that his false testimony affected the judgment of the jury.

‘The Court of Criminal Appeals will review both cases. No further action or decisions on the case will be made until that review is finalized.’

A judge still has to sign off on Dan Keller's release. Hampton said he did not expect prosecutors to seek a retrial.

The jury convicted the Kellers after prosecutors obtained convictions in similar cases in California, Massachusetts and Florida that gained national attention. Convictions in many of those cases have been overturned or prosecutors have petitioned to vacate the cases.

Hampton said after both of the Kellers are released, he will file court papers to have them exonerated and declared innocent.

In the appeal he filed in January, Mr Hampton accused the Austin police of withholding evidence that would have cleared the Kellers and said the judge allowed prosecutors to introduce unscientific psychological evidence at trial by an unqualified witness.

The Kellers were sentence after just a six day trial. The couple were among hundreds of childcare workers who were accused of being part of a group of Satan worshippers who engaged in ritual child abuse across America during the 1980s and 1990s.

Four San Antonio women imprisoned for sexually assaulting two girls in 1994 were freed last week after a judge agreed with their defense attorney and prosecutors that their 1998 convictions for sexual assault should not stand due to faulty expert testimony. In that case, another doctor recanted her testimony that what she thought were internal injuries indicating sexual abuse were actually anatomically normal.

Original report here




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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Three British cops suspended after footage emerges of one of them apparently PUNCHING shoplifter as they detain him in department store

Three police officers have been suspended after video footage emerged showing a suspected shoplifter allegedly being assaulted.

Kent Police are investigating following an allegation of assault involving its officers at a Debenhams store in Guildhall Street, Canterbury, on July 11.

The four-minute film starts with the suspect seated and then being searched. Two officers and the suspect then go out of shot momentarily before a scuffle ensues.

The two uniformed officers grapple with the young man before they are joined by a third colleague who grabs him around the throat.

As the suspect is pinned to a wall in the corner of the room, the third officer punches the man in the face twice, causing him to fall to the floor.

The clip ends with the hoodie-wearing man, who has been handcuffed, being seated and searched again by one of the officers.

A police spokesman said: 'Kent Police is investigating following an allegation of assault in Canterbury on 11 July 2013.

'We were made aware of the footage on October 21. Three police officers from East Division were suspended from duty on Thursday 24 October pending the outcome of this inquiry.'

An Independent Police Complaints Commission spokeswoman said the watchdog received a referral on October 21 but decided that it was suitable for investigation at a local level.

An IPCC spokeswoman said: 'We are not investigating this and the complaint was sent back to Kent Police.

'We sent it back on the 25 October. We decided it was suitable to be investigated locally by the police.

'By the time it had come to us Kent Police had already taken a number of steps to investigate the incident.'

A spokesman for the department store chain said: 'It would be inappropriate while an investigation is ongoing.'

Original report here




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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

300 prisoners released after state chemist fakes drug tests

THREE hundred inmates have been released from US prisons because they were convicted using fake evidence.

Annie Dookhan, a former chemist for the state of Massachusetts, reportedly tainted the cases of more than 40000 people during her nine-year tenure in the job. Ms Dookhan declared that drug samples were positive without bothering to test them, forged signatures, lied about her credentials and tampered with evidence, the New York Times reports.

This was all supposed to advance Ms Dookhan's career and enhance her reputation as an expert witness in court.

Ms Dookhan's superiors became suspicious of her in 2010 because she was processing drug samples three times faster than her colleagues. The rogue chemist was eventually caught forging a signature in 2011, and in August of 2012 she admitted to mishandling evidence.

"I screwed up big time," she said. "I messed up. I messed up bad. It's my fault. I don't want the lab to get in trouble.

Ms Dookhan later pleaded guilty to 27 counts, including perjury, tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice. The lab where she worked has been shut down.

Meanwhile, more than 300 prisoners have been released because their convictions were tainted. Of those inmates, at least 50 have been rearrested, including a man named Donta Hood who is now being charged with first-degree murder.

The Massachusetts legislature has set aside $30 million for prosecutors to reinvestigate the overturned cases to see if the suspects can be charged using other evidence. But the total cost could reach $100 million, the Times reports.

With this cost in mind, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley argued for a sentence of five to seven years for Ms Dookhan. "The total costs to rectify Dookhan's actions have climbed into the millions with no end in sight, and the financial aspect does not even address the lost of liberty of affected individuals, the significant deleterious effect on the safety of the public or the breakdown of public trust in the system," she wrote to the court.

The judge presiding over Ms Dookhan's case was a little more lenient, sentencing her to three to five years in jail, plus two years of probation.

Ms Dookhan "presents as a tragic and broken person who has been undone by her own ambition," Justice Carol Ball said.

"Innocent persons were incarcerated," she said. "Guilty persons have been released to further endanger the public, millions and millions of public dollars are being expended to deal with the chaos Ms Dookhan created, and the integrity of the criminal justice system has been shaken to the core."

Original report here




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Monday, November 25, 2013

Driver Arrested in Ohio for Secret Car Compartment Full of Nothing

Norman Gurley, 30, is facing drug-related charges in Lorain County, Ohio, despite the fact that state troopers did not actually find any drugs in his possession.

Ohio passed a law in 2012 making it a felony to alter a vehicle to add a secret compartment with the "intent" of using it to conceal drugs for trafficking.

Gurley is the first actual person arrested under the law. WKYC in Northeast Ohio covered the arrest, with no notable journalistic skepticism whatsoever:

They pulled over the driver for speeding, but then troopers noticed several wires running to the back of the car.

Those wires then led them directly to a hidden compartment.

Around 5 p.m. on Tuesday state troopers made the arrest under the law, which is meant to combat criminals who modify the inside of their car, allowing them to store drugs or weapons inside secret compartments, which can often only be accessed electronically.

They just noticed some wires, did they? Just while in the process of handing Gurley a speeding ticket, they noticed the wires?

They did not, however, find any drugs, which means they’re arresting Gurley for the crime of an empty space:

Troopers arrested 30-year-old Norman Gurley, who didn't even have any drugs on him, but it didn't matter, because in Ohio, just driving a "trap" car is now a felony.

"Without the hidden compartment law, we would not have had any charges on the suspect," says Combs.

But because of this law, one more "trap car" is now off Northeast Ohio roads.

"We apparently caught them between runs, so to speak, so this takes away one tool they have in their illegal trade. The law does help us and is on our side," says Combs.

Combs’ claim is not challenged by the news station at all.

The law says it’s only a crime if the hidden compartment is added with the "intent" to conceal drugs, but it also outlaws anybody who has been convicted of felony aggravated drug trafficking laws from operating any vehicle with hidden compartments. The ACLU of Ohio warned against the new legislation:

The ACLU of Ohio believes SB 305 is an unnecessary and unproductive expansion of law. Drug trafficking is already prohibited under Ohio law, so there is no use for shifting the focus to the container. Further by focusing on the container itself, this bill criminalizes a person with prior felony drug trafficking convictions simply for driving a car with a hidden compartment, regardless of whether or not drugs or even drug residue are present.

Given this is the first arrest, you have to wonder how the courts might view a law making it a felony to alter a person's own property for reasons that have nothing to do with actual public safety. Maybe we'll see.

As for the car itself, the Institute for Justice’s 2010 "Policing for Profit" report calculated that law enforcement officials in the state have collected more than $80 million in shared proceeds from asset forfeiture funds. Oh, and the hidden compartment law exempts vehicles being operated by law enforcement officers, so if state troopers can come up with an excuse to use the ride they just grabbed, they may be able to keep it for themselves.

Original report here




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Original report here

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cop Fires Shots at Minivan Full of Kids After Mom Flees Traffic Stop

Several New Mexico police officers are under investigation for a routine traffic stop that devolved into a chaotic car chase last month. In their attempt to apprehend an uncooperative driver, the officers smashed a baton through the woman's car window and fired several bullets at the children-filled vehicle.

The incident was recorded by a police dashcam video, which was released last week to KRQE News 13. According to a report from Taos News, the incident started when a New Mexico State police officer pulled over 39-year-old Oriana Ferrell for speeding 16 mph over the limit on a state highway.

The officer (whose name has not been revealed) approached Ferrell’s minivan in what appears to be a calm manner and told her to wait while he returned to his vehicle. Ferrell then sped off, starting a chase. When she pulled over again, the officer returned to the driver’s side window visibly agitated.

From ABC News:

"When the officer goes to the car a second time he opens the door and demands that Ferrell get out of the car, yelling "Get out of the vehicle right now!"

When she refuses, the officer appears to attempt to pull her out of the car as her five children, ages 6 to 18, according to The Taos News, start screaming in the car.

After a few moments, the woman’s 14-year-old son gets out of the car and tries to engage the officer. But the officer pulls his taser and the teenager goes back into the car....

Eventually the woman gets out of the car to talk to the officer, but when he tells her to turn and face the vehicle she tries to run back into the driver’s seat of the car. The incident quickly escalates with the woman’s son this time engaging the officer. Only after the officer aims his taser at the boy does he run back into the van."

Then things got really intense.

As two back-up officers arrived on the scene, the officer repeatedly smashed his baton through the passenger side window shouting, "Open the door!"

At that point, Ferrell started to drive away. An officer who had just arrived on the scene fired three shots at the back of the minivan. According to a court document, the officer allegedly fired at the rear tires "in an attempt to keep the vehicle from leaving." (Despite the fact that police experts, such as Dr. Daniel Kennedy and Rick Parent, claim that shooting out a moving vehicle's tires is often a dangerous and ineffective way to apprehend a suspect.)

The officers pursued Ferrell in a high-speed chase, reaching 100 mph, until she stopped in front of a hotel and turned herself in. Both Ferrell and her 14-year-old son were arrested at gunpoint without incident.

Ferrell was arrested on five counts of abuse of a child, aggravated fleeing of an officer, resisting an officer, reckless driving and possession of drug paraphernalia (for two marijuana pipes that were found in the car.) Her son was arrested for battery of an officer.

Ferrell’s attorney argued, "If someone ought to be charged with child abuse, it ought to be the New Mexico State Police... We ought to talk about the stupidity and recklessness of shooting at a car that has five children in it."

Original report here




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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Derrick Deacon explains what freedom feels like after 25 years

SOMETIMES it's the little things that count the most — just ask Derrick Deacon.

The Brooklyn man who used to go by the nickname "Fire" spent yesterday — his first full day of freedom after 25 years of wrongful imprisonment – savoring things most of us take for granted, things like "real toothpaste" and a private shower.

"I took a shower this morning. Oh man, it felt wonderful. And I soaped myself in that shower, too. When you're up top [in prison] you've got to rush," Deacon, 58, told The New York Post. "You've got six, seven, 10 people in one shower. You can't imagine that feeling. Today, I was just relaxing, soaking myself."

After sleeping in and waking up without an alarm clock at 10 a.m. Deacon brushed his teeth – he enjoyed it so much that he brushed twice.

"In prison they give you a small toothbrush. And if you don't have money, you've got to use the state toothpaste. That toothpaste is yucky," Deacon said.

"I brushed my teeth once and I brushed it again. I could brush every corner of my mouth, not like it was before with those tiny toothbrushes."

Deacon, who was born in Jamaica, then settled in with a cup of peppermint tea and the same bible that kept him going through a quarter-century behind bars that he didn't deserve.

"Psalms 35, 142, 7. I read those psalms every day in prison. Those psalms keep me going spiritually, mentally keep me focused. Those psalms mean a lot to my soul."

When Deacon went shopping with his nephew at Caps USA on Flatbush Avenue he noticed how styles have changed since 1989, the year he was sent upstate.

"I feel good, but times have changed. I never used to wear these clothes back in the day. I used to wear linen, silk shirts with a zipper in front and elastic in the waist. Snake skin — that's my favorite. Nobody wears that anymore."

Deacon closed out his first day of freedom at the Spice's Jerk restaurant in East Flatbush, where his nephew called in advance to have the chef whip up some Jamaican grub.

"Rice and peas, steamed snapper fish, green bananas. I didn't eat that for — you know how many years I didn't eat that? I was eating that like I was crazy."

Deacon was convicted of gunning down Anthony Wynn during a robbery in a Flatbush apartment building. He was given a new trial in 2012 after a Jamaican gangbanger was fingered for the crime and a witness recanted and said she gave vague testimony after cops and prosecutors pressured her to, threatening to take away her kids.

Deacon was found not guilty Monday by a jury that took all of 9 minutes to render its verdict. He was temporarily detained on an immigration hold before his release.

"It's such a great relief, after so much time and so much heartache, to have him out here with his family instead of sitting on the phone with him in my office," said one of his defense attorneys, Rebecca Freedman, of the Exoneration Initiative.

"Now I have him here in my office, happy. It's just a great feeling to have him be vindicated."

Deacon said he wants to start his own company – maybe a restaurant or beauty parlor, or maybe a company that transports people to upstate prisons so they can visit their incarcerated loved ones.

"I'm so glad to be home," Deacon said. "I never thought a day would come when I'd be talking to news people, where I'd get calls from people on the phone, saying, 'Oh, you're on the front page of the New York Post!'"

Original report here




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Friday, November 22, 2013

Bronx teen jailed for three years without conviction

A CASE is unfolding in New York which casts serious questions over whether the US justice system works properly.

The case involves an American man who has just been released from one of the country's toughest prisons after serving a three-year term behind bars despite never have being convicted.

In May 2010, 16-year-old high school kid Kalief Browder was walking home through the New York borough of The Bronx after a party. As he told US media this week:

"This guy comes out of nowhere and says I robbed him. And the next thing I know they are putting cuffs on me. I don't know this dude. And I do over three years for something I didn't do."

The boy's family was unable to post $10,000 bail, so Browder languished in Rikers Island Prison, where he allegedly suffered physical and mental abuse at the hands of both inmates and prison officials.

Rikers Island is no picnic spot. Situated on an island in New York's East River, it houses 10,000 inmates and is sort of like a modern version of San Francisco's infamous Alcatraz.

Recent investigations and lawsuits have uncovered systematic brutality by guards as part of an unofficial and secretive program to keep prisoners in line. Yet this is where they stuck a 16-year-old for three years who hadn't even been convicted.

"It's very hard when you are dealing with dudes that are big and have weapons and shanks and there are gangs," Browder told US media outlets this week. "you know if you don't give your phone call up, or you don't give them what they want you know they are going to jump you. And it's very scary."

The Huffington Post reports that Browder has now filed a civil lawsuit against the Bronx District Attorney, City of New York, the New York City Police Department, the New York City Department of Corrections and a number of state-employed individuals.

The official complaint states Browder was "physically assaulted and beaten" by officers and other inmates during his time at Rikers Island, that he was was "placed in solitary confinement for more than 400 days" and was "deprived meals."

It is also claimed officers allegedly prevented him from pursuing his education, and that he attempted suicide at least six times.

Browder's current lawyer Paul Prestia told The Huffington Post his experiences were "inexplicable" and "unheard of."

"The city needs to be held accountable for what happened," he told The Post. "[Browder] had a right to a fair and speedy trail, and he wasn't afforded any of that. He maintained his innocence the entire time, and essentially got a three year sentence for that."

The lawyer also said that his client has suffered lingering mental health problems, and was way behind where he would have been in his schooling.

One news anchor in America has called it "an outrageous case of justice derailed".

We'll simply add that the US justice system may not be quite as well-oiled as they portray it in Law & Order.

Original report here




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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pure manure: City uproots FL couple’s 17-year-old garden

A Miami Shores couple was forced to uproot their garden of 17 years to comply with a new city ordinance.

But for the residents of Miami Shores, Fla., growing veggies can land you a fine — the type you eventually can’t afford.

That’s what happened to Hermine Ricketts and her husband, Tom Carroll. For the past 17 years they’ve grown a garden in the front yard of their modest South Florida home. The backyard, they say, doesn’t get enough sunlight.

But in May, the city put the couple’s garden, and any others like it, in their legal crosshairs.

A new zoning ordinance designed to "protect the distinctive character of the Miami Shores Village," was enacted and specifically prohibited vegetables – not fruit, trees or even plastic flamingos – from appearing in front yards.

Shortly after, the couple received a visit from their local code enforcement officer. They were given two choices: Uproot the garden or pay a $50 per day fine to keep it.

After twice appearing before the Miami Shores Code Enforcement Board and being denied an exemption, the couple decided to dig up the garden rather than fork over $1,500 a month to the city.

Now they’re taking their case to court.

In an effort to reinstate the couple’s right to grow a few vegetables on their own property, the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit libertarian leaning legal aid group, filed a lawsuit Tuesday on their behalf.

"We’re not suing for money," IJ attorney Ari Bargil told Florida Watchdog. "We’re asking the court to rule that this law is unconstitutional so Hermine and Tom can plant their garden again."

According to Bargil, the ordinance infringes on the couple’s basic right to privacy – a right the Florida Constitution recognizes more broadly than the U.S. Constitution.

"Miami Shores will have to prove that its ban promotes a compelling governmental interest and is narrowly tailored to advance that interest," wrote Bargil in a litigation backgrounder.

For its part, the city has yet to explain any interest beyond the language of the law itself.

Similar bans have taken root in other parts of the country. Ron Finely of South Los Angeles and Adam Guerro of Memphis were found in violation of city gardening ordinances, though they eventually prevailed.

But Denise Morrison of Tulsa, Okla., wasn’t so lucky. Her edible garden was largely destroyed by local authorities while she waited for her day in court. Julie Bass of Oak Park, Mich,. faced 90-days in jail for her home-grown veggies. The charges were eventually dropped.

Such rules are usually rooted in maintaining the aesthetic value of a neighborhood. Other residents have every right to complain — though that was not the case in Miami Shores — or local authorities can make a determination themselves.

The problem, however, is when a homeowner reasonably disagrees with city officials on what is considered visually "suitable." Throw in the productive use of growing food on one’s own property, and such restrictions can come across as arbitrary and subjective.

While the Florida case may seem to be small-potatoes to those that don’t grow and eat their own food, Bargil offers a simple warning.

"If the government can tell you what you can and can’t do in your front yard, what else can they decide is off-limits?

Original report here




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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Australia: Police change defence after video turns up

A group of police officers who allegedly broke the leg of an arts student and told her ''we don't care if it's legal'' have been allowed to change their defence at the eleventh hour after CCTV footage of the assault emerged.

Rachel Gardner is suing the NSW police force claiming she was kicked, sat on, handcuffed, pushed against a fence, loaded into a paddy wagon and then dumped at a nearby train station without charge after being caught without a train ticket on March 13, 2011.

Police initially denied the kick occurred but sought to amend their defence in the Sydney District Court on Monday, minutes before the beginning of a five-day trial, after Ms Gardner's legal team revealed they had obtained CCTV footage from Cronulla station.

On Tuesday, Judge Sharron Norton lambasted the force's barrister Matthew Hutchings for presenting an "entirely different" defence document on the morning of the trial but she allowed it and deferred the trial to November.

Ms Gardner, 36, was at Cronulla station with two tourist friends just before midnight when they were approached by transit officers and found to be without tickets.

An altercation ensued when the tourists couldn't produce identification and police attended. Ms Gardner claims that when she protested that one of the tourists was being pinned to the ground by a transit officer, Acting Sergeant Craig Sands kicked both her legs out from under her, breaking her right leg.

In her statement of claim, it is alleged Sergeant Sands then directed a transit officer to sit on her while she was lying face down on the platform before she was handcuffed, told she was under arrest and put in a paddy wagon.

When she objected to what she believed was an unlawful arrest, an officer said ''we don't care if this is legal'', the statement said. Ms Gardner was not taken to a police station and charged. Instead, she was driven to Sutherland railway station and ''left to fend for herself in a seriously injured condition''.

She is seeking damages of up to $750,000 for the injuries as well as the humiliation, disgrace, mental suffering, emotional distress, fear and anxiety, loss of social status and inconvenience caused by assault, false arrest and false imprisonment. A doctor's report says she will likely develop osteoarthritis within five to 10 years.

Her aspirations to become a filmmaker would also be hindered as well as attempts to get casual work while studying at the University of NSW College of Fine Arts, the court heard. Barrister Geoffrey Petty, SC, said the only record of the incident was a standard internal log that was ''brief in the extreme''. He said CCTV footage showed the kick ''as plain as daylight'' and also showed the officers chatting on the station as Ms Gardner limped away.

The police initially denied all Ms Gardner's claims and said she bit and kicked officers.

Mr Hutchings said this was because Ms Gardner's statement of claim was so vague and void of detail that it prevented them investigating the claims and preparing a proper response.

The trial will begin in November.

Original report here




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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Remaining 3 'San Antonio 4' women set free

It took six hours longer than they expected, but the remaining three of four San Antonio women imprisoned for sexually assaulting two girls in 1994 were freed Monday night.

Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh and Cassandra Rivera were released on their own recognizance after a judge decided to recommend that an appeals court vacate their 1998 convictions as tainted by faulty witness testimony.

The women have not been exonerated formally, but Bexar County prosecutors have said they do not intend to retry them if the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacates the convictions.

The three and their attorneys were expected to describe their next steps in their pursuit of exoneration later this week. However, prosecutors do not agree with Mike Ware, one of the attorneys for the women, that they should be declared formally innocent — a distinction that would allow them to collect money Texas pays to the wrongfully imprisoned.

The women's release was delayed for about six hours by paperwork issues with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The three emerged from the Bexar County Jail in San Antonio shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday, clasping their hands in one another's and holding them high as tearful family and friends surged toward them. Each was dressed in fresh, new clothes brought to them in advance by their families.

Rivera was introduced to her granddaughter for the first time. "I'm your grandma. I'm your grandma, baby. You're beautiful!" she said with a gasp.

They walked past reporters without comment before they climbed into a minivan driven. As they left, family members repeated over and over to them, "I love you. I love you."

Before the women emerged, Gloria Herrera was anxious about reuniting with her daughter, Ramirez. "I've seen her, but I haven't held her," she said.

The three were convicted with Anna Vasquez in 1998 of assaulting two of Ramirez's nieces, ages 7 and 9, in successive attacks during a week in 1994. The girls testified that the women held them by their wrists and ankles, attacked them and threatened to kill them.

Ramirez was given a 37-year prison sentence. Mayhugh, Vasquez and Rivera were given 15-year sentences. Vasquez has already been paroled, but under strict conditions.

Their case came to the attention of attorneys affiliated with the nonprofit Innocence Project of Texas more than a decade after the women were imprisoned. The group investigates potential wrongful conviction cases and Ware, who has worked on the case for two years, filed petitions on the women's behalf last month with the state appeals court.

They were convicted based on an expert's testimony that a vaginal injury sustained by the 9-year-old girl could have been caused by an assault. According to a petition filed by Ware, Dr. Nancy Kellogg testified that the injury in question happened around the time of the alleged assaults. But her conclusions have since been discredited by current findings on science, attorneys have said. Kellogg declined an interview request from The Associated Press last week.

Texas has passed several laws to add new safeguards for eyewitness identification, DNA testing and other issues in response to a rash of wrongful-conviction cases. Ware used one law passed this year to allow defendants to file appeals based on potential misuse of "junk science" — something criminal justice advocates have targeted as a frequent cause of wrongful convictions.

"It's a breath of fresh air," Vasquez told reporters after Ware announced earlier Monday that they would be released. "It's an awesome feeling. It's like a dream come true."

Herrera said she and her daughter hadn't decided what they would do when Ramirez went free — other than she knew Ramirez wanted a pizza.

"In the beginning there was no hope but this day has finally arrived," Herrera said. "I pray that this doesn't happen to anybody else."

Original report here




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Sunday, November 17, 2013

British police arrest the victim -- yet again

They are firmly on the side of the crooks

A businessman sold a lump of clay instead of an iPad by Tesco was arrested on suspicion of fraud when he complained to the supermarket giant.

Colin Marsh, 47, paid £470 for the Apple tablet computer in Whitstable, Kent, as a Christmas present last year for his young daughters - but he opened the box to find it contained three lumps of clay.

The father, who runs two bakeries, immediately took it back to the store for a refund - but instead of reimbursing him, Tesco staff became suspicious and reported him to Kent Police.

Two days later Mr Marsh, father to Maddie, 11, and Daisy, eight - got a call asking him to report to his local police station where he was held for three hours, and accused of trying to scam Tesco.

He spent two months on bail before being told he faced no further action. The iPad that should have been in the box was tracked down to Wales, more than 200 miles from where he had bought it.

Mr Marsh, who has since got his money back, said: ‘You just can’t treat people like that. It’s absolutely disgusting. I couldn’t believe it when I saw what was inside the box.

'Maddie was devastated. I took it back to Tesco, but they said they couldn’t give me a refund and would need to carry out an investigation.

‘Two days later, I got a call at about 8pm from the police asking if I could come down to the station to answer some questions. I just thought they wanted to know what had happened.

‘But the next thing I know I’m being bundled into a cell. I was in there for three hours. It was then they told me the iPad had been activated in my name. I just thought "how can that possibly be?"

‘It didn’t make any sense. I’ve run my own successful businesses for 22 years, and I own my own house. Why would I want to scam Tesco out of a £470 iPad? I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through what my family and I have.’

Mr Marsh, who is married to hairdresser Sam, 45, bought the iPad just before Christmas last year. He went back to complain on Boxing Day but was told staff needed to ‘investigate’.

Police then called him and he voluntarily attended Whitstable police station on December 28 where officers claimed the iPad had been registered to him.

Mr Marsh remained on bail until February 14 when the missing tablet was found registered in Wales.

A Tesco spokesman said: ‘We were very disappointed to learn that the product we sold to Mr Marsh had been tampered with.

'We would of course never knowingly have sold it to Mr Marsh and we apologise sincerely for the problems this has caused him.

‘We immediately launched an internal investigation into how this happened and shared the information we gathered with the police, which we believe was the right thing to do.

A Kent Police spokesman said: ‘Mr Marsh was arrested on suspicion of fraud following information that the iPad in question had apparently been registered in his name at some time between 21 and 24 December 2012.

‘This was investigated and as soon as it became clear that Mr Marsh had not committed any offences, his bail was cancelled and he was informed police would not be taking any further action against him.’

Original report here. (Via POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)




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Saturday, November 16, 2013

How Prosecutors Hijacked Grand Juries

We signed seven amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court from May through September. I’m behind in telling you about these briefs, but I'll begin correcting that today, starting with Kaley v U.S.

Here are the issues...

Can a grand jury be the means by which your property is seized?

Can the means you'd use to pay for your defense be taken from you, based on a mere indictment?

There are two things to know...

First, there are only six federal crimes under the Constitution...



Crimes in DC

Bribery of a federal official


Necessary and proper provisions to enforce tax laws and postal crimes

But our brief demonstrated how Congress has expanded from this 6 to more than 10,000 federal "crimes!" Worse, many of these "crimes" require no criminal intent to establish guilt.

Second, the courts pretend that Grand Juries protect citizens. But our brief was able to list five cases where the Supreme Court itself admitted that Grand Juries no longer serve the function they once did. We also documented the following facts...

Federal Rules of Evidence do not apply

Grand juries are conducted by or for prosecutors only

Neither witnesses nor targets have legal representation

Grand jury targets, even if they make a request, may not get to testify

Grand Juries have no power to prevent prosecutors from using a mere indictment as an excuse to seize property And once a defendant loses his or her property, he or she may no longer have the resources to mount a defense

This often allows prosecutors to force defendants to make deals

So much for innocent until proven guilty!

The results speak for themselves. The conviction rate is 91.6% on federal "crimes." 97.6% of these "convictions" were actually guilty pleas. Many of these pleas happened because the defendants could no longer resist after their assets were seized.

How did we arrive at this point? After all, the First Congress prohibited "forfeiture of estate" for any federal crime.

Step One: 1970

a) The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO.

b) The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act

These two Nixon-era laws undid 180 years of legal precedent. They both devised a scheme for the seizure of assets.

Step Two: 1984

Reagan-era amendments to the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act permitted one-sided, prosecutor-requested seizure.

Asset forfeiture, once used for drugs, soon found its way to other areas. It turned out to be a revenue source for the Feds.

The Supreme Court needs to stop pretending that grand juries are sufficiently rigorous to determine whether or not an indicted party's assets should be confiscated. Specifically, we argued in our brief that...

The Grand Jury system is woefully insufficient to protect the assets of the accused

Most federal crimes are un-Constitutional — they shouldn't be crimes

Defendants need resources to defend themselves, and they deserve the ability to defend against the taking of their property

The Supreme Court heard the case October 16.

Original report here




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Friday, November 15, 2013

How many seconds would you have to die?

Outrage over the murder of Andy Lopez seems to have run its media course. And a short course it was. A few days.

Even while the gunblogosphere was spreading the news that a California sheriff’s deputy had assassinated a 13-year-old boy for walking down the street with an Airsoft gun, the story was already being dismissed. One of the more conservative gunbloggers sniffed (I paraphrase), "Too bad. But after all, he refused to obey a police command."

Carl-Bear Bussjaeger blew that notion away with his terrible, moving, "10 Seconds to Die." That poor kid, just minding his own business, was cut down before he even had a chance to comprehend what was demanded of him, what was happening to him.

Where has the outrage gone?

The Deep Thought blog I didn’t manage to write last week was going to be about the state slowly delegitimizing itself through its bizarre combination of cruelty, ineptitude, self-righteousness, and self-pity. I was going to talk about puppycides, extra-judicial capital punishment (like that dealt to Andy Lopez by Sonoma County Deputy Sheriff Erick Gelhaus), and the pampering of thugs (as exemplified by the $38,000 settlement paid to Keystone Kampus Kop, John Pike for all the "suffering" he endured after methodically pepperspraying non-violent students).

I probably won’t get back to that topic, at least for a while. But the fate of Andy Lopez, and the way his story faded from the MSM, the Twitterverse, and the blogosphere with record speed weighs on me.

How quickly any one of us could be a page 27 story with the line "the subject was engaged and the threat was neutralized." (The official line on little Andy Lopez.)

Conveniently for those California deputies, their squad car had no video or audio recording devices and apparently no bystanders were quick enough to lift their smartphones.

But Lopez’s murder reminded me of one that a Seattle cop committed in 2010. Here’s the video of brave policeman Ian Birk "engaging the subject and neutralizing the threat." As Carl-Bear urges, think about what you’d do in the victim’s shoes. Could you give the cop what he wanted in time to avoid being shot in the back? Could you even understand that it was you he was barking at in the time given?

The ending of the Seattle story was typical. Birk left his job, even though the official investigation found that he had acted "in good faith and without malice." City taxpayers forked over a $1.5 million settlement, punished for something they didn’t do. But neither the county prosecutor nor the feds brought any charges partly because Birk would have been able to make the legal argument that Seattle police training was at fault. And wouldn’t that have been embarrassing?

Something like that will probably happen now in Sonoma County.

And cops will go on blowing citizens away with impugnity. Until they day they’re made to pay real consequences.

Original report here




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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mom Arrested for Letting Kids Play Outside

A Texas mother was sent to jail and charged with child endangerment for letting her two children play outside.

"So we were outside. I took my lawn chair and put it on the sidewalk where I always sit and watch them outside when they’re playing. They were out maybe an hour and a half, two hours and got tired. We came inside, started getting their pajamas on them and getting ready for the end of our day, and about 30 minutes after that I looked out my window and see a La Porte police officer at the end of my driveway."

Tammy’s neighbor called police to report that her two children were playing outside unsupervised and based on that information, police arrested her for child endangerment.

After spending 18 hours in a jail cell, the ridiculous charges were dropped.

Currently she is suing for damages and $7,000 in legal fees.

Original report here

She should sue the nosy neighbor as well



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Monday, November 11, 2013

Today's Drug War Outrage: Man Dies In Jail Cell After Misdemeanor Pot Offense

Today's story is part drug war, part police indifference and callousness, part police cover-up. It comes by way of a lawsuit filed by the family of Michael Saffioti.

Saffioti failed to make a court date on a misdemeanor charge for pot possession. In July of last year, he surrendered himself to Snohomish County, Washington authorities, who promptly jailed him. (The streets of Snohomish County were a little safer that day.) When it came time for breakfast the following morning, Saffioti is seen on video having a conversation with a guard while holding his tray. Presumably, he was inquiring about any dairy products in the meal. Saffioti had a severe allergy. He's then seen taking a few bites of some oatmeal. (You can watch the video here.)

The awfulness that followed is detailed by KIRO TV.

Within a few minutes, Saffioti was back at the guard desk, using his inhaler.

According to the legal claim, he asked to see a nurse. Instead, he was sent to his cell.

Over the next half hour, the video shows other inmates looking in Saffioti's cell as he jumped up and down.

The legal claim says he pressed his call button and was ignored. It also alleges that the guards told him h was "faking."

About 35 minutes after he ate, a guard found Saffioti unconscious in his cell. The guard called for help and Saffioti was dragged out.

Nurses arrived and performed CPR. Everett firefighters took over and rushed Saffioti to the hospital where he was pronounced dead a half hour later.

Then the coverup began. County officials stonewalled Saffioti's mother's attempts to obtain video of the events leading to her son's death, first by denying its existence. After Saffioti's family discovered the police had lied about that, they turned over only non-incriminating portions of the video. The family was eventually able to force them to hand over the entire thing. So far, attorneys for the family have also been barred from interviewing jail staff or responding medical personnel.

This is the eighth death in the Snohomish jail in three years. Johnathin Vankin reports that "a recent investigation by the National Institute of Corrections found that the jail’s health department is seriously understaffed and that overcrowding in the jail has caused serious safety hazards."

But New York criminal defense attorney Scott Greenfield points out that this is about more than just staffing and funding.

This young man’s death reflects the toxic mix of dehumanization, neglect and deceit. Inmates complain constantly about nearly every aspect of life in jail. The accommodations don’t suit many, and there isn’t much reason not to complain. The product is that complaints are ignored.

After all, to the guards, these aren’t people, but inmates. That’s what inmates do, complain. Do something about the complaints and they’ll just be back complaining about something else tomorrow. Ignore them and they’ll still be back, but it’s easier to just ignore them again tomorrow.

The problem is that every once in a while, a complaint, like a life-threatening food allergy, is real. Not just real, but brutally real. To take the time to listen, to hear, to take seriously, a complaint is more than a guard can bear. Jails are all about routine, and routine applies to everyone. To expect CO’s to treat inmates like people, to take the time to distinguish between real complaints and the typical noise is to expect them to be caring, intelligent people. That’s not part of the routine.

Saffioti's food allergies were apparently so severe that he was sometimes called "bubble boy." His condition required constant attention. According to his mother, the knowledge that the smallest break in vigilance could result in his death caused Saffioti a lot of anxiety. Understandably so. She says he smoked pot to help relieve that anxiety. As both Greenfield and Vankin point out, the cruel irony here is that four months after Saffioti's death, recreational pot was legalized in Washington state.

The story is reminiscent of the Jonathan Magbie tragedy. Magbie was a quadriplegic who was allowed to die in a Washington, D.C. jail cell while serving a 10-day sentence for possession of pot. He was jailed despite no prior convictions, and in spite of his need of constant care to stay alive. According to his mother, Magbie smoked pot to treat the effects of his paralyzation. Medical pot is now legal in D.C., and the city looks poised to at least decriminalize pot for recreational use, if not legalize it outright.

Original report here




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Sunday, November 10, 2013


Los Angeles black jailed on false testimony, freed after 34 years

A US man who served 34 years for murder was freed after the sister of the sole witness said the testimony was a lie.

Brenda Anderson testified in 1979 that Kash Delano Register, 53, shot and killed her neighbour Jack Sasson in a carport attached to his Los Angeles home.

But more than three decades later, Anderson’s sister, Sharon, told a judge Register was the victim of a false testimony and an apparent police cover-up, the LA Times reports.

None of the seven fingerprints found on Sasson’s car matched Register’s and police never found the murder weapon, according to the newspaper. Investigators did seize a pair of pants from Register’s closet that had a speck of blood on them, but the blood type, O, matched both Sasson and Register.

At trial, prosecutors relied on the eyewitness testimony of Brenda Anderson, then 19, who said she was at home when she heard gunfire, looked out the window and saw Register sprinting from the Sassons' carport.

Register was sentenced to 27 years to life in prison, despite his girlfriend testifying that he was with her at the time of the shooting.

Register's release was set in motion in 2011, when another of Brenda Anderson’s sisters, Sheila Vanderkam, was horrified to discover he was still in prison.

At the time of the shooting, Vanderkam said her sisters had just hidden a package of beauty products they had stolen from a neighbour. Sharon Anderson said they heard gunfire, but weren't close enough to get a good look at the shooter.

Vanderkam, who worked at the same LAPD station as the detectives investigating the shooting, claims she told police in 1979 that Brenda had lied.

"The detective placed his finger over his mouth (like a shush sound) and just stared at me," Vanderkam said in her declaration. "He made it very clear to me, without actually saying anything, that I was to stay out of it."

Sharon Anderson also said she told police at the time that they had the wrong man, but that her comments were never disclosed.

Register, who always maintained his innocence, held back tears as the ruling was made on Friday.

Original report here




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Saturday, November 09, 2013


IA: Dad calls cops to teach 19-year-old son a lesson, cops kill the kid over a moment of silly defiance

After 19-year-old Tyler Comstock quarreled with his father and drove off in his truck, the elder Comstock decided to teach him a lesson by reporting the truck to the police as stolen.

Soon after, cops chased down Tyler and shot him to death — despite receiving orders from dispatch to cease their pursuit.

Now the Comstock family is furious — and demanding answers.

"Why? Why did they kill him?" asked Shari Comstock, Tyler’s mother, in a statement to The Des Moines Register.

On Monday, an argument broke out between Tyler and his father, James Comstock, who refused to buy his son a pack of cigarettes. Tyler stormed off and left in his father’s truck, which is owned by a lawn care company.

James decided to teach his son a lesson by alerting police to the stolen vehicle. Cops pursued Tyler to the nearby Iowa State University campus in Ames, Iowa. During the chase, Comstock rammed a police vehicle at least once, according to reports.

Still, a recently released audio file revealed that dispatchers twice instructed police to stop following Comstock. The officers did not obey.

The truck eventually came to a stop in the middle of campus property, at which point police ordered Comstock to turn off the engine. Instead, the 19-year-old revved it, prompting Ames Police Officer Adam McPherson to fire six shots into the truck. Two of them hit Comstock, killing him at the scene.

"It was over a damn pack of cigarettes," said James Comstock. "I wouldn’t buy him none. And I lose my son for that."

Comstock is believed to have been unarmed, though he may have endangered pedestrians on the campus, according to The Huffington Post.

The family told reporters that Tyler had anger issues, and had spent a few days in jail for disorderly conduct. Still, they maintained that he was trying to turn his life around by attending daily Bible study.

"He called me every night, trying to straighten his life out," said Comstock.

Original report here




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Friday, November 08, 2013

Man accused of attempted murder jailed for lesser charge after British police lost vital forensic evidence... and he could be freed within months

A man found guilty of a frenzied knife attack on his ex-girlfriend could be freed in months after investigators lost vital evidence which could have convicted him of attempted murder.

Michael Bennison, 29, could have faced life behind bars after stabbing the woman once in her side and five times in a broad daylight attack on a street in York.

But the charge of attempted murder would not stick after forensic teams misplaced DNA evidence from two knives.

As a result prosecutors were forced to accept the 28-year-old's plea to a lesser charge of unlawful wounding, which carries a maximum sentence of just five years.

Newcastle Crown Court heard that on December 14 last year Bennison, of no fixed address, was travelling in a car in York with the female victim, Amy Evans, 27, and another man.

Nick Adlington, prosecuting, said Bennison, of no fixed address had been in a volatile, on-off relationship with Miss Evans and an argument broke out in the car.

When they arrived at their destination they got out and Miss Evans produced a knife. But Bennison took the knife from her and stabbed her six times, once in the side and five times in the back.

He then ran off down an alleyway and went into hiding before he was found two days later.

Describing how the evidence came to be lost by North Yorkshire Police, Mr Adlington said: 'The swabs went missing from the forensic science service in York. I have been told there has been a full internal review.'

Mr Adlington said as well as the lost evidence, the attempted murder trial faced other problems, including the refusal of an expert witness to come to court.

Jailing Bennison, who has previous convictions for domestic violence on different partners, for a total of four years, Mr Justice Bennison told him he posed a high risk to all women.

After already spending a year behind bars on remand, Bennison could be eligible for parole within just 12 months.

The judge said: 'Originally you faced a charge of attempted murder but because vital evidence had been lost a plea to section 20 was accepted.

'You pose a high risk of harm to the victim and to all women. There is clearly a significant risk to female members of the public. 'There was an intention to commit serious harm.'

The sentence also included a guilty plea for assaulting a man outside a flat in November last year after they got into an argument over noise.

After falling to the floor, the victim was kicked in the head by Bennison before he jumped with both feet onto his back.

The court heard that he had 14 previous appearances at court for 27 offences, that included battery and affray.

John Gregg, defending, said Bennison had 'wrestled with his own demons', which included drug abuse, but that he has made progress in prison.

Original report here




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Thursday, November 07, 2013


Arkansas cop allegedly fired Taser at woman for not showing breasts

A WOMAN has taken a police officer to court after he allegedly tasered her after she refused to show him her breasts.

Ashlea Bennett alleged that Officer Brandon Carter in his uniform went into her place of work in Haskell, Arkansas on December 13, 2011, and ordered that she give him a sneak peak of her boobs, Court House News Service reported.

She alleged that it was not the first time he had asked her to expose herself to him and that complaints had been previously about his unwarranted behaviour.

In this instance, when Bennett refused, Carter allegedly drew his "electroshock Taser weapon" and pointed it at her and said he would fire it if she did not comply with his demand.

Bennett ran away and into the back of the office, where Carter allegedly chased her and "activated and deployed his electroshock Taser weapon in 'drive stun' mode numerous times".

She is suing the City of Haskell and Officer Carter, in the US Federal Court for compensation and punitive damages on charges that include civil rights violations, assault, failure to train and supervise, and negligent supervision.

Bennett also claims Haskell's police department ignored her previous complaints about the cop.

Original report here




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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Cops in Deming, New Mexico probe driver David Eckert who failed to stop at sign

A MAN who failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign was subjected to X-rays, cavity searches, several enemas and a colonoscopy by police who believed he was carrying drugs.

KOB4 reports that David Eckert had just finished shopping at Walmart on January 2 this year in Deming, New Mexico when he was pulled over for going through a stop sign too quickly.

Federal legal documents claim that Mr Eckert appeared to be clenching his buttocks when police pulled him over so they obtained a warrant to do an anal cavity search.

After attempting to get the probe done at one hospital, police were forced to admit Mr Eckert to Gila Regional Medical Centre because the first hospital deemed it "unethical."

Mr Eckert underwent an abdominal X-ray, which showed no drugs. He then had two anal exams where doctors used their fingers, once again no drugs were found.

Mr Eckert then had three enemas but nothing was found in stool samples.

After a second X-ray still found nothing, Mr Eckert was prepped for surgery and was given a colonoscopy, which also showed no drugs.

"If the officers in Hidalgo County and the City of Deming are seeking warrants for anal cavity searches based on how they’re standing and the warrant allows doctors at the 'Gila Hospital of Horrors' to go in and do enemas and colonoscopies without consent, then anyone can be seized and that’s why the public needs to know about this," Mr Eckert's lawyer, Shannon Kennedy said.

Ms Kennedy said the warrant was only valid for Luna County, where Deming is located but not in Grant County where the Gila Regional Medical Centre is located. It had also expired by three hours by the time the colonoscopy was performed.

"This is like something out of a science fiction film, anal probing by government officials and public employees," Ms Kennedy said.

Deming Police Chief Brandon Gigante said the town had no reason to fear unwarranted intrusions by police officers.

"We follow the law in every aspect and we follow policies and protocols that we have in place," Chief Gigante replied.

Original report here


UPDATE: See here


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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Virginia: Culpeper feud Wrongful murder conviction triggers feud in Culpeper

After Hash case, new prosecutor is at odds with sheriff

It is no source of pride in Culpeper County that two of the best-known trials ever held in the 140-year-old courthouse ended in wrongful capital murder convictions.

Just last year, a federal judge cited prosecutorial and police misconduct in tossing out the conviction of Michael Wayne Hash, prompting Commonwealth’s Attorney Gary Close to resign out of concern that he had become a distraction to law enforcement.

But distractions continue to this day at the courthouse, where the blunt-talking, gun-toting Megan R. Frederick, elected commonwealth’s attorney last November, is bitterly at odds with Sheriff Scott Jenkins.

Some are concerned that poor relations between the two top law enforcement officials in Culpeper could be detrimental to public safety.

The rift stems from the Hash case, which helped Frederick win her office and for which Jenkins, his chief deputy and Close are being sued in a federal civil rights case set for trial in June.

"The problem in Culpeper is that this group of elite, good old boys — and good old boys can be women — they do not like anyone who doesn’t want to get along with them or join their team," Frederick said in a recent interview.

She said a threatening note was left on her office door during one of two unsolved break-ins. And she was investigated but not charged by the Sheriff’s Office for what she says was a baseless assault complaint from a probation officer.

Jenkins did not respond to repeated requests for an interview for this story. But he said in an email that "since I’ve been repeatedly attacked by (Frederick), my words would probably appear biased or politically motivated to some."

In 2000, Jenkins — then a deputy sheriff — was assigned to reinvestigate the unsolved 1996 slaying of Thelma B. Scroggins, a 74-year-old Lignum woman who was shot to death in her home. Jenkins was assisted by another deputy sheriff, James Mack.

Jenkins was elected sheriff in 2011, and Mack is now his chief deputy. They and Close are among the defendants named in the civil rights suit filed by Hash.

The suit alleges, "These law enforcement officials engaged in a concerted and malicious effort to convict Hash for a brutal crime despite the total absence of credible evidence against him."

Hash, 32, was tried for the Scroggins slaying in 2001. Last year, U.S. District Judge James C. Turk overturned the conviction, calling it a miscarriage of justice.

Among other things, Turk wrote, "Investigator Jenkins testified falsely at Hash’s trial regarding whether (a witness’s) interviews were recorded," and that Close "concealed negotiations with (the witness) regarding a plea agreement in exchange for his testimony."

Turk’s ruling was not appealed by the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, and a special prosecutor declined to retry Hash, who was released and then filed his federal suit.

A similar federal suit filed in 2006 by Earl Washington Jr., an innocent man convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in Culpeper in 1984, was settled for $1.9 million paid by the state.

Washington came close to execution in 1985. But he was cleared and the real killer implicated by DNA testing in 2000 in what was arguably the biggest black eye ever suffered by Virginia’s justice system.

Close, who covered Washington’s trial as a young newspaper reporter in Culpeper, became commonwealth’s attorney for Culpeper in 1991.

Days after Gov. Jim Gilmore pardoned Washington in 2000, Close told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that it did not mean Washington was innocent.

Just months later, Close prosecuted Hash.

Hash, 19 at the time of trial and 15 at the time of Scroggins’ slaying, was sentenced to life. Two of Hash’s teenage friends also were tried: Jason Kloby, who was acquitted; and Eric Weakley, who pleaded guilty and testified against Kloby and Hash.

Hash’s conviction was vacated last year.

"The court is disturbed by the miscarriage of justice that occurred in this case and finds that Hash’s trial is an example of an extreme malfunction in the state criminal justice system," Turk wrote in his 64-page ruling.

The judge found that some of Jenkins’ actions as an investigator rose to the level of "outrageous misconduct." Not only did Turk find the conviction tainted, he also wrote that Hash had made a showing of actual innocence.

Denying any wrongdoing, Close stepped down from office in March 2012. Jenkins did not step down, saying he had done nothing wrong.

Frederick says Jenkins’ alleged misconduct in the Hash case is at the root of the trouble she is having with him.

"I don’t like him. I don’t like what he did," she said. "I think he needs to resign."

Several longtime Culpeper-area lawyers did not return calls for this story.

Attorney William Ashwell said Frederick’s office "has been tremendously helpful in a civil matter I’ve got going on over here." He said his interactions with Frederick’s office have been very professional.

A county figure willing to speak his mind about Frederick was William C. Chase Jr., a member of the Board of Supervisors for 32 years who is critical of the new commonwealth’s attorney.

In a recent email, Frederick alleged that Chase and some other members of the board were corrupt but offered no details. In response, last month a majority of the board voted to file a misconduct complaint against her with the Virginia State Bar for calling them corrupt.

"It’s a mess, it’s a real mess and I don’t know how it’s going to shake out in the long run," Chase said. "I think people are just shaking their heads in amazement."

The supervisors had earlier turned down Frederick’s request for $60,000 so her office could have its own investigator, as do some other Virginia prosecutors. But Frederick said she could not elaborate on her corruption allegation until after the bar complaint is resolved.

The state bar would not confirm there is a complaint pending.

J.E. "Chip" Harding, the sheriff of nearby Albemarle County, said he does not know Frederick well. But, he said, "I feel very sorry for the position that Megan Frederick (finds) herself in ... to come into a situation where your sheriff and several members of that agency have been basically called out by a federal judge."

"As a young commonwealth’s attorney coming into that situation and going to your Board of Supervisors and saying, ‘I need an investigator in my office that I can trust,’ and they don’t give that to you, you’re at a real disadvantage," Harding said.

When Frederick campaigned, she promised to bring integrity to the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, which has almost a dozen employees. Her opponent last November was Paul Walther, an experienced prosecutor who served under Close and was appointed commonwealth’s attorney after Close resigned.

Frederick said the Hash case shows Jenkins was not truthful and asked, "What does a commonwealth’s attorney do when a federal judge has documented that the sitting sheriff has lied? ... What do you do? It’s a bad position to be in."

She also complained that Jenkins has shifted his position on Hash’s guilt.

In a 2010 affidavit, Jenkins said then-Culpeper Sheriff Lee Hart instructed him and Mack to investigate Hash and the two other teens for the murder. Hart also played a role in the wrongful conviction of Washington.

Jenkins said in his affidavit, "To this day, I do not believe the story they told — that three teenage boys murdered Thelma Scroggins — is plausible."

But in his written response to Hash’s suit earlier this year, Jenkins said he believes Hash is guilty.

Frederick complained that Jenkins is flip-flopping. "Which one is it, Sheriff? We’d like to know. Pick a side and stay on it," she said.

Frederick said that after she assumed office, a box of records concerning the Hash case that had been missing mysteriously reappeared. Then, she said, "we had a couple of break-ins. ... There was not any indication they tried to get anything but the Hash box."

A door handle was broken and a threatening note was left on the door. "I think the good old boys definitely want to scare me," she said. She added that she was concerned for her safety and carried a handgun.

In a news release in May, Frederick complained that the Sheriff’s Office released information about what she says was a baseless assault complaint against her involving a probation officer in a dispute over new technology.

"During my campaign for this office, I knew — and told voters — that there were serious problems with the administration of justice in Culpeper. Now, six months into my service, I can emphatically state that the problems I saw during my campaign represented the tip of what constitutes an iceberg of institutional corruption," she said in the news release.

Now, almost a year into her term, things have not improved, she said.

"His deputies record us when they’re in our office. It’s a bit of a nightmare," she said.

"There is a tension between the prosecutor’s office and the sheriff’s department. At some level, a little bit of tension is never bad. My job is not to have them give me the truth, my job is to seek the truth," she said.

A problem, she said, is that because of everything that’s going on, a deputy or investigator "often thinks that if I’m evaluating the case and I’m unhappy with something they’ve done that it’s an attack on the sheriff and it isn’t, it is me seeking the truth."

She said she will work with Jenkins on general public safety and law enforcement issues, such as jail overcrowding, in group settings.

"I’m willing to govern with him on that, but if he wants me to like him he’s going to have to wait a very long time. ... At the end of the day we have no relationship and that’s the way it is," she said.

Like Frederick, Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor is the first woman to be elected her county’s top prosecutor. Taylor said she is familiar with the problems in Culpeper.

"We don’t see this type of contentious relationship anywhere else in the commonwealth," she said. "I can’t even imagine how I would be doing my job right now if I were constantly fighting the police chief."

Taylor said, "Citizens want their law enforcement agency and their prosecutor’s office to work together because that translates into success, which translates into safety for the community."

Original report here




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Monday, November 04, 2013

British cops suspended after innocent man accused of paedophilia burned to death

Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens says there are "some real questions that need to be asked" after the brutal murder of Bijan Ebrahimi who was burned to death by vigilantes after being wrongly accused of being a paedophile.

Bijan Ebrahimi, a keen gardener, took pictures of local youths as they attacked his plants and intended to hand the photographs to police as evidence.

But instead officers were called when he was seen with the camera and he was led away for questioning as residents chanted "paedo, paedo".

Officers realised their mistake at the police station and he was released, but rumours had already begun circulating that he was a child abuser and two days later he was beaten unconscious, dragged into the street and set on fire.

His family believe that he was failed by the authorities. "The police should have taken especially seriously his calls for help in the days before he was murdered," they said in a statement.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has launched an investigation.

The three constables who originally went to Mr Ebrahimi’s maisonette have been suspended and served notices of potential gross misconduct charges; three other police officers involved in his detention have not been suspended but face the same charge. In addition, six civilian call handlers will be questioned to establish whether they treated Mr Ebrahimi’s cries for help with due seriousness.

Lee James, 24, pleaded guilty to murder at Bristol Crown Court and his friend Stephen Norley, also 24, admitted assisting an offender after deciding to "take the law into their own hands".

Original report here




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