Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Video Proves Cops Shot Guy in Walmart Immediately, For No Reason
Video footage has been released in the shooting death of John Crawford, the man who was gunned down in a Beavercreek, Ohio, Walmart by cops who apparently thought he was armed and dangerous. In reality, Crawford had picked up a pellet rifle from the hardware section of the store and was carrying it around while he talked on the phone.
The police maintained that Crawford had refused orders to drop the weapon; the video footage proves definitively that that was not the case—the cops shot the man almost immediately after encountering him. Claims in some media outlets that Crawford had been walking around the store and pointing the gun at people also seem false, unless those occurrences happened during the few seconds that Crawford was out of range of the surveillance camera.
Nevertheless, a grand jury declined to indict the two officers involved, according to The Huffington Post. The U.S. Department of Justice will look into the matter, however.
When this story first broke, many wondered whether mitigating factors would emerge to explain, if not justify, the reaction of law enforcement officers. To my eyes at least, the surveillance video confirms the worst case scenario: The cops killed this man for almost no reason whatsoever.
Original report here. Video at link.
(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress. If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where posts appear as well as on the primary site. I have reposted the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts HERE or HERE or here
Posted by bussorah at 9:50 PM
Monday, September 29, 2014
PA police officers burst into home, arrest woman for filming them with cellphone
A Pennsylvania family has filed a federal lawsuit alleging three Collingdale police officers entered their home without permission to confiscate a cell phone being used to record the officer’s actions in front of their home.
Kia Gaymon, 38, and her husband Michael Gaymon, 35, state in the suit that one officer, identified as Officer Carl White, burst into the home without a warrant and arrested her after threatening to use a taser on her, according to NBC10.
In the suit, the officers are accused of unlawful arrest, malicious prosecution, retaliatory arrest, and unlawful search.
According to the Gaymons, the February 22 altercation began when police were called out because a family member had parked her car illegally. The Gaymons state that, as one officer became overly aggressive with his questions, Mrs. Gaymon pulled out her cell phone and began recording.
Noticing that he was being recorded, Officer White advanced on Gaymon demanding she turn off her phone, stating it was illegal to record him without his permission.
Mr. Gaymon and the couple’s 21-year-old daughter, Sanshuray Purnell, told the officer he was wrong and that she had the legal right to film him. According to the lawsuit, the officer then told Mrs. Gaymon that if she didn’t stop recording him he would enter her home, take away her cellphone, and arrest her.
After refusing to allow him to enter her home the officer then handcuffed Purnell. Mrs. Gaymon says a second officer then escorted Purnell away from the scene.
White then allegedly entered the home, ignoring the couple’s demand that he not come inside, and demanded the phone, placing a taser against Mrs. Gaymon’s chest and threatening to use it.
"I panicked," she said. "I was scared."
The suit states that two officer then arrested Mrs. Gaymon along with her daughter and charged them both with disorderly conduct.
The family’s attorney said the police had no cause to enter the home illegally and make an arrest.
"The actions that are described in the citation are for videoing the officer," said Jonathan Fienberg. "It’s not a crime."
Mrs. Gaymon and Purnell appeared before a judge on May 22 and, after hearing their testimony, the judge dismissed all charges against them.
According to the lawsuit, the officers, "had no legal cause to believe that any plaintiff committed any crime" and that they "maliciously initiated a criminal prosecution." The lawsuit also accuses the officers of illegally entering the home without a warrant.
The Collingdale Police Chief has not responded to the suit, deferring to the department’s solicitor.
(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress. If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where posts appear as well as on the primary site. I have reposted the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts HERE or HERE or here
Posted by bussorah at 5:32 PM
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Video explains why a former S.C. trooper is now being charged with a felony
A former South Carolina Highway Patrol trooper was arrested and charged this week with "assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature" after he shot an unarmed motorist during a bizarre and nearly fatal traffic stop.
Sean Groubert, 31, could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted on charges he wrongfully shot the 35-year-old motorist, Levar Jones, during a stop prompted by a seatbelt violation, the State reported.
The shooting took place Sept. 4, resulting in Groubert's almost-immediate termination from the state Highway Patrol.
Footage of the incident became public this week, the day of the former trooper's booking, and the State posted the "disturbing" video to YouTube.
"The video shows Groubert firing repeatedly at Jones, who was not armed and who was not behaving aggressively," the State reported. "Jones was struck at least once, in the hip. He spent time in the hospital and is now out of the hospital recuperating."
After being struck with at least one bullet, Jones can be heard saying: "What did I do, sir? ... I can't feel my leg."
The video was played at Groubert’s bond hearing, at which his bond was set at $75,000.
Groubert's defense here. He was basically just a scared kid
(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress. If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where posts appear as well as on the primary site. I have reposted the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts HERE or HERE or here
Posted by bussorah at 9:20 PM
Saturday, September 27, 2014
PROSECUTOR GIVES UP ON JAILING SHANEEN ALLEN
We wrote here about the appalling case of Shaneen Allen, a young Pennsylvania woman with a Pennsylvania concealed carry permit who crossed into New Jersey en route to a child’s birthday party. She had her gun in her purse, was stopped for an "unsafe lane change," and wound up facing up to ten years in prison for bringing her legally-owned gun into New Jersey. The case became a national news story, in part because of the efforts of the NRA.
The prosecutor in the case, Jim McClain, was adamant about sending Ms. Allen to jail. Happily, he has finally relented:
"Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain, who initially refused to approve Allen for a pretrial diversion program, has changed his mind.
McClain cited a memo issued today by acting Attorney General John Hoffman, who told local prosecutors that "imprisonment is neither necessary nor appropriate to serve the interests of justice and protect public safety" in cases like Allen’s. …"
Hoffman’s memo looks like a face-saving excuse for McClain, who more than a week ago signaled that he was reconsidering his hard-line approach to Allen’s case, which had attracted nationwide attention.
McClain is the same prosecutor who let [wife basher] Ray Rice off with pretrial diversion. I suspect that he backed down on the Shaneen Allen prosecution in part because he couldn’t explain the discrepancy between her treatment and Rice’s. In any event, it is a happy outcome for her–but one that wouldn’t have happened but for pressure that was exerted by the NRA and many others. If Allen had remained an unknown, she would be on her way to prison.
Which is why, as Glenn Reynolds, has long argued, we need federal legislation to limit the penalties that states can impose for possession of firearms that the possessor is legally entitled to own.
Posted by bussorah at 5:53 PM
Friday, September 26, 2014
Black woman filmed being pummelled by police wins $1.5 million payout
A black woman who was filmed being repeatedly beaten by a California Patrol (CHP) officer will receive $1.5 million in compensation.
The sum was agreed between lawyers acting for the woman, Marlene Pinnock, 51, and the patrol following nine hours of negotiations.
Mobile phone footage of the incident, which took place on July 1, caused widespread outrage.
The footage, which showed an officer straddling Ms Pinnock and raining a series of blows on her.
Ms Pinnock, who was suffering from bipolar disorder and homelessness, is reported to have been off her medication for two to three months at the time of the incident.
In a statement CHP said the officer, who has been on leave on leave since the incident, had resigned.
"When this incident occurred, I promised that I would look into it and vowed a swift resolution," CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said in a statement.
The incident was one of a series in which police in Los Angeles had faced allegations of using excessive force.
Earlier in the year David Cunningham, a black American judge, filed a $10 million claim after being handcuffed and bundled into a police car for not wearing a seatbelt.
Caree Harper, Ms Pinnock’s lawyer, welcomed the settlement.
"One of the things we wanted to make sure of was that she was provided for in a manner that accommodated her unique situation in life, and that the officer was not going to be an officer anymore."
Posted by bussorah at 10:45 AM
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Criminal probe into Met poster girl is dropped: Firearms officer says she suffered '13 months of hell' during inquiry into her conduct
A black woman firearms officer said she suffered ‘13 months of hell’ before a criminal inquiry into her conduct was dropped yesterday.
PC Carol Howard, 35, claimed the inquiry only went on for so long because she had successfully challenged racism and sexism in the Metropolitan Police.
The officer, who was the force’s Olympics security poster girl in 2012, learned she will face no further action over claims linked to a dispute with her ex-husband.
Last night, she said: ‘I’m appalled and disgusted that the police put me through 13 months of hell simply because I stood up to the Met Police and challenged the discrimination at work.
‘As a working officer, I know these allegations would not normally have been investigated in this way and for this long.
'I was punished for challenging them and they tried to smear me. Lessons need to be learned by the police, and quickly.’
Sussex Police had investigated a string of incidents which allegedly took place in 2012-2013. But the Crown Prosecution Service found there was insufficient evidence to bring charges of perverting the course of justice and harassment.
A claim of common assault was not pursued as the alleged incident took place more than two years ago and there is a six-month limit on the offence. A further claim that PC Howard possessed an indecent image of a child was dropped as the photograph was of her daughter.
This month, the elite officer was awarded £37,000 for suffering appalling treatment in the Met’s Diplomatic Protection Group.
Judges found PC Howard was targeted for almost a year by a senior officer while working in the Met’s Diplomatic Protection Group.
The decision to end the inquiry is unlikely to be the final chapter in an ongoing acrimonious dispute between PC Howard and the force.
The officer, the force's poster girl for the 2012 Olympic Games, right, claims the inquiry into her arrests only went on for so long because she successfully challenged the force over racism and sexual discrimination
She has accused the force of trying to ‘smear’ her by releasing details of her arrest at the hands of The Met and neighbouring Sussex.
Senior officers are still considering whether to bring a misconduct case against her, something which could yet end her police career.
Earlier this week the Equality and Human Rights Commission announced it will investigate the force over its handling of internal complaints.
The tribunal found officers routinely deleted references to discrimination from reports, including one relating to PC Howard.
A Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said: ‘We have advised Sussex Police that no further criminal action should be taken.’
Posted by bussorah at 8:39 PM
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
UK: Criminals could appeal after Home Office admits potentially misleading DNA evidence presented to juries
Criminals including murderers and rapists could attempt to have their convictions overturned after the Home Office admitted that potentially misleading DNA evidence was presented to juries.
The admission came five months after a leading forensic scientist warned of a series of cases in which courts were given subjective summaries of complex DNA evidence rather than direct access to solid statistics, The Times reported.
Prof Peter Gill, who raised the issue with the Home Office in April, said the recognition that subjective interpretations of DNA evidence were potentially biased and unscientific could lead to a number of appeals. "As soon as they [the Home Office] start admitting that mistakes have been made, this opens the door to appeals in other cases," Prof Gill said.
In draft guidance issued last week, it was confirmed that during the last year criminal courts had been increasingly relying on qualitative assessments of DNA evidence. These presented a "significant risk" of juries being misled about the strength of the prosecution case.
Until last year, DNA evidence from crime scenes was typically ruled inconclusive unless scientists could statistically evaluate the likelihood that a suspect had contributed to a sample.
However, a series of cases involving complex DNA samples led to the Court of Appeal to rule last year that there were instances where it is helpful for experts to give juries a subjective view based on their professional experience.
Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said: "Now is the right time for guidance on this topic to be published" but added: "I am advised that it will give no new basis for appeal whatsoever in appeal cases which were not already supported by existing academic literature."
Posted by bussorah at 9:43 PM
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
'Scheming' British cop who was caught on CCTV punching woman three times and dragging her by her hair
A police officer who was filmed dragging a woman by the hair and punching her three times in the head has lost his appeal against the conviction for assault.
James Kiddie was branded 'dishonest' and 'scheming' by a judge after claiming the woman, Sarah Reed, had provoked his behaviour by biting him.
The 45-year-old Metropolitan Police officer was convicted of the assault in March at Westminster Magistrates' Court.
He was given a 12-month community order and told to complete 150 hours of community service in addition to paying £500 in costs.
But the father-of-two appealed the conviction, claiming Miss Reed had threatened him with violence before he attacked her in the office at Uniqlo in Regent Street, London, in November 2012.
Today a judge rejected his version of events after it emerged he had tried to convince a witness to corroborate his claims.
In the video, forces the woman back into a chair before grabbing her head and dragging her by the hair on the floor.
He is then seen to punch her in the head three times as she lies cowering with her arms in front of her face.
Today, Mr Recorder Paul Taylor told the disgraced officer: ‘The appellant we found to be dishonest, scheming and to exaggerate.
'Watching the video it was clear that Miss Reed never made any movement which he could construe as threatening and in fact there was evidence undermining the claim he felt threatened on the video itself.
‘For example he went through the handbag of Miss Reed on the floor in a position where if Miss Reed had wanted to assault him she had the ideal opportunity.
‘The fact that he was willing to look through the bag in that position speaks volumes.’
During his trial, Kiddie claimed the woman bit his finger and told him she had AIDS.
Pointing to the CCTV footage, Kiddie had said: ‘She is now biting into my index finger and she’s telling me she’s got the AIDS virus.’
‘I didn’t want to break a lady’s nose... I didn’t want to hurt her somewhere that is going to damage,’ he said.
But today Judge Taylor said the claim the man felt threatened was unfounded, rejecting claims the woman told him she had AIDS as a witness would have heard it.
'We also noted that he took phone calls at a time when he claims he felt under threat.
‘The fact that he did not call for back-up also supports the prosecution’s case that his claim that he felt threatened is one which is simply untrue.
‘We find that the escalation in this situation was largely caused by the appellant.
‘Grabbing somebody by the hair and pulling them off their feet and throwing them down is likely to cause anybody to act aggressively although in fact she did not.
‘There may have been some contact between his hand and the teeth of Miss Reed but he has exaggerated beyond all recognition of what really happened.’ He added Kiddie’s attempt to manipulate a witness’s account was ‘scheming’.
‘That is an indictment of a man who was trying to find a way out of behaviour which he knew had been badly wrong,’ said Judge Taylor.
Kiddie had also dramatically changed his accounts after initially claiming Ms Reed was ‘spitting all the time’ and saying ‘there were bits of phlegm going everywhere’.
He claimed his punches were launched with ‘half-power’ with the fleshy part of his hand.
Judge Taylor concluded Kiddie’s actions were neither ‘necessary, proportionate or reasonable’.
He will face a misconduct hearing in November.
Posted by bussorah at 2:02 PM
Monday, September 22, 2014
Texas Wants to Execute Man Who Killed Home Intruder Who Turned Out to Be SWAT Member
Attempting to serve a search warrant by entering a house through a window got Killeen, Texas, Police Detective Charles Dinwiddie shot in the face and killed last May. It was yet another SWAT raid organized for a purpose other than the reason they were invented. The police had a search warrant looking for narcotics at the home of Marvin Louis Guy, 49. They decided to serve this warrant at 5:30 in the morning and without knocking on his door. He opened fire on them, killing Dinwiddie and injuring three others.
Though they found a glass pipe, a grinder, and a pistol, they did not find any drugs. Former Reason Editor Radley Balko took note of the deadly raid in May at The Washington Post. A police informant apparently told them there were bags of cocaine inside the house, which sounds a lot like another familiar drug raid in Virginia that got an officer killed.
The Virginia case ended with Ryan Frederick in prison for 10 years despite his insistence he thought he was defending himself against in home intruders. He may end up lucky compared to Guy.
Prosecutors in Texas are going to seek the death penalty against him. KWTX offers a dreadfully written summary that says next to nothing about the circumstances of the raid but gives Dinwiddie’s whole life story. Guy faces three additional charges of attempted capital murder for shooting the other officers. The story mentions the no-knock raid but fails to explain why it happened or the failure to find any drugs.
A search for Guy in the jail inmate locator for Bell County, Texas, shows that he is being charged only for the shootings. There are no drug-related charges listed. He is being held on a bond totaling $4.5 million.
Posted by bussorah at 8:15 PM
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Passenger Asks Police Why They Were Stopped, So They Handcuffed Him Then Broke His Face
A lot of police thuggery in America seems to emanate from Hispanic cops
In a video uploaded to YouTube on Monday, Officer Aguilar of the Clovis, NM, Police Department is seen blatantly assaulting an innocent and handcuffed 26 year old man.
The incident began as what appeared to be a normal traffic stop. However, Officer Aguilar approached the vehicle and never provided any information on his reasoning, before demanding license and registration from the driver.
Approximately a minute into the video the young man in the passenger seat validly asks the officer why they were stopped, and this thug with a badge demands to see his identification.
When the innocent man asked "for what?", Officer Aguilar demands he step out of the vehicle for arrest.
The officer’s partner approaches as the criminal cop is cuffing this innocent man, who is complying, and simply questioning why he is being handcuffed. Aguilar tells his partner he is under arrest for failing to show ID.
Aguilar begins to walk his victim to the police vehicle and suddenly slams this non-resisting and peaceful individual face first into the ground. It’s almost as if he deliberately wanted to do it once he was just out of view of the dashcam.
To top it all off, this lunatic actually charged the man with resisting arrest.
Both officers involved here should be fired, and thrown in prison.
Aguilar, for blatant assault and unlawful arrest (kidnapping, in this writers opinion), and his partner- for witnessing a crime and failing to uphold the law and arrest his coworker for assault.
Original report here (Video at link)
Posted by bussorah at 4:04 PM
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Sleepwalking defence fails this time
A man who raped a teenage girl at a New Year’s Eve party and then said he was a sexsomniac began a seven-year jail sentence tonight after jurors were told his claims were a sham.
Michael McAllister, 23, who said the condition made him have sex in his sleep without his knowledge, was one of several guests at the party invited to stay over when it finished.
Later that night, McAllister climbed into bed with a half-asleep 16-year-old girl. He touched her intimately and then had sex against her will as she lay crying, too scared to fight him off. She tried to get out of bed and escape but McAllister just grabbed her and continued raping her.
When he was arrested after the attack in Thornton Cleveleys, Lancashire, McAllister told police: ‘It’s not the first time I have had sex with someone while I am asleep.’
However, a former girlfriend told jurors at Preston Crown Court that the only thing she could remember him doing in his sleep was snoring.
In his evidence, McAllister insisted he had been completely unaware of anything happening and was surprised when he was kicked out of the house by other guests.
Giving evidence to the court, sleep expert Dr Chris Idzikowski said sexsomnia was a real condition.
He said even though McAllister admitted having drunk significant amounts of Martini and vodka at the party he may still have suffered a incidence of the condition.
The case is the latest in a series of controversial trials in which men have claimed they cannot be held accountable for rapes or sexual assaults because they suffer from the rare sleep condition known as parasomnia, which causes people to behave abnormally during sleep by eating (sleep-related eating disorder), walking around (somnambulism) or having sex (sexomnia).
But prosecutor Francis McEntee told the court that McAllister’s assertion that he engaged in sexual activity in his sleep was a ‘sham’ and he had resorted to an ‘implausible explanation’.
Jacob Dyer, defending, told the court: ‘Initially, he was trying his luck, not knowing really whether there would be any consent or not. ‘This was wholly out of character for him. He was very drunk. There is some degree of remorse, despite the failure to admit guilt. ‘There is at least a degree of amnesia, although not amnesia caused by a sleeping problem, but amnesia caused by alcohol.
‘Although there is no admission of guilt, he says he feels like a monster. Following his conviction he stopped drinking altogether.’
Sentencing him yesterday to seven years in prison, Judge Heather Lloyd told McAllister he had sought out his victim while she slept and raped her at the party last year.
She added: ‘I accept had you been sober, you would not have behaved as you did, but most men, even in drink, do not sexually assault, let alone rape young women who are asleep.
‘You are saddened by your conviction. There doesn’t seem to me to be any particular remorse or insight or acknowledgement about what you have done and what has happened.’
Last year a 42-year-old married teacher wrote to the then Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer to request a review of sexsomnia cases, including her own, after Paul Fallon, 42, was cleared of attacking her as she slept next to her husband at a friend’s house.
But the court accepted Mr Fallon’s explanation that he was asleep at the time of the alleged assault, which happened after a birthday party.
Jurors at Northampton Crown Court found Mr Fallon not guilty ‘by reason of insanity’ because he could not control his actions while asleep.
Posted by bussorah at 3:55 PM
Friday, September 19, 2014
Police officer restraining ex-Rugby League player who died in Ibiza 'held baton to his throat and only removed it when doctor told him to for the third time'
A medic has accused police of asphyxiating a former Rugby League player who died of suspected cardiac arrest while on holiday in Ibiza.
Doctor Santiago Akoskin said he had to ask a Civil Guard officer three times to remove his baton from Luke Rhoden's neck before he withdrew it.
Mr Rhoden, 25, from Wigan, died on September 2 outside the Ibiza Rocks Hotel in the party resort of San Antonio following a struggle with police.
Officers were called to the hotel after he plunged from a first-floor balcony following a suspected drink and drugs binge.
They have claimed they had to restrain him for his own safety after he started ranting at other guests and refused medical treatment.
But Mr Rhoden's father Norman, who travelled to Ibiza in the wake of his son's death, says he is considering legal action over his concern excessive police force played a part in his son's death.
Mr Akoskin, the first doctor on the scene, said: 'I told the police officer who was asphyxiating him three times to withdraw his baton from the tourist's neck and he only removed it at my third time of asking.
'When I told him "You're asphyxiating him" the first time he replied by saying: "I know what I'm doing."'
The doctor, who works for a number of hotels in Ibiza, said police also put clamps around Mr Rhoden's legs after he started kicking out.
He told Ibizan newspaper Ultima Hora: 'His heart rate was 160 beats a minute which is a very high frequency for a normal person.
'I was sure this lad was under the effects of drugs. I looked at his pupils and they were very dilated, he was very agitated.
'There are obviously techniques to restrain people but the Civil Guards cuffed him with his hands in front of him when they could have handcuffed him from behind and put him face down.'
His father has already called on his local MP for help and is considering legal action.
Norman Rhoden, 44, from Ince, Cheshire, is understood to have spoken to the doctor during his trip to Ibiza. He said earlier this week: 'All I want is the truth. If someone has done something wrong I want them brought to justice.'
The probe into Mr Rhoden's death is currently being overseen by an investigating magistrate in Ibiza.
He is still waiting for the results of drug tests on tissue samples taken after he died.
An autopsy revealed Mr Rhoden, who played prop forward as a junior for rugby league side Wigan Warriors and for England's under 17 side, had died of a heart attack. It is not yet clear what caused it.
Spain's Civil Guard has denied claims of brutality insisting it 'doesn't beat people up.'
Sources close to the judicial probe said the investigating magistrate was probing whether Mr Akoskin had committed negligence by giving Mr Rhoden two valium injections as police restrained him.
The doctor insisted the injections would not have caused cardiac arrest, saying: 'I haven't committed any negligence at all. 'I've told the truth and others are trying to cover their backs.'
Mr Rhoden's father, still thought to be in Ibiza, says he is hoping to fly back with his son's body by the end of the week.
Posted by bussorah at 10:10 PM
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Scum British cop
A police officer blocked a disabled parking bay with his patrol car, as he popped into McDonald's to buy a burger.
Phillip Skeates spotted the officer parking the car in the yellow zig zag zone in front of the Swindon town centre Sainsbury's.
Mr Skeates, 44, a blue badge holder, was waiting for a space in the disabled parking area as he watched the incident unfold.
He said: 'Being a disabled person, I think this is such a terrible thing to do. 'I was so angry because if anyone else had done that they'd certainly have got a ticket. This is an abuse of power.
'When he walked back to the car there were lots of people shaking their heads and tutting at the officer.
'If he'd have parked there to deal with a crime, I obviously wouldn't have complained, but I think this abuse of power needs highlighting.
'I thought perhaps he'd been called to an issue, but I could tell from his body language when he got out of the car that he hadn't. 'It was apparent he had all the time in the world and I was gobsmacked when I saw him walking back to his car with a big bag of McDonald's 10 minutes later.'
'Why didn't he just use the drive-through option nearby?'
Mr Skeates, who lives in Moredon, took a photograph of the officer returning with his burger and posted it on Swindon Town Centre Police's Facebook page.
He said: 'It was removed within seconds but I have had a message from Sergeant Graham McLaughlin, who said the image had to be taken down while the matter was being investigated.'
Despite the image being deleted, a response was later posted on the Facebook page.
It read: 'The officer involved has been spoken to and apologies for his lapse in judgement.'
The police haven't identified the officer but have apologised to Mr Skeates over the incident.
A police spokesman said: 'This officer was on a designated break and had stopped off to buy some food.
'Clearly, he has not parked his patrol vehicle in the most sensible manner and we can only apologise to other motorists who were hindered by this. 'Wiltshire Police are now looking into this issue.'
Posted by bussorah at 1:47 PM
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
No justice in Spain
The notorious killer who murdered and raped model Sally Ann Bowman has been directly linked to three violent sexual attacks in Spain - for which a Dutch citizen has so far served 11 years in prison.
Chef Mark Dixie was jailed for 34 years after killing the 18-year-old model in London in 2005 and having sex with her while she lay 'dead or dying'.
Following his conviction, Interpol circulated his DNA and it was matched to samples taken by Spanish police over three attempted rapes which took place in Fuengirola, on the Costa del Sol, all between 4.30am and 6am on August 10, 2003.
Despite the match, Dutch citizen Romano van der Dussen, was jailed for the attacks after two of the victims and a witness watching from a window, who called the police, all identified him as the culprit.
He told the court that he had been in Torremolinos, more than 12 miles away, at the time of the attacks but could not produce any evidence of his claim.
He was convicted in May 2005, after spending a year and seven months in prison on remand. He was jailed for 15 and a half years for sexual assault, attempted rape, causing injuries and robbery with violence.
But van der Dussen's DNA was never matched to the DNA found at the scene and his lawyer, Silverio Garcia Sierra, is demanding his release.
He told Spanish daily newspaper El Pais: 'It is a disgrace that Romano van der Dussen continues to be in prison without hardly any judicial procedures being carried-out.
'It should not be possible that there could be negligence when there has been an erroneous conviction. An innocent person in jail should be a priority, but no-one cares.'
When Spanish police initially made the DNA match they immediately told the courts but nothing was done and and van der Dussen remained in prison.
They even ran checks on Dixie and found that he had been living on the popular southern Spanish holiday coast between the end of 2002 and October, 2003 - two months after the three women were attacked.
Analysis of the match made in March, 2007, showed that the samples taken in Fuengirola were 54,000 times more likely to be a mixture of Dixie's DNA and that of one of the victims than of any other two people.
That information was also sent by the police to the courts. But neither the investigating judge in Fuengirola, who first handled van der Dussen's case, nor the court which condemned him in Malaga followed the police recommendation to seek further forensic evidence from Britain.
Now, a judge at a court in the popular resort of Fuengirola has finally decided to re-open the case for which Romano van der Dussen has spent eleven years behind bars.
The El Pais report added that Australia is also seeking Dixie as an alleged murderer and serial rapist.
Posted by bussorah at 5:02 PM
Monday, September 15, 2014
Black actress claims ‘racist’ police mistook her for prostitute
The account below is the woman's version but bystanders have said that the couple were in fact having sex in their car
An African-American actress who appeared in the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained claims she was handcuffed by ‘racist’ police who mistook her for a prostitute because she was kissing her white boyfriend.
Danièle Watts is now suing the Los Angeles Police Department after, she says, her arm was cut when officers briefly detained her outside a studio in Hollywood earlier this month.
Her boyfriend, celebrity chef Brian James Lucas, who is known as Chef Be*Live, claimed he was told that a neighbour had called the police when they spotted the couple kissing in a car.
He said on his Facebook page: "I could tell that whoever called on us (including the officers), saw a tatted [tattooed] white boy and a hot bootee shorted black girl and thought we were a HO (prostitute) & a TRICK (client).
"This is something that happened to her and her father when she was 16. What an assumption to make!"
Watts posted several photographs of the moment she was detained to Facebook, writing that she was proud she had been "honest" enough to weep angry tears as she was being held after failing to comply with a request to produce her ID.
She wrote: "Today I was handcuffed and detained by two police officers from the Studio City Police Department after refusing to agree that I had done something wrong by showing affection, fully clothed, in a public place."
Originally from Atlanta Georgia, Watts did her training at the British American Drama Academy in London. She played Coco in Django Unchained, and has also appeared in the hit television drama Weeds.
Lucas told the TMZ website that the couple had engaged a lawyer to bring a legal case against the police. The force did not comment.
Describing the incident in detail on her Facebook page, Watts said: "When the officer arrived, I was standing on the sidewalk by a tree. I was talking to my father on my cell phone. I knew that I had done nothing wrong, that I wasn’t harming anyone, so I walked away.
"A few minutes later, I was still talking to my dad when 2 different police officers accosted me and forced me into handcuffs.
"As I was sitting in the back of the police car, I remembered the countless times my father came home frustrated or humiliated by the cops when he had done nothing wrong.
"I felt his shame, his anger, and my own feelings of frustration for existing in a world where I have allowed myself to believe that "authority figures" could control my being … my ability to be!
"I was sitting in that back of this cop car, filled with adrenalin, my wrist bleeding in pain, and it occurred to me, that even there, I still had power over my own spirit.
"Those cops could not stop me from expressing myself. They could not stop the cathartic tears and rage from flowing out of me. They could not force me to feel bad about myself.
"The tears I cry for a country that calls itself ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ and yet detains people for claiming that very right."
Lucas wrote: "Because of my past experience with the law, I gave [the officer] my ID knowing we did nothing wrong and when they asked D for hers, she refused to give it because they had no right to do so.
"So they handcuffed her and threw her roughly into the back of the cop car until they could figure out who she was. In the process of handcuffing her, they cut her wrist, which was truly not cool!
"Our freedom isn't freedom folks, when people can abuse others with no reason or evidence at all just because they "think" they have been given the power by people that are only equal to us.
"Of course, they had to let her go eventually cuz we weren't a threat to anyone.
They weren't expecting D to be so intelligent and outspoken, and left truly feeling the fear vibration finding out that they had just f***** with 2 celebrities."
Posted by bussorah at 8:37 PM
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Ghetto mobster or innocent man? An NYC murder case falls apart
John Giuca was accused of being a gang boss who ordered the death of a teen. But as the case slowly falls apart, he may turn out to be just another victim of Brooklyn justice.
In the early hours of Oct. 12, 2003, a handsome 19-year-old college football star named Mark Fisher accompanied a college classmate, Angel DiPietro, to a house party in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn.
Several hours later, a few blocks away from the house, Fisher was found dead — shot five times, lying on top of a blanket.
Suspicion fell quickly on the party’s host, 20-year-old John Giuca. During the sensational trial that followed, prosecutor Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi told the jury that Giuca, whom she described as a Tony Soprano-like gang boss, had armed his loyal "soldier," co-defendant Antonio Russo, and ordered him to kill Fisher.
Giuca and Russo were both sentenced to 25 years to life.
But now, nine years after the verdict, the case against Giuca appears to be crumbling, possibly adding to a long line of overturned convictions from the era of former District Attorney Charles Hynes.
‘The Ghetto Mafia’
Mark Fisher’s murder dominated front pages as investigators struggled for more than a year to make an arrest. Initial reports of the shooting came in through 911 and cops arrived on the scene within three minutes. They found Fisher’s body at the end of a driveway on Argyle Road; only two shell casings were recovered from the scene.
A canvass of the block revealed that many residents had heard multiple gunshots, and several also heard car doors opening and closing and a car drive away; some saw the car and one reported hearing the sound of voices, including that of a young female.
Cops later got information that Fisher had attended the impromptu party several blocks away at Giuca’s home, where DiPietro was the only person he knew.
All the partygoers lawyered up almost immediately. Cops publicly declared the group uncooperative, and the Fishers offered a $100,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest.
But it wasn’t until Hynes assigned an "elite team" to the case — including his controversial former rackets chief Michael Vecchione and the telegenic Nicolazzi — and convened a special, investigative grand jury that people began to talk.
Albert Cleary, the son of a prominent member of the Brooklyn Republican Party and a friend of Giuca’s, was one of the first to finger him, but only after the DA threatened Cleary about the status of his probation in connection with a brutal assault he committed only months earlier when he kicked a man in the head, rendering him unconscious.
Fisher’s body was found about 50 feet from Cleary’s back door. Months before, under a cloud of suspicion himself, Cleary had submitted a polygraph report to the DA through his lawyer indicating he knew nothing about the crime.
At trial, Cleary, who had attended the party, testified that Giuca had called him in the late morning after the murder, in what was framed as an initial attempt to cover up his knowledge of the crime. Cleary also recounted that Giuca ultimately confessed to him that night, in the presence of Giuca’s then-girlfriend (who had not been at the party).
Cleary said Giuca told them he gave Russo a gun and instructed him to show Fisher "what’s up" after Fisher "disrespected" him by sitting on a table.
Cleary also spoke of Giuca’s status as a "capo" in a local gang, dubbed the Ghetto Mafia, and recounted an alleged conversation prior to the murder between Giuca and "the boss" — in reality, a college student in North Carolina double-majoring in accounting and economics — about the need to "get a body" in order to bolster the gang’s credibility.
Phantom phone calls
But Cleary put the place of death about three blocks from where Fisher was shot, and neither he nor anyone else who testified offered an explanation as to how Fisher ended up on Argyle Road.
The testimony of Giuca’s girlfriend, Lauren Calciano, about this alleged confession also differed markedly from Cleary’s, even though they supposedly heard it together. Calciano said Giuca told them that Russo planned to rob Fisher and asked Giuca for a gun. She even put the time of the "confession" in the afternoon after the murder, while Cleary said Giuca confessed to them at night.
Calciano has since recanted her testimony, claiming she was pressured and threatened by prosecutors to testify against Giuca.
Cleary’s own grand jury testimony also told a different story. It wasn’t Giuca but someone else who had been upset that Fisher sat on the table. And gang involvement? No mention of it.
Perhaps most striking, Cleary told the grand jury that Giuca first called him not in the morning but about 1 p.m. that day — a fact that is confirmed by phone records Nicolazzi introduced into evidence and that the DA publicly touted as the key to cracking the case. Despite this, Nicolazzi elicited the incorrect time from Cleary.
Why? Most probably to harmonize his account with DiPietro’s and remove what were possible credibility issues.
DiPietro testified that at about 6:10 a.m., roughly a half-hour before the murder, the pair left Giuca’s house together and went to sleep at Cleary’s nearby home. Though Fisher’s body would be discovered across the street from where they reportedly slept, both denied hearing anything.
Two friends called DiPietro around 11:30 a.m. looking for Fisher; she told them he had left the party a few hours earlier. DiPietro later claimed that one of the other partygoers, Meredith Denihan, had been the one to tell her that Fisher left Giuca’s house safely, but that turned out to be a lie; the two had not spoken that morning.
Ultimately, DiPietro changed her story, claiming that Giuca had been the one to report that Fisher had left safely, in an 11 a.m. call to Cleary that the prosecution knew never happened.
Ironically, DiPietro was hired as a prosecutor by Hynes in 2012.
In her opening statement, Nicolazzi suggested that the killing of Fisher was gang-related.
But by the end of the trial, she introduced a completely new theory of the crime through the testimony of a drug-addicted jailhouse snitch named John Avitto.
Avitto testified that Giuca had confessed to him in jail, where he said he also overheard Giuca and his father speaking about the murder in the visiting room. This story had Giuca, Russo and a third individual beating Fisher after he refused to hand over $20 he had withdrawn from an ATM. In this version of events, Russo wrestled the gun from Giuca and shot Fisher. Despite the fact that his account contradicted that of every other witness, in her summation Nicolazzi told the jury that Avitto was "truthful," "honest" and that "everything [he] told you is credible."
Avitto has also recanted his testimony in a sworn affidavit. He now says he fabricated his entire story with help from newspaper accounts, in order to curry favor with the DA on his criminal charges. As it turns out, medical records show that Giuca’s father, having suffered a series of debilitating strokes, was unable to hold a conversation.
The jury ploy
From the start, Giuca maintained his innocence, saying he fell asleep in his home after the party and had no idea what happened to Fisher. Russo also maintains his innocence.
After Giuca’s conviction, his mother, Doreen Giuliano, began a quest to exonerate her son.
In one of the more bizarre aspects of this case, Giuliano concocted a false identity, Dee Quinn, rented an apartment and wore hotpants to befriend a juror, Jason Allo, who sat on her son’s trial.
Giuliano promised her husband, Frank, that she wouldn’t have sex with Allo, but told The Post in 2012, "Look, husbands are always second when you have kids. So when you say you’d do anything for your kid, you mean it. And if I’m gonna lose Frank over my son, so be it. You can always get another husband. And would I lie if I did [sleep with Allo]? Yeah, most likely, yes, I would lie."
After months of secretly recorded conversations, Allo admitted he had undisclosed connections to the case, that he recognized some of the witnesses from the neighborhood. He also mistakenly thought Giuca was Jewish and didn’t like Jews. But a judge threw out all of Giuliano’s appeals.
Giuliano didn’t give up. She hired criminal defense attorney Mark Bederow, of Bederow Miller LLP, to reinvestigate the case. Working with Jay Salpeter, an ex-cop-turned-private investigator with a specialty in wrongful convictions, Bederow uncovered what he alleges is compelling evidence of prosecutor misconduct. They also obtained key witness recantations — including those of Giuca’s former girlfriend and the jailhouse snitch.
The Ghetto Mafia, Giuliano said in a TV interview, is just a name Giuca and his friends called themselves as a joke. They weren’t a gang. They weren’t robbing people, and they certainly weren’t killing people.
Bederow declined to comment on the case, citing a pending review by the district attorney’s office. A spokesman for Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson declined to comment on the substance of the review or any likely decision.
What really happened on Argyle Road? Despite the reports of a car and voices at the scene of the shooting, the only witness from that block who was called to testify at trial was a 911 caller who said he saw and heard nothing but five gunshots. And so like that, the voices and the car disappeared from the narrative of the crime.
John Giuca could be freed, but what really happened to Mark Fisher — and why — on that tragic autumn morning may never be answered.
If John Giuca is freed, it will be one of a number of cases — many prosecuted under former Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes — that have been thrown out recently.
Posted by bussorah at 10:30 PM
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Shocking moment British cop is caught on camera punching a suspect who was being restrained by two other officers
This is the shocking moment a police officer appears to throw a punch at a suspect who is being restrained by two other officers.
The video, taken by a passer-by, shows the officer apparently attacking the man as he was arrested in Derby city centre in July.
Senior officers have now launched an inquiry into the incident after studying the alarming footage.
The footage shows the suspect being restrained by police and appears to show the officer arguing with him
Policeman caught on camera punching a suspect who was restrained
The video shows the suspect being pulled along Holcombe Street by officers, as he shouts abuse at a third officer who follows them down the road.
Then, as they approach a police car, the third officer appears to argue with the suspect before apparently launching himself at the man landing a punch on his face.
Filmed by an onlooker who did not want to be identified, a woman's scream can be heard before the video cuts out.
In response, a force spokesman confirmed the incident took place in late July and that an internal investigation had been launched.
At the time of the incident, the suspect had been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and public order offences.
Alan Charles, the police and crime commissioner for Derbyshire, who oversees the work of the county's force, said: 'Police officers deal with very difficult situations on a daily basis.
'The public have the right to expect officers to behave in a professional manner.
'If any officers don't meet these standards, then they can certainly expect any breaches to be thoroughly investigated and appropriate action taken.'
Mark Pickard, Derbyshire Police Federation chairman, said: 'We are confident that, if a complaint is made, then the Derbyshire force will carry out a thorough investigation.
'The force has an exemplary record when it comes to investigating complaints from members of the public about its officers and staff.
'Police officers are bound by the force's standards and the new Code of Ethics and, as such, their behaviour must meet stringent guidelines.
'Where their conduct is found to be wanting, there are also procedures in place to ensure they are dealt with appropriately.'
Lisa Higginbottom's stepbrother Sam Kirk died after being felled by the single punch of an attacker.
She launched a campaign called 'One Punch' to educate people about the dangers of lashing out.
She said: 'I am shocked to hear that a police officer can behave in this way.
'The whole idea of the campaign is that, whatever the provocation has been, people should not lash out with their fists.
'The campaign was launched in the hope that people learn that their fists are weapons and should not be used.
'It asks that when faced with a potentially explosive or tension-filled atmosphere, they take 60 seconds to think about exactly what the consequences of their actions might be.'
Posted by bussorah at 10:09 PM
Friday, September 12, 2014
Married British cop had sex with witness in his patrol car while on duty - and then 'smoked cannabis he had seized from a suspect'
A married policeman had sex with a witness in his patrol car while on duty and smoked cannabis he had seized from a crime scene, a court heard.
PC Alan King met Zoe Barham after being called to a stabbing at the bookmakers where she worked in 2011.
After collecting a witness statement and mobile number from her, the 48-year-old from Hoo, Kent, allegedly sent her text messages and the pair embarked on an affair.
The father-of-two picked Ms Barham up in his marked police car at least once every two weeks and had sex with her in an alleyway next to her house, Canterbury Crown Court heard.
During the affair. he asked her if she 'needed' drugs then offered to drop charges against a suspect in exchange for cannabis he found after being the first officer at the scene of a stabbing, it was alleged.
King denies misconduct in office, perverting the course of justice and supplying drugs.
The court heard how the pair met in June 2011 when King was called to a reported stabbing at Betfred in Gravesend where Ms Barham, 36, worked.
That week he visited the shop frequently and was even warned by a superior about his behaviour, the court heard.
After collecting her phone number when she gave a witness statement, he sent a text message to the woman on her birthday and the pair began seeing each other.
Over one year, the couple met in King's marked car and had sex in the vehicle in an alleyway next to her home while he was on duty, it was alleged.
Rebecca Fairbairn, prosecuting, said: 'Alan King had a duty as a police officer to act beyond reproach, however we say he used a telephone number given as part of a police investigation and used it just because he was attracted to this woman.'
'He had an obligation to respond to emergencies and calls from the public, that’s what he is there to do.
'But we say that instead of doing that he was visiting his girlfriend and having sex, and on occasions doing it in public.'
At first Ms Barham was unaware that King was married and had two children, she claims.
'We met in Forge Lane in Gravesend and he took me back to his home.
'I wasn’t aware about his relationship at first but I did suspect after a little while [he was married].'
'He would turn up in his marked police car and if I was at work we would just talk and have a fag.
'He would sometimes take me to my home in Gravesend in his police car.
'On one occasion he took me up an alley where we had sexual intercourse in his police car. That happened on several occasions.
'Mr King picked me up in his police car and took me there and he was in uniform. I went there because I was in a relationship with him.
The married father-of-two denies misconduct in office, perverting the course of justice and supplying drugs after being accused of taking cannabis from a crime scene and smoking it with his lover
'He promised me everything. He promised me a lot. He told me he loved me and I believed him at the time.'
The 48-year-old took her along while investigating incidents and allowed her to input information into the vehicle's police computer, she added.
While responding to a report of a man who had been stabbed in the neck, King allegedly seized cannabis from a suspect after being the first officer at the scene.
He then gave the drug to Ms Barham after allegedly agreeing to drop all charges against the suspect, Martin Reid, in exchange for them.
The affair ended when the the pair were arrested in relation an alleged fraud.
Giving evidence on PC King claimed he was going through marriage difficulties and he was flattered when Ms Barham flirted with him.
'She was very friendly and was flirting with me. 'She made it very clear that she fancied me and its not very often a woman flirted with me...so I felt flattered and I flirted back.'
PC King said they began their affair within a week and he admitted taking Ms Barham in his police car while attending non-emergency calls.
Andrew Boughan, defending, asked: 'You would give Ms Barham lifts to and from her place of work in your marked police car?' The officer replied: 'That’s correct, maybe once a fortnight.'
He denies taking cannabis from a crime scene, telling the jury: 'I hate drugs'.
When asked why his former lover had made the allegations, he described her as a 'woman scorned'.
Posted by bussorah at 3:38 PM
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Convicting the innocent in Britain
As recently as last year, there were innocent men inside Britain's prisons - as these high-profile cases that were eventually ruled as wrongful convictions show.
Time served: 17 years
Nealon spent 17 years in prison for attempted sexual assault – though police officers never carried out DNA testing on the victim’s clothing. At his trial in 1997, the court was told that no DNA evidence was available. But privately funded DNA tests discovered that the victim’s clothes had been kept sealed and untested. In fact, the garments did contain DNA samples - from a man who wasn’t Nealon. The Criminal Cases Review Commission refused to investigate the evidence twice, and only carried out a review at Nealon’s third appeal. When Nealon was released in December 2013, he was given just £46 discharge money and spent his first night of freedom on the streets. This June, the Ministry of Justice ruled that Nealon would not get compensation for his 17 years behind bars.
Time served: Seven years
Hallam was 18 when he received a life sentence for the death of trainee chef Essayas Kassahun, but judges were told that Hallam was the victim of a "serious miscarriage of justice" when his conviction was quashed in 2012. Evidence from Hallam’s mobile phone showed he was not at the crime scene, and judges found that, for "reasons that escape us", his phone was not investigated by the police. Hallam also suffered the loss of his father, who committed suicide when Hallam was sent to prison. "He’s never going to get over his miscarriage of justice," says Dr Naughton.
Sam Hallam leaves the Court of Appeal with his mother Wendy and surrounded by jubilant friends
Time served: Eight years
George was convicted of the murder of television presenter Jill Dando and was released after two trials and two appeals. His sentence was finally overturned after scientific evidence was ruled inadmissible by the trial judge. He was denied compensation and is taking his claim to the European Court of Human Rights.
Barry George spent eight years in prison after being wrongly convicted of the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando
Time served: Three years
Clark was wrongfully sentenced to life in prison for the deaths of one young son in 1996, and another, a two-month old, in 1998. She was released after three years in jail after an expert witness, Professor Roy Meadow, was discredited. Meadow wrote in his book that "one sudden infant death is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder, unless proven otherwise". He claimed in court that there is a one in 73 million chance of two cot deaths in a wealthy family, but the Royal Statistical Society said there was no basis for this claim. Following her release, other cases that relied on evidence from Meadow were re-examined, and another mother, Angela Cannings, also had her conviction for murder overturned. But Clark never recovered from her imprisonment and became an alcoholic. She died of alcohol poisoning in 2007.
As she left the High Court in 2003, Sally Clark said: 'There are no winners here.'
Time served: 25 years
Blackburn spent a quarter of a century in prison after he was convicted, aged 15, for the sexual assault and attempted murder of a nine-year-old boy. The prosecution depended on a confession by Blackburn that was written after four hours of police interrogation. In 2005, appeal judges found that police "did not tell the truth" when they said that the confession was offered freely and in Blackburn’s own words. Blackburn says the statement was dictated to him, and expert testimony found it unlikely that a badly educated 15-year-old could have spelled so many technical terms correctly. The appeal court ruled that Blackburn’s confession should never have been considered evidence.
Asked if he could return to a normal life, Paul Blackburn said: "I don't know. What is a normal life after 25 years in there?'
Are innocent men still in prison today?
Miscarriages of justice will continue, says Dr Naughton, as long as our criminal justice system relies on unreliable forms of evidence, such as theories from expert witnesses, eyewitness identification and circumstantial evidence – all of which have been scientifically undermined.
Even DNA evidence can be discredited, due to problems with partial samples, mixed samples and "innocent transference". Dr Naughton explains that if two people shake hands, each will contain a trace of the other’s DNA. "I can then go into a pub that you’ve never been in or pick up a gun that you’ve never touched. I can shoot somebody with that gun and your DNA will be on that gun because I’ve transferred it. The public doesn’t know these things," says Dr Naughton.
And cases such as Blackburn reveal the problems with "parole deal" sentencing. Prisoners applying for parole are more likely to be released if they complete courses to show that they’ve reduced their risk of re-offending. Those that won’t admit their guilt and refuse to do so can end up with longer sentences than if they’d pleaded guilty, says Dr Naughton. "They end up in this limbo situation. We call it the parole deal, where prisoners maintaining innocence are trapped in prison," he adds.
One of the most high profile criminals who maintains his innocence today has been continually denied parole in part because he insists he is innocent. Raymond Gilbert was convicted of murder in 1981 and could have been released from prison in 1996 if he’d plead guilty. Instead, he is still in prison 33 years later.
Dr Naughton claims that the presumption of innocence leaves those accused of crime vulnerable to wrongful convictions because fewer resources are allocated to the defence team. Instead, the prosecution and police are well funded to chip away at the presumed innocent status.
He also makes a distinction between miscarriages of justice and "abortions of justice", where police actively undermine a fair trial. The Criminal Cases Review Commission was founded in response to just such a case, after police manufactured evidence against the Guilford Four and the Birmingham Six, who were accused of IRA bombings.
"There was a real crisis of confidence in the criminal justice system when those cases were revealed to be wrongful convictions," says Dr Naughton.
Posted by bussorah at 8:04 PM
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
'My brother is not a murderer': How one woman gave up everything to fight for justice
Charlotte Henry’s brother Alex is serving a life sentence for murder. He didn’t kill anyone, but, according to a 300-year-old law, is ‘guilty’ because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here she talks to Catherine O’Brien about her fight for justice
A little more than a year ago, Charlotte Henry’s life was going to plan. Despite doom-laden reports about graduates struggling for jobs, she had made a smooth transition from law student to case administrator for the probation service.
A bright, smiley blonde who loved nightclubbing, Charlotte also had her serious side – her ambition was to specialise in work with youth offenders. As part of a team juggling up to 100 cases, she was on the first rung of her career ladder, earning £28,000 a year, running her own car and saving up for a mortgage deposit. Not bad, she thought, for a girl of 23.
Today, Charlotte’s aspirations are on hold and her mind is focused on just one case. In March this year, Charlotte’s younger brother Alex was found guilty of murder. His conviction was achieved using a 300-year-old law known as ‘joint enterprise’, which meant that he could be prosecuted for murder even though he dealt a fatal blow to no one. At 21, he has been sentenced to life imprisonment with an order that he serves a minimum of 19 years.
Supporters of joint enterprise argue that it is a vital piece of legislation in the battle against gang violence. Without it, the killers of many murder victims, including Stephen Lawrence and Ben Kinsella, would still be free. But there is a growing unease that joint enterprise is also leading to miscarriages of justice, dragging into its net those caught on the periphery of crime. ‘People ask how this happened to us,’ says Charlotte. ‘The simple answer is that Alex was in the wrong place at the wrong time.’
I meet Charlotte in the terraced house in West London where she lives with her mother Sally and stepfather Geoff. The sitting room is clutter-free, but step into the dining room and you’ll find a table covered in legal textbooks and boxes of files containing court documents. Charlotte no longer works for the probation service.
Her request for unpaid leave to support Alex through his trial was declined, so she left. Today she volunteers for Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association (JENGbA), a group campaigning on behalf of 500 prisoners convicted under joint-enterprise legislation. She is also masterminding Alex’s personal campaign – liaising with lawyers about his grounds for appeal, writing to MPs and running a website dedicated to his case.
She has appeared on BBC Two’s Newsnight and Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour as well as in a BBC documentary to highlight his plight, and she is currently working on an address to the Justice Select Committee at the House of Commons. ‘Each day, I set myself new tasks,’ she says. ‘I have to do something otherwise I am a bundle of anxiety. Campaigning is my way of coping.’
On the wall behind us is a photograph taken at Croyde Bay, Devon, a week before Alex’s arrest last August. It shows the family enjoying what turned out to be their final carefree moments.
‘We went surfing and had a brilliant time,’ says Charlotte, ‘and I’m so glad we had that holiday together.’ Elsewhere around the house, framed pictures chart Charlotte and Alex’s upbringing – school portraits, snaps from a trip to Euro Disney and, among Charlotte’s favourites, an image of her and Alex taken a couple of Christmases ago. She is posing confidently with a protective arm around his shoulder; he looks more reserved, but relaxed. They have the same expressive eyes and the camera has captured the closeness between them. What it cannot show, though, is the way that, despite having grown up side by side, their lives have diverged to polar extremes.
Now 25, Charlotte has always possessed a sunny disposition, while Alex, although affectionate and capable of making the family cry with laughter, was more emotionally fragile. Their early childhood years were stable, but when Charlotte was ten and Alex seven, their parents separated. Charlotte explains how her father Frank, a Glaswegian carpenter, met Sally, then working as a barmaid in Benidorm, when both were in their early 20s.
Back in the UK, he moved south to be with her, she became pregnant and within little more than a year they were a family. ‘It was a whirlwind romance, and they admit that they were too young,’ says Charlotte. Frank, now 50, still works as a carpenter, but after Charlotte and Alex started school, Sally, now 47, returned to education and trained as a research psychologist. Today she has a doctorate and works at the Institute of Psychiatry.
Charlotte doesn’t remember being particularly distressed by the marriage breakdown. ‘There had been the odd argument, but there was no big trauma.’ Frank moved out and into a house nearby, and he and Sally shared residency of the children. ‘I loved Dad but I knew as a girl that I would be better staying mainly with Mum,’ she says. ‘Alex took it a lot harder; he lost his routine and security. He would have tantrums, screaming and crying for Mum when we were at Dad’s, and screaming and crying for Dad when we were at Mum’s. He couldn’t understand why they were no longer together.’
At school, Alex had been identified as gifted at maths. But as his anxiety levels increased, he developed a school phobia. ‘He began to really hate being there. Sometimes, at break time, I would go and find him in the playground and he was often being picked on.’
Charlotte didn’t understand that Alex had mental-health problems. ‘He just didn’t look well. I’d talk to him and try to get him to open up about Mum and Dad, but he wasn’t good at saying how he felt.’ In the year following their parents’ separation, Alex was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Frank and Sally took him out of his state primary and placed him in a small private school where he excelled academically. By the time Alex was ready for secondary school, however, his anxiety disorder was re-emerging.
He had several clashes over behavioural issues and, at 13, was permanently excluded for graffitiing on a school wall. From then on, he was consigned to an alternative provision centre ‘which was a one-size-fits-all teenage daycare centre,’ explains Charlotte. ‘A lot of kids at alternative provision centres can’t even read or write. Alex was an intelligent boy, but he had fallen out of the system and lost confidence.’
In contrast to Alex, Charlotte loved school. She achieved 13 GCSEs and three A-levels, and is aware that her success may have emphasised his failure. ‘He had fallen so far behind he could see no way back. And it was hard for Mum to see her clever son rejected by the system and yet feel powerless to help him.’
Clumped together with other socially excluded boys, Alex started hanging out in the local park, and before long he was picking up the first of several convictions for possession of cannabis.
‘He used to hide it from me because he knew I would give him a lecture. But I’d know when he was using, because he would go from being hyper to calm. He’s never liked alcohol, but smoking cannabis was almost self-medication for him.’
After one arrest, Charlotte was summoned to the police station. ‘He was too scared to tell our parents so I acted as his appropriate adult.’ As she watched the solicitor negotiate Alex’s case, she had a light-bulb moment. ‘I realised I wanted to become a solicitor, too.’
She secured a place to study law at Brunel University and in her final year, wrote a 10,000-word dissertation on ‘combatting gangs: early intervention versus harsher sentences’. ‘Through Alex and his friends, I’d seen what happens when you throw boys out of school. We all feel hostile when we are alienated and that is how boys are drawn into gangs – they are seeking the approval that they can’t get elsewhere.’
It was hard for Mum to see her clever son rejected by the system
By his late teens, Alex appeared to be more settled. He was working with his father and lived with him most of the time, but he visited his mum regularly. Alex and Charlotte remained close and spoke at least twice a day on the phone. ‘I would call him up to check in. They weren’t long chats – just me asking whether he had eaten and if he wanted me to pick him up. I never liked him coming home late at night,’ she says.
In the event, however, the fracas that was to cost Alex his freedom happened in broad daylight. One Tuesday afternoon in August last year, he was in Ealing with three friends. He had known two of them – Younis Tayyib and Janhelle Grant-Murray – since he was 11; the third, Cameron Ferguson, he had known for less than a year. The four hung out for a while, and then Younis and Janhelle decided to go to Younis’s house nearby, and Alex and Cameron went shopping.
The next time Alex saw Janhelle – just after 3pm – he was being confronted on the street by a group of four boys. One of the group had removed his belt to use the metal buckle as a weapon and Janhelle was holding a bottle of wine which he had stolen from a nearby off-licence. CCTV footage presented at the trial and available on Alex’s campaign website shows a tense clash, with Younis trying to act as peacekeeper. Moments later, Alex appears in the frame from some way up the road and sprints to Janhelle’s defence with Cameron behind him.
The fight, which lasted less than 40 seconds, took place just out of range of the CCTV cameras. Alex picked up Janhelle’s phone, which had fallen out of his pocket, and threw it at the head of Taqui Khezihi, 21. He then threw a punch at Taqui’s brother Bourhane, 24, before fleeing the scene. His escape is clearly visible on the CCTV film and also on mobile-phone footage taken by a bystander. What Alex claims not to have known was that Cameron had a knife concealed in a carrier bag slung over his shoulder. Off camera, without removing the knife from the bag, Cameron had stabbed Taqui and Bourhane in their backs before also fleeing. Bourhane survived, but the wound to Taqui penetrated his heart and lung. Tragically, he died shortly afterwards in his brother’s arms.
The first inkling Charlotte had that something was amiss was later that afternoon when she answered the front door to two police officers asking for Alex and saying they were worried for his safety. She was able to tell them that she had only just spoken to her brother – by chance she had called him around 4pm. ‘He’d sounded normal. But he hadn’t known then that Cameron had used a knife,’ says Charlotte. She gave the police officers Alex’s mobile number and then called him again. ‘Cameron had told Alex and the others by then what he’d done. Alex didn’t tell me what was going on, but he was quiet and I think the gravity of the situation was hitting home.’
According to Charlotte, Alex didn’t know that someone had died until it was announced on the news later that evening. His misguided concern was that he had promised his girlfriend Gemma*, who was pregnant, that he would accompany her to a scan in three days’ time. He went to stay with a friend in Croydon and claims that he had intended to hand himself over to the police on the Friday. But he was arrested on the Thursday night and within 24 hours had been charged with murder under joint-enterprise legislation.
Charlotte accepts that Alex was not innocent. ‘He threw a phone and landed a punch, so he was guilty of common assault. He was involved in an affray and because of the level of violence in that affray, he could even have been charged with violent disorder, which carries a maximum four-year prison term. So there are several options available.’
What she cannot accept is the prosecution’s argument that Alex knew a knife was present and therefore foresaw the possibility of serious harm, yet failed to prevent it. ‘In my mind, if you enter into a premeditated fight as one of a group, knowing that someone in your group has a knife and intends to cause serious harm, then it doesn’t matter who delivers the fatal blow – you are all guilty of murder,’ says Charlotte. ‘But in Alex’s case, there was no plan, no premeditation. He wasn’t present at the outset of the fight. He came across it only by chance and stepped in to try to protect his friend. He didn’t know there was a knife and didn’t intend to cause serious harm.’
Alex, Cameron, Younis and Janhelle went on trial at the Old Bailey in February. Four days into the hearing, Cameron, then 20, changed his plea to guilty. He was subsequently sentenced to 22 years. Janhelle and Alex received minimum terms of 19 years. Younis, who was clearly seen on the CCTV footage trying to stop the fight, was found not guilty. ‘The jury was allowed to come to a circumstantial verdict, and yet Cameron is prepared to testify that neither Alex nor Janhelle knew he had a knife. That is the basis of our appeal,’ says Charlotte.
While Charlotte has established a website for Alex, the family of Taqui, a French-Algerian national who had been living in London since 1995 and had completed a diploma in accountancy, has set up a memorial page to record the loss of their ‘kind, polite’ and clearly much-loved son and brother. ‘We have lost Alex to a crime he didn’t commit and that is terrible, but it is by no means as terrible as losing someone you love to murder. We understand that,’ says Charlotte.
At the trial, she approached a member of Taqui’s family to express her condolences. ‘I can’t imagine the suffering they are going through and what Bourhane endured, holding his brother as he died.’ None of this, however, can deter her from defending her brother. ‘Alex is not a murderer and, as his sister, I have to be the one who stands up for him.’
Alex has now served just over a year in prison – having been held in custody since his arrest. Charlotte has spent the morning before our interview visiting him in HMP Pentonville. He is allowed two visits a month, for two hours a time. Sometimes Charlotte goes with her mother and sometimes with Alex’s girlfriend Gemma and his baby daughter Annabel*, who was born in February. Today, however, she went alone. ‘He is looking pale and gaunt because he’s locked up for 23 hours a day, but he is being strong mentally and the campaign is raising his hopes,’ she says.
Within the next few weeks, Alex will be moved to Nottingham Prison, where he will have more time out of his cell and the option to embark upon educational courses. Meanwhile, Charlotte has gone back to her original ambition to become a defence solicitor and this month begins a chartered legal executive course at the University of Westminster. She will be combining her studies with running Alex’s campaign. ‘I never used to be the sort of person who was comfortable speaking in public, but one good thing about this is that I now know how to make myself heard,’ she says. She is aware that if she is to have any hope of making a difference, she needs to be able to argue from a legal, as well as an emotional, standpoint. ‘Luckily, I do know what I am talking about – and I will keep on talking on Alex’s behalf until he gets the fair hearing he deserves.’
Posted by bussorah at 5:16 PM