Monday, August 31, 2015

NZ: Young man who came across two men attempting to break into his car is ordered to pay the THIEVES $600 after knocking them out when he caught them

Decking a car thief is "disproportionate" in New Zealand, apparently

A man who caught a burglar breaking into his car and responded by punching him unconscious was ordered to pay compensation to the thief.

Ethan Annett, 21, got word that his work vehicle was being broken into at Christchurch's Dallas St at about 10.40pm on May 9.

He arrived to the scene with his co-offender, lashing out at the two men who were attempting to steal the vehicle, reports Herald NZ.

Mr Annett fronted Christchurch District Court on Thursday for sentencing after pleading guilty to an assault charge.

His lawyer Kerry Cook said that Mr Annett was remorseful, however the incident would not have happened if someone had not been breaking in to the vehicle, which was his 'only asset'.

Mr Anette was convicted on the assault charge and in turn ordered to pay $600 compensation to his victim.

A fundraising page titled 'Ethan Annett, a reward for bravery' has been launched with the following message:  'We wish to raise funds for Ethan Annett and his brave friend to help with the wages they have lost after being unjustly convicted for assault.'

Original report here

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Australia: Officers having sex on station desks, female staff being groped and revolting slurs: Top cop concedes poor behaviour has 'spiked' amongst Gold Coast police

[Qld.] Police Commissioner Ian Stewart believes a review into the culture of the Gold Coast police stations will likely find poor-behaving officers.

Commissioner Stewart said there has been a spike in ‘poor behaviour’ among the officers in the coastal, south Queensland region but believes it’s more likely a few spoiling the reputation.

It comes after Gold Coast Bulletin alleged to have obtained a leaked copy of a survey detailing allegations of female staff being groped, discriminatory slurs graffitied in stations, and officers have sex on station desks and in police cars while on duty.

‘The actions of the few often tarnish the great work done by the many,’ Commissioner Stewart said in Brisbane.

One fifth of Gold Coast police surveyed said they did not believe their managers showed the type of behaviour expected of all employees, according to the Gold Coast Bulletin.

But Commissioner Stewart said this was distinct from a cultural review being undertaken by an independent consultant, with findings expected to be handed down in coming weeks.

‘I want the answers,’ he said.  ‘We need to understand have we actually got an inherent problem ... in the Gold Coast area.’

He said the review wouldn't have been instituted unless there were valid concerns about a ‘spike’ of incidents in the past year or so.

‘[But] I'm quite convinced that what could potentially be found is that the actions of a few are tarnishing the great work of most of the police that work on the Gold Coast,’ he said.

Nevertheless, Commissioner Stewart said he was confident community faith in the state's police force wouldn't be damaged by reports of cops behaving badly.

‘We're more transparent and accountable than probably any other organisation that I know of,’ he said.

He said police would determine if the review's eventual findings would be made public.

The commissioner was also asked to address recent controversy about allegations of excessive force used by officers on people in custody.

He said officers found to have genuinely mistreated subjects would be punished in the same way a regular member of the public would be.

Original report here

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Australia: Gold Coast police brutality: Another alleged incident captured on CCTV

THERE has been an explosion of allegations of police brutality on the Gold Coast, with shocking footage emerging of a recent attack.

The Courier-Mail has obtained disturbing CCTV footage from inside the Surfers Paradise police station which shows a handcuffed Michael Cox, 29, being physically restrained and his head slammed into the tile floor.

The footage shows Mr Cox and watchhouse officer Peter Nummy talking on a bench inside the station. Both men appear relaxed. At no point does Mr Cox lunge at the officer, but moments later the footage shows Officer Nummy twist Mr Cox’s handcuffed wrist backward and slam his head into floor.

The Courier-Mail showed the footage to a former detective who questioned the officer’s use of force.

Police yesterday confirmed they were aware of the matter and that Officer Nummy had not been disciplined.

Mr Cox has lodged a claim against the Queensland Police Service for more than $100,000 for pain and suffering caused by Officer Nummy on May 4 last year.

Mr Cox was taken to the Surfers Paradise police station after he was victim to a random assault outside East Nightclub in Broadbeach.

Michael Cox is wrestled to the floor, slamming his head on a tile.
Court documents reveal Mr Cox told an officer: “I’m going mate, I just want to know that the other guy is going to get charged”, when he was asked to move on.

The male police officer then yelled: “You’re a (expletive) stupid (expletive) and I’m not your (expletive) mate” before arresting him for contravening a “move on” direction.

Mr Cox said the evening was a nightmare.  “I had to take six weeks off work because my wrist was broken,” Mr Cox said.  “If I walked down the road and broke someone’s wrist I’d be charged with assault, so why can the police get away with it?”

The revelations come as an internal review into the culture of Gold Coast police began this week, and the Crime and Corruption Commission decided no officer would be charged over another police bashing in the basement of the Surfers Paradise station.

However an accused police whistleblower faces prosecution for allegedly leaking video of the incident to The Courier-Mail.

Shine Lawyers general manager Kimberly Allen said the CCTV footage shows a handcuffed Mr Cox “did not resist his arrest or threaten or demonstrate aggression to the officers”.

The Courier-Mail can reveal solicitors across the Gold Coast have been inundated with inquiries from people who have suffered serious injuries allegedly at the hands of police.

One law firm is currently handling more than 50 excessive force claims.

Potts Lawyers director Bill Potts said his firm receives inquiries on a weekly basis from members of the public who have been “touched up” by police.

Original report here

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Australia: More on the Roseanne Catt case

A disgrace to the NSW police

The NSW woman unjustly imprisoned for 10 years has slammed the case against her as a “disgrace”, on the day she finally won $2.3 million in damages for wrongful prosecution.

Roseanne Beckett today was awarded the compensation after she spent a decade behind bars for a slew of charges, including soliciting the murder of her ex-husband, Barry Catt.

“It’s a disgrace that it has gone on as long as it has, and cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars,” Ms Beckett said after the payout was announced.

Justice Ian Harrison found the late detective Sergeant Peter Thomas, who led the charge against Ms Beckett, had perverted the course of justice and acted maliciously.  “[Mr Thomas] utilised the legal system in a war that did not secure justice, but perverted it,” he said.

It comes more than a decade after Ms Beckett was released from jail in 2001, having served the majority of her 12-year sentence.

Ms Beckett's conviction for her ex-husband’s murder and other offences were quashed in 2005.

All the heartache seems to have stemmed from one incident - a blaze at her Taree delicatessen on Christmas Day, 1983.

"Ms Beckett would appear at all times up until the fire ... to have been an ordinary citizen going about her business in an unremarkable way," Justice Harrison said.

"From 25 December that year, however, things changed dramatically and for the worse."  Det. Sgt Thomas investigated the fire and accused Ms Beckett of arson - a charge that was later dropped.

Meanwhile, Det. Sgt Thomas found himself facing a number of complaints from Ms Beckett, who claimed he made suggestive remarks to her and was inebriated at the time of the blaze.

"This was the cauldron out of which the later monumental events would develop," Justice Harrison said.

As the internal investigation into Det. Sgt Thomas continued, Ms Beckett married local panel beater Barry Catt in 1987 - who had a history of mental illness.

A year later the pair separated, with Ms Beckett taking an AVO out on him.

On August 24, 1989, at 7.30am, Ms Beckett was in her night attire when police came to her house, handcuffed her and began a search.

A pistol was found in the ensuite and the next day Ms Beckett was charged with several offences against Mr Catt, including two counts of solicit to murder.

Ms Beckett has always claimed the gun was planted.

Pointing at one of the solicit to murder charges, Justice Harrison found the "so-called evidence" against Ms Beckett was "woefully inadequate".

"It would surprise me to the point of astonishment if Detective Thomas had ever been presented with a more absurd complaint in the whole of his policing career," Justice Harrison said.

Other charges laid against her were clearly an "act of vengeance" on Det. Sgt Thomas's behalf, he found.

Original report here

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Australia: Vindictive Qld. police

This is a disgrace to both the police and the State they serve.  It is an endorsement of police thuggery

A GOLD Coast cop who allegedly blew the whistle on the brutal bashing of a young chef in the Surfers Paradise police station basement has been hit with a serious criminal charge.

While the four officers who bashed 22-year-old Noa Begic while he was handcuffed largely escaped punishment, Sergeant Rick Flori, who is accused of leaking CCTV footage of the incident to The Courier-Mail, faces up to seven years behind bars.

Sgt Flori was formally charged with misconduct in public office after being summoned to police headquarters in Brisbane yesterday.

Mr Begic was assaulted in January 2012 after being arrested for public nuisance and obstructing police.

CCTV footage, obtained by The Courier-Mail, showed him being repeatedly punched and ground into the concrete floor with his hands cuffed behind his back.

The video also showed a senior-sergeant washing away the blood with a bucket of water.  He quit the service before any adverse findings were made by internal investigators, while the senior-constable who threw the punches was given a suspended dismissal and is back on the beat.

The other two officers involved were not disciplined.
Video of police bashing

The charges against Mr Begic were dropped and he won a confidential settlement from the Queensland Police Service.

Sgt Flori’s home was raided by Ethical Standards Command officers.

Queensland Police Union lawyer Calvin Gnech said the 25-year veteran officer had been charged with one count of misconduct in public office, which carries a maximum penalty of seven years’ jail.

Emerging from police headquarters, Sgt Flori said he had been inundated with support and was “very grateful” but could not comment further.

He is believed to have been stood down with pay and is due to face Southport Magistrates Court on July 15.

Supporter Renee Eaves, who accompanied Sgt Flori yesterday, said he had been to “hell and back” and could “absolutely” lose his job.  “It’s been an awful burden on him and his family,” she said. “People are really quite outraged.’’

Ms Eaves said Mr Begic was “still not in a good way”.

After his charges were dropped in June 2012, Mr Begic said it would be “a disgrace” if the officer who leaked the video was punished.

Original report here

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Federal Prosecutors Fight Back After Judge Orders Motorist Be Returned $167K Seized

Federal prosecutors have filed an appeal in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after a federal judge ordered the government return $167,000 it seized from Straughn Gorman in 2013.

After a federal judge ordered the government return $167,000 law enforcement seized from a motorist driving through Nevada, federal prosecutors are fighting the decision.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Reno, Nev., filed documents with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, Calif., earlier this month calling on the court to revisit a decision requiring the government to return cash it seized from Straughn Gorman several years ago.

Gorman was never charged with a crime.

“The prosecutors simply have the financial calculus [to appeal]—either pay a six-figure attorney’s fees to Mr. Gorman or potentially win a six-figure return if they win in the ruling and prevail,” Jason Snead, a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal.

In January 2013, police stopped Gorman twice outside of Elko, Nev., during a trip he was making from Delaware to Sacramento, Calif.

Gorman was driving across the country with a motorhome to see his girlfriend, and a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper first stopped the man as he headed west on Interstate 80 for driving too slowly in the passing lane. According to court documents, Gorman didn’t consent to a search of his vehicle, but the trooper sent him on his way without issuing any citations.

Less than 50 minutes later, though, an officer with the Elko County Sheriff’s Office stopped Gorman again.

On the second stop, the officer had a drug-sniffing dog with him, and law enforcement conducted a search of the motorhome, where he found $167,000 in cash stored throughout the vehicle.

The officer seized the cash, Gorman’s computer, cell phone, and vehicle under civil asset forfeiture laws. However, police found no drugs in the motorhome and never charged Gorman with a crime.

According to documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, the Nevada Highway Patrol trooper had arranged for Gorman to be pulled over once more by the Elko County Sheriff’s Office deputy.

Gorman filed a claim in federal court to get his money back, and in June, Larry Hicks, a U.S. district judge for the District of Nevada, ordered the government to return Gorman’s money. In his ruling, Hicks criticized the government for failing to disclose information related to Gorman’s second traffic stop, specifically that the first officer with Nevada Highway Patrol had instructed the Elk County Sheriff’s deputy to pull Gorman over again.

“In particular, the government has a duty of candor and fair disclosure to the court,” he said. “The court expects and relies upon the United States attorney’s office to be candid and forthcoming with material information uniquely held only in possession of the government and clearly relevant to central issues before the court. That did not occur here.”

Snead pointed to Hick’s criticism of the federal government as a reason why the U.S. attorney’s office is working to have his ruling overturned.

“There’s the incentive to win the case to save face, especially potentially since the judge called them out on their conduct in this case,” he said. “At the very least, they have the financial desire to win at this point.”

Hicks also encouraged Gorman to request the government cover his legal fees, which amount to $153,000. Under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000, the government is liable for lawyer fees and other expenses in cases where a claimant, such as Gorman, prevails.

However, the U.S. attorney’s office asked the court not to require the government pay Gorman’s lawyer’s fees.

The Nevada District Court won’t decide whether Gorman is entitled to lawyer’s fees until the 9th Circuit has issued its ruling.

Under civil asset forfeiture, law enforcement can seize cash and property if it’s suspected of being connected to a crime. The original intent of the legal practice was to curb money laundering and drug trafficking. However, innocent Americans have been caught up in the system, having money and property seized by law enforcement without ever being charged with a crime.

Property owners can fight to get their money back, but the government will often try to settle with the owner, avoiding what could be a long and costly process in court.

Over the last few years, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have been criticized for abusing civil asset forfeiture laws, as policy experts say the tool creates perverse incentives.

Original report here

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Australia:  Roseann Catt wins at last

A notorious case.  The evidence against her was always specious.  She was the victim of a crooked cop

A woman has been awarded a $2.3 million payout after she was wrongly imprisoned for a decade for the attempted murder of her husband.

Roseanne Beckett, formerly Roseanne Catt, has successfully sued the state of NSW after serving the majority of a 12-year sentence.

Justice Ian Harrison awarded the $2.3 million payout, plus legal costs, for malicious prosecution in the Supreme Court on Monday morning, 26 years to the day after her arrest, according to Nine News.

‘Victory, at long last victory,’ Ms Beckett told Nine, who was in tears on Monday morning following the judgement.

She was released in 2001 after new evidence came to light, and her conviction for soliciting the murder of her ex-husband, Barry Catt, was eventually quashed in 2005 by the Court of Criminal Appeal following a judicial inquiry into allegations she was framed.

The convictions against Ms Beckett, now dropped, claimed that she had spiked drinks in her husband's office fridge with the drugs Lithium and Rivotril, according to journalist Wendy Bacon, who closely reported on the injustice throughout the decades.

Ms Beckett and the defence has maintained since her arrest on August 24, 1989, that she had been framed and the victim of a conspiracy between her husband, his friend Adrian Newell, a key witness in her conviction, and Newcastle Detective Peter Thomas.

Ahead of the case in 1989, Mr Catt had been facing charges of assaulting Ms Beckett and had a restraining order to keep clear of the family home in Taree, regional NSW. He was also acquitted for charges of sexually assaulting their children.

Ms Bacon reported allegations that Ms Beckett's arrest had been part of a successful campaign to get Mr Catt acquitted for the charges.

The Taree woman won the right to appeal for compensation on May 8 in 2013 in the High Court in Canberra, Australia's highest court.

Original report here

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Monday, August 24, 2015

British gym coach says he has 'been through 18 months of hell' after being cleared of child cruelty charges

The coach who led a gymnastics troupe to victory on Britain’s Got Talent act has said he has suffered through ’18 months of hell’ after being cleared of child cruelty charges.

Neil Griffiths, 42, was accused of child cruelty by the parents of three children he coached, but the charges were dropped last week before the case went to trial.

The national gymnastics coach, from Ashford, Surrey, is regarded as one of the country’s best – and coached Spelbound to win the fourth series of Britain’s Got Talent in front of more than 15million people in 2010.

The troupe then went on to perform at the closing ceremony of the London Olympics two years later.

Mr Griffiths had always maintained his innocence after being questioned on suspicion of mistreating children as young as nine by police in July.

Now, after being cleared, he says his reputation has been tarnished and he has lost his livelihood – but is now looking for a chance to return to the job he loves.

‘I have been through hell for the last 18 months,’ he told the Telegraph.  ‘I’m grateful for all the support I’ve received, but devastated that the good name I have built up over 15 years in the sport, training British, European and world champions, has been tarnished and called into question.’

He added: ‘This matter should never have dragged on as long as it did or been allowed to go on as far as it did.’

Friends said the charges were ‘baseless’ and he attracted support from his former pupils and their parents, who launched a campaign on Facebook to help clear his name.

As well as training Spelbound, Griffiths had been head coach at Heathrow Gymnastics Club, in west London. The club’s senior acrobatics squad, which includes children, trains up to four hours a day, five days a week.

But he was suspended by British Gymnastics after the allegations first emerged – and following police questioning, he was charged with five counts of child cruelty dating back to nearly a decade ago.

A trial date was set for February 2016, but following a senior crown prosecution lawyer’s review of the evidence, the decision was made to drop the charges.  The lawyer decided there was no realistic possibility of a conviction and wrote to Mr Griffiths's lawyer John Hartley to inform him of the decision this week.

Mr Hartley told MailOnline tonight: ‘It has been a very difficult and stressful time for Neil and his family. We hope that British gymnastics will respect the decision and allow him to return to the sport he has devoted himself to for many years.  ‘He was suspended pending the outcome of this matter and is of course keen to get back to his many supportive students and to earn a living.

‘I am very pleased that the CPS finally reviewed the matter and decided there was insufficient evidence to proceed. We had advised the CPS and the court that we would be making submissions to that effect in due course.  ‘I have represented Neil from the outset and he had maintained his position from the beginning that these allegations were untrue.’

Original report here

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

'Buy these or I take your car': Secret video shows officer pressuring driver during traffic stop to support police fundraiser

Blatant corruption but his bosses seem relaxed about it

A patrolman in Philadelphia has been seen in a video pressuring a driver to support a police fundraiser or have his car towed has been placed on desk duty, police said.

Officer Matthew Zagursky embarrassed the police department and may have committed a crime, Commissioner Charles Ramsey said.

On the video, the officer asks: 'You and your friend got any money to buy these thrill show tickets? Either you buy these or I take your car. 'Cause it's unregistered. Ten bucks each, man.'

The uniformed officer balks at the driver's plan to buy just two tickets, and the driver ultimately agrees to give the officer $30 for three tickets.

The officer also is heard making a homophobic remark while discussing pink windshield wipers on the unregistered car. The driver says they honor a grandmother who had breast cancer.

Ramsey said he learned of the video on Friday morning and plans to refer it to local prosecutors.

'That's totally inappropriate, and it could very well be illegal,' Ramsey said. 'He tainted a cause that I think is certainly one that I think we should all be proud of.'

Zagursky couldn't be reached for comment because he doesn't have a listed phone number. The police union said it couldn't comment because its president was on vacation.

The fall fundraiser collects money for the families of police officers and firefighters killed on duty. Ramsey said the police department distributes tickets at district offices but does not pressure officers to sell a certain number.

The video appears to have been taken from within the car.

Ramsey said he does not know when the traffic stop occurred, but he said the tickets displayed by the officer have been available for only about a month.

Police learned of the video after it was posted on Facebook.  They hope to learn the names of the driver and a male passenger.

The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported Friday on an Internal Affairs investigation into the video.

Original report here

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Wrongfully convicted Conn. man sues DA, Springfield cops

A Connecticut man who spent 27 years behind bars for a murder he didn’t commit is suing police in Springfield and Hartford, as well as the Hampden District Attorney’s Office, arguing his wrongful conviction left him missing “weddings, funerals, births, graduations and birthdays.”

Mark Schand was 21 and a father of three in 1986 when he was convicted of the homicide of 25-year-old Victoria Seymour outside the After Five Lounge in Springfield, and 48 and a grandfather when his name was finally cleared in 2013.

“Honestly, I think I survived it because I was numb and had such tunnel vision trying to get out of prison, writing lawyers and law students and innocence projects until someone would listen. I think that’s what kept me sane,” Schand, now 50, told the Herald.

Schand’s wife, Mia, and the couple’s three adult sons, Mark Jr., Quinton and Kiele, are also named plaintiffs in the civil action filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Boston. The case has already been assigned to Judge Michael A. Ponsor and summons issued to the defendants. The Schands seek monetary damages to be determined by a jury.

“I’m sure they’re going to fight me tooth and nail,” Schand said. “I’m just trying to be compensated for the time I lost.”

Seymour was an innocent bystander outside the bar the night of Sept. 2, 1986, when, the lawsuit states, gunfire erupted during a drug deal and she was shot in the back.

A half-dozen witnesses claimed Schand was with his wife at the beauty salon where she worked at the time of the killing.

The 68-page lawsuit argues, among other things, that witnesses were coerced to pick Schand out of a photo array in exchange for having criminal charges dropped against them and that witness statements pointing to suspects other than Schand were withheld from the defense.

Hartford police declined to comment, and Springfield police and the Hampden DA’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Original report here

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Wheelchair-bound grandad, 88, who was jailed for having an antique gun is freed after his barrister admits bungling the case

An 88-year-old great-grandfather who was jailed for having an antique shotgun in his car has been freed after a legal mix-up.

Wheelchair-bound Roy Delph had approached police to tell them about a group of yobs he suspected had trashed his allotment shed and killed his kitten.

But he found himself under arrest after officers spotted the shotgun on the passenger seat of his car.

The frail pensioner was then jailed at the end of last month after admitting carrying a loaded weapon in public - despite the court hearing he had an unblemished record, had been tormented by local youths and only kept the licensed weapon to shoot vermin on his land.

But Mr Delph wept as he was released on Tuesday, after his barrister realised he had wrongly classified the weapon as requiring a mandatory jail term - and had argued Mr Delph’s case on that basis.

Judge Nicholas Coleman re-sentenced the former wartime ‘Bevin Boy’ to a two-year prison term, suspended for 18-months with a 12-month supervision order at Norwich Crown Court.

By then, Mr Delph had spent 17 nights at the Victorian Norwich Prison - once home to Reggie Kray and great train robber Ronnie Biggs - before he was finally reunited with housebound wife Jackie, 73, his wife of more than 40 years.

Sipping a cup of tea at the couple’s home in Downham Market, Norfolk, Mr Delph, who is severely deaf and suffers from heart problems and arthritis, said he did not realise he was being jailed until the dock officers stood up to lead him to the cells.

The grandfather-of-five and great-grandfather-of-two added: ‘I was in complete shock - I never had a chance in that court room.

‘I was never allowed to speak and give my side of the story about the trouble we’d been having.  ‘And I do feel I’d done nothing wrong - a mountain was made from a molehill as far as I’m concerned.

‘I wasn’t prepared for going to prison - I didn’t pack anything or even take my watch.’ Asked what had got him through the ordeal, he pointed to his wife of 48 years and added: ‘It’s this lady here and the kind people out there who helped get me out,” said Mr Delph, who has heart problems, a hernia and severe arthritis.

‘The people who read or heard about my story in the media and what had happened to me.’ Mrs Delph said the couple were still waiting for a proper explanation over how the gun had been misclassified by barrister Lawrence Bruce, but said the bungle concerned the length of the gun barrel.

She added: ‘Roy should never have been jailed either way though. You only have to look at him to see that - he’s too frail and has never been in any sort of trouble before.’ She said Mr Delph had owned the 124-year-old gun since before they met, having repaired it for a man he then bought it off.

Cambridge-based Mr Bruce said he had mistakenly thought that the OAP’s gun had put the case in the category of the mandatory five-year minimum prison sentence imposed by Parliament.

He told the court on Tuesday: ‘I take primary responsibility for that error - an error to which I fell at a relatively early stage in proceedings.’ Mr Bruce said he took responsibility for getting it wrong but said the prosecution had not challenged his interpretation.

The original sentence was cut by Judge Coleman to two years in light of mitigation.

Addressing the barrister’s astonishing error, Judge Coleman told Mr Delph on Tuesday: ‘It had this unfortunate outcome for you Mr Delph that I had to approach the sentencing on the basis put forward by the prosecution and defence.’ The judge added: ‘It’s now been accepted that the minimum term does not apply.

‘Free from that it seems only right and proper that I should deal with this matter in a much more lenient way.’ The judge said that as Mr Delph’s weapon had been confiscated, and the ‘danger removed’, he could suspend the sentence.

Country lover Mr Delph worked for Great Ouse River Authority for 30 years after being conscripted to the coal mines during the Second World War as a teenage ‘Bevin Boy’.

Last night, Paula Ogungboro, of Mothers Against Guns, said she had no argument with the pensioner being jailed for carrying the weapon, adding: ‘Whether he’s an old man or a young man is irrelevant.

‘That gun was not safety stored and he had no reason to have it in his car - anybody could have got their hands on it.’

Original report here

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

West Australia: Corruption and Crime Commission reveals assault by cops against woman at East Perth Watch House

No action planned against the cops concerned.  Determined and forceful refusal to co-operate with lawful police requests does risk the cops losing it

A WOMAN was repeatedly struck by police — with one officer using “hammer blows” – and had her finger broken in a shocking strip search incident condemned by the state’s corruption and crime watchdog.

The Corruption and Crime Commission’s damning report into the incident at the East Perth Watch House on April 7, 2013 found there were “serious misconduct, misconduct or reviewable police action in relation to five officers”.

The report was tabled in Parliament on Thursday morning, and CCTV vision showing part of the incident was also released.

In the early hours of that day, Joanne Martin, then 33, was arrested for disorderly conduct in Northbridge and taken to the East Perth Watch House.

The CCC found there was “nothing to indicate Ms Martin was a threat to any person” and that no person should be subjected to the kind of treatment meted out to her.

The watchdog noted in its report that soon after her arrival, Ms Martin found herself naked, lying face down on a floor, with a number of female watch house officers seeking to forcibly restrain her.

“One (was) applying hammer blows with a fist to the shoulder blade area, a second also striking here, and another using such force to try and remove a ring that it caused a serious fracture of a finger,” the report states.

“A little later, Ms Martin was escorted handcuffed and with leg restraints, naked apart from a blanket, past male officers.

“It is of considerable concern that a person could in Perth in 2013 undergo what befell Joanne Martin at the watch house on the morning of 7 April 2013.”

The CCC condemned the “unacceptable” treatment.  “It is clear from the … analysis of the events of 7 April 2013 that poor training and supervision, failures to adhere to the statutory and regulatory framework, and inconsistencies between the legislative protections for those in police custody and internal police rules were prime causes of those events,” it reports.

The report states this incident was occurring in the context of apparently similar conduct — tacitly or otherwise — approved by WA Police.

“That this is the case is the result of institutionalised failure by WA Police and the failure of its chains of command to ensure that the law, various regulations, policies and procedures are correctly applied, and its officers and their supervisors are accordingly held to account,” the report states.
The East Perth Watch House where a woman was subjected to a shocking strip search and had her finger broken.

While noting that some steps had been taken to improve procedures since the move to the Perth Watch House in Northbridge, the CCC is calling for urgent action on training and supervision of officers in the wake of its investigation into this matter.

The CCC supported police’s plans to install a body scanner at the Perth Watch House to replace strip searches, but it remains “dissatisfied” with other measures taken to address the misconduct.

Improved training, supervision, record keeping and a mandatory regime to protect detainees who are strip-searched are among six recommendations in the report.

In a response to the CCC in January, WA Police Superintendent of the Ethical Standards Division, John Leembruggen, said no criminal or managerial would be taken against the officers involved. However, a sergeant did receive “verbal guidance” for failing to accommodate Ms Martin’s request to lodge a complaint.

“Martin’s extraordinary physical strength posed a risk to the individual officers who were merely trying to lawfully remove her clothing and personal property and it is regrettable that during this process she received an injury to her ring finger,” he said.

“Ms Martin’s strength and grim determination not to allow the officers to carry out their lawful duty is illustrated by the necessity for seven other women to restrain her.

“WA Police hold the view it was Ms Martin’s unswerving and sustained opposition that set the standard, not something precipitated by uncontrolled aggression by any officer.”

In a subsequent letter to the CCC in July, Acting Assistant Commissioner of Judicial Services Lawrence Panaia said police supported the watchdog’s recommendations.

“Our staff work in a volatile environment with many intoxicated and violent detainees and experience has shown detainees frequently try to do harm to themselves or others,” he said.

“In particular, officers need to tread the fine line between not searching thoroughly (leading to self-harm and assaults) and searching too thoroughly, leading to unnecessary conflict with detainees ... where procedures are lacking or mistakes have been made, we will make improvements.”

Mr O’Callaghan said situations escalated in occasion in watch houses but the officers didn’t deviate from their training. “They have to make a decision about how they restrain the prisoner in those circumstances,” he told 6PR.

He also said the concern was for the safety of the detainee, who wasn’t a small woman. “We don’t agree that there was no reason to strip search that woman,” he said.

WA Police Union President George Tilbury said he fully supports the Commissioner in his reaction to the CCC report.  “Police watch houses are dynamic and volatile environments, and the WAPU will always support our members taking the necessary precautions, to ensure their safety as well as that of persons in custody,” he said.

“We will continue to work with WA Police and our Perth Watch House branch to ensure the safety of our members is paramount. “WAPU is disappointed it took so long for the CCC to form its opinions relating to our Members’ actions. Under its old administration, the CCC identified this incident and directed WA Police not to investigate.

“We believe the Professional Standards Portfolio is best placed to investigate allegations of police misconduct. If they were allowed to investigate, any perceived issues would have been resolved much sooner.”

Original report here

(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

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Drivers, Beware: The Costly, Deadly Dangers of Traffic Stops in the American Police State

J.W. Whitehead

“The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity subject to the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway and jail official. The framers would be appalled.”—Herman Schwartz, The Nation

Trying to predict the outcome of any encounter with the police is a bit like playing Russian roulette: most of the time you will emerge relatively unscathed, although decidedly poorer and less secure about your rights, but there’s always the chance that an encounter will turn deadly.

The odds weren’t in Walter L. Scott’s favor. Reportedly pulled over for a broken taillight, Scott—unarmed—ran away from the police officer, who pursued and shot him from behind, first with a Taser, then with a gun. Scott was struck five times, “three times in the back, once in the upper buttocks and once in the ear — with at least one bullet entering his heart.”

Samuel Dubose, also unarmed, was pulled over for a missing front license plate. He was reportedly shot in the head after a brief struggle in which his car began rolling forward.

Levar Jones was stopped for a seatbelt offense, just as he was getting out of his car to enter a convenience store. Directed to show his license, Jones leaned into his car to get his wallet, only to be shot four times by the “fearful” officer. Jones was also unarmed.

Bobby Canipe was pulled over for having an expired registration. When the 70-year-old reached into the back of his truck for his walking cane, the officer fired several shots at him, hitting him once in the abdomen.

Dontrell Stevens was stopped “for not bicycling properly.” The officer pursuing him “thought the way Stephens rode his bike was suspicious. He thought the way Stephens got off his bike was suspicious.” Four seconds later, sheriff’s deputy Adams Lin shot Stephens four times as he pulled out a black object from his waistband. The object was his cell phone. Stephens was unarmed.

If there is any lesson to be learned from these “routine” traffic stops, it is that drivers should beware.

At a time when police can do no wrong—at least in the eyes of the courts, police unions and politicians dependent on their votes—and a “fear” for officer safety is used to justify all manner of police misconduct, “we the people” are at a severe disadvantage.

According to the Justice Department, the most common reason for a citizen to come into contact with the police is being a driver in a traffic stop. On average, one in 10 Americans gets pulled over by police. Black drivers are 31 percent more likely to be pulled over than white drivers, or about 23 percent more likely than Hispanic drivers. As the Washington Post concludes, “‘Driving while black’ is, indeed, a measurable phenomenon.”

As Sandra Bland learned the hard way, the reason for a traffic stop no longer matters. Bland, who was pulled over for allegedly failing to use her turn signal, was arrested after refusing to comply with the police officer’s order to extinguish her cigarette and exit her vehicle. The encounter escalated, with the officer threatening to “light” Bland up with his taser. Three days later, Bland was found dead in her jail cell.

“You’re doing all of this for a failure to signal?” Bland asked as she got out of her car, after having been yelled at and threatened repeatedly. Had she only known, drivers have been pulled over for far less. Indeed, police officers have been given free range to pull anyone over for a variety of reasons.

This approach to traffic stops (what I would call “blank check policing,” in which the police get to call all of the shots) has resulted in drivers being stopped for windows that are too heavily tinted, for driving too fast, driving too slow, failing to maintain speed, following too closely, improper lane changes, distracted driving, screeching a car’s tires, and leaving a parked car door open for too long.

Motorists can also be stopped by police for driving near a bar or on a road that has large amounts of drunk driving, driving a certain make of car (Mercedes, Grand Prix and Hummers are among the most ticketed vehicles), having anything dangling from the rearview mirror (air fresheners, handicap parking permits, troll transponders or rosaries), and displaying pro-police bumper stickers.

Incredibly, a federal appeals court actually ruled unanimously in 2014 that acne scars and driving with a stiff upright posture are reasonable grounds for being pulled over. More recently, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that driving a vehicle that has a couple air fresheners, rosaries and pro-police bumper stickers at 2 MPH over the speed limit is suspicious, meriting a traffic stop.

Unfortunately for drivers, not only have traffic stops become potentially deadly encounters, they have also turned into a profitable form of highway robbery for the police departments involved.

As The Washington Post reports, “traffic stops for minor infractions such as speeding or equipment violations are increasingly used as a pretext for officers to seize cash from drivers.” Relying on federal and state asset forfeiture laws, police set up “stings” on public roads that enable them to stop drivers for a variety of so-called “suspicious” behavior, search their vehicles and seize anything of value that could be suspected of being connected to criminal activity. Since 2001, police have seized $2.5 billion from people who were not charged with a crime and without a warrant being issued.

“In case after case,” notes The Washington Post, “highway interdictors appeared to follow a similar script. Police set up what amounted to rolling checkpoints on busy highways and pulled over motorists for minor violations, such as following too closely or improper signaling. They quickly issued warnings or tickets. They studied drivers for signs of nervousness, including pulsing carotid arteries, clenched jaws and perspiration. They also looked for supposed ‘indicators’ of criminal activity, which can include such things as trash on the floor of a vehicle, abundant energy drinks or air fresheners hanging from rearview mirrors.”

If you’re starting to feel somewhat overwhelmed, intimidated and fearful for your life and your property, you should be. Never before have “we the people” been so seemingly defenseless in the face of police misconduct, lacking advocates in the courts and in the legislatures.

So how do you survive a police encounter with your life and wallet intact?

The courts have already given police the green light to pull anyone over for a variety of reasons. In an 8-1 ruling in Heien v. North Carolina, the US Supreme Court affirmed that police officers can pull someone over based on a “reasonable” but mistaken belief about the law.

Of course, what’s reasonable to agents of the police state may be completely unreasonable to the populace. Nevertheless, the moment those lights start flashing and that siren goes off, we’re all in the same boat: we must pull over.

However, it’s what happens after you’ve been pulled over that’s critical. Survival is the key.

Technically, you have the right to remain silent (beyond the basic requirement to identify yourself and show your registration). You have the right to refuse to have your vehicle searched. You have the right to film your interaction with police. You have the right to ask to leave. You also have the right to resist an unlawful order such as a police officer directing you to extinguish your cigarette, put away your phone or stop recording them.

However, as Bland learned the hard way, there is a price for asserting one’s rights. “Faced with an authority figure unwilling to de-escalate the situation, Bland refused to be bullied or intimidated,” writes Boston Globe contributor Renee Graham. “She understood her rights, but for African-Americans in encounters with police, the appalling price for asserting even the most basic rights can be their lives.”

So if you don’t want to get probed, poked, pinched, tasered, tackled, searched, seized, stripped, manhandled, arrested, shot, or killed, don’t say, do or even suggest anything that even hints of noncompliance when it comes to interactions with police.

One police officer advised that if you feel as if you’re being treated unfairly, comply anyhow and contest it in court later. Similarly, black parents, advising their kids on how to deal with police, tell them to just obey the officer’s orders. “The goal,” as one parent pointed out, “is to stay alive.”

It seems that “comply or die” has become the new maxim for the American police state.

Then again, not even compliance is a guarantee of safety anymore. “Police are specialists in violence,” warns Kristian Williams, who has written extensively on the phenomenon of police militarization and brutality. “They are armed, trained, and authorized to use force. With varying degrees of subtlety, this colors their every action. Like the possibility of arrest, the threat of violence is implicit in every police encounter. Violence, as well as the law, is what they represent.”

In other words, in the American police state, “we the people” are at the mercy of law enforcement officers who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to “serve and protect.”

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this mindset that any challenge to police authority is a threat that needs to be “neutralized” is a dangerous one that is part of a greater nationwide trend that sets the police beyond the reach of the Fourth Amendment. Moreover, when police officers are allowed to operate under the assumption that their word is law and that there is no room for any form of disagreement or even question, that serves to chill the First Amendment’s assurances of free speech, free assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a casual “show your ID” request on a boardwalk, a stop-and-frisk search on a city street, or a traffic stop for speeding or just to check your insurance. If you feel like you can’t walk away from a police encounter of your own volition—and more often than not you can’t, especially when you’re being confronted by someone armed to the hilt with all manner of militarized weaponry and gear—then for all intents and purposes, you’re under arrest from the moment a cop stops you.

Sad, isn’t it, how quickly we have gone from a nation of laws—where the least among us had just as much right to be treated with dignity and respect as the next person (in principle, at least)—to a nation of law enforcers (revenue collectors with weapons) who treat us all like suspects and criminals?

Clearly, the language of freedom is no longer the common tongue spoken by the citizenry and their government. With the government having shifted into a language of force, “we the people” have been reduced to suspects in a surveillance state, criminals in a police state, and enemy combatants in a military empire.

Original report here

(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

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Woman spent 15 YEARS on death row after being wrongly convicted of killing her abusive husband

A woman who was sentenced to death after she was wrongly convicted of killing her abusive husband has finally been set free after 15 years of incarceration, after the court re-examined her case and determined that there were some serious errors made during her trial.

Now 57, Michelle Byrom has spent more than a quarter of her life behind bars in Mississippi, awaiting her death for a crime she didn't commit. Even after her son confessed to murdering the man who abused him and his mother mercilessly, she continued to sit on death row.

Finally free again, Michelle recently spoke to Vanessa Golembewski at Refinery29 about what it was like to be imprisoned while innocent, condemning the judge who sentenced her and marveling at how much the world has changed since she was first locked up.

Michelle's marriage was a hard one. She met her former husband, Edward Byrom Sr. when she was 17 and he was 32, two years after leaving her Yonkers, New York, home and starting to work as a stripper.

Within five years they were married and had a son – but Edward had also started to become abusive. He beat her up regularly, once even making her ingest rat poison. She wasn't allowed to have money or be close to her family. He'd hit on any friends whom she invited over. He even forced her to have sex with other men and videotaped it.

'I don’t really know what else I could have done,' she said, explaining that whenever she tried to get away, he would find her and beat her more. 'Anywhere I would have went he would have found me, and he would have hurt anybody that tried to help me.'

In June of 1999, Edward Byrom Sr., then 58, was found murdered in his own bed.

At the time, Michelle, then 42, was in the hospital being treated for pneumonia. The local sheriff came to visit her there, telling her that they had plenty of evidence and she shouldn't leave her son, Edward Byron Jr., 'hanging out there to bite the bullet'.

On prescription drugs, she told the sheriff that she would 'take all the responsibility', hoping to protect her son. She confessed, making up a story on the spot about hiring one of her son's friends to do the deed. She was arrested at the hospital and brought directly to jail.

Michelle then got what could hardly be called a fair trial. She claims that she knew some of the members of the jury - including one who was in her Sunday school class - which should have disqualified them from serving.

No witnesses were called to testify in her defense. Important evidence was not even presented. And while her husband had abused her, prosecutors said that she could have just left him, rather than kill him - even though she maintained that she didn't actually do it.

In fact, by this time, her son had even confessed to the murder to a court-appointed psychiatrist. He pointed police to the murder weapon and tested positive for gunpowder residue on his hands. But none of that information was brought up in court.

In 2000, Michelle was convicted of capital murder by Judge Thomas Gardner, who sentenced her to death by lethal injection.

Michelle said that there were other abused women like her on death row at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility - including Rachel Moore, who shot her husband while he beat her. Rachel was sentenced by the same judge as Michelle.

'Judge Gardner has a big problem with domestic violence,' Michelle said. 'I think he has a problem with females, period. I don’t know if he’s married or not. If he is, I feel sorry for his wife.'

She went on to spend 15 years in prison awaiting her execution. During that time, many people on the outside were campaigning for her life to be spared - including former Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz.

'Whoever represented her at trial did a horrible job,' he said. 'There’s no doubt that, had she had adequate representation [earlier], she would never have received the death penalty in this case.'

Then one day in March 2014, just hours before she was scheduled to die, a fellow death row inmate told Michelle that she was on the news because she was going to get a new trial. Everyone celebrated.

As it turned out, the Mississippi Supreme Court had acknowledged that Michelle's defense had been incompetent. They also looked at new evidence that hadn't been admitted the first time around.

Instead of going through another trial, though, Michelle agreed to plead 'no contest' and leave prison sooner, with a felony on her record. So, on June 26, she walked out of prison a free woman.

From there, she moved in with her brother, Kenny, and his wife, Paula, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where she has her own room that she decorated with pictures and inspirational quotes.

Adjusting to life outside of prison after a decade and a half has had its surprises. Smart phones, text messaging, and Facebook are all new. There are far fewer video rental stores. There's also plenty of new music, including one of her personal new favorites, Meghan Trainor's All About that Bass.

But Michelle can't completely shake off her prison habits. She doesn't sleep much, and eats just once a day. She also keeps in touch with some of her old fellow inmates.

And she'll never get to live as she did before prison. She now has Lupus and is dependent on a wheelchair. As a felon, she'd have a hard time getting a job, even if she could physically work. She is, however, considering taking up motivational speaking for those dealing with domestic violance.

Michelle also can't expect any reparations, since she pled no contest. Even the judge - whom she implied unfairly sentenced abuse victims - is unlikely to see any repercussions, since Michelle has been told that filing a complaint would be a waste of her time.

'No judge is going to go against another judge,' she said. 'Who down South would go against a judge from the South?'

Original report here

(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

Monday, August 17, 2015

The staggering number of wrongful convictions in America

By Samuel R. Gross

I edit the National Registry of Exonerations, which compiles stories and data about people who were convicted of crimes in the United States and later exonerated. The cases are fascinating and important, but they wear on me: So many of them are stories of destruction and defeat.

Consider, for example, Rafael Suarez . In 1997 in Tucson, Suarez was convicted of a vicious felony assault for which another man had already pleaded guilty. Suarez’s lawyer interviewed the woman who called 911 to report the incident as well as a second eyewitness. Both said that Suarez did not attack the victim and, in fact, had attempted to stop the assault. A third witness told the lawyer that he heard the victim say that he would lie in court to get Suarez convicted. None of these witnesses were called to testify at trial. Suarez was convicted and sentenced to five years.

After these facts came to light in 2000, Suarez was released. He had lost his house and his job, and his plan to become a paralegal had been derailed. His wife had divorced him, and he had lost parental rights to their three children, including one born while he was locked up. Suarez sued his former lawyer, who by then had been disbarred. He got a $1 million judgment, but the lawyer had no assets and filed for bankruptcy. Barring a miracle, Suarez will never see a penny of that judgment.

The most depressing thing about Suarez’s case is how comparatively lucky he was. He was exonerated, against all odds, because his otherwise irresponsible lawyer had actually talked to the critical witnesses and recorded those interviews despite failing later to call them at trial.

Suarez served three years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The average time served for the 1,625 exonerated individuals in the registry is more than nine years. Last year, three innocent murder defendants in Cleveland were exonerated 39 years after they were convicted — they spent their entire adult lives in prison — and even they were lucky: We know without doubt that the vast majority of innocent defendants who are convicted of crimes are never identified and cleared.

The registry receives four or five letters a week from prisoners who claim to be innocent. They’re heartbreaking. Most of the writers are probably guilty, but some undoubtedly are not. We tell them that we can’t help; we are a research project only, we don’t represent clients or investigate claims of innocence. Fair enough, I guess, but some innocent prisoners who have been exonerated wrote hundreds of these letters before anybody took notice. How many innocent defendants have I ignored?

Innocence projects do handle these cases, or at least some of them. They receive many times more letters than we do. I’ve spoken with lawyers who do this work, and who have successfully exonerated dozens of defendants. Most of them have clients who remain in prison despite powerful evidence of their innocence that no court will consider. And they all know that there are countless innocent defendants hidden in the piles of pleas for help that they will never have time to investigate.

How many people are convicted of crimes they did not commit? Last year, a study I co-authored on the issue was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It shows that 4.1 percent of defendants who are sentenced to death in the United States are later shown to be innocent: 1 in 25.

Death sentences are uniquely well-documented. We don’t know nearly enough about other kinds of criminal cases to estimate the rate of wrongful convictions for those. The rate could be lower than for capital murders, or it could be higher. Of course, in a country with millions of criminal convictions a year and more than 2 million people behind bars, even 1 percent amounts to tens of thousands of tragic errors.

The problem may be worst at the low end of the spectrum, in misdemeanor courts where almost everybody pleads guilty. For example, in July 2014 Wassillie Gregory was charged with “harassment” of a police officer in Bethel, Alaska. The officer wrote in his report that Gregory was “clearly intoxicated” and that “I kindly tried to assist Gregory into my cruiser for protective custody when he pulled away and clawed at me with his hand.”

The next step in the case would normally be the last: Gregory pleaded guilty, without the benefit of a defense lawyer. But Gregory was exonerated a year later after a surveillance video surfaced showing the officer handcuffing him and then repeatedly slamming him onto the pavement.

In the past year, 45 defendants were exonerated after pleading guilty to low-level drug crimes in Harris County, Tex. They were cleared months or years after conviction by lab tests that found no illegal drugs in the materials seized from them.

Why then did they plead guilty? As best we can tell, most were held in jail because they couldn’t make bail. When they were brought to court for the first time, they were given a take-it-or-leave-it, for-today-only offer: Plead guilty and get probation or weeks to months in jail. If they refused, they’d wait in jail for months, if not a year or more, before they got to trial, and risk additional years in prison if they were convicted. That’s a high price to pay for a chance to prove one’s innocence.

Police officers are supposed to be suspicious and proactive, to stop, question and arrest people who might have committed crimes, or who might be about to do so. Most officers are honest, and, I am sure, they are usually right. But “most” and “usually right” are not good enough for criminal convictions. Courts — judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, sometime juries — are supposed to decide criminal cases. Instead, most misdemeanor courts outsource deciding guilt or innocence to the police. It’s cheaper, but you get what you pay for.

We can do better, of course — for misdemeanors, for death penalty cases and for everything in between — if we’re willing to foot the bill. It’ll cost money to achieve the quality of justice we claim to provide: to do more careful investigations, to take fewer quick guilty pleas and conduct more trials, and to make sure those trials are well done. But first we have to recognize that what we do now is not good enough.

Original report here

(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

Sunday, August 16, 2015

I called the police to calm my son - but he died after they tasered him: Grieving mother's plea to Theresa May over 'Robocop' stun guns

Taser used for no known reason

It began as no more than a neighbourhood dispute. Yet within two hours of a call to the police, a 23-year-old man lay dead, struck in the chest by 50,000 volts.

According to an inquest, the death of Jordon Begley is the first recorded killing with a police Taser in Britain.

And now his grieving mother – speaking for the first time since the incident – is demanding to know why what should have been a routine police visit escalated into what she describes as ‘a scene from a Robocop movie’.

The inquest heard how the tragic events unfolded on a summer’s evening in July 2013 after Jordon returned home from work to the terraced house where he lived with his mother, Dot.

Jordon began rowing with neighbours, who accused him of stealing money and said they had called police. One said he was sending five men over to beat him up.

Mrs Begley, 48, dialled 999, believing her son was in danger and that the police would be able to help him. She recalled: ‘Jordon walked into the kitchen and picked up a vegetable knife. I told the police he had a knife and men were coming to the house.

‘I was still on the phone when we heard police sirens. Jordon threw the knife down and we walked out to the garden.’

After a conversation with two officers, the factory worker agreed to go back into his house in Gorton, Manchester, with one of them to explain the argument.

Mrs Begley told another officer that six weeks beforehand her son had had tests on his heart. Her warning was not passed on.

For reasons that are still unexplained, one of the PCs fired a nine-second Taser shot at Jordon’s chest. Jordon, who weighed 10st [140lb] , was then restrained by other officers, handcuffed and put face-down on the floor.

When it became apparent that he was not responding, he was rushed to hospital. When Mrs Begley got there she was told he had died.

It took nearly two years for the full horror of the day to emerge at Jordon’s inquest, which was finally held in June.

The inquest jury concluded that while an initial Taser shock did not cause his heart to stop, its use and the restraint used ‘more than materially contributed’ to a package of stressful factors leading to his fatal cardiac arrest.

Jordon’s alcoholism and cannabis use contributed to his state of health at the time of his death, the inquest heard.

The jury added that police officers were ‘more concerned about their own welfare’ than Jordon’s.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has investigated 11 cases in which a person died after being hit by a Taser since their introduction in 2003 but this was the first inquest to rule that a Taser was responsible for a death. It is expected to have a wide-ranging impact on the future use of Tasers.

Home Office figures show Taser use has increased by more than 200 per cent since their introduction, and a tenth of officers are now armed with one. Home Secretary Theresa May has ordered a review of Taser data and use of force.

Greater Manchester Police restricted the operational duties of the officers involved in the case following the inquest.

Mrs Begley said: ‘This is not about closure. It’s about making sure that no one else ever has to go through this. The only way that can happen is a fundamental review of Taser training guidelines.’

A spokesman for the Independent Police Complaints Commission said in a statement: ‘We believed the officers acted correctly and generally in line with their training.’

Original report here

(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

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Asks Treasury Department to Return $29,500 Taken From Innocent Dairy Farmers

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee is coming together to ask the Treasury Department to return nearly $30,000 it seized from Maryland dairy farmers in 2012.

The letter, sent August 11 to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, calls on the agency to return $29,500 the Internal Revenue Service seized from Frederick-based dairy farmers Randy and Karen Sowers through civil asset forfeiture.

The lawmakers also asked Lew to review similar cases and return money seized by the tax agency under the practice.

“Treasury still holds funds seized from innocent business owners who settled their cases only because they could not afford to do otherwise,” the letter said. “As the Treasury secretary, you have the opportunity to right the wrong done to these small business owners.”

Reps. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., the subcommittee’s chairman, John Lewis, D-Ga., Mike Kelly, R-Pa., Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., Jason Smith, R-Mo., Kristi Noem, R-S.D., and Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, signed onto the letter.

Three years ago, the IRS seized $63,000 from the Sowers’ bank account under civil asset forfeiture. The tax agency alleged that the couple committed structuring violations, which involves making consistent cash deposits or withdrawals of under $10,000 to avoid bank reporting requirements.

The money deposited into the farm’s account, though, came from customers who paid in cash at the local farmer’s market.

The Sowers were never charged or convicted of a crime.

While the couple was in the midst of settlement negotiations with the government, hoping to have most of their money returned, Randy Sowers spoke with a reporter from The City Paper in Baltimore, Md., about his experience with structuring and civil asset forfeiture.

On the day the article was published, Stefan Cassella, the assistant U.S. attorney overseeing Sowers’ structuring case, told the family’s lawyer he had a “problem” and was no longer willing to negotiate a settlement amount, according to court filings.

The Sowers did eventually settle, forfeiting $29,500 to the federal government.

Though the Sowers had some of their money returned, the couple filed a petition with the government last month asking for the remainder of it back.

The family’s case is just one of many that has emerged in recent years involving civil asset forfeiture. Under the tool, law enforcement agencies have the authority to seize money and property if it’s suspected of being connected to a crime.

Forfeitures that stem from structuring violations fall under a subset of civil asset forfeiture laws that oversee cash transactions.

The procedure began as a way for law enforcement to target those involved in drug trafficking and money laundering. However, a number of innocent property owners like the Sowers have come forward after having money seized without ever being charged or convicted of a crime.

In response to reports identifying innocent Americans who had money seized due to structuring violations, the IRS changed its policy regarding such seizures in October 2014.

Under the new policy, the tax agency could only pursue structuring cases in which the money stemmed from illegal activity.

The Justice Department changed its own guidelines surrounding structuring violations several months later.

In their letter to Lew, the bipartisan group of lawmakers pointed to the IRS and Justice Department’s policy changes as the reason why the Sowers’ money should be returned.

“The IRS’s October 2014 policy change is tantamount to an admission that it never should have seized funds that were not associated with an illegal source,” the lawmakers said in their letter to Lew. “The Sowers and others like them should be treated with the same fairness applied to cases going forward.”

Original report here

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Man imprisoned for 34 years released thanks to new DNA evidence

PITTSBURGH — A man who spent 34 years in prison for the rape and shooting death of a teenage girl will be released from prison Thursday after a judge vacated his murder conviction, citing new DNA evidence.

Lewis Fogle, 63, will be released on bond because he remains charged and could be retried by District Attorney Patrick Dougherty, who filed the joint motion to vacate the conviction with the New York-based Innocence Project.

“We are incredibly grateful to District Attorney Patrick Dougherty for working with us to conduct the DNA testing and for acknowledging that Mr. Fogle’s conviction should be set aside,” said David Loftis, managing attorney for the Innocence Project.

But Dougherty said his actions — and the judge’s decision — don’t mean Fogle has been exonerated in the death and rape of 15-year-old Deann Katherine Long in 1976.

“I am not agreeing that he is actually innocent,” Dougherty said. “I also don’t want to let somebody out that deserves to be” in prison.

Dougherty is reviewing and attempting to gather more evidence before announcing Sept. 14 whether Fogle will be retried for second-degree murder. In Pennsylvania, that’s defined as any killing that occurs during another felony — in this case, rape.

Fogle has denied any involvement. He was the only one of four people arrested in March 1981 to be tried. Paul Cates, a spokesman for the Innocence Project, said attorneys don’t want Fogle answering specific questions about the case “because there’s too much at stake.”

Deann’s body was found July 31, 1976, by a stranger picking blackberries in the woods. The previous day, Deann’s younger sister saw a man telling Deann their brother had been in a car crash, and the sister later saw Deann in the man’s car.

That man checked himself into a psychiatric facility and was questioned about the murder five times but never charged. But after he was hypnotized to aid in the investigation, the man said he was present when Fogle, his brother and two other men raped the girl before she was shot.

Fogle was tried and convicted after three jailhouse informants testified he confessed to them. Charges against his brother, who is imprisoned for a child sex conviction last year, were dismissed under speedy trial rules. Prosecutors eventually cited a lack of evidence in dropping charges against the other two, one of whom has since died.

Dougherty said the new DNA evidence came from a semen sample gathered from Deann’s body using new technology. The tests showed the semen wasn’t Fogle’s.

“I believe that would have been enough to give him a new trial and that’s all I agreed to do,” Dougherty said. He’s having the sample tested to see whether it matches any of the others originally charged.

But even if it does, Dougherty said, there may not be enough evidence to retry Fogle.

Witnesses may have died, or may not remember as much, after all these years, he said.

“The question is, 40 years later, do we have the pieces of the puzzle?” Dougherty said.

Original report here

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pansy British cop sues nightclub where he attended break-in - because he claims the burglar alarm gave him tinnitus!

A police officer has threatened to sue a nightclub after he claimed their burglar alarm damaged his hearing.

PC Darren Belford claims he suffered hearing loss and tinnitus after attending a suspected break-in at gay club Gossip in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

His legal team complain that the disco's burglar alarm was 'set to an unsafe noise level' which was 'likely to cause injury', when he attended first thing in the morning.

It's not known exactly how long PC Belford spent within the premises, but his lawyers are set to pursue a claim for damages alleging that his hearing was significantly impaired by the volume of the alarm.

Trinity Law Partnership, who are representing him, said: 'Our client suffered damage to his hearing, in particular hearing loss and tinnitus.

'This was caused by the unsafe noise level he was exposed to from the alarm, which was set at a level foreseeably likely to cause injury.  'We are instructed to pursue a claim for damages on his behalf.'

Baffled nightclub owner Pete Terry says he 'thought it was a wind-up' when the legal letter dropped through his door.  'Burglar alarms are supposed to be loud, that's the whole point of them,' he said.

'This is part of his job. It's not what I would expect from a police officer.  'It sets a dangerous precedent for the future, as it is saying that if you get burgled, the police may end up suing you.'

Staffordshire Police have distanced themselves from the claim, which was submitted privately.

According to Terry, Gossip's alarm system conforms to the British standards and is of standard design. It was installed last September by Newcastle-based SV Security Systems.

Staffordshire Police chairman Andy Adams said that the federation was not involved in PC Belford's claim.  He also admitted to finding the claim 'surprising'.

Andy said: 'If he is of the belief that this alarm caused him a serious injury then he is entitled to pursue a claim like every other member of the public.

'But I imagine the public will see this as another member of the emergency services trying to get some extra money and it does not reflect well on the rest of us.'

PC Belford attended the club, in the Hanley area of the city, on January 27 this year.  The alarm was sounding and the doors lay open when he arrived, with a break-in suspected to have taken place.

It is not known exactly how long PC Belford was inside the club while the alarm was sounding.

Owner Pete Terry says the case could have a profound knock-on effect to the future safety of the popular disco.  'It brings into question the nightclub being able to have the police onto the premises,' he said.

'Usually with a dispute like this, our insurers wouldn't allow us to have that person back onto the premises, but in his capacity as a police officer he would be able to come back on.'

Staffordshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Bernie O'Reilly said: 'Policing is a risky business risk is an inherent part of what we do and often why we do it.

'I do understand the concern this type of claim may cause and I want to reassure the public its business as usual as we do everything we can to keep them safe and reassured.

'I do not generally support the principle of officers claiming compensation against victims of crime, people to whom we have responded to help them. Of course there may be isolated incidents for example if an officer is seriously injured whilst on duty and maybe loses earnings as a result; they may need to seek legal recourse the same as everyone else.'

Original report here

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Teenager, 19, stopped and questioned by police probing drug dealing after 'talking on his phone' while walking to get a haircut

Guilty of walking while black?

A teenager walking to get a haircut was stopped, questioned and sworn at by plain-clothed police investigating drug dealing - who said they had seen him 'talking on his phone'.

Adebola - who only wishes to be known by his first name - was told by one of the two officers in Islington, north London, to get his iPod ‘out of my f***ing face’ after realising he was being filmed.

The 19-year-old security apprentice was told to ‘account for his presence in the area’ by the officer last week, who said he was ‘standing around aimlessly’ - and asked if he was phoning his mother.

The Metropolitan Police said last night that it was aware of the video circulating online, had identified the officer featured and would be speaking to him ‘in order to give him words of advice’.

Adebola - who said he had never been arrested but has been stopped by police in the past - told MailOnline: ‘I left my house to go and get a haircut and I was walking down the road.

‘I already saw them down the road - they were driving up past me. Then he shouted something to get my attention. I ignored him and he turned his car around - and I said “What do you want”?

‘They know my name. It’s just so annoying. I think they generalise you as one of the bad public of the area. They don’t expect you to have a voice. I know how to talk to people.

A force spokesman said: ‘We are aware of a video in circulation on social media showing an exchange between a member of the public and a plain clothes police officer in Islington on Monday.

‘We have identified the officer in question and will be speaking to him in due course in order to give him words of advice. No complaint has been received in relation to this incident.’

Original report here

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Australia: Man charged with drink-driving wins $125,000 payout because he made it home before cops could breath test him

A MAN who beat a drink-driving charge was awarded $125,000 ­because police tried to force him to take a breath test at his home.

Real estate agent Bernard Nash was tailed by an officer as he left the Shelly Beach Golf Club, on the Central Coast, and drove 150m to his house at Bellevue St.

Highway patrol Senior Constable ­Michael Hicks, who was driving in the opposite direction, did a U-turn and gave chase, suspecting the 53-year-old was over the drink-driving limit.

When he caught up, Mr Nash had already parked in his driveway.

Constable Hicks pulled into the driveway and said “Just here sir” and “You’re under arrest”.

Mr Nash was heading down the side of his property when the officer ran towards him, put him in a “bear hug” and told him he was under arrest.

The officer then wrestled Mr Nash to the ground and pinned him with his knees before threatening to use capsicum spray.

Mr Nash did not give a breath test but was charged with driving under the ­influence and resisting arrest.

However, the law says police cannot force suspected drink-drivers to take a breath test at their home.

Mr Nash beat the charges in Wyong Local Court and then sued the state over the incident, which occurred on October 13, 2011.

In a judgment published last week, Judge Judith Gibson ruled in NSW District Court that the incident amounted to wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution and ­ordered the state to pay Mr Nash $124,958 in damages.

Judge Gibson said the fact Mr Nash was on his own property meant he didn’t have to take a breath test.

The other issue was that Constable Hicks had no evidence that Mr Nash was drunk or had committed an offence, Judge Gibson said. This left the officer with no legal reason to arrest Mr Nash.

The court heard that Mr Nash said he was not drunk and had three light beers while he was at the club.

The precise time the officer turned on his siren and lights was also “hotly contested”.

This was because Mr Nash could not legally ignore the officer’s order to pull over.

Mr Nash told the court he did not see the police lights nor hear the ­sirens. Constable Hicks was “never sufficiently close to Mr Nash’s car to ­activate the sirens and lights”.

The judge awarded Mr Nash $70,000 for malicious prosecution, $25,000 for wrongful arrest, $25,000 for assault and battery and $4958 for special damages.

A police spokesman said they were not looking to appeal. Constable Hicks is still working as an officer.

Original report here

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Prosecutors accused of hiding evidence in Freddie Gray case

Attorneys for the six police officers charged in Freddie Gray's death say prosecutors steered investigators away from allegations about Gray's behavior in past interactions with law enforcement.

The attorneys claim detectives were told Gray had a history of participating in "crash-for-cash" schemes in which people hurt themselves to collect settlements - a piece of information attorneys say would be useful for their case.

Gray died on April 19, a week after suffering a critical spinal injury in the back of a police van. Gray's death spurred days of largely peaceful protests followed by rioting and looting last April 27.

Six officers were charged with crimes ranging from misdemeanor assault to "depraved-heart" murder.

In a motion filed Thursday in Baltimore Circuit Court, defense attorneys allege that investigators for the Baltimore Police Department had information that Gray had a history of intentionally injuring himself in order to collect insurance money.

The attorneys allege in the filing that police investigators knew that Gray once injured himself so severely while in a Baltimore jail that he required medical attention. The attorneys say in documents that when police investigators tried to follow up on the evidence, prosecutors in the state's attorney's office told them "not to do the defense attorneys' jobs for them."

Defense attorneys also say in the motion that high-ranking members of the state's attorney's office met with Dr. Carole Allen of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner a week before Gray's autopsy was complete and his death ruled a homicide. In addition, attorneys say the prosecutors didn't provide the medical examiner's office with a copy of the statement of Donta Allen, a man who had been inside the police van where Gray suffered his injury.

Investigators initially said Allen told them that Gray had been making banging noises in the back of the van. But Allen later told the media that police had exaggerated his account.

Rochelle Ritchie, spokeswoman for State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, declined comment on the recent filing.

The officers are scheduled to face trial in October, with a hearing on motions set for one month prior. Defense attorneys have asked a judge to move the trial out of Baltimore, arguing that pre-trial publicity will taint the integrity of the jury pool.

Additionally, defense attorneys have asked for State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby and her office to be removed from the case, citing alleged conflicts of interest. The most recent filing is in support of that request.

"The statement to investigators 'not do the defense attorneys' jobs for them' would seem to indicate some level of knowledge that exculpatory evidence exists which could benefit the officers charged in Mr. Gray's death and that the prosecutor did not want this information uncovered by investigators," the attorneys wrote in the motion.

An attorney for the Gray family did not immediately return a call for comment Friday.

Meanwhile, a psychological firm paid to evaluate troubled Baltimore police, including a lieutenant charged in Gray's killing, is under investigation by the city and has been put on probation by the state police for cutting corners in its mental health screenings of officers.

Original report here

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