Sunday, May 31, 2015
Thanks To Obama, America Is Now Experiencing A "New Nationwide Crime Wave"
Excerpted from The Wall Street Journal:
The nation’s two-decades-long crime decline may be over. Gun violence in particular is spiraling upward in cities across America. In Baltimore, the most pressing question every morning is how many people were shot the previous night. Gun violence is up more than 60% compared with this time last year, according to Baltimore police, with 32 shootings over Memorial Day weekend. May has been the most violent month the city has seen in 15 years.
In Milwaukee, homicides were up 180% by May 17 over the same period the previous year. Through April, shootings in St. Louis were up 39%, robberies 43%, and homicides 25%. "Crime is the worst I’ve ever seen it," said St. Louis Alderman Joe Vacarro at a May 7 City Hall hearing.
Murders in Atlanta were up 32% as of mid-May. Shootings in Chicago had increased 24% and homicides 17%. Shootings and other violent felonies in Los Angeles had spiked by 25%; in New York, murder was up nearly 13%, and gun violence 7%.
Those citywide statistics from law-enforcement officials mask even more startling neighborhood-level increases. Shooting incidents are up 500% in an East Harlem precinct compared with last year; in a South Central Los Angeles police division, shooting victims are up 100%.
By contrast, the first six months of 2014 continued a 20-year pattern of growing public safety. Violent crime in the first half of last year dropped 4.6% nationally and property crime was down 7.5%. Though comparable national figures for the first half of 2015 won’t be available for another year, the January through June 2014 crime decline is unlikely to be repeated.
The most plausible explanation of the current surge in lawlessness is the intense agitation against American police departments over the past nine months.
Since last summer, the airwaves have been dominated by suggestions that the police are the biggest threat facing young black males today. A handful of highly publicized deaths of unarmed black men, often following a resisted arrest—including Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., in July 2014, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014 and Freddie Gray in Baltimore last month—have led to riots, violent protests and attacks on the police. Murders of officers jumped 89% in 2014, to 51 from 27.
President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, before he stepped down last month, embraced the conceit that law enforcement in black communities is infected by bias. The news media pump out a seemingly constant stream of stories about alleged police mistreatment of blacks, with the reports often buttressed by cellphone videos that rarely capture the behavior that caused an officer to use force.
Almost any police shooting of a black person, no matter how threatening the behavior that provoked the shooting, now provokes angry protests, like those that followed the death of Vonderrit Myers in St. Louis last October. The 18-year-old Myers, awaiting trial on gun and resisting-arrest charges, had fired three shots at an officer at close range. Arrests in black communities are even more fraught than usual, with hostile, jeering crowds pressing in on officers and spreading lies about the encounter.
Acquittals of police officers for the use of deadly force against black suspects are now automatically presented as a miscarriage of justice. Proposals aimed at producing more cop convictions abound, but New York state seems especially enthusiastic about the idea.
The state’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, wants to create a special state prosecutor dedicated solely to prosecuting cops who use lethal force. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo would appoint an independent monitor whenever a grand jury fails to indict an officer for homicide and there are "doubts" about the fairness of the proceeding (read: in every instance of a non-indictment); the governor could then turn over the case to a special prosecutor for a second grand jury proceeding.
This incessant drumbeat against the police has resulted in what St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson last November called the "Ferguson effect." Cops are disengaging from discretionary enforcement activity and the "criminal element is feeling empowered," Mr. Dotson reported. Arrests in St. Louis city and county by that point had dropped a third since the shooting of Michael Brown in August. Not surprisingly, homicides in the city surged 47% by early November and robberies in the county were up 82%.
Similar "Ferguson effects" are happening across the country as officers scale back on proactive policing under the onslaught of anti-cop rhetoric. Arrests in Baltimore were down 56% in May compared with 2014.
"Any cop who uses his gun now has to worry about being indicted and losing his job and family," a New York City officer tells me. "Everything has the potential to be recorded. A lot of cops feel that the climate for the next couple of years is going to be nonstop protests."
Police officers now second-guess themselves about the use of force. "Officers are trying to invent techniques on the spot for taking down resistant suspects that don’t look as bad as the techniques taught in the academy," says Jim Dudley, who recently retired as deputy police chief in San Francisco. Officers complain that civilians don’t understand how hard it is to control someone resisting arrest.
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
Posted by bussorah at 5:24 PM
Saturday, May 30, 2015
Police forcefully wrestle pregnant black woman onto belly for not showing ID
A video has emerged of a pregnant woman being thrown to the ground and arrested in Barstow, California, for refusing to show her identification. The police officers at the center of the storm have defended their actions and the use of force.
The footage, obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, showed the incident that took place in January, when Charlena Michelle Cooks was eight months pregnant. The black woman had been driving to drop her daughter, who is in the second grade, off at the Crestline Elementary School in Barstow.
While she was entering the school grounds, Cooks was involved in a minor traffic altercation with an unnamed white woman, who told a police officer who had arrived on the scene that Cooks was acting "all crazy." The woman was an employee of the school.
The officer added that "I don’t see a crime that has been committed" and went over to speak to Cooks. "I don't even think that that disagreement in the parking lot was enough to warrant a call to the police," Cooks later told the Desert Dispatch newspaper.
After a brief and calm discussion between the police officer and Cooks, the law enforcement official asked the pregnant woman for her name. However, Cooks insisted she did not have to provide him with this piece of information.
"I actually do have the right to ask you for your name," the officer replied.
"Let me make sure," Cooks said as she took out her phone to call someone.
The police officer seemed happy at first for Cooks to make the call, saying she had two minutes. However, the video shows that after around 20 seconds, the officer began to become agitated and asked the woman to provide her name.
The situation quickly escalated as the officer and a colleague tried to handcuff Cooks and eventually took her down onto the floor, chest first, despite the fact that she was eight months pregnant.
The officer asked Cooks, "why are you resisting?" to which Cooks replied, "Please, I am pregnant!"
Eventually, a number of officers managed to get the distraught Cooks into a police patrol car, telling her she was "under arrest."
"I don't think I've ever been that terrified in my life," Cooks told the Desert Dispatch. "I never saw that coming. I told him I was pregnant so he could proceed with caution. That didn't happen and the first thing I thought was I didn't want to fall to the ground. I felt the pressure on my stomach from falling and I was calling for help. But those guys are supposed to help me. But who is supposed to help me when they are attacking me?"
Despite their heavy-handed tactics, the Barstow Police Department backed the officers at the scene, saying they did nothing wrong, despite the fact that the charges against Cooks were eventually dropped.
"The Barstow Police Department continues to be proactive in training its officers to assess and handle interactions with emotionally charged individuals while conducting an investigation, for the protection of everyone involved," a statement read.
The police department also denied the incident was racially motivated. "Barstow is a racially diverse community, as is our Police Department, and we affirm our Police Department’s commitment to protect and serve all of our residents," the statement added.
A staff attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation for South California, Adrienna Wong mentioned that Cooks had every right not to tell the police officer in question her name or show him her identification.
"It would be a wrongful arrest, but it would be an arrest," she noted. "Even if an officer is conducting an investigation, in California, unlike some other states, he can’t just require a person to provide ID for no reason."
"Officers in California should not be using the obstruction law, Penal Code 148, to arrest someone for failing to provide ID, when they can’t find any other reason to arrest them," Wong added.
Cooks was banned from going near her daughter’s school until the charges were dropped. She is now contemplating whether to sue the police department.
"I’m still trying to process everything and get in a good state of mind," she told the newspaper. "I’m in a very fearful state of mind. Barstow is so small and I used to be comfortable living here. Not anymore. I really felt like after all that happened I had some of my everyday freedoms taken from me."
Thankfully for Cooks, she was able to give birth to a daughter on March 30 and hopes that the incident will not have any long lasting effects on the infant.
(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 4:53 PM
Friday, May 29, 2015
Nasty Lesbian falsely accuses Christian preacher
And the British police believe her
A Christian street preacher revealed today how he was arrested and held in a cell for 11 hours after a lesbian falsely accused him of homophobia.
Rob Hughes, 38, was speaking in Basildon, Essex, when the woman said she was ‘gay and proud’ and he should ‘get down off your pedestal, you judgmental **** - homophobia is not in this town’.
However Mr Hughes - who had a voice recording of all he had said while preaching for 20 minutes that day - had not referenced homosexuality.
But Mr Hughes, of of Tooting, south-west London, was arrested after police said they had received a complaint from a member of the public that he had used homophobic and offensive language.
Mr Hughes said: 'I was taken to the police station, processed, mugshot, fingerprints, DNA, the whole works. I was in a cell for about 11 hours, and then my solicitor finally arrived.
'I was interviewed by the police, they asked me a number of questions - "why were you out", "what were you saying", "did you say what the people said" - I said "no", of course. I was polite and courteous.
'I did say that "you have my dictaphone in your possession, you can listen to the recording, the audio, if you like". They dismissed that. Not sure why, but I just continued with the interview, finished the questions.’
He was then told shortly after the end of the interview in September 2013 that he would be released and no further action would be taken against him due to insufficient evidence.
Mr Hughes has now received £2,500 and a contribution towards his legal fees for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and breach of his human rights in an out-of-court settlement, according to his representatives.
He added: 'The whole experience left me feeling that street preachers - it's now a case of being presumed guilty until found innocent, which is really the wrong way round.
'Christians should be gracious in the midst of persecution, but at the same time we have a right to submit a legal defence.’
His case was supported by the Christian Legal Centre, whose founder Andrea Minichiello Williams said: ‘These cases are further examples of situations where the freedom of Christian preachers is restricted, when what they are saying is entirely lawful. ‘In Mr Hughes's case, he was not even talking about sexuality and yet was targeted by a member of the public who tried to shut him down.
‘The police officer involved with Mr Geuter's case wanted him not to preach the words of Jesus after one complaint was made about him expressing his opinion about the destruction of marriage by the government.’
An Essex Police spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment from MailOnline today.
Cardiff-born Mr Hughes moved to South Africa aged seven and became a Christian three years later. He returned to Britain in 1997 and now works with street evangelism group Operation 513.
(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 4:35 PM
Thursday, May 28, 2015
Momentum is building in the Senate to get big government out of the courtroom
Over the last several years, many states, particularly where Republicans are in control, have looked for ways to get smarter on how they approach corrections. These states, such as Texas and Georgia, have seen tremendous success, and others are taking notice. Congress, however, has been slow to act on justice reform, even as the costs to taxpayers continues to grow due to the bad policies of the past.
One of the worst policies Congress has implemented is mandatory minimum sentences. This policy is little more than big government in the courtroom. It entraps many nonviolent offenders in federal prisons, leading to an unnecessarily inflated number of inmates, and rips families and entire communities apart. Federal mandatory minimum sentences also cost taxpayers billions of dollars, which is why the U.S. Sentencing Commission has urged Congress to expand the "safety valve" exception to include more low-level, nonviolent offenders with little or no criminal history.
Thankfully, members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, see these problems with mandatory minimum sentences and are working to reform this bad policy.
In February, Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act (S. 502), which would reduce mandatory minimum sentences cut in half mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenders by half and expand the "safety valve." Cosponsors of the bill are a diverse group that includes Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). FreedomWorks, along with many other organizations from the right and the left, have expressed strong support for the bill.
With support for justice reform rapidly building on Capitol Hill, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) appears ready to begin work on sentencing reform, according to the National Journal.
This has not been an easy sell for Grassley. He spoke against the effort to reform mandatory minimum sentences shortly after the Smarter Sentencing Act was introduced, repeating bad information he was given to back his position. The Iowa Republican, however, is a thoughtful man. He has listened to the calls from his colleagues and advocates for reform on the outside, including 130 religious leaders who have urged him to take action, and family members of nonviolent offenders who have been prosecuted under mandatory minimums.
"We are negotiating at the staff level at this point," Grassley told the National Journal. "It hasn't involved members except previously when I went around to visit with everybody on the committee, and I asked them what their main thing was. The people who were involved in sentencing reform, I informed them that I was interested in writing a bill and wanted to start listening to them."
Grassley has already expressed interest in reforming other aspects of the justice system. He, for example, held a hearing in April on civil asset forfeiture, signaling that he would soon introduce reform legislation to protect innocent property owners from overzealous federal agencies. He has also taken on juvenile justice reform as a cause, recently offering a bill to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, which has not been updated since 1992.
Though Grassley is ready to move forward on sentencing reform, the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would bring a cost savings of $3 billion over the next 10 years and nearly $24 billion over 20 years, may not be the bill that comes before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Though Grassley's position has evolved, the bill that could be the product of negotiations may be more of a "good start" than comprehensive reform.
Still, some, like Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), are optimistic about Grassley's new approach. "This gives us some momentum. I think it is going to get done," said Flake. "It is overdue."
There is a short window left to act. After August, it will be more difficult to pass any legislation as all eyes will turn to electoral politics. As Flake says, action is overdue. Since Congress first stepped into the courtroom in the 1980s, research has found that mandatory minimum sentences are ineffective and, because of the heavy costs of incarceration for nonviolent offenders, consume resources that should be used to keep the violent criminals off the streets.
Grassley's willingness to take up sentencing reform is certainly great news, but a significant reform, such as the Smarter Sentencing Act, is ideal. Getting big government out of the courtroom by allowing judges to consider a nonviolent offender's personal circumstances and giving them the ability to mete out a punishment that fits the crime would restore fairness in the justice system and ease the cost burden on taxpayers. These should be the goals of the Senate Judiciary Committee as they consider long overdue sentencing reforms.
Posted by bussorah at 9:39 PM
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Police arrest 71 during protests after Cleveland officer's acquittal
Very dubiouis that the cop got off Scot-free
Police in riot gear made 71 arrests Saturday as protesters stormed the streets of Cleveland after a judge found a white city police officer not guilty in the deaths of two unarmed black suspects killed in a barrage of police gunfire.
The protesters gathered in downtown Cleveland and west side neighborhoods after the acquittal of patrolmen Michael Brelo.
In a news conference Sunday morning, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said people were arrested after a day of mostly peaceful protests turned more aggressive.
Officials said some protesters became violent and turned on bystanders, including some who pepper-sprayed patrons sitting at outdoor cafes downtown.
Williams said that another protester threw a restaurant sign at a patron, striking him in the head. He says bystanders were also accosted in at least one other instance.
Mayor Frank Jackson thanked the majority of protesters who remained respectful. He says the police will continue to help demonstrators exercise their First Amendment rights but warned the city will not tolerate any protesters who cross the line into violence.
Demonstrators take to streets after judge acquits officer
About 150 protesters marched down the middle of downtown Cleveland Saturday night, temporarily blocking intersections as they chanted anti-police slogans.
The protesters, who were marching behind a large banner that said "Stop murder by police," passed by large crowds leaving a Cleveland Indians game and made downtown vehicle and pedestrian traffic even more congested.
Police tweeted they arrested a male for assault after he threw an object through a window, and the Northeast Ohio Media Group reported that three people were arrested near the Quicken Loans Arena , while officers showed protesters cans of pepper spray as they approached those being arrested. Some police were wearing riot gear.
An Ohio judge said in his written verdict delivered to a crowded courtroom Saturday that Brelo’s actions in the November 2012 shootings were justified because he believed that someone in the car containing Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams fired shots at police in the beginning, middle and end of the chase. Brelo is still on unpaid suspension while officials consider administrative charges against him.
The Department of Justice said Saturday it plans to "review all available legal options."
"We will now review the testimony and evidence presented in the state trial" to determine if "additional steps are available and appropriate," the department said after the acquittal of Brelo on voluntary manslaughter charges.
Vanita Gupta, head of the department's civil rights division said the review is separate from its efforts to resolve a pattern of civil rights violations at the Cleveland police department. A report in December outlined a string of examples of excessive force, including officers who unnecessarily fired guns, hit suspects in the head with weapons, and punched and used Tasers on people already handcuffed.
The acquittal came at a time of nationwide tension among police and black citizens punctuated by protests over deaths of blacks at the hands of white officers -- and following a determination by the Justice Department that city police had a history of using excessive force and violating civil rights.
Before issuing his verdict, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O'Donnell noted the recent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore over the deaths of black suspects but said he would not "sacrifice" Brelo to an angry public if the evidence did not merit a conviction.
"Guilty or not guilty, the verdict should be no cause for a civilized society to celebrate or riot," he said.
Community and city leaders braced for the possibility of unrest in response to the verdict, which came as investigators work toward making a decision on whether charges will be filed in the death of a black 12-year-old boy carrying a pellet gun who was shot by a white rookie officer late last year.
Shortly after the verdict was reached, about 30 sheriff's deputies stood in front of the courthouse bearing clear shields as protesters with bullhorns chanted. One demonstrator bowed his head with hands folded in front of the phalanx of deputies, praying in silence.
The deputies then moved inside the entrance of the justice center, and the plaza in front of the building was soon cordoned off.
Brelo, 31, faced as many as 22 years in prison had the judge convicted him on two counts of voluntary manslaughter.
O'Donnell spent nearly an hour summing up his conclusion, an involved explanation that included mannequins marked with the gunshot wounds that the two motorists suffered on Nov. 29, 2012.
O'Donnell said that while Brelo likely fired fatal shots in the final seconds of the encounter in a school parking lot, other officers fired fatal shots as well. Brelo could have been convicted of lesser charges, felonious assault, but O'Donnell determined his actions were justified by the circumstances of the chase, which included reports of shots being fired from the beat-up Chevy Malibu that Timothy Russell was driving.
Brelo sat stoically throughout the four-week bench trial, his parents often in the courtroom. Thirteen officers fired at a car with Russell and Malissa Williams inside after a long, high-speed chase, but only Brelo was charged criminally because prosecutors said he waited until the car had stopped and the pair no longer a threat to fire 15 shots through its windshield while standing on the hood of the car.
Russell, 43, and Williams, 30, were each shot more than 20 times. While prosecutors argued they were alive until Brelo's final salvo, medical examiners for both sides testified that they could not determine the order in which the fatal shots were fired.
Brelo has been on unpaid leave since he was indicted May 30, 2014.
The chase and shooting began when Russell's car backfired as he sped past Cleveland police headquarters. Police officers and bystanders thought someone inside had fired a gun. More than 100 Cleveland police officers in 62 marked and unmarked cars got involved in a pursuit that saw speeds reach 100 mph during the 22-mile-long chase.
Authorities never learned why Russell didn't stop. He had a criminal record including convictions for receiving stolen property and robbery and had been involved in a previous police pursuit. Williams had convictions for drug-related charges and attempted abduction. Both were described as mentally ill, homeless and addicted to drugs. A crack pipe was found in the car.
The shooting helped prompt a months-long investigation by the Justice Department, which concluded last December that the Cleveland police department had engaged in a pattern and practice of using excessive force and violating people's civil rights. The city and DOJ are currently negotiating a reform-minded consent decree that a federal judge will approve and independent monitors will oversee.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine at the conclusion of a probe by the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation said there had been a systemic failure within the command and control structure of the Cleveland police department during the chase. BCI turned over its findings to the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office, which presented evidence to a grand jury that led to Brelo's indictment.
The grand jury also charged five police supervisors with misdemeanor dereliction of duty for failing to control the chase. All five have pleaded not guilty. No trial date has been set for the supervisors.
Two years after the deaths of Russell and Williams, a white officer fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a Cleveland park after police received a report of a man with a gun. Surveillance video showed the officer firing on Rice within two seconds of his patrol car skidding to a stop next to him.
In addition to the Rice case, the county prosecutor's office is looking into the death of a black woman who died in police custody while lying face first on the ground in handcuffs. The family of Tanisha Anderson, 37, has sued the city of Cleveland and the two police officers who subdued her. They say she panicked Nov. 12 when officers put her in the back of a patrol car after they'd responded to a call about Anderson having a mental health crisis.
Russell's sister, Michelle, said Brelo would ultimately face justice, despite the judge's decision. The city of Cleveland has paid the families of Russell and Williams a total of $3 million to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit.
"He's not going to dodge this just because he was acquitted," Michelle Russell said. "God will have the final say."
Posted by bussorah at 4:47 PM
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Flawed forensic science sees wrongful convictions
Kirk Odom was convicted of a 1981 rape and robbery after a woman identified him as her attacker and an FBI specialist testified that hair on her nightgown was similar to hair on Odom's head.
But DNA testing 30 years later affirmed what Odom long had maintained: The hair wasn't his; neither was the semen left on a pillowcase and robe. A felony conviction that imprisoned him for decades was overturned in 2012 by a judge who declared it a "grave miscarriage of justice."
"I was hoping that I was going to go home that day," said Odom in an interview, recalling his trial in Washington, D.C. Instead, "they sentenced me to 20 to 66 years in prison."
His experience is just one example of flawed forensic science from the pre-DNA era, a simmering problem that now appears far more widespread than thought initially. The Innocence Project, which works to exonerate the wrongly accused, has identified 74 overturned convictions in which faulty hair evidence was a factor.
Now, a new disclosure by the FBI that experts gave erroneous testimony on hair analysis in more than 250 trials before 2000 suggests that number could rise dramatically.
Defense lawyers say the latest revelations — on top of established concerns about bite-mark identification and arson science — confirm fears about the shortcomings of old-fashioned forensic techniques and could affect thousands of cases. Advancing technologies have put such techniques under more scrutiny, including from judges, and highlighted the limits of once-established practices.
"There are forces converging at the moment that are finally bringing some recognition to the failings of many venerable techniques," said Chris Fabricant, director of strategic litigation at the Innocence Project.
Microscopic hair analysis, which involves comparing hair specimens through a microscope, has for decades been an established FBI practice and passed along at seminars to hundreds of state-level examiners.
But critics say the technique lacks objective standards.
Although this kind of evidence may be used to include or exclude individuals who could be a potential source of hair, critics note that there's no way to conclusively know how common or rare the specimen is because no national database of hair specimens exists. A 2009 report from the National Academy of Sciences described as "highly unreliable" testimony purporting to identify a particular defendant through hair analysis.
The FBI still considers microscopic hair analysis valid but also has acknowledged its scientific limitations and uses it now in conjunction with more scientifically reliable DNA testing.
Still, no one knows how many defendants have been wrongly convicted because the existence of flawed testimony — often just one element of a prosecution — does not establish innocence.
"What it does mean is that those cases need to be looked at very closely to see what role hair played in the case?" said Norman Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Home at the time
Odom, 52, always maintained his innocence, saying he was home asleep at the time the assault occurred. But the hair evidence and eyewitness identification proved persuasive, and Odom spent more than 20 years in prison before being released on parole in 2003.
The big break came when the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, which has focused attention on the flawed science and ultimately established Odom's innocence, reopened his case after the earlier exoneration of another local man because of faulty hair evidence.
DNA testing on evidence pulled from storage showed that the hair on the woman's garment could not have come from Odom. The conviction was thrown out — a relief for a man who had been a registered sex offender and whose travel had been hampered.
When the call came that he had been cleared, Odom was on a nighttime plumbing job, "and I just yelled out in happiness. It was a very joyful moment."
Monday, May 25, 2015
$2.75M wrongful conviction payment may not be enough as exoneree struggles to adjust to real world
Wednesday was a $2.75 million payday for a man from Rockaway, Queens, but it was not a happy occasion by any means.
A judge officially declared that amount was owed to Kareem Bellamy, 48, as compensation for his being convicted and incarcerated for 16 years for a murder that he did not commit. It was the latest in a long series of such cases in New York which has exonerees like Bellamy, advocates for the wrongfully convicted and some people in the legal profession saying that there’s a notable flaw in the criminal justice system.
Even though he’d just been told that he was going receive a healthy seven-figure compensation check, Bellamy told PIX11 News that while he welcomed the money, what it was meant to compensate for is priceless.
"If I had to do it again," he said, "I want my life back, to be with my kids."
In 1995, Bellamy proclaimed his innocence in court while on trial for the murder of James Abbott Jr.
Two men had been seen stabbing Abbott on a busy boulevard in Far Rockaway during a daytime attack, but witnesses who were later proven to have been compensated to testify against Bellamy convinced a jury that he had done the crime, even though he was at home, blocks away, at the time of the murder.
Bellamy had to be carried out of the courtroom, weeping, after a jury, whose members were also in tears, found him guilty and sent him to prison two decades ago.
After 16 years in custody, Bellamy was exonerated, but his pain and difficulty were by no means over.
"Getting out is the least of your problems," Bellamy told PIX11 News.
After 16 years of not being present for his three children, not being able to show any emotion while behind bars and other problems of deprivation, he said the desolation continued after the charges were dropped against him.
"You go through psychological trauma," he said.
He is at least not alone, tragically and ironically, in having experienced a wrongful conviction, exoneration and subsequent feelings of depravity. In the last five years alone, New York has seen 59 people get exonerated. Nearly all of the cases were in New York City.
Jeffrey Deskovic, an advocate for the exonerated, told PIX11 News that in addition to reducing the number of wrongful convictions, the state of New York needs to work to speed up the process in which wrongfully convicted people are compensated.
"You took less than a year to wrongfully convict him, why so long to exonerate him?" Deskovic asked.
Deskovic was wrongfully convicted of a rape and murder, and served 16 years before being released.
He’s been awarded millions in compensation, but Deskovic has used a generous portion of his money to create a foundation that helps people like Bellamy cope, since has no program in place to help.
"They don’t provide anything," said Deskovic. "They throw you out, and it’s survive as best you can."
Deskovic’s foundation, called the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, provides housing, training in finding employment, medical referrals and many other services for exonerees. But for every person that Deskovic’s Foundation can help, dozens nationwide go with no assistance.
The attorney who initially took on Bellamy’s case pro bono said that his client’s situation is indicative of a problem far larger than those of Bellamy, which are many. The lawyer, Thomas Hoffman, said that he’s concerned that the criminal justice system too often promotes a mindset of winning a case by any means necessary, which can in turn lead to injustice.
In the specific case that just won a $2.75 million settlement, Hoffman said, "You had a lot of people who knew better," referring to prosecutors, "who did not go the right way."
By contrast, the lawyer said, his client’s integrity led to his award.
"Kareem Bellamy went the right way," said Hoffman. "He chose to stand up for the truth. That’s what this case is about."
Posted by bussorah at 11:18 PM
Sunday, May 24, 2015
Obama's 'Ban' on Military Supplies for Police
On Monday, Barack Obama announced a ban on some of the surplus military style gear that has been transferred to police departments over the last several years. The announcement is surprising, given Obama's track record of being on the wrong side of almost every policy. As with all of his policy decisions, though, this move is entirely for political reasons.
We have previously expressed concern about the militarization of police forces across our nation. Is it really necessary for local police forces to use military gear and vehicles in their duties to serve and protect? Perhaps one might point to violence and rioting in Ferguson and Baltimore as a reason for this military equipment, but it's also arguable that — at least in Ferguson — it only made things worse.
None of this is to say there aren't legitimate concerns for officers who seek protection from violent criminals. "We need to only look back to Baltimore to see what happens when officers are sent out ill-equipped in a disturbance situation," said James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, in response to Obama's order. "Because you don't like the optics, you can't send police officers out to be hurt or killed."
Indeed, our society has devolved in dangerous ways and law enforcement officers are on the front lines. That said, this escalation and war-like view of civilian law enforcement is troubling for those who love Liberty.
Police departments have been able to arm themselves in recent years through the Defense Department's 1033 Program for excess property. Since its inception in 1997, more than $4.3 billion worth of equipment has been transferred to local police departments with at least half a billion dollars' worth transferred in 2013 alone.
We can't blame police departments for accepting surplus military gear. Think about it; in an era of budget constraints amongst police forces across the nation, who wouldn't accept such a sweet deal? On another note, at least some of the military gear was staying in our own country instead of being sold or given to our past, future or even present enemies. Oh, wait, that's still happening.
The Washington Post highlights that "banned items are tracked armored vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers, ammunition of .50-caliber or higher and some types of camouflage uniforms. ... Other equipment, including tactical vehicles [such as MRAPs], explosives and riot equipment, will be transferred only if local police provide additional certification and assurances that the gear will be used responsibly."
Two points: First, other than bayonets, everything on this list was already banned. Second, as Reason's Scott Shackford notes, however, the layer of certification is merely "another layer of bureaucracy." And with a federal bribe to the tune of $163 million to get law enforcement agencies on board, who will be first in line?
Speaking before a crowd in Camden, New Jersey, Obama stated, "We've seen how militarized gear sometimes gives people a feeling like they are an occupying force as opposed to a part of the community there to protect them. ... Some equipment made for the battlefield is not appropriate for local police departments."
In the wake of protests against police across the nation, Obama's remarks reveal his political motivation. He's saying, "I'm with you, the people of these cities who are the victims of out of control cops, and I'm going to do something about it."
But, per his standard divisive tactics, he's pitting the police against the people. That only exacerbates the problem. Is it really out of control cops with military gear that cause lawlessness, or is it failed government policies that stifle economic opportunities and prevent people from leaving poverty plantations and drug zones?
Again, we aren't disputing Obama's executive action to demilitarize police forces, as it may open the door for further action to be taken through Congress. But it's his intentions behind doing it now that cause concern. Recently, several on the far Left, most notably Al Sharpton, have called for federalizing police forces, an unconstitutional idea that Obama had floated on the campaign trail in 2008. Let's hope his effort to supply or not supply local police isn't a step toward that goal.
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Policeman who knocked out student protester’s tooth with riot shield then bragged to colleagues 'I just f***ing hit him' is jailed for eight months
A police officer who knocked a student's tooth out with his riot shield during the 2010 student protests has been jailed for eight months.
PC Andrew Ott, 36, was taped threatening to 'batter' protesters at the demonstration in central London and telling a colleague he had 'just had enough of these c****'.
And when Royal Holloway student William Horner, then aged 20, tried to leave the 'kettled' area on Parliament Square, the officer struck him with his riot shield, knocking his front tooth out.
The assault happened after Ott, of Rochester, Kent, chased Mr Horner as he tried to scale a fence near the Houses of Parliament.
The violent protests saw riot police pelted with missiles, including rocks and concrete blocks, and statues in Parliament Square were daubed with graffiti.
Audio recordings taken from a device worn by Ott captured the student as he accused the police officer of breaking his tooth, to which Ott responded, 'not me mate, you slipped on a metal fence'.
Video footage taken by a police photographer that night shows Mr Horner pointing towards his missing tooth and asking the camera man to 'get the number' of the officer detaining him.
Jurors heard that Ott was also taped threatening violence towards the crowds that had gathered and talking about 'getting' the protesters.
Speaking later to another officer about Mr Horner, Ott said: 'I've had enough of these c****. I just f****** hit him', the court heard.
Judge Jeffrey Pegden said he had 'absolutely no doubt' that policing the protests was 'frightening, stressful and exhausting'.
But that Mr Horner, who was not in court for the sentencing, 'simply wanted to go home' and had not committed an offence when he was attacked. No further action was taken against Mr Horner.
The judge told Ott he had carried out 'gratuitous and unnecessary violence' and abused his power as a police officer. He said: 'This offence was committed in a sterile area, in relative darkness, when you had the victim cornered and no violence was necessary at all.
'An extremely serious aggravating factor is your abuse of power as a police officer. You hit him with a full force blow to his face with your shield. 'That was wholly gratuitous, unnecessary violence, and I have considered the stress on William Horner over the last few years.'
In mitigation, Kevin Baumber said his client had been diagnosed with depression and suffered from severe stress. 'Your honour may feel think on that day he was pushed into losing his normally sound judgment in what was a long, tiring and terrifying day,' Mr Baumber said. 'It was a day that was traumatic. It was a trauma that still lives with him.'
Ott, who has served in the police since 2003, faced the 'double jeopardy' of criminal proceedings and disciplinary action and was in danger of losing a career 'that is dear to him', he added.
Ott sobbed in the dock as he was sentenced to eight months in jail today after being found guilty yesterday of one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He was cleared of perverting the course of justice.
Ott's colleagues, Pc Calvin Lindsay and Pc Thomas Barnes, were both cleared yesterday of perverting the course of justice.
An investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission found all three officers have a case to answer for gross misconduct and they will face disciplinary hearings by the Metropolitan Police Service.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Fiona Taylor, of the Met Police's directorate of professionalism, said: 'We are naturally disappointed that an MPS officer has been convicted of an assault.
'His behaviour clearly fell well below the high standards we expect of our officers, even in challenging circumstances such as the violent disorder in which this incident occurred, and it is right that he was held to account in the criminal courts.
'His case and that of the other two officers involved will now be subject to the misconduct process. Until this is completed it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.'
Posted by bussorah at 9:38 PM
Friday, May 22, 2015
Young woman falls to her knees sobbing after retrial jury clears her of murdering friend's violent boyfriend
A young woman has been cleared of murdering her friend's violent boyfriend after the jury heard she had acted in self defence following a retrial ordered by the Court of Appeal
Stacey Hyde, now aged 23, from Wells in Somerset, fell to her knees sobbing as she was cleared of the 2010 killing of Vincent Francis when she was just 17.
Miss Hyde was originally convicted at Bristol Crown Court in 2010 of killing the 34-year-old at the flat he shared with her friend, Holly Banwell.
Miss Hyde had denied murder and said she was in fear for her life but the original jury disagreed and she was sentenced to a minimum of nine years in prison by Mr Justice Field.
However in November last year the court of appeal overturned her murder conviction after hearing about the state of her mental health at the time of the incident and Lord Justice Laws ordered a four-week retrial at Winchester Crown Court.
Miss Hyde sobbed and wiped away tears today as the judge, Mr Justice Teare, discharged her and told her she was free to leave the court.
The original trial heard that Miss Hyde, a waitress, armed herself with a 10-inch knife and stabbed Mr Francis several times.
The Bristol court was told that after stabbing Mr Francis, Miss Hyde told Ms Banwell: 'I did it for you because I don't like the way he treats you.'
Mr Justice Fields said that in sentencing Miss Hyde he had taken into consideration that the violence had been initiated by Mr Francis.
The trial heard that Miss Hyde, who had been drinking heavily, had gone back to Ms Banwell's flat in Wells on September 4, 2009, after a night out.
Ms Banwell called 999 after Mr Francis attacked her and then Miss Hyde.
The court heard Miss Hyde and Mr Francis exchanged blows before she picked up a carving knife and stabbed him in the back and chest.
The jury was played the 999 call made by Ms Banwell in which she asked for help to stop Mr Francis from attacking Miss Hyde.
She says in the call: 'My boyfriend is smashing, beating up my friend, she's a girl and I need the police, I need the police ASAP.'
She continued: 'There was a huge row and he hits me, and he started on, basically he hit me and he hit me so she hit him and now he has started on her and now they are hitting each other. I need the police.'
Ms Banwell then goes on to say: 'Don't f****** punch me, I'm on the phone to the police, don't punch me, do you know what I mean, I've just got a smack in. No Stacey, put that down.'
With screaming heard in the background, she continues: 'She has got a knife, she's got a knife, she's got a knife. 'She's stabbed him. Oh my God she has stabbed him.'
The retrial heard from several expert witnesses about the state of Miss Hyde's mental health, with the defence and prosecution disagreeing over the extent she may have suffered from a personality disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) - which can lead to a failure of impulse control.
The Winchester court was also told that Miss Hyde had difficulty coping with stressful situations and in 2009 had been sent for urgent assessment for problematic use of alcohol, depression, self-harm and suicidal tendencies.
In a statement released after she was cleared, Miss Hyde said: 'I would like to say thank you to Justice for Women, my legal team, friends and family for believing in me and giving me hope and strength to never give up. 'I will be forever grateful and blessed to have been given my life back.'
Her mother Diane Hyde said: 'It's the happiest day of my life. We're ecstatic, very happy, can't believe this has happened.
'We are very sad that someone died but we are very grateful for this verdict. We are very proud of Stacey who has shown great courage and dignity throughout this nightmare.
'It's been five years of knowing the verdict was wrong in the first place, my daughter wouldn't knowingly hurt anyone and none of us know what we would do if we are in fear.'
A spokeswoman for Justice for Women criticised the prosecution for the 'unnecessary and costly murder retrial of a damaged and vulnerable young woman'.
She said: 'Justice for Women have supported Stacey since 2011 throughout a series of appeals. 'We are delighted that justice has finally been done and that Stacey will now be able to receive the support she needs instead of being unjustly punished for her own vulnerability and fear.'
The spokeswoman said that the retrial had been unnecessary because Miss Hyde had been willing to plead guilty to a charge of manslaughter on the grounds that she was acting out of self-defence. She added that prosecution psychiatric witnesses had agreed that Miss Hyde had been suffering from a 'number of mental disorders'.
The spokeswoman continued: 'A 999 call made at the time of the killing revealed that Stacey was screaming in terror throughout the incident and that her former friend Holly Banwell, despite her evidence to the contrary, was under attack by Francis at the time of the stabbing.
'Evidence emerged of a history of violence towards women by Francis, including a former girlfriend who gave similar evidence.'
Posted by bussorah at 12:18 PM
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Innocent man whose marriage fell apart in the 11 years he was suspected of murdering 74-year-old woman celebrates conviction of the REAL killer by remarrying his ex-wife
An innocent man whose marriage fell apart in the 11 years he was suspected of murdering a 74-year-old woman has celebrated the conviction of the real killer by remarrying his ex-wife.
Phil and Jill Williams, from Camelford, Cornwall, divorced in 2008, five years after Mr Williams was arrested on suspicion of strangling pensioner Joan Roddam.
Although Mr Williams, 54, was never charged with the crime, which occurred in November 2003, he remained a suspect for 11 years.
He has now been cleared of any wrongdoing after neighbour Patrick Curran was convicted of the 74-year-old's murder and jailed for life.
Truro Crown Court heard how Curran, 38, strangled Mrs Roddam after she spurned his sexual advances. He was arrested at the time but it took a decade until he was convicted following a DNA breakthrough.
During that period, Mr Williams remained under suspicion from Devon and Cornwall Police because he was the one who discovered Mrs Roddam's body.
The delivery driver was arrested shortly after raising the alarm when he found Mrs Roddam's isolated bungalow empty in November 2003.
She had been strangled and hidden partially undressed underneath a wheelbarrow in the field behind her Cornish house, police later discovered.
Mr Williams was questioned for three days and bailed until April 2004, but days before he was due to reappear, police told him he was no longer needed. He spent the following 11 years waiting anxiously because he was never officially cleared as a suspect.
Due to the stress of the arrest, his 50-year-old wife was diagnosed with chronic fatigue and the couple got divorced in 2008.
She said: 'Things were going downhill. I stopped working even though I loved my job. Both of us were depressed, I just didn't want to live here anymore.'
However, following the conviction of Curran, the couple have now got back together and remarried on the anniversary of their divorce on May 10.
They were joined by their family, including their four children, and two close friends when they exchanged their vows for the second time at St Nectans Glen, near Tintagel, Cornwall.
Mr Williams said after the ceremony that he had finally got his life back and felt getting remarried to Jill was the perfect way to put what happened in the past behind them. He said: 'It feels a bit strange getting married to Jill again, and I hope this time she will behave herself. 'She's a wonderful woman and it's great to be back to normal again.'
He described the last decade as 'like a bad dream'. 'It was frightening. I thought I was going to have a heart attack,' he said. 'At the time, the police interviewed all my customers and friends, and although trade didn't drop off I had everyone asking me about what was happening.'
Mrs Williams said it was now time for the couple to move on from the incident but insisted she always knew her husband was innocent. She said: 'I never thought in a million years that Phil was involved.
'I was 100 per cent sure he had nothing to do with it, and I always said to all our customers that when we were free of all this, I'd fly the Union Jack from the bedroom window, which was exactly what I did.
'I think in time, Phil will get over it, but what happened will always be with us, we'll never be able to erase something like that from our memories, but we are beginning to look forward to better things now.'
During sentencing for Curran, Judge Graham Cottle described the decision to arrest Mr Williams as 'incomprehensible'.
The case's conclusion brought to an end more than a decade of turmoil for Mr Williams, who was originally arrested after police became suspicious of his nervous demeanour and saw that he had cuts on his arms.
He had arrived at Mrs Roddam's house on the evening of her murder to drop off her groceries and a lottery ticket, which he picked up for her every two weeks.
When there was no answer, he had tried to open the door - which was unlocked - and found no one inside.
Worried for her safety, he flagged down a St John Ambulance, which was passing by on the way to a fireworks display, and telephoned others, including his wife, to help him.
Police found the pensioner's body three hours later in a field behind her home and she was covered with a blanket from the conservatory that she used as a bed for her cat.
The following day, Mr Williams found police waiting for him when he arrived home from a Remembrance Sunday service.
He said: 'Joan was not just a customer, she was a friend. I would never harm anyone.'
Earlier this year, Truro Crown Court heard that Mrs Roddam’s killer Curran, who was 27 at the time of the murder, had images saved on his computer depicting elderly women having sex with young men and had visited 151 'granny porn' websites.
The court heard that he burned some of his clothes and a computer hard drive on the day he killed his elderly neighbour.
A bloodstain on the blanket used to cover her up revealed DNA which was 'one billion times' more likely to belong to Curran than another man.
A post mortem showed Mrs Roddam, who lived alone at the remote bungalow, had been strangled and suffered numerous other injuries to her head and body.
Posted by bussorah at 3:11 PM
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Police hit with record £160,000 fine for losing DVDs of a victim's 'graphic and disturbing' account of being sexually abused as a child
A police force has been fined a record £160,000 for losing footage of an interview with a sex abuse victim.
South Wales Police was hit with the penalty after unencrypted DVDs containing video of the woman's 'graphic and disturbing' account went missing from a desk drawer.
The recorded interview took place in August 2011 and the loss was discovered by staff after an office move in October that year.
But the security breach was not reported for nearly two years due to a 'lack of training', the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said.
A second interview with the victim, who was abused as a child, had to be abandoned due to her distress.
The DVDs, which show her face clearly throughout, have still not been recovered. Victims of sexual abuse are automatically entitled to anonymity for life.
After being informed of the breach the woman made a formal complaint and argued it could have affected the outcome of the case. The defendants were ultimately convicted and sentenced.
It is the third time the ICO has taken such action against a police force.
Anne Jones, assistant commissioner for Wales, said: 'Without any doubt we would expect a professional police force, in a position of trust, dealing with this type of highly sensitive information from victims and witnesses on a daily basis to have robust procedures to keep track of the personal data in their care.
'The organisation has failed to take all appropriate measures against the unauthorised processing and accidental loss of personal data.
'This breach is extremely serious and despite guidance from our office, the Ministry of Justice and Association of Chief Police Officers stating it is essential to have a policy on storing this sort of information they still haven't fully addressed the issue.
'The monetary penalty given to South Wales Police should send a clear message that organisations have to take responsibility for personal data and the way in which it is stored.'
Yvonne Traynor, CEO of Rape Crisis South London, said the force had been 'unprofessional and careless'. She said: 'I find it hard to believe that a professional body can be so insensitive to lose a vital interview with a survivor of sexual violence. 'It takes a lot of strength to report to the police and to provide video evidence takes time and a lot of inner courage which she will now have to redo.
'Careless doesn't even begin to describe how unprofessional this unit have behaved. I hope it does not deter other survivors from coming forward to report this heinous crime.'
The police force has now been asked to sign an undertaking to ensure changes are made to implement policies to stop any incidents happening again.
Assistant Chief Constable Richard Lewis said: 'South Wales Police takes its responsibilities for the management and security of information extremely seriously and has apologised to the victim in this case.
'Once it was apparent what had happened South Wales Police voluntarily referred the details to the ICO and launched a full investigation into this incident. 'As a result two officers have subsequently been given management advice and training.
'This is the first incident of a serious nature regarding loss of sensitive data for South Wales Police and unlike similar incidents which have occurred nationally, where materials have been lost in a public place, the DVDs were stored in a secure area of a police station to which access is restricted.'
He added that South Wales Police may consider an appeal against the penalty.
Posted by bussorah at 5:42 PM
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades
The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.
Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.
The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.
The FBI errors alone do not mean there was not other evidence of a convict’s guilt. Defendants and federal and state prosecutors in 46 states and the District are being notified to determine whether there are grounds for appeals. Four defendants were previously exonerated.
The admissions mark a watershed in one of the country’s largest forensic scandals, highlighting the failure of the nation’s courts for decades to keep bogus scientific information from juries, legal analysts said. The question now, they said, is how state authorities and the courts will respond to findings that confirm long-suspected problems with subjective, pattern-based forensic techniques — like hair and bite-mark comparisons — that have contributed to wrongful convictions in more than one-quarter of 329 DNA-exoneration cases since 1989.
In a statement, the FBI and Justice Department vowed to continue to devote resources to address all cases and said they "are committed to ensuring that affected defendants are notified of past errors and that justice is done in every instance. The Department and the FBI are also committed to ensuring the accuracy of future hair analysis testimony, as well as the application of all disciplines of forensic science."
Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, commended the FBI and department for the collaboration but said, "The FBI’s three-decade use of microscopic hair analysis to incriminate defendants was a complete disaster."
"We need an exhaustive investigation that looks at how the FBI, state governments that relied on examiners trained by the FBI and the courts allowed this to happen and why it wasn’t stopped much sooner," Neufeld said.
Norman L. Reimer, the NACDL’s executive director, said, "Hopefully, this project establishes a precedent so that in future situations it will not take years to remediate the injustice."
While unnamed federal officials previously acknowledged widespread problems, the FBI until now has withheld comment because findings might not be representative.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a former prosecutor, called on the FBI and Justice Department to notify defendants in all 2,500 targeted cases involving an FBI hair match about the problem even if their case has not been completed, and to redouble efforts in the three-year-old review to retrieve information on each case.
"These findings are appalling and chilling in their indictment of our criminal justice system, not only for potentially innocent defendants who have been wrongly imprisoned and even executed, but for prosecutors who have relied on fabricated and false evidence despite their intentions to faithfully enforce the law," Blumenthal said.
Flawed forensic testimony by state VIEW GRAPHIC
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), urged the bureau to conduct "a root-cause analysis" to prevent future breakdowns.
"It is critical that the Bureau identify and address the systemic factors that allowed this far-reaching problem to occur and continue for more than a decade," the lawmakers wrote FBI Director James B. Comey on March 27, as findings were being finalized.
The FBI is waiting to complete all reviews to assess causes but has acknowledged that hair examiners until 2012 lacked written standards defining scientifically appropriate and erroneous ways to explain results in court. The bureau expects this year to complete similar standards for testimony and lab reports for 19 forensic disciplines.
Federal authorities launched the investigation in 2012 after The Washington Post reported that flawed forensic hair matches might have led to the convictions of hundreds of potentially innocent people since at least the 1970s, typically for murder, rape and other violent crimes nationwide.
The review confirmed that FBI experts systematically testified to the near-certainty of "matches" of crime-scene hairs to defendants, backing their claims by citing incomplete or misleading statistics drawn from their case work.
In reality, there is no accepted research on how often hair from different people may appear the same. Since 2000, the lab has used visual hair comparison to rule out someone as a possible source of hair or in combination with more accurate DNA testing.
Warnings about the problem have been mounting. In 2002, the FBI reported that its own DNA testing found that examiners reported false hair matches more than 11 percent of the time. In the District, the only jurisdiction where defenders and prosecutors have re-investigated all FBI hair convictions, three of seven defendants whose trials included flawed FBI testimony have been exonerated through DNA testing since 2009, and courts have exonerated two more men. All five served 20 to 30 years in prison for rape or murder.
University of Virginia law professor Brandon L. Garrett said the results reveal a "mass disaster" inside the criminal justice system, one that it has been unable to self-correct because courts rely on outdated precedents admitting scientifically invalid testimony at trial and, under the legal doctrine of finality, make it difficult for convicts to challenge old evidence.
"The tools don’t exist to handle systematic errors in our criminal justice system," Garrett said. "The FBI deserves every recognition for doing something really remarkable here. The problem is there may be few judges, prosecutors or defense lawyers who are able or willing to do anything about it."
Federal authorities are offering new DNA testing in cases with errors, if sought by a judge or prosecutor, and agreeing to drop procedural objections to appeals in federal cases.
However, biological evidence in the cases often is lost or unavailable. Among states, only California and Texas specifically allow appeals when experts recant or scientific advances undermine forensic evidence at trial.
Defense attorneys say scientifically invalid forensic testimony should be considered as violations of due process, as courts have held with false or misleading testimony.
The FBI searched more than 21,000 federal and state requests to its hair comparison unit from 1972 through 1999, identifying for review roughly 2,500 cases where examiners declared hair matches.
Reviews of 342 defendants’ convictions were completed as of early March, the NACDL and Innocence Project reported. In addition to the 268 trials in which FBI hair evidence was used against defendants, the review found cases in which defendants pleaded guilty, FBI examiners did not testify, did not assert a match or gave exculpatory testimony.
When such cases are included, by the FBI’s count examiners made statements exceeding the limits of science in about 90 percent of testimonies, including 34 death-penalty cases.
The findings likely scratch the surface. The FBI said as of mid-April that reviews of about 350 trial testimonies and 900 lab reports are nearly complete, with about 1,200 cases remaining.
The bureau said it is difficult to check cases before 1985, when files were computerized. It has been unable to review 700 cases because police or prosecutors did not respond to requests for information.
Also, the same FBI examiners whose work is under review taught 500 to 1,000 state and local crime lab analysts to testify in the same ways.
Texas, New York and North Carolina authorities are reviewing their hair examiner cases, with ad hoc efforts underway in about 15 other states.
Posted by bussorah at 4:29 PM
Monday, May 18, 2015
Girlfriend's tears as family of black father-of-two who died in police custody promise they 'will not rest until they have the truth’
The family of a father who died after being arrested today demanded to find out the circumstances behind his sudden death, saying they cannot grieve until they know 'the truth'.
Sheku Bayoh, 31, was detained by police after being accused of carrying a knife, but he lost consciousness while being restrained by nine officers.
His girlfriend Collette Bell wept at a press conference as she said, 'I need answers' - but the police claimed that Mr Bayoh had carried out 'a violent and unprovoked attack' and urged caution in jumping to conclusions.
Mr Bayoh, a father of two, died on the morning of May 3 in his home town of Kirkcaldy, Fife after police were called to the scene by members of the public who reported that he was carrying a knife.
He was pronounced dead shortly after and an investigation into the cause of his death has now been launched by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner.
Today, members of Mr Bayoh's family and his partner today told of their 'grave concerns' about the role of police and questioned why no officers who attended the incident have been suspended while an inquiry takes place.
His partner Miss Bell, mother to his four-month-old son, described him as her 'soulmate and best friend'. She said: 'I need answers as to why he was taken from me.
'I want to know the whole truth of the circumstances surrounding his death so that one day I can explain to my son Isaac Bayoh why he has had to grow up without his daddy.'
She was joined by Mr Bayoh's mother and two of his sisters at the media conference in Edinburgh. They later met the Lord Advocate, who has instructed the PIRC to look at the case.
His sister Kadi Johnson talked about how he had moved to the UK from Sierra Leone when he was 11 and then to Scotland aged 17.
Mr Bayoh, who worked for British Gas, was father to four-month old Isaac and Tyler, his three-year-old son by a previous partner.
Mrs Johnson said: 'At this point in time our family is heartbroken, not able to grieve; his body is still in a mortuary all alone.
'Even once we have buried my baby brother we will not be able to grieve until we know the truth. 'All we are asking for is the truth of what actually happened to my brother Sheku on morning of May 3.
'We all have grave concerns at the role of Police Scotland and are asking the Lord Advocate and the PIRC to help us get the truth.'
Aamer Anwar, the family's solicitor, said Mr Bayoh was a 'well-liked, peaceful and healthy young man' who had no previous history of violence.
He said: 'The family does not understand why the officers involved in engaging with Sheku Bayoh were not immediately suspended without prejudice after his death.
'It is a matter of wider public concern that officers remain at their desks or in contact with the public pending the outcome of the investigation into a death in custody.'
Mr Anwar claimed five different versions of events were given to Mr Bayoh's family by police officers over the course of 10 hours.
The lawyer said the family were advised officers had been called to the scene after responding to an alert following calls from members of the public.
He said reports of any officer having been stabbed were 'simply untrue'.
Mr Anwar added: 'For the Chief Constable to suspend the officers without prejudice is not a question of pre-judging the outcome of the investigation but ensures neutrality, integrity of the investigation, transparency as well as protecting officers involved in such incidents.'
However, the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) said police had been responding to a call of a man brandishing a knife.
SPF chairman Brian Docherty said 'innuendo and speculation' while the investigation is ongoing 'adds nothing other than to the pain and grief of the family'.
He explained: 'The Scottish Police Federation recognises that the family of Sheku Bayoh is mourning his death and that this is a painful process.
'The SPF does not wish to add to that pain by making unhelpful comments to the press. We are saddened that his legal representatives appear not to take the same approach.
'We are also saddened that his legal representatives are inferring police officers should not have the same legal protections as any other member of the public.
'A petite female police officer responding to a call of a man brandishing a knife was subject to a violent and unprovoked attack by a large male. 'The officer believed she was going to die as a result of this assault.'
Professor Peter Watson, legal adviser to the SPF, later added: 'We all seek the truth and part of that truth will lie, in part, in the post-mortem and toxicology reports which will follow in due course.
'Calls for the suspension of the officers serve no purpose and do nothing but add unhelpful rhetoric in a difficult situation for all.'
Mr Anwar responded by saying the family were 'deeply upset and disturbed' at the tone of the SPF statement. He added: 'It beggars belief that police officers as of yet have not spoken to PIRC yet police federation are releasing details of what they believe to be the circumstances surrounding Mr Bayoh's death.
'The central issue in this case is one of how did Mr Bayoh die in police custody. That matter is still to be investigated.'
A PIRC spokeswoman said the independent investigation was continuing and 'making good progress'. A report on its findings will be submitted to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in due course.
After Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland met Mr Bayoh's relatives, a spokesman for the Crown Office said: 'The Lord Advocate met Mr Bayoh's family this morning when he offered his condolences for their loss. 'What was discussed at the meeting will remain confidential.'
Posted by bussorah at 5:57 PM
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Police tsar under fire after giving £60,000 contract to organisation that did not legally exist and employs his deputy's daughter
A police tsar has been forced to defend handing a £60,000 contract to a crime-tackling organisation that doesn't legally exist - and which also employs his deputy's daughter.
West Midlands police and crime commissioner (PCC) David Jamieson has been told he has 'serious questions' to answer by a Conservative MP.
The daughter of his deputy, Yvonne Mosquito, works for a group which was awarded a six-month contract to provide help and support to Birmingham companies targeted by criminals.
But Broad Street BID (Business Improvement District), where Alicia Mosquito is deputy manager, no longer legally exists.
Its five-year remit of working on behalf of city centre businesses ran out after March 31 at around the same time the decision to award the contract was made.
However, the PCC's office has said no money has been handed over and any suggestion that it has acted improperly 'is completely and utterly untrue and incorrect'.
The daughter of the deputy police and crime commissioner (DPCC), a university law graduate, joined the Broad Street team ten months ago as an unpaid intern to general manager Mike Olley and was later employed in the full-time position.
An investigation by the Birmingham Mail also discovered a friend of Ms Mosquito's daughter has been taken on in a temporary role as a research assistant on a salary believed to be £18,000 to £20,000 per year.
A PCC spokesman confirmed she worked closely with the DPCC, and attended some engagements with her.
Labour PCC Jamieson was elected to the £100,000 per year West Midlands policing role in August following the sudden death of his predecessor Bob Jones.
He is facing more questions over the resignation of his chief executive Jacky Courtney, who left on April 17, with sources claiming she could be awarded a substantial payout from the taxpayer.
Sources, who say she did not want to leave the role, claim restructuring savings made by the PCC could be offset by a substantial payout to Ms Courtney.
Meanwhile, a consulting firm only set up last summer by a magistrate and her business partner was paid £43,000 in contracts after being brought in to help save money.
Two former Labour Party activists have allso been taken on in non-advertised, taxpayer-funded roles, it has been reported.
Julian Knight, Conservative MP for Solihull, said: 'This raises serious questions that Mr Jamieson needs to answer.'
Yvonne Mosquito, who earns £65,000 per year in her deputy PCC role, has been linked to controversies in the past.
The Broad Street BID was first set up in 2005 after a ballot of local businesses who agreed to contribute to its runnings costs. Its legal status has to be renewed every five years with a new ballot.
That happened in 2010, but did not take place before the next five-year deadline of March 31 - the date a decision was made to award the £60,000 contract to the Broad Street BID.
The group is now set to be renamed as Westside BID, covering a wider business area, once a new ballot is eventually held, expected to be in June.
Alicia Mosquito and Mike Olley, a former Labour councillor, will continue in their roles with the new organisation.
It has been reported that the PCC office was initially set to give the business victim support contract to Broad Street BID 'months ago' without putting the contract out to tender. A police figure is said to have objected to the lack of procurement, and other applications were then invited.
A number of BID teams from across the city applied, but the Broad Street group was awarded the six-month Ministry of Justice-funded contract at the end of March. The decision was announced on the PCC website after the Broad Street BID ceased to exist after March 31.
It is understood an official complaint was lodged to the PCC office by a rival BID team which pointed out the Broad Street BID no longer existed.
In a statement about Ms Courtney, the PCC's office said: 'Jacky Courtney took voluntary redundancy.
'The reasons behind her decision are a matter for her. In the drive for value for money the PCC reduced the salary for the chief executive post by over £20,000 as part of the ongoing review. The settlement process is ongoing.'
It added: 'To reduce costs and ensure that the taxpayer gets value for money the PCC is restructuring his office.
'As part of this restructure the chief executive’s salary has been reduced by over £20,000 and the overall budget has been reduced by over £300,000, making the PCC’s office budget the smallest share of any force budget in the country.'
Posted by bussorah at 7:42 PM
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Video Shows Deputy Smash Autistic Man’s Skull into the Ground, Killing Him for Joking Around
Mount Vernon, OH — A Knox County deputy is now being investigated after he fatally assaulted 33-year old David Dehmann on April 21. Dehmann was autistic and had Tourette’s Syndrome, and this was well-known by the local law enforcement.
Mount Vernon police picked up Dehmann on the 21st for being intoxicated but was released within a couple hours after being cleared by a hospital for release. At 7:43pm that same day, he was arrested near a public school for disorderly conduct – harm to self, at which point he was taken to Knox County Jail by MVPD Cpl. Travis Tharp when things took a turn for the worse.
During the booking process, Dehmann would not make it 15 feet into the station before his life would be ended.
The sickening surveillance camera footage of his killing was released last week which showed this deadly act of police rage.
The video starts out showing Dehmann being completely cooperative. He maintained this cooperation throughout the entire process.
He’s seen helping the deputies to remove his clothing and his shoes. At one point, he even playfully pats one of the deputies on the back; something a child might do.
Most of the deputies in the room seemingly laugh it off as an innocent autistic man being silly because he’s drunk. This was apparent by the lack of restraints on Dehmann.
However, Deputy Chase Wright was not enjoying Dehmann’s shenanigans.
As Dehmann is walking past the officers, either drunkenly or playfully, he points his finger at them; never making actual physical contact. When he gets to deputy Wright, he points just like he did to the first, but he is swiftly met with physical retaliation. His hand is slapped and deputy Wright proceeds to slam the autistic and impaired Dehmann to the ground with so much force that when his head hit, it killed him.
Prior to the body slam, Dehmann can be seen with his arm up in what seems to be some sort of physical move. However, his fist is not closed and is fingers are out. He was obviously not trying to punch nor was he in any capacity to cause harm to Wright.
Dehmann’s family is left devastated. Dehmann’s step-mother Melissa spoke on the tragedy, saying "He might have had his issues in the past and everything, but he didn’t deserve to die because of this."
The original statement by the KCSO stated,
"While Dehmann was in the jail’s intake area he became aggressive with the jail staff making an aggressive move towards Deputy [Chase] Wright. Mr. Dehmann did attempt to hit Dep. Wright in the face causing Dep. Wright to place Mr. Dehmann into a take down hold, taking him to the ground to get control of him. Once control was gained it was found that Mr. Dehmann had hit his head on the floor during the incident. Mr. Dehmann was transported to KCH ER by Mount Vernon medics for a medical evaluation."
When you watch the video, it is all too clear who "became aggressive" in this situation.
Original report here. Video at linbk.
Posted by bussorah at 2:09 PM