Thursday, June 30, 2016

The moment a handcuffed man's hearing aid is knocked out by police as they push him to the ground during an arrest

New Zealand Police have come under fire for footage which appears to show them pushing a man to the ground forcing his hearing aid to fall out.

Filmed in New Plymouth on the North Island, the man who uploaded the video said his friend was arrested after opening an alcoholic beverage in a liquor-ban area.

Footage shows the officers handling the man before pushing him to the ground with his face against the concrete.

At the beginning of the video the man appears to be standing in front of a police officer, with his hands cuffed behind him.

He doesn't look to be putting up a fight however the officer can be seen putting his arm around the man's throat in a headlock.

'Hey no need to choke him', the person filming can be heard saying.

'Oi, his hearing aid, bro', the man says later in the footage.

The arrested man is then put into a police car and taken away in handcuffs.

New Zealand Police told Daily Mail Australia they were aware of the footage and are investigating the incident.

'Police were made aware of this video recording and the arrest on Tuesday this week and are currently investigating the incident to establish whether the use of force was appropriate and what the actual events were that lead to the arrest of this person,'they said in a statement.

'Often a short video on social media does not show the extent of what occurred at the time.'

Original report here

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Black defiance is a huge problem for the police so it must not be too surprising that a cop sometimes loses it

Video shows cop Robert Cooper telling teen to stop or he'll shoot. As Antwon Gallmon, 17, drives away Cooper fires at the vehicle. He then tells dispatch Gallmon had nearly hit him with his car

However dashcam footage appears to prove the teen did not do this
A shocking video shows a white police officer firing seven times at a black teenage driver, who had both hands on the wheel.

The 17-year-old driver Antwon Gallmon was left hospitalized after the incident and the cop Robert Cooper has been suspended from duty.

Gallmon can clearly be seen attempting to drive away from the scene as Cooper aims his gun at the car and shouts, 'Stop! Stop! Do not make me shoot you!'

But Gallmon, keen to escape from the scene, swings his Honda Accord away from the cop and drives off.

Robert Cooper, from Forest Acres Police, Columbia, South Carolina, can be initially seen chasing Antwon Gallmon who is driving a Honda Accord after police were called to a noise complaint

Cooper responds by firing seven shots into the vehicle - rapidly and from a close distance - as it zooms past before telling his dispatcher, 'Shots fired! Shots fired! He tried to hit me with his vehicle'.

He repeats this as he gets in his car to chase Gallmon, saying, 'He almost hit me! I was barely able to get out of the way!'

It seems the officer is suggesting the teen tried to run him over rather than alleging he fired at Gallmon.

However, footage from Cooper's dashcam from the May 19 incident - now released by South Carolina State Police, The State reported -  clearly shows the teen making no attempt to strike the officer, with Cooper barely attempting to move out of the way as the car drives off.

Albeit briefly, both of the youth's hands can be seen on the wheel and he doesn't seem to be holding a weapon, although two guns were later found in the vehicle which were believed to have been stolen.

Shortly after the shooting Cooper told another officer he felt 'nauseous'.  'I don't think I did anything wrong,' he can be heard saying. 'I did everything I could trying to give commands, how many times. I even tried to jump out of the way before..and I barely made it. I barely made it.'

Gallmon was apprehended after a two-mile police chase through the town of Forest Acres in Columbia, South Carolina.

He had been hit by at least one bullet and was hospitalized after the early-morning shooting near an apartment complex.

He was later taken to a detention center and released from the jail the next day on a $10,000 bond.

Gallmon was charged with failure to stop for the police, possession of a stolen vehicle, unlawful possession of a pistol, possession of marijuana, possession of a 'Schedule 1' drug, and driving without a licence.

Cooper, who had been in the force for six years has been suspended with pay while his use of deadly force is under intense examination.

Forest Acres police chief Gene Sealy has not yet commented on the footage and is waiting for the results of the State Law Enforcement Division's investigation.

Original report here

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Rapist soldier who claimed he had attacked women in his sleep is finally jailed after avoiding justice for five years

A rapist soldier avoided justice for five years by claiming he suffered from a condition which meant he attacked women in his sleep.

Joseph Short managed to get a rape case dropped against him in 2011 after a leading sleep disorder expert backed his claim that he had so-called 'sexsomnia'.

The platoon sergeant claimed the condition left him with no memory of attacking his victims, and army officials failed to dismiss him despite their knowledge of the allegations.

The 30-year-old was finally jailed at Birmingham Crown Court, receiving 15 years imprisonment for raping a woman in Hoddesdon, Herts, in 2014 and for sexually assaulting another woman in Shrewsbury while on bail a year later.

Once again, the soldier tried to convince prosecutors that his condition had caused him to attack the women, as he had successfully done when accused of a rape in Scotland in March, 2011.

However his case fell apart, the Sunday Mirror reported, after the expert who had helped clear his name in 2011 said Short had ignored the advice given to him on how to not attack women in the future.

After his defence was ripped apart, Strong tried to plead insanity, but it was rejected by expert witnesses.

Speaking after Strong was jailed, one of his victims told the Sunday Mirror: 'This is a victory for justice and for all the women whose lives he ruined while remaining free to rape again and again.

'I think he was so arrogant he thought he was going to get away with it again. But by the end, it was clear to everyone he wasn't some guy with a sleep disorder.

'He was just a monster who liked raping women. He is in the right place now. He isn't a hero, he's a dangerous man.'

Original report here

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Monday, June 27, 2016

A Word on the Cliff Richard Case

James Norwood

I see that the popular singer Cliff Richard has been told by the police there will be no further investigation into the claims made against him of sexual abuse of boys. Since this is an issue that invites misunderstanding and even smears, I will, for the avoidance of doubt, say that people who commit sexual assaults on persons under the age of consent should be punished, and the severity of punishment should be related to the victim’s age. This being said, Mr Richard has been accused of “historic sex abuse,” and this should be seen as different from ordinary cases of abuse.

According to the BBC report, Mr Richard was accused of assaulting four males between 1958 and 1983. These dates alone would, in most times and places, raise suspicion. Let us suppose the man allegedly assaulted in 1958 was sixteen at the time. He would now be 74. Let us also assume that the male allegedly assaulted in 1983 was sixteen at the time. He would now be 49. Or let us assume what is unlikely, that both were six at the time of the alleged assaults. The elder would still be in his sixties, and the younger pushing 40.

What were these men doing in all the time since the alleged assaults? Why did they not complain at the time? If perhaps they were terrorised into silence, what has changed now to stop them from being afraid? Were they not concerned that others might be in danger? I suggest that they are inherently unreliable complainants. What is more likely – that they have been brooding for decades, and in at least one case since before I was born – on a series of horrific rapes that the passing of time cannot efface, or that they are of unsound mind, or are guided by motives that may not involve a strict regard for justice?

I have followed a number of similar cases to this one. In all of them, I regard the evidence as unsatisfactory. In some cases, it has fallen apart in the witness box. In others, it has been accepted for reasons that I find incomprehensible.

I note also Mr Richard’s naming by the police before any charges were laid. The BBC report justifies this as follows:

The concern is that if they hadn’t been named in the media at an early stage, thereby emboldening other victims to come forward, some recently convicted celebrities would have got away with it

In effect, the authorities should be at liberty to publish the name of anyone they dislike, and wait for complainants to come forward with allegations of whatever quality. This is an obvious abuse of the criminal law. Certainly, it shows a police force out of control. Two years ago, the police searched Mr Richard’s house. They searched it 31 years after the last alleged offence. The house they searched was not his at the time of the last alleged offence. They knew that he was out of the country when they carried out the search. They told the BBC about the search, and the BBC filmed the search from a helicopter. Nothing was found. Would you like this done to you? Are you happy that the police, with full media collaboration, can do it to someone else – no matter how infamous the alleged offence may have been?

For the avoidance of doubt, I repeat that there should be laws against having sex with persons under the age of consent. These should be strictly enforced. But there should be a reasonable time after which complaints based only on oral testimony will not be accepted. I suggest three years from the date of the alleged offence, or one year after a complainant reaches the age of eighteen, whichever is longer. I am open here to counter-suggestions. There may have been cases where politicians and other powerful men were able to stop complaints from being made or investigated until many years after my proposed limitation. It may be necessary to take this into account. At the same time, the system we presently have is unjust in itself, and tends to bring the criminal law into disrepute.

Having sex with persons under the age of consent is a wicked crime – but, however wicked, it is a crime; and the prosecution of crime should be subject to reasonable limitations. To say otherwise is to degrade the criminal law into an inquisition, dangerous to those it attacks, and a standing danger to all of us. What are we to have next? Reversing the burden of proof? Compelled self-incrimination? Special juries of “child abuse experts”? And why stop with child abuse cases? Why not rape, or terrorism? Special exceptions have a tendency to become a new general rule.

Cliff Richard is obviously innocent: the faintest show of plausibility in the complaints would have led to a prosecution. William Roache was obviously innocent. The complaints against Harvey Proctor collapsed in ridicule. I am disturbed by most of the convictions I have seen. How many more of these cases before even the authorities grow ashamed?

Original report here

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

'PC Strumpet' who was sacked after seducing murder victim's father, 82, avoids jail despite admitting ignoring crimes for years including sex offences against children

A police officer dubbed 'PC Strumpet' after it was alleged she seduced a grieving pensioner for his murdered son's fortune has avoided jail for ignoring crimes reported to her.

Sacked PC Clare Stretton, formerly of West Mercia Police, was handed an eight-month suspended sentenced after she admitted misconduct in a public office.

She was found to have failed to investigate complaints made by members of the public during her seven years as a family liaison officer. They included a statement from a vulnerable 13-year-old who had been abused, reports of historical sexual abuse, fraud and domestic abuse.

Last year Stretton was dismissed by the force for gross misconduct after being found to have had an 'inappropriate relationship' with pensioner Charles Foulkes, who died in 2011, over a ten-year period.

She is said to have groomed the 82-year-old in a bid to fleece him of the £180,000 he inherited after his son Colin was hacked to death with an axe.

Stretton had previously insisted she had done nothing wrong and that she had simply been a 'scapegoat' after complaints from Mr Foulkes's three daughters over her behaviour. She was accused of taking up to £100,000 from Mr Foulkes. Records showed he paid up to £15,000 directly into her bank account.

Relatives of the pensioner, from Church Stretton in Shropshire, claimed he became infatuated with Stretton, then 37. They also alleged the ex-officer flaunted herself and wore low-cut tops and mini-skirts in front of him

Daughters Michele Pugh, 67, Charmaine Jones, 57, and Carla Kelly, 51, lodged papers at the High Court in 2014 which alleged Mr Foulkes took Stretton on trips and gave her gifts and money.

Stretton was eventually dismissed after a two-day hearing. Three charges against her on breaching standards of professional behaviour, on honesty and integrity - including taking the £15,000 from Mr Foulkes - were found proved.

But speaking from her home in Telford, she insisted that she had given the elderly man 'a reason to live' and that she would do the same again if she had the chance. She told MailOnline: 'He was a mentor and a father figure to me. I helped him, and he helped me. 'There was no sexual relationship. There was nothing romantic. The only thing I did inappropriately was to have contact with him when I shouldn't have, but I did it as a friend and as a human being.

'I was cleared of any criminal activities, but the force wanted a scapegoat - and I'm it.'  

Det Supt Gary Watson, head of professional standards for Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Police said: 'Clare Stretton was dismissed from West Mercia Police in October 2015 for discreditable conduct and a breach of honesty and integrity, a clear violation of our standards and Code of Ethics.

'As soon as we became aware of this violation we undertook an investigation which resulted in this criminal conviction.'

Original report here

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

New Zealander jailed incorrectly for 22 years considering lump sum offer

No finger prints, DNA, or any other direct evidence linking Pora to the murder scene were produced in court -- but Pora was a troubled youth who said silly things when accused.  Details of the case here.  Via DNA, the real offender has been caught and jailed

HOW much would you expect to be paid for a year of your time? What if that year was spent in prison, away from family and friends?

That’s a question Teina Pora has been asking himself every year for 22 years while his 20s and 30s passed him by behind bars.

The New Zealand man, 41, was wrongly convicted in 1994 of the rape and murder of Susan Burdett, a woman who was beaten to death in her South Auckland home by an intruder with a baseball bat.

Pora’s wrongful conviction was overturned in March 2015. This week, the New Zealand government offered a lengthy apology and a lump sum of money. Pora is, at this very moment, considering whether it’s enough.

“The Crown accepts that you are innocent of the offences for which you were convicted in 1994,” Justice Minister Amy Adams said in a letter to Pora.

“I acknowledge that over the past two decades you have suffered, considerably, including the many years you spend away from your young daughter, as a direct result of your convictions and imprisonment. “To compensate you, the Crown has agreed to make an ex gratia payment to you of $2,520,949,42.”

The $2.5 million offer is “a considerable amount” less than the figure Pora’s lawyers were asking for. It is broken down in to two categories.

First, approximately $2.2 million of the money is for Pora’s non pecuniary losses — his loss of liberty for the 22 years of his wrongful imprisonment. That includes the loss of his relationship with his family, the inability to marry and, as his lawyer puts it, “to spend his 20s like the rest of us have been fortunate enough to do, and indeed his 30s”.

The remaining $300,000 is for Pora’s actual physical loss of income and a contribution to a loss of future income.

Ms Adams acknowledged the sum could “never completely” remedy the injustice. “I hope the offer of compensation can go some way in helping you and your family build a better future together,” she wrote.

The case has gripped New Zealand. It is, as local journalist Paula Penfold described it, “the biggest miscarriage of justice in New Zealand’s history”.  “Make no mistake ... If (the offer) is only in the vicinity of $2 million, I don’t think that is anywhere near enough,” Penfold told One News.

The issue of compensation is a complicated one and every party has an opinion.

Pora’s lawyers held a press conference earlier this week following the government’s official offer.  “(Teina) is aware of the offer on compensation and it is just that,” a lawyer for the 41-year-old said.

“It is an offer of compensation for Teina to accept or not. The reality is there’s very little that can be done, but I’m sure you can appreciate for anyone in this situation, it’s a significant moment and something that can’t be rushed in to.

“As you’ll be aware, the offer is approximately $2.5 million ... As counsel, we are disappointed with the quantum. You would’ve seen based on the material that has been distributed, that we sought a considerable amount more than has been offered.

“Of course it is a substantial amount of money. It’s more money than most people in New Zealand will ever have to their name. One can’t be ungracious ... but at the same time one can’t lose sight of the fact that this man suffered 22 years of incarceration in one form or another for crimes which he did not commit.”

Ms Burdett’s brother, Jim said: “(Compensation) is the least the government could do” but“I have no idea how you calculate 20 years of imprisonment that shouldn’t have happened.”

Original report here

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Friday, June 24, 2016

British justice at work: A serial sex offender who attacked his victim in her own bed is jailed for LESS time than a farmer sentenced in the same court who claimed his eggs were 'free range'

A victims' support group has blasted the justice system after a farmer selling barn eggs as 'free-range' was jailed for longer than a serial sex offender in the same court.

Widower Anthony Clarkson, 59, was hauled before Preston Crown Court this week after being convicted of fraudulently marketing the barn eggs as free-range.

On Monday he was jailed for two-and-a-half years after evidence from the egg standard inspectors from the Animal Plant Health Authority (APHA).

In the same court on Wednesday, serial sex offender Kerdine Ahmedi, 46, was jailed for two months less than the farmer despite admitting sexually assaulting a terrified woman.

In a victim personal statement, the unnamed woman - who sobbed in the public gallery during the sentencing hearing - said the attack had destroyed her life.

The court heard Ahmedi has a previous conviction for indecent exposure and breached his sexual offences prevention order on five separate occasions since it was made in 2011.

The disparity in the sentences has been criticised by solicitor Rachel Horman, a board director at Safenet, which runs women's refuges. She said: 'It seems that financial crimes or fraud are treated more seriously than violent crimes against women. 'This kind of situation sends out the wrong message to perpetrators and victims of violence. Sadly this happens quite a lot.

'I have seen domestic violence cases where in order to get that kind of sentence, the perpetrator could have attempted murder.

'I deal with serious cases of violence against women where the defendant doesn't get a penalty anywhere near this.

'It's not just an overhaul of sentencing guidelines that is needed - often there are powers there to impose a heavier sentence which people do not use. It's a change in attitude.'

Clarkson was prosecuted after claiming free range eggs had been produced at his farm in Whittingham, near Preston, when they were in fact barn eggs he bought in from another of his firms.

He operated a farm producing 'free-range eggs' and had an interest in another farm producing cheaper 'barn eggs'. He stamped both type of eggs with code indicating they were free range.

He was convicted of fraud by dishonestly making a false representation after a probe was launched by egg inspectors in 2014.

At his sentence hearing, his defence barrister Michael Maher said he appreciated it was a food fraud but remarked: 'It's not horse meat masquerading as fillet steak.'

A spokesman for Animal Plant Health Authority (APHA) defended the sentence saying it sends out a 'tough warning to food fraudsters.'

Sex offender Ahmedi forced himself on a woman who he knew the woman was drunk and feeling unwell, Preston Crown Court heard.

The woman's boyfriend had passed out at the kitchen table after drinking vodka which he feared may have been spiked.

She woke to feel a man behind her but when she realised it was not her boyfriend she tried to get away, as Ahmedi made sexual comments.

As she tried to get out of bed, Ahmedi put his arm around her waist and attacked her. Unable to wake her boyfriend, the woman went to a friend's house and told her she had been assaulted.  She reported the attack the following day and Ahmedi, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to sexual assault.

The Recorder of Preston, Judge Mark Brown, said when sentencing: 'She made it clear at the very start that she wasn't interested and wanted you to stop immediately.  'However you continued. That must have been a very frightening and distressing experience for her. Your victim is present in court. She is obviously extremely distressed by what occurred to her.'

Original report here

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

‘Shaken baby’ expert witness found guilty of misleading courts

A senior British doctor, who has been an expert defence witness for parents accused of killing their children, has been found guilty of multiple charges that include giving misleading evidence in court.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service said that Waney Squier, a consultant pathologist at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, UK, had failed to work within the limits of her competence, failed to be objective and unbiased, and failed to heed the views of other experts. In many of the cases investigated, her actions were deliberately misleading and irresponsible.

The MPTS had considered Squier’s work as an expert witness in six child abuse cases and one appeal in which parents faced charges of non-accidental head injury, formerly known as shaken-baby syndrome.

Squier is prominent among several researchers worldwide who have challenged a long-standing belief that a trio of symptoms of head injury provide unequivocal evidence of abusive behaviour. Squier has argued in the scientific literature and in court that the symptoms in question – haemorrhages on the surface of the brain, haemorrhages in the retinas, and a swollen brain – can have innocent causes, such as choking or other difficulties in breathing. These symptoms, they say, can also arise from the birthing process itself.

Michele Codd, chair of the tribunal, gave examples of where the panel felt Squier’s court evidence had strayed outside her field of expertise. These included offering opinions on biomechanics in relation to injuries from falling, pathology of the eyes, and paediatric medicine.

“The tribunal is in no doubt that you have been a person of good character and have not acted dishonestly in the past,” Codd told Squier. “[But] it found that in your written and oral evidence you were dogmatic, inflexible and unreceptive to any other view,” she said. “The furthest you were prepared to accept any criticism was to state either that you had made a typing error or that you could have been clearer in what you had said in your reports or evidence. The tribunal was not able to accept large tracts of your evidence.”

Passionate support

But several prominent researchers support Squier’s work. “The impact of her research in blunting the false prosecution of innocent caregivers is beyond value or measurement to those impacted,” said Steven Gabaeff, a practitioner of emergency medicine in the US for 35 years and a diplomat emeritus of the American Board of Emergency Medicine, in his submission to the tribunal.

“This is clearly a witch hunt against a physician who has done society a great service by levelling the playing field for parents and caregivers who face allegations of child abuse when their infant presents with unexplained brain injury,” says Marvin Miller, professor of paediatrics at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, in a submission to the tribunal supporting Squier. “Regarding her professionalism, she has unimpeachable integrity.”

The UK General Medical Council, which brought the charges against Squier, will make a final decision by 24 March on whether she should lose her licence to practice. A spokesperson for the GMC told New Scientist that full details of the case will be published at the conclusion of the proceedings.

Doctors whose submissions to the tribunal did not support Squier have not replied to requests for comment.

The big issue

No one doubts that frenzied shaking can cause the triad of symptoms, but only after severe accompanying damage to the neck. A baby’s head striking a solid surface would also cause such damage but then there would be other evidence of an impact. For these reasons, there is increasing pressure for the triad not be used as evidence of guilt in the absence of any other evidence of child abuse. In the UK, the Royal College of Pathologists last December cautioned against viewing the triad as “absolute proof of traumatic head injury in the absence of any other corroborative evidence”.

“The decision today does nothing to deliver justice to devastated families whose children have suffered intracranial injuries,” says Carrie Sperling, co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project aimed at preventing miscarriages of justice. “Instead, it ignores the issue at the heart of the matter – that experts cannot diagnose abusive head trauma with any degree of reliability. Squier has provided a scientific perspective in an area fraught with emotion, a lack of objectivity and a demand for easy answers.”

In 2010, another researcher challenging the triad, Marta Cohen – a pathologist at Sheffield Children’s Hospital in the UK – was summoned by the UK General Medical Council but cleared of any wrongdoing.

“I suspect there will be no one in England willing to dispute allegations of shaken baby syndrome now the finding against [Squier] is unfavourable,” says Edward Willey, a forensic pathologist in St Petersburg, Florida. “Opposition is eliminated.”

At a 2010 conference on child abuse, in Atlanta, Georgia, Colin Welsh of the Metropolitan Police – now retired – gave a talk in which he listed defence expert witness testimony as “top of the list” of reasons for losing cases in 2008 and 2009.

“Without doctors like Squier, parents stand virtually no chance of overcoming medically complex false allegations of abuse,” says Michelle Weidner, a mother in Peoria, Illinois, who was falsely accused of abusive head trauma in 2010. “When defence experts are attacked, justice is silenced, and it’s really an attack on scientific inquiry,” says Weidner, who explained that following a CT scan, her infant was mistakenly judged to have a skull fracture that turned out to have been an artefact caused by the child moving its head during the procedure.

Original report here

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Amanda Knox legal fight highlights fallibility of DNA forensics

In the wake of the Amanda Knox case, a DNA expert for the defence says greater scrutiny of crime labs is needed to avoid further injustice

GALILEO famously declared that “science proceeds more by what it has learned to ignore than by what it takes into account”. As DNA consultant for the defence in the Amanda Knox case, I was constantly reminded of the pertinence of this observation during her legal battle in Italy.

Knox, along with Raffaele Sollecito, was definitively cleared of killing Meredith Kercher earlier this year, but only after a long fight that had at its heart the ability of forensic science and the judiciary to know what to ignore.

On the day of the murder in 2007, police collected many samples from the room where Knox’s housemate Kercher died. Knox and then boyfriend Sollecito were held on the basis of the prosecutor’s gut instinct, but when fingerprints and DNA from the scene were analysed, only two profiles were identified: those of the victim and Rudy Guede, a man known to police. He was convicted of murder, but the prosecutor still pursued Knox and Sollecito.

One piece of evidence emerged as crucial: a kitchen knife at Sollecito’s house. It didn’t match many wounds on the body and tested negative for blood. DNA from Knox was on the handle – she had cooked with it. But on one swab from the blade, a minuscule trace of DNA was detected, just once during many analyses. It had some that was consistent with the victim’s. This finding was never repeated, despite many attempts. The debate was about whether or not that single result was reliable.

For any scientific procedure, it is crucial to know how often it gets things wrong as well as right. In Knox’s case, the DNA on the blade came from so few molecules that analytical instruments were pushed to read below the level that the FBI, my lab, or anyone I knew would go. We asked the Italian lab to supply validation of such a sensitive measurement, but they never complied. Despite this, Knox was convicted. DNA experts in the US spoke out and a new study on the knife was then ordered in Italy. This failed to repeat the DNA finding, and Knox and Sollecito were freed on appeal in 2011. Then in 2014, the conviction was inexplicably reinstated. The final hope rested with the supreme court this March. Justice would require it to see that there was no credible DNA evidence. Apparently it did.

Knox and Sollecito waited years to be properly cleared. Calls followed for global standards on use of low copy number DNA. But we also need better ways to weigh up new forensic techniques and issue warnings if required.

My research has shown that DNA tests are prone to subjectivity in labs. So forensic facilities must put out validation records and error reports, and open data up to scrutiny – anything less creates too high a risk of false convictions.

Original report here

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ferguson Effect Claims Chief of San Francisco PD

The mob has claimed another victim. This time the setting was the beautiful though peculiar city of San Francisco, where they came with the torches and pitchforks to place (now former) police chief Greg Suhr’s head atop a fencepost, there to join that of (now former) Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy. Recall that the mob had been screaming for McCarthy’s head for some time in Chicago, and that Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in the furor that erupted after the Laquan McDonald shooting, chose to hand it over in the hope of saving his own. It surely came as no surprise to McCarthy; he knows how the game is played.

Suhr must have been watching the goings-on in Chicago with dread. The political machinery in San Francisco might be less Machiavellian than Chicago’s (what city’s isn’t?), but for some time Suhr had been watching the ground erode away beneath his feet. Now he, too, has been shown the exit, this owing to a controversial police shooting. But unlike the Laquan McDonald shooting, about which there was and continues to be ample reason for controversy, the shooting that would bring Suhr’s downfall was entirely justified.

As reported at, on the morning of May 19, police officers were in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood working a stolen-vehicle detail. When they tried to stop a woman in a stolen car, she sped off. She drove only about 100 feet, however, before she crashed into a parked truck. The officers ordered the woman out of the car, but rather than surrender, she attempted to dislodge the car in an apparent effort at continued flight. One of the officers, a sergeant, fired a single round that struck the woman. She was taken to a hospital, where she died.

If the shooting happened as reported, the sergeant is on firm legal ground. The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly and emphatically that the Fourth Amendment is not violated when a police officer uses deadly force to bring a dangerous police chase to a halt. The most recent case to address this issue is Plumhoff v. Rickard (2014) (PDF), in which the Court ruled that police officers from West Memphis, Ark., were justified in shooting a driver who had led them on a high-speed chase into Memphis, Tenn. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the opinion for a unanimous Court:

Rickard’s outrageously reckless driving posed a grave public safety risk. And while it is true that Rickard’s car eventually collided with a police car and came temporarily to a near standstill, that did not end the chase. Less than three seconds later, Rickard resumed maneuvering his car. Just before the shots were fired, when the front bumper of his car was flush with that of one of the police cruisers, Rickard was obviously pushing down on the accelerator because the car’s wheels were spinning, and then Rickard threw the car into reverse in an attempt to escape.
Some might say the facts of the San Francisco shooting are sufficiently divergent from those in Rickard that the precedent should not apply. The woman who was killed, after all, had driven just 100 feet before crashing into the parked truck, while the eponymous Rickard had gone several miles, at times exceeding 100 miles per hour. But the speed and distance of the chase are not the only indices of its potential danger to the public. The San Francisco police sergeant, having witnessed the woman driving so erratically as to crash after traveling just 100 feet, had a duty to prevent her from escaping and further endangering the public. What might have occurred, how many people might have been endangered, had the officers stood idly by and allowed her to free the car and speed away? To those who would argue that the shooting was improper, I pose a question: How many times must a fleeing driver crash before an officer is allowed to use deadly force to stop him (or her, as the case may be)?

But if the law is clearly on the sergeant’s side, the politics clearly are not. The May 19 incident is San Francisco’s third controversial police shooting in recent months, all of them involving black suspects. (In the previous two shootings, the officers were on equally solid legal ground, but that hardly seems to matter these days.) Hours after this latest shooting, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee asked for and received Suhr’s resignation. San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi piled on to condemn the shooting. “[The dead woman] was entitled to due process,” he said, “and, above all, she was entitled to her life. Police reforms and policy changes are meaningless if they aren’t accompanied by a major shift in police culture, away from shooting first and asking questions later.”

Adachi is presumably familiar with the Rickard case, so his protestations about denial of due process and all the rest did not arise from ignorance, but rather from the theatrics that in the current political climate invariably follow whenever a black suspect is shot by a police officer. As the public defender for San Francisco, it is in his clients’, and therefore his, best interests to discredit the police whenever, wherever, and however possible. A defendant in court is of course entitled to a presumption of innocence. How much stronger might the presumption be among potential jurors who have heard Adachi’s pronouncement on this shooting? And, to respond directly to Adachi’s inflammatory rhetoric, the officers did ask questions first: they asked the woman to stop. She refused, probably not the only exercise in bad judgment in her abbreviated life but surely the last.

Now installed as San Francisco’s interim police chief is Toney Chaplin, formerly a deputy chief in the department’s internal affairs unit. Chaplin has promised a “top-to-bottom” review of the department, and said his top priority is “reforms, reforms, reforms.” One hopes he has some specifics in mind, but if one of his reforms is to allow car thieves to speed off recklessly without fear of consequences, will San Francisco really be better off?

Original report here

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Monday, June 20, 2016

What being Tasered almost to death looks like

Appalling new footage shows cop shocking teen for so long he went into cardiac arrest

This is the appalling moment a cop electrocuted a 17-year-old boy for so long he went into cardiac arrest and almost died, captured from the teen's point of view.

The disturbing footage was shot by Bryce Masters back in 2014 after he was pulled over by former Missouri police officer Timothy Runnels, who then shot him in the chest with a Taser for 23 seconds.

Masters' video shows Runnels attempting to drag the teenager out of his car and telling him he's under arrest without giving a reason, before pulling out his stun gun and firing it.

This is the view 17-year-old Bryce Masters had of former Kansas City cop Timothy Runnels as he was Tasered almost to death back in 2014 during a traffic stop

The footage, filmed by Masters, shows Runnels attempting to drag him out of the car during a traffic stop but failing to explain why, before pulling out his Taser and firing it into the teen's chest

For what seems an eternity the Taser clicks away, sending wave after wave of electricity into Masters' chest, eventually knocking his heart out of rhythm.

Footage from Runnels' own dashcam then captured the rest - as he handcuffed the teen's body, dragged him to the back of his vehicle, and then dropped the dying teen face-first on to asphalt.

While on the concrete, with his heart failing to beat properly, Bryce's brain was starved of oxygen for between six an eight minutes.

As a result, he now suffers brain damage including anxiety, anger issues, headaches and short-term memory loss.

Meanwhile Runnels has been sentenced to four years behind bars after pleading guilty to one charge of depriving a minor of his constitutional rights.

The charge relates to the moment Runnels drops Masters on his face while in handcuffs. He was not sentenced for deploying the Taser.  

Court filings say Runnels allowed the taser current to run for about 20 seconds, which is four-times longer than officers are trained to have their tasers deployed.

At court, police also said that Runnels had pulled Masters' car over because of an outstanding warrant attached to the licence plate, but did not give any more detail.

Masters' father, who is a cop himself, and his family gave a statement following the release of Runnels' sentence.

They said: 'While we are pleased that Mr. Runnels was held accountable for his actions, no one really wins in this scenario.

'Two law enforcement families were devastated by these events and we all simply wish that day had never happened.'

At the time of the arrest, police said Masters had suffered a 'medical emergency' and needed resuscitation.  But eyewitnesses gave a different account to Fox4KC.

Michelle Baker filmed the incident on her mobile phone when she heard screams outside and says she saw the Runnels Taser the teen when he was inside his car.

In a cell phone video taken by Baker you can see the officer dragging the teen's body to the sidewalk, then standing with his foot on the teen's back.

You could tell the kid was going into convulsions. 'He turned him over and his head was dangling like this and he had blood coming out,' said Baker.

Original report here

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Judge Finds Prosecutors Withheld Evidence in Freddie Gray Officer Case

The judge overseeing the trial of a police officer charged with murder in the death of Freddie Gray has determined that prosecutors withheld information that would have been beneficial to the defense.

Judge Barry Williams was visibly angry in the Baltimore court, but he did not dismiss the charges against police officer Caesar Goodson, as his attorneys had requested. Williams is giving prosecutors until Monday to disclose any other relevant evidence they have withheld. Goodson was the driver of the van during the arrest of Gray, 25, last year.

Goodson's attorneys have argued that prosecutors withheld statements made last year by Donta Allen, a key witness. Allen was picked up by the Baltimore police van after Gray.

In his original statement to police in April last year, Allen said he heard banging coming from Gray's side of the vehicle. He gave a similar statement in a separate interview with prosecutors a month later, but the state never turned it over as evidence to defense attorneys. Williams found today that prosecutors committed a Brady violation — after Brady v. Maryland, a 1963 Supreme Court decision requiring prosecutors to disclose evidence that would aid the defense — because Allen's May 2015 statement was deemed exculpatory evidence.

“The state doesn’t get to decide whether or not to disclose information,” defense attorney Andrew Graham said. “The state sat on it for over a year. It’s not up to them to make that decision. Even a small piece of evidence may make a difference. It’s not fair to the defense.”

He explained that had Allen’s lawyer, who was present during the second interview, not stepped forward, the defense would not have known about it. According to Graham, Allen’s lawyer didn’t come forward sooner because he felt his first obligation was to maintain his client’s confidentiality.

Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow tried explaining to the judge that the prosecution didn’t think the second interview with Allen was important, calling it a “waste of time.” Schatzow said his team didn’t take notes during that meeting.

Williams has given Schatzow until Monday to turn over any other evidence the state might be withholding from the defense not only as it relates to this case but also in the next four trials.

Goodson’s trial is arguably the highest-profile of the cases; he is the only officer involved in Gray's death facing a murder charge. Officer William Porter's trial ended with a hung jury in December, and he will be retried in September. Officer Edward Nero, who opted for a bench trial, was acquitted last month.

Original report here

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Sir Cliff Richard is to face no further action following a controversial South Yorkshire Police investigation into allegations of historical sexual abuse

Atrocious police behaviour in response to unsupported  allegations is once again exposed as an abuse of powers

The Crown Prosecution Service reviewed evidence relating to claims of sex offences made by four men against the 75-year-old singer dating between 1958 and 1983. However, it has decided there is "insufficient evidence to prosecute".

Sir Cliff said he is "obviously thrilled that the vile accusations and the resulting investigation have finally been brought to a close".

Martin Goldman, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Yorkshire and Humberside, said: "This decision has been made in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and our guidance for prosecutors on cases of sexual offences.

"The CPS worked with police during the investigation. This has helped minimise the time needed to reach a decision once we received the complete file of evidence on 10 May. "The complainants have been informed and provided with a full explanation in writing."

South Yorkshire Police has apologised "wholeheartedly for the additional anxiety caused" to Sir Cliff by the force's "initial handling of the media interest" in its investigation into the singer.

In a statement, Sir Cliff said: "I have always maintained my innocence, co-operated fully with the investigation, and cannot understand why it has taken so long to get to this point!   "Nevertheless, I am obviously thrilled that the vile accusations and the resulting investigation have finally been brought to a close.

"Ever since the highly-publicised and BBC-filmed raid on my home I have chosen not to speak publicly. Even though I was under pressure to 'speak out', other than to state my innocence, which was easy for me to do as I have never molested anyone in my life, I chose to remain silent.

"This was despite the widely-shared sense of injustice resulting from the high-profile fumbling of my case from day one. Other than in exceptional cases, people who are facing allegations should never be named publicly until charged.  "I was named before I was even interviewed and for me that was like being hung out like 'live bait'.

"It is obvious that such strategies simply increase the risk of attracting spurious claims which not only tie up police resources and waste public funds, but they forever tarnish the reputations of innocent people."

Original report here

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Oklahoma Police Can Pull You Over and Digitally Seize Money Right Off the Pre-Paid Cards in Your Wallet

In Oklahoma, where police once attempted to seize thousands of dollars from a Burmese Christian band for no reason and a sheriff was indicted for extortion and bribery for abusing the state's forfeiture rules, the state is actually making it easier for police to legally steal people's stuff.

Oklahoma's Highway Patrol has gotten their mitts on devices that allow officers to scan pre-paid cards in people's possession and either freeze or seize the funds.

As Oklahoma Watch explains, this technology isn't new, but was developed starting in 2012 to be used by the Department of Homeland Security against international drug cartels using pre-paid debit cards to move money. But, as we've seen repeatedly by now, every technology tool used by federal officials eventually starts trickling down to local law enforcement:

The new devices will now allow law enforcement to not only seize money in physical possession of a person being stopped, but from a financial institution holding the money loaded onto a prepaid debit card as well.

Brady Henderson, legal director for ACLU Oklahoma, said the new tactic could easily run afoul of the Fourth Amendment and land the issue in court.

"I think this is likely to expand pretty radically the scope of civil asset forfeiture procedures," Henderson said. "This is a capability that law enforcement has never had before and one that is very likely to land DPS in litigation."

However, law enforcement officials say the devices are essentially part of the arms race between police and drug traffickers, who in recent years have been loading pre-paid cards with millions of dollars for transport as part of the drug trade, thus decreasing the likelihood of seizure by law enforcement.

"They're basically using pre-paid cards instead of carrying large amounts of cash," said Lt. John Vincent, public information officer for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Vincent said that the police aren't just going to go scanning all cards they come across but will instead use "reasonable suspicion," like if somebody has "300 debit cards taped up and hidden inside the dash of a vehicle." He said that if somebody has proof that the cards belong to them "for legitimate reasons" they won't seize it.

But that argument puts citizens in the position of having to prove their innocence rather than requiring the authorities prove guilt. This dynamic has been a driving factor in abuse of the civil forfeiture program. How does one prove to the police that an unspent debit card was purchased "for legitimate reasons?" In the case of the Burmese Christian band, police were told that the money came from donations for their tour, but police didn't believe them and concluded the money must be drug proceeds. It wasn't until the lawyers from the asset-forfeiture-fighting Institute for Justice got involved and got some national publicity that prosecutors dropped the case and gave the money back.

Because police frequently get to keep what they seize and use it to fund their departments, we have every reason to believe that the opposite of what Vincent says will be true. Police have incentives to be suspicious of any prepaid debit card they come across and to try to link it to drug trafficking or other crimes.

Original report here

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

You can be guilty even AFTER you have been proven innocent in Britain

'I had more freedom in prison' says man who is ordered to give police 24 hours notice before he has sex despite being cleared of rape

A man who has to give police 24 hours' notice before he has sex despite being cleared of a rape charge has said that he had more freedom when he was being held in prison on remand.

The single man, in his 40s, admitted to previously having an interest in sado-masochistic sex and used to visit a Fifty Shades Of Grey-style fetish club with an ex-partner. He also said he used to go on Tinder and 'played around'.

But the man, a father, denied having any criminal convictions, 'not even a parking ticket', when he spoke out following an adjourned hearing at York Magistrates' Court.

He accused North Yorkshire Police of 'sour grapes' after the force applied for a Sexual Risk Order (SRO) when he was acquitted of rape. He was cleared at a retrial, having spent 14 months on remand.

The terms of the SRO, currently an interim order which the police will apply to be made permanent at a hearing in August, has a list of conditions attached.

Among them is the requirement for him to inform police 24 hours before he has sex with a new partner.

The effect has been to devastate his personal life, he said, and contravened his human rights. 'It puts an end to your life,' he said. 'I had more freedom in prison.  'The severity of the restrictions exceed what convicted criminals would get on a Sexual Offence Prevention Order.'

The man said there was 'no prospect' of a relationship at the moment because of the rules he has been forced to live by. He said: 'Can you imagine, 24 hours before sex? Come on.'

He gave the example of chatting to a woman and saying: 'There's a nice French restaurant I'd like to take you to, but first the police are just going to come around for a little chat.'

He said the disclosure process to a potential partner would be 'horrendous', saying: 'Knock, knock, knock, this is the police, [Mr X] is subject to a Sexual Risk Order and is considered to be potentially dangerous ... Then they leave.'

The man, who cannot be identified by the media, said the SRO was made after he was cleared of raping a woman - different from the one with whom he visited the fetish club.

He said the jury at the retrial took an hour and six minutes to unanimously clear him.  He said: 'We wiped the floor with them.'

He had been accused of biting and scratching the complainant, but he said the scratching came during a massage, 'post-coitally', and there was no biting.

His history of S and M sex was brought up at the trial, including evidence from a doctor with whom he had discussed his past. He claimed the doctor misunderstood what he was discussing, saying she was confused about what was just fantasy.  Police thought what he told the doctor was a confession.

'Thank God Fifty Shades of Grey came out when it did, it helped my barrister normalise that,' he said.

'The police, if they lose in court, are using these Sexual Risk Orders as a tool, by stealth.  'The standards of proof are so much lower. You don't even have to break the law.'

He has been charged with breaching the terms of the order by refusing to give police the PIN to his phone. He decided, having taken legal advice, not to give them the code as a point of principle, because he said the terms of an SRO were supposed to be prohibitive, not obligatory.

He was arrested and held in police custody overnight, and the terms of his SRO mean he cannot use any internet-enabled device that cannot be later checked by police.

He said that banned him from using certain fridges and lifts that are connected to the web. The wording of the order also stops him from using an intercom such as those used to get into a nursery or a flat.

He said: 'I'm in a state of shock, I cannot believe this is how the justice system works.  'I thought the police were interested in finding out the truth, the only thing the police are interested in is securing convictions.'

He added: 'It's so unjust, there is not a conviction to my name - one allegation, acquitted and they can still shut you down.  'They can create this virtual prison.'

The case will be back before York Magistrates on July 14 before a full hearing on August 19.

SRO's can be applied to any individual who the police believe poses a risk of sexual harm, even if they have never been convicted of a crime. They are civil orders imposed by magistrates at the request of police.  North Yorkshire Police declined to comment.

Original report here

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Insurance Companies: Unlikely Heroes Against Police Brutality

I’ve had this on my mind for a while, then the other day I stumbled onto this: Group Want Minneapolis Police to Carry Liability Insurance

A group called Committee for Professional Policing isn’t happy that taxpayers are picking up the tab. They believe that forcing cops to carry their own private insurance — the same way that doctors and plumbers do — would make bad cops think twice before beating down on civilians.

“It’s going to make Minneapolis a safer place to live because people are not going to have to interact with officers who aren’t held accountable to their actions, and they act knowing that,” says CfPP spokesman Cole Yates.

Under their proposal, the city would pay for the base rate of insurance, and the officer would have to pay for anything over the base rate if they are high risk.  This type of rule has many hurdles to jump through to get passed and you can believe there will be a union fight.  However, just 15 years ago we’d never imagine a world with legalized marijuana.  But today we’re about to have marijuana legalized in some manner in most states.

Currently, cities and municipalities have insurance to cover them in many lawsuits that involve police misconduct.  For a while I thought that growing lawsuits would force these cities to change how they hire and fire officers.  This seems much less likely to happen though.  After all, even if insurance companies raise their premiums for lawsuit protection from police misconduct, all that happens is that the extra cost falls on the taxpayers.  No one in the government or police department individually is paying.  So nothing changes.  We need the actual officers to be on the hook for their own misconduct for things to change in a major way.

So would this stop or reduce police abuse?  I think so.  Most police officers are regular people like you and I who are just doing a job.  They have no desire to get in a physical altercation with an unarmed, nonviolent person.  But like any job, there are always going to be a few bad apples.  In fact, according to this Chicago Tribune article:  Small Group of Chicago Police Cost City Millions in Settlements

Both are part of a small group of officers — just 124 of the city’s police force of roughly 12,000 — who were identified in nearly a third of the misconduct lawsuits settled since 2009, suggesting that officers who engaged in questionable behavior did it over and over. The Tribune’s investigation also found that 82 percent of the department’s officers were not named in any settlements. Still, the conduct of those 124 officers cost the city $34 million, the Tribune investigation found.

Sure, bad cops are bad cops and they will do harm regardless of any of this.  Just like actual criminals, they’re not thinking of the consequences of their actions.  But, when any indication pops up that someone might be a lawsuit risk, his insurance premium will pop up too!  Very quickly he will lose his insurance and be unable to continue being a police officer.

With so much at stake, I imagine insurance companies would take steps to prevent the hiring of high risk people in the first place.  Much like auto insurance companies check into your past before insuring you, I can see where an officer might get to the point of being hired by a police department but get rejected by the insurance company for having indications of being high risk.

In a perfect world, the officers responsible for abuse would simply be fired and/or thrown in jail.  But since the state has a monopoly, the entire system is on the same team.  Prosecutors, judges, unions, and legislators have a notoriously hard time getting rid of or punishing even the most abusive of officers.  In the face of all of life’s problems, the free market always finds a way though.  For this problem caused by government monopoly and apathy for our safety, the free market is fighting back with insurance companies!

Original report here

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

London cop 'was recorded raping a woman as she pleaded with him to stop after she installed a sleep app on her iPhone'

A police officer was recorded raping a woman after she installed a sleep app on her iPhone, a court heard.

Michael Graham, 47, allegedly tied the woman up and throttled her before forcing himself upon her.

Graham, a Metropolitan police officer serving in the Borough of Hounslow, began raping the alleged victim around Christmas 2013 at his then home in Uxbridge, jurors heard.

He became increasingly violent and angry after taking the drug Champix to help him quit smoking, the Old Bailey heard.

The woman pleaded with him not to rape her, but he would tell her she 'needed to be punished for winding him up,' jurors were told.

She later told police Graham had become obsessed with killing people and would talk about it often.

Graham allegedy abused the woman for over nine months between December 24, 2013 and September 2, 2014 when she called police after he threatened to kill her.

Unbeknown to Graham, some of the violent attacks were recorded on his alleged victim's iPhone on a sleep app used to help people monitor their sleep activity.

Prosecutor Eloise Marshall said: 'The complainant had a sleep app that was set off by sound, it's an app you can have on your mobile phone - people use it so that when they talk in their sleep or snore they can gauge their sleep behaviour.

'She ended up recording a little bit more than she intended - we have them and we're going to play them to you.

'The complainant never listened to them but she knew what was there and she described them to the police and she gave them to the police - some of the offences have actually been captured on that sleep app.'

She added: 'He would often end up tying her up and slapping her on the face and buttocks, but he would repeatedly cross the line from rough sex into rape.

'Michael Graham was increasingly ill tempered having given up cigarettes and would tell the complainant she needed to be punished.'

Graham liked to strangle his victim, jurors were told, and would force her to perform painful and humiliating sex acts.

Ms Marshall said: 'There's times on the recordings when she says "please don't do that, please don't do that" and there are two occasions of anal rape recorded on the sleep app.

'She describes her memory of the rapes as like a large washing machine going round and round in her head.'

In her police interview, the victim said Graham had started becoming violent around Christmas of 2013, and would often force her wrists back, force her to the floor and kneel on her.

She said: 'Sometimes I would just give them [sex] to him as he was going to get them anyway.'

Ms Marshall said: 'It's plain from the recordings that at the time the sexual assaults are taking place he's hurting her, she doesn't want him to carry out those acts.

'She clearly tells him she doesn't want him to do those acts.

'We say he knew she wasn't consenting, he knew she didn't want him to do those things but he carried on regardless - using her fear and her submission for his own ends.'

When he was first arrested, Graham denied ever hitting or tying up the complainant, and insisted he had never sexually assaulted her.

He added that he had patchy memory of the last few months due to a side-effect of his insomnia medication.

After being played the sleep app recordings in his second interview Graham insisted the violent sex was consensual, saying it 'appeared bad' but that's how they had sex.

Graham, of Poole, Dorset denies seven counts of rape and one count of sexual assault relating to strangling the complainant.

Original report here

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Davontae Sanford freed by judge after Vincent Smothers confession that he was the murder was accepted to be true

A JUDGE has ordered the release of a man who was sent to prison at 15 year old, eight years ago, for killing four people.

The prosecutor’s office agreed Davontae Sanford’s second-degree murder conviction should be vacated after state police re-examined the case.

Former hit-man Vincent Smothers confessed to the killings two weeks after Mr Sanford went to jail, but that confession was ignored despite the fact that he provided details that included where one of the murder weapons was stashed.

Judge Brian Sullivan said he signed the order on Tuesday and Mr Sanford is expected to be released on bond.

Mr Sanford, now 23, is in prison for the 2007 fatal shootings of four people at a Detroit drug den.

He pleaded guilty at age 15. He’s been trying to undo that plea for years, especially after Smothers, confessed.

Three weeks after Michigan State Police turned over the results of an 11-month investigation of the case, which, sources told The Detroit News, found Smothers and his partner Ernest Davis — not Sanford — were responsible for the September 17, 2007, killings in Detroit.

Smothers insists Sanford had no role.

“I have nothing to gain from testifying about my commission of the Runyon murders,” said Smothers, who is serving 52 years in prison for killing eight other people, including the wife of a Detroit police officer. “I only want to tell the truth in order to prevent an innocent kid from serving time for crimes that I committed.”

Smothers’ lawyer, Gabi Silver, said: “It’s about time. It’s too bad nobody listened years ago when Vincent Smothers said he did it, so this kid wouldn’t have to spend so much time in prison for a crime he didn’t do.”

Sanford’s family says he confessed to please police.

“Today, justice finally arrives for the Sanford family,” said Heidi Naasko, pro bono counsel for Dykema Gossett PLLC, which represents Sanford. “No one can give Davontae Sanford and his family back the nine years he has spent in jail for a crime he did not commit, but the Court’s decision today corrects a grave injustice. The entire legal team is thrilled that he will not spend another day in prison for a crime he did not commit.”

Original report here

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Mother of an Australian  man, 21, who was murdered six years ago claims the man jailed over her son's death was wrongly convicted - and she wants him released from prison

The mother of a 21-year-old man who was brutally murdered six years ago claims the suspect jailed over her son's death was wrongly convicted as she fights for his release from prison.

Josh Warneke was attacked and killed as he walked home after a night out with friends in Broome in Western Australia in the early hours of February 25 in 2010.

More than two years later, police arrested an Aboriginal man named Gene Gibson, who was sentenced to seven-and-half years in jail after pleading guilty to manslaughter in 2014.

However, Ingrid Bishop claims that Gibson did not kill her son – pointing the finger at an alleged botched police investigation, lack of forensic evidence and a confession she believes was coerced, according to 60 Minutes.

Ms Bishop believes Gibson is innocent as she's working with his family to get him out of jail and is searching for her son's killer – who she believes is still out there.

'It is the right thing to do – Gene Gibson is innocent – that is a no brainer and if no one else is going to do it, I'm going to do it,' Ms Bishop told 60 Minutes.

'I will never get my son back but I'm not going to have someone sit in a prison for how many years because no one else could be bothered doing their jobs – shame on the lot of them,' she said, referring to the Western Australian police officers who investigating her son's death.

Gibson, who is believed to suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, told the police three different stories on how he allegedly killed Josh, none of them matching the forensic evidence, Ms Bishop said.

Tests conducted on hair found in Josh's hand suggest that he was attacked with an axe or a sharp object, unlike the rock and pole Gibson told police he hit Josh with, Ms Bishop said.

His interview with police was not recorded and in 2014 a supreme court ruled that his confession couldn't be used in a trial because officers didn't conduct the investigation properly, according to 60 Minutes.

Officers were then forced to drop the murder charge and offer Gibson a plea deal for manslaughter, which he took.

11 police officers that worked on the case have been disciplined after the court's ruling but are all still employed, Ms Bishop said.

Ms Bishop says she now wants a coronial inquiry. 'I just want to know how Josh died and I just want to know who killed him,' she said.  'Who is wandering around in Broome who committed a murder?'

Original report here

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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Married British cop 'raped a woman on a mountainside then asked her to join in a threesome with a fellow officer'

A married police constable who raped a woman on a mountainside later asked her to join in a threesome with another fellow officer, a court heard today.

Jeffrey Davies, 45, of Aberdare, South Wales, is accused of forcing two women into having sex with him while working as a family liaison officer.

He raped one victim after her two sons were arrested - and weeks later asked her to join in a ‘threesome’, Newport Crown Court was told.

Davies, a former officer with South Wales Police, allegedly first targeted the ‘vulnerable woman’ in her 40s while she was in an abusive relationship with her partner.

The court heard he raped her on his car bonnet on the side of a Welsh mountain, and weeks later saw her in her home town when he asked her for the threesome with another policeman.

On one occasion, he is alleged to have told her he had discussed having a threesome with her and a colleague from his police force.

The woman, who cannot be named, said: ‘He was saying about another police officer from another station. He said the officer liked me and wanted to have a threesome with me. ‘But he said he’d told him to keep away because I was all his. I was just shocked. Those words have just stuck with me.’

Matthew Stanbury, defending Davies, suggested the comment had been made ‘playfully and not threateningly’ towards her.

The woman previously told the jury when she asked Davies to stop midway through the sex attack on the Bwlch Mountain near Rhondda, he said: ‘I’ll make you feel better.’

She said on another occasion she passed Davies while he sat in his car, while his police colleagues conducted inquiries yards further down the road.

But she eventually reported Davies to police in 2013, when he appeared in the news after being accused and eventually convicted of sexually assaulting other women. Davies is also accused of raping another woman after smoking cannabis with her brother.

Original report here

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Mass.: SJC orders new trial in ‘shaken baby’ case

The state’s highest court on Friday ordered a new trial for a man convicted of severely injuring his infant daughter, in the strongest affirmation yet from the Massachusetts legal system that the medical community is divided over the validity of shaken baby syndrome diagnoses.

The unanimous ruling was a victory for Oswelt Millien, formerly of Woburn, who was convicted in Middlesex Superior Court in 2010 of violently shaking his daughter. She suffered nonfatal head and neck injuries while he was her sole caretaker in the family home.

Millien, who was in his 20s at the time of his conviction, has completed a five-year prison term.

In a 45-page opinion, Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants wrote Friday for the Supreme Judicial Court that Millien’s trial lawyer should have consulted with medical experts in order to properly counter prosecution witnesses who testified that the child was a victim of shaken baby syndrome. The trial lawyer was not identified in the ruling.

“There is a heated debate in the medical community” about whether symptoms of the syndrome could actually be caused by an accidental fall, Gants wrote. “The jury heard only one side of this debate, because the defense attorney did not retain a medical expert to offer opinion testimony or to assist him in cross-examining the Commonwealth’s medical experts.”

Millien’s trial attorney said in court papers that he was retained by his client’s father and the father refused to pay for an expert. However, Gants wrote that the lawyer should have requested public funds to pay for an expert, because Millien was found to be indigent.

His appellate lawyer, David B. Hirsch, said Friday that both he and Millien are “thrilled” by the ruling. “They are entitled to try him again,’’ Hirsch said of prosecutors. “What they can’t do is punish him again” by putting him back in prison. “It really wouldn’t accomplish anything.’’

A spokeswoman for Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan said only that prosecutors were reviewing the decision and “making a determination as to next steps.”

Ryan’s office previously dropped murder charges in two other shaken baby cases — one against an Irish nanny, Aisling Brady McCarthy, and another involving former Massachusetts Institute of Technology employee Geoffrey Wilson.

The charges in both cases were dropped after the state medical examiner’s office said it could no longer stand by its prior findings that the deaths were the result of shaken baby syndrome.

McCarthy’s lawyer, Melinda Thompson, hailed Gants’s opinion in a phone interview.

The ruling, Thompson said, acknowledges that a legitimate debate is ongoing in the medical community and “should be before a jury. I see that as huge.”

“There’s no other case in criminal law that I can think of where one [prosecution] expert says what happened, where it happened, and how it happened and ties it up in a bow, so to speak,” she said. “Before, that wasn’t challenged.”

Thompson’s comments were echoed by Peter T. Elikann, a defense attorney who chairs the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Criminal Justice section.

“This is simply a clarion call to lawyers that you can’t leave this medical testimony absolutely unchallenged without, at the very least, presenting another version of what could have happened,” he said. “Otherwise, the jury is really left without the complete picture.”

He added, “It’s almost like there was a boxing match where one guy entered the ring with his hands tied behind his back, while the other guy punched away.”

Gants’s ruling is not without precedent nationwide. He noted that judges in Michigan and Utah have issued similar decisions in recent years and said the debate over the science remains active.

“By vacating the defendant’s convictions in this case and ordering a new trial, we do not claim to have resolved the ongoing medical controversy as to how often the triad of symptoms of abusive head trauma are caused by accidental short falls or other medical causes,’’ Gants wrote.

Instead, he said, the ruling is a notification to attorneys that “vigorous debate on this subject [is ongoing], that arguments are being made on both sides with support in the scientific and medical literature, that this debate is evolving.’’

The question in shaken baby cases is whether infants who suffer fatal or severe head injuries have been harmed by caretakers, or if factors such as accidental falls or a child’s prior medical history are to blame.

While defense lawyers contend that a growing number of experts are questioning the science around shaken baby syndrome, not everyone is skeptical.

At least one prominent physicians group, the American Academy of Pediatrics, believes the syndrome, also known as abusive head trauma, is a legitimate problem that afflicts at least 1,200 infants nationwide each year, according to a statement on its website.

“Exhausted parents and other caregivers may become frustrated and angry and ‘lose it’ when infants in their care cry inconsolably,” the statement says.

“Although there is still much to learn about the mechanisms and precise pathophysiology of injury and death in abusive head trauma, the position that shaking cannot harm an infant, which is held by only a few vocal advocates, has not been scientifically supported by clinical research and practice,” the academy contends.

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

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Britain's family courts make a mockery of justice

It’s little wonder people are fearful of making abuse allegations

The UK Department for Education last week published research into rates of reporting child abuse. Feminists claimed that the fact that a third of those interviewed said they would not report suspicions of abuse amounted to ‘victim-blaming’.

But the Independent’s report last Friday mentioned an important finding, the significance of which has been lost on the survivor lobby. It said that the fear of having misread a situation, and of wrongly accusing someone, is the biggest factor that deters reporting.

A ruling from the Court of Appeal on 19 May in a family case shows just how skewed the system has become when dealing with accusations of abuse. The case is called Re E (a child) and it makes depressing reading.

The court quashed sensational findings of abuse made by a judge in the county court last January, against a father (‘Mr E’) and his 15-year-old son, ‘A’. Mr E was said to have assaulted a young girl, ‘D’, on scrubland from the age of four. He was said to have forced A to engage in sexual activity with D. He also orchestrated sexual activity between two other children, ‘B’ and ‘C’. In addition, the judge concluded that both Mr E and A had attempted anal penetration of a dog (a pit bull, described by the police as ‘not a docile dog’). The judge adopted the ‘cycle of abuse’ theory, finding that A was first abused and went on to abuse others.

Two families were involved in this saga: the E family, whose son, A, was aged 15; and the ‘F’ family, who have two boys and a girl: B (15), C (10) and D (8). In 2010, A had accused two uncles of abusing him, but his parents did not take any action after A said he did not want the police involved. In February 2015, A, who was out with the other children, was caught shoplifting. The police returned them to their parents only to find the parents all inebriated. So the children were taken into foster care.

The youngest, D, then accused A and his father of abusing her. This led to a rash of disclosures by A, B and C, also alleging abuse. Inexplicably, the foster carer then took the three younger children on holiday.

The first problem arose with the police interviews of the children, conducted after they returned from holiday. Interviews of complainants in sex cases are called ‘achieving best evidence’ (ABE) interviews. The idea is that the interviewee sits in a comfy chair, and the interviewer establishes a ‘rapport’ with him/her by discussing neutral, non-relevant topics and by trying to understand if the interviewee understands the difference between truth and lies. These interviews are recorded.

However, in this case, the introductory phase was not recorded. It was therefore unclear what the children were told about the ‘ground rules’. Next, the interview of D (the youngest) contained leading questions, such as introducing the names of alleged abusers into the narrative. D made no allegations. Then D left the room for an hour. Mysteriously, as soon as she came back, she started making allegations. It appears she spoke with her foster carer, who claimed that all she said to D was, ‘You need to say all the things while you are here’. The Court of Appeal commented that an ABE interview should not be used simply to get a child to repeat on tape what she may have said to someone else.

A was so distressed by his interview that he was physically sick during it. Meanwhile, B made no allegations of abuse in his ABE interview. A striking feature was that some abuse allegations, which the foster carer reported the children as making, were never mentioned by them in their interviews.

Also of concern was that the police interviewer subsequently conducted what were called ‘fast track’ interviews of the three younger children at home, without keeping a proper record of what questions were asked or how the children responded. The Court of Appeal called this ‘unorthodox’.

The children’s accounts contained many inconsistencies. C had a history of making, and then retracting, false allegations against others in the past. D alleged that the children had been taken to hotels, where they were abused and filmed. But the police could find no evidence to substantiate her dramatic claims. She claimed that there was a hiding place in the wall at home: the police knocked a hole in the wall, but could find nothing.

Eventually the police concluded that the ABE interviews could not be used in court, and that the children’s accounts would not stand up to scrutiny. So no criminal charges were brought. However, there were parallel care proceedings in the family court. A was confined in a specialist residential unit for victims/perpetrators of sexual abuse.

At a pre-trial hearing, complaints were made about the ‘fast track’ interviews at the trial. But the family judge refused to allow the interviewing officer to be called to be questioned. Even more worryingly, the judge decided that none of the children should give evidence, either.

Many people would find this bizarre: if a criminal trial had proceeded, the children would have had to give evidence, and be questioned (albeit via video link). Apparently, the practice in the family courts is that even mature teens should not give evidence.

This approach ignored a Supreme Court ruling from 2010, Re W, where the Supreme Court said that the question of whether a child should give evidence should be approached on a case-by-case basis. A blanket prohibition on children giving evidence was incompatible with the right to a fair trial. Baroness Hale stressed that focused questions, which put forward a different explanation for certain events, ‘may help the court to do justice between the parties’. That ruling went unheeded by the family courts.

This is remarkable, suggesting that the family courts operate a separate system of legal rules unaffected by fundamental legal principles, such as the right to a fair trial and the supremacy of judgements of the Supreme Court (the doctrine of legal precedent). It is perhaps not surprising that many ordinary people view the family courts as inherently unfair.

The judge’s reason for not calling the children was that, ‘the one question you cannot put to the child witnesses, is “You’re lying aren’t you?”’. So, even if they had been called, they would not have been challenged on that basis. The judge also said that, if they were called, ‘I would not allow you to put the contradictions. You have got to bear in mind the age of the children.’

But at 8, 10 and 15, these children were not tender toddlers. At this juncture, the judge had not even seen the videos of the ABE interviews, nor had she watched them by the time the trial began. So day one was spent watching them.

The Court of Appeal was very critical of the judge’s reasons for making the findings of abuse that she did. It said that she failed to acknowledge, or deal with, the numerous deviations from good practice in the police interviews. She adopted a broad-brush and superficial approach, and failed to engage in the level of analysis that was required. She was wrong to treat each child’s account as corroborating the others’, and failed to grapple with the many inconsistencies in their interviews and earlier ‘disclosures’. For example, the fact that D made accusations, which differed from those of her brothers, and the fact that B made no allegations in his interview, could not be corroborative.

Then the Court of Appeal had to address the way that A was treated. A has a learning disability, which was described as ‘significant’. He had his own solicitor and a guardian. They visited him a couple of months before the trial, to go through the evidence with him. A, like any client, was entitled to legal professional privilege: the opportunity to receive legal advice in confidence. But when the judge learned that this meeting had taken place, she ordered the guardian to file a statement about it.

At the meeting, A was accompanied by a key worker named ‘G’. A’s solicitor explained that they ‘needed a steer’ from A as to whether anything sexually inappropriate had happened to him or not. As the Court of Appeal noted, it was unclear what a person with a significant learning disability would understand. A did not respond. The guardian noted that A seemed tense and exhausted.

During a break, the guardian wrote the words ‘YES’ and ‘NO’ on a piece of paper. She left it with A and his key worker. The key worker decided that A was too tense to pick up the pen. So she took the pen and asked A which answer he wanted her to tick, A indicated ‘YES’. So G ticked ‘YES’.

The Court of Appeal decided that A’s rights to a fair trial were breached to a significant degree by all of this. The judge’s order for an account of his meeting with his legal team was ‘highly unusual’. The exercise whereby G ticked ‘YES’ was evidentially dubious, not least as A’s understanding of what he was being asked was wholly unclear. The Court of Appeal said that the judge’s analysis of the evidence in relation to A was ‘both confused and inadequate’.

This case is a warning of how unfairly the system can operate when allegations of abuse surface. It’s unsurprising that members of the public are hesitant about making abuse allegations. Their confidence is unlikely to improve, unless police investigations and legal hearings become much more rigorous.

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