More than 3,300,000 pageviews from 150 countries


Sunday, March 31, 2013

Crime Bulletin: A Pair of Eyeball Cases

The Eye-Popping Witness

     A fight broke out outside the New Princeton Tavern in northwest Philadelphia during the early morning hours of August 18, 2011. John Huttick, a former bouncer at the drinking establishment, told the police that Matthew Brunelli, the bar's 23-year-old cook, punched him in the left eye with a metal key protruding from his fist. The 48-year-old man lost the eye.

     Matthew Brunelli, who denied hitting Huttick with the key, went on trial for aggravated assault in February 2013. While on the stand testifying for the prosecution, Huttick's $3,000 prosthetic eyeball popped out of his head. The witness was able to snatch the flying eyeball out of the air with his hand. Two jurors seated a few feet away from Huttick gasped at the sight and rose to their feet in horror. The common pleas judge halted the proceeding and declared a mistrial. Mr. Huttick assured the judge that he had not intentionally ejected his glass eye for sympathy.

     On March 13, 2013, as the second jury listened to the prosecution's star witness, his prosthetic eyeball remained in its socket. That jury acquitted the defendant of aggravated assault. (Mr. Hattick has filed a civil suit against Mr. Brunelli.)

The Mystery of the Abandoned Eyeballs

     Just before noon on Wednesday, March 27, 2013, a worker at a Conoco service station in Kansas City, Missouri found something odd in a medical cooler sitting of top of the station's trash bin. In the cooler the employee saw a cardboard box labeled, "keep refrigerated." When he opened the box, the service station worker found a pair of eyeballs staring up at him. (Okay, I made up the staring at him part.)

     A surveillance camera video revealed two men in a blue Toyota with Nebraska license plates leaving the medical cooler on the trash container. There's a eye bank a few miles from the service station, but no eye banks or hospitals in the area reported that they were awaiting an eyeball delivery. The eyes are currently in the possession of the Jefferson County Medical Examiner's Office.

Anaheim Officer Nicholas Bennallack Cleared in Two Police Involved Shootings

     Just before eleven o'clock on the night of January 2, 2012 in Anaheim, California, police officers responded to several 911 calls regarding a man with a shotgun at an apartment complex. SWAT officers at the scene ran down a 200-foot alleyway, and as they rounded a corner, saw Bernie Villegas holding a rifle. Anaheim police officer Nicholas Bennallack shot Villegas who was pronounced dead at the scene. The 36-year-old immigrant from the Philippines had been holding his son's BB gun. Villegas, an alleged drug dealer, had a 14-year-old daughter, and a son who was twelve.

     The Orange County District Attorney's office, following an investigation of the shooting, cleared Officer Bennallack of criminal wrongdoing. Villegas' family has filed a wrongful death suit against the city.

     On July 21, 2012, about six months after the Villegas shooting, Officer Bennallack and his partner Brett Heitmann were patrolling an Anaheim neighborhood considered a hotbed of gang activity. The officers spotted a car parked in an alley surrounded by several men. Officer Heitmann recognized the man standing on the vehicle's passenger side as 25-year-old Manuel Diaz. Diaz, a known gang member, had prior gun possession convictions.

     When officers Heitmann and Bennallack got out of the unmarked police car, Diaz ran down an alley leading to an apartment complex. As he fled, Diaz used both hands to hold up his trousers. The fleeing suspect ignored the officers' orders to stop. The officers caught up to Diaz at a wrought-iron fence. As they approached the suspect Diaz had his back to them. When he started to turn toward the officers, Bennallack, thinking that Diaz might have a gun, fired twice. One bullet hit Diaz in the buttocks, the other in the head. He died shortly after the shooting. Diaz had not been armed.

     A toxicology report revealed that Diaz, at the time of the shooting, had in his system methamphetamine, amphetamine, and a prescription medicine to prevent seizures.

     Following the Diaz shooting, Dana Douglas, the attorney who represented Bernie Villegas' relatives, filed a $50 million suit against the city on behalf of the Diaz family. Following Diaz's death, the Orange County District Attorney's Office opened an investigation of Officer Nicholas Bennallock. The officer had been an Anaheim police officer for five years.

     On March 20, 2013, Assistant District Attorney Dan Wagner announced that Officer Bennallack had been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in the Diaz shooting. According to the Orange County prosecutor, at the time of the fatal incident, the officer "believed he was in imminent danger. In such a scenario, one can have only a split-second to decide how to proceed."

     The Diaz family attorney, Dana Douglas, has a different take on the shooting. "This is like a rape case," she said. "Let's blame the victim." (In my view, that is not an appropriate analogy.)

    When a police officer, within a period of five years, shoots and kills two people, both of them unarmed, some will call him trigger-happy. Given the circumstances of these two police involved shootings, I don't think the term applies to Officer Bennallack.

     

Writing Quote: Selling Out

The Devil comes to the writer and says, "I will make you the best writer of your generation. Never mind the generation--of the century. No--this millennium! Not only the best, but the most famous, and also the richest; in addition to that, you will be very influential and your glory will endure for ever. All you have to do is sell me your grandmother, your mother, your wife, your kids, your dog, and your soul." "Sure," says the writer, "absolutely--give me the pen, where do I sign?" Then he hesitates. "Just a minute," he says. "What's the catch?"

Margaret Atwood, novelist

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Crime Bulletin: Militarized Policing

     American law enforcement has become zero tolerant, more violent, and militarized. Local, state, and federal teams of elite paramilitary special weapons and tactic (SWAT) units regularly patrol big city streets and break into homes unannounced in search of drugs. Officers on routine patrol carry high-powered semi-automatic weapons. Virtually every law enforcement agency in the country either has its own SWAT unit or has officers who are members of a multi-jurisdictional force. The barrier between the    U. S. Military and domestic law enforcement has broken down. The police have become soldiers, and military personnel now function as civilian law enforcers.


What is Forensic Firearms Identification?

     In the past called forensic ballistics, forensic firearms identification concerns itself with the comparison of crime scene bullets and firing pin impressions on shell casings with the marks on test-fired rounds in the crime lab. If the marks left on the bullet as the projectile passed through the test-gun barrel are identical to the rifling (grooves inside the barrel) scratches on the crime scene slug, the crime site weapon has been identified. If the firing pin impressions on the known and crime scene shell casings match, an identification has been made as well. (Semi-automatic weapons also leave ejector marks on shell casing that can be compared and identified.)

     Forensic firearms identification is a science grounded on the principle that no two guns will leave the same marks on the ammunition. Bullet scratches (called striations) and firing pin impressions are as unique as a person's fingerprints.

     Firearms identification also includes restoring filed-off serial numbers, tracing projectile flights, identifying the various types of bullet wounds, and determining the range of close shots through muzzle produced powder-stain patterns.

     Experts in the field apply the sciences of metallurgy, chemistry (gunshot residue analysis), microscopy, and ballistics. A knowledge of the gun smith trade is also useful. Like forensic document examiners, forensic firearms experts are trained on-the-job in crime laboratories.  

Writing Quote: The Lure of Hollywood

They give you a thousand dollars a week [1960s] until that's what you need to live on. And then every day you live after that, you're afraid they'll take it away from you. It's all very scientific. It's based on the psychological fact that a man is a grubbing, hungry little sleaze....In twenty-four hours you can develop a taste for caviar. In forty-eight hours fish eggs are no longer a luxury, they're a necessity.

Character in Rod Serling's play, Velvet Alley

Friday, March 29, 2013

Justin Bieber: Tough Guy

     Justin Bieber could have attended an all-girl's school and no one would have been the wiser. He would have been bullied, however, by his less attractive classmates. Now that the pop star is growing up, his handlers are trying to make him more manly. That daunting task probably explains the recent bad-boy stunts, the backwards-worn baseball hat, and the prison-pants look. The latter affectation makes him look more like a rich mental patient than a hard-ass, and is perhaps a lot closer to reality.

     But how can a pop singer with body guards, who looks like a J. C. Pennys' model, come off as a bad hombre? (Tattoos alone won't do the trick.) One way might be to provoke a rich neighbor into filing a battery charge against you.

     It seems that the singing bad-boy has upset the residents of his gated Calabasas, California enclave by speeding around the place in his Ferrari. (Now there's a tough guy vehicle.) One of Bieber's irate neighbors, on Tuesday, March 26, 2013, reportedly showed up at the pop star's mansion and asked him to stop driving around the enclave at 100 mph. Bieber lives on a street called Prado Del Grandioso. (No kidding. It must be rough for kids growing up on this Boulevard of Hard Knocks.)

     According to the 47-year-old business man who confronted Bieber, the 19-year-old spit in his face, and threatened to kill him. I tend to believe the complainant because tough guys don't spit, they simply kick your ass. Moreover, after the incident, Bieber's security team (he has a team of bodyguards) escorted the spit victim off the singer's estate. The neighbor called the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office which dispatched a couple of deputies to the scene.

     Bad Boy Bieber has denied committing battery, and spitting with the intent to look tough.

     Last May, on the mean streets of Calabasas, Bieber struck a paparazzi as he snapped pictures of the singer and his squeeze, Selena Gomez. The assault took place at the Commons at Calabasas Shopping Center. Bieber allegedly kicked the photographer in the lower abdomen. (You never know when those martial art lessons will come in handy. Instead of banning guns, we should outlaw those men with cameras who harass our poor celebrities.)

     

Criminal Justice Quote: Circumstantial Evidence in Eighteenth Century America

Most [criminal trial] evidence in [in eighteenth century America] was direct; that is, people testified to facts which they observed directly. Circumstantial evidence, or inference from other observed facts, was less common. When used, it was of the [homespun]  knowledge of farm, field, stream, and woods. A sweating horse in the barn was mute testimony that he had been ridden long and hard recently.

Thomas M. McDade, The Annals of Murder, 1961

Crime Bulletin: The Politics of Gun Violence

     When politicians talk about the epidemic of gun violence in the country, they seldom address the problem honestly. Driven by political correctness, politicians focus on shootings involving spree killers, and armed men in suburbia who mistake family members and neighbors as intruders. Anytime a gun enthusiast at a gun show accidentally shoots someone, the media is all over the accident.

     While politicians are not the brightest people around, they know that gun violence is principally about young black men shooting other young black men in cities big and small across the country. The fear of being labeled racists keeps politicians from stating the obvious. That fear, by the way, is well-grounded.

     Black males are ten-times more likely to be victims of violent crime than their white counterparts. That's because so many of them live in high-crime neighborhoods, and participate in dangerous activities. Every year, 3,000 to 4,000 black men are murdered by handguns. Roughly 30,000 are wounded. In March 2013, during a three-day period in Chicago, 38 black men were shot to death. On any given night in many big cities, ambulances deliver up to 35 black males to emergency rooms with gunshot wounds.

     On average, treating a patient who has been shot costs $322,000. This form of inner-city violence costs U. S. taxpayer about $12 billion a year. The bill is significantly higher if you include loss of work, rehabilitation, court, and incarceration costs.

     Since the vast majority of these shootings involve illegally possessed handguns, the current gun control debate is nothing more than political grandstanding, and a waste of time. Politicians should be talking about how to reduce violent, inner city crime instead of imposing more regulations on law abiding gun owners. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Revisionist True Crime Books

     There are  a number of reasons why historic, celebrated crimes are vulnerable to revision by true crime writers. For one thing, a new angle on an old case, particularly a famous one, comprises an attractive publishing opportunity. Since Americans tend to be more interested in injustice than justice, it's hard for hack writers to resist turning cold-blooded killers into victims of heavy-handed prosecutors and cops. Since complicated, intrigue-filled mysteries are more fascinating than cases involving more straight-forward, obvious explanations, revisionist true crime writers prefer conspiracies over cases that feature lone-wolf criminals.

     Putting together a phony conspiracy theory requires a certain kind of journalistic tunnel vision. The author must carefully avoid the evidence that does not fit into his narrative, and the more outrageous the theory, the more facts the writer has to sweep under the rug or explain away.

     Sometimes in their eagerness to plug a new conspiracy into a historic case, revisionist writers, by ignoring the truth, deprive themselves of a more fascinating, truthful account. The Lindbergh kidnapping case is a good example of replacing a dramatic story with a lot of conspiracy nonsense.  

Judge Judy's Son, D.A. Adam Levy, Accused of Influencing Rape Investigation of His Live-In Trainer

     On Wednesday night, March 20, 2013, police officers arrested 35-year-old Alexandru Hossu on two counts of first degree rape. Hossu stands accused of having engaged in forced sex with a 12-yeasr-old girl on October 24, 2010 in the town of Southeast, a Putnam County community sixty miles north of New York City.

     Hossu, a Romanian national, has been living in the United States on a work visa that expired in 2000. He faces up to 25 years in prison, and eventual deportation. Hossu is being held in the Putnam County Jail on $100,000 bond.

     The district attorney of Putnam County, Adam Levy, reluctantly recused himself from the Hossu case which is being handled by a prosecutor from neighboring Westchester County. Levy has been accused of trying to influence the criminal investigation of Alexandru Hossu. This accusation of official interference has been leveled by Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith.

     Sheriff Smith has alleged that Mr. Hossu has been living with D. A. Levy in his million-dollar home in the upscale Brewster section of Southeast. Hossu worked as the prosecutor's in-house personal trainer. (How many prosecutors can afford a million-dollar mansion and a live-in trainer?)

     Adam Levy has issued a statement that Alexandru Hossu moved out of his mansion six months ago, and his office has supplied the media with two current addressed for the rape suspect. These two locations, however, were found not to be residential addresses. The district attorney claims no knowledge of his personal trainer's immigration status, and denies having interfered with the Hossu investigation.

     This case has caught the attention of the local media because Adam Levy's mother is Judy Schnendlin, TV's Judge Judy. That explains the mansion, and the personal trainer. 

Crime Bulletin: Estranged Husband Sets Self on Fire in Nail Salon

     At noon on Sunday, March 24, 2013, a 46-year-old Vietnamese man walked into the Creative Nails & Spa salon in the Orange County town of Costa Masa, California. He carried a bucket and began screaming at his estranged wife Lina who worked in the shop as a nail technician.

     Five months earlier, Lina had moved out of the house with the couple's three sons. She had filed a restraining order against her spouse after he had threatened and harassed her with phone calls.

     The angry, drug-addled husband sat cross-legged in the center of the salon. He lifted the bucket and soaked his body in gasoline. Using a lighter, he set himself on fire. As he sat on the floor engulfed in flames, one of the horrified onlookers threw towels on him. A bystander doused the burning man with a fire extinguisher. Another employee called 911.

     Paramedics rushed the charred man to the Western Medical Center where he was treated for third degree burns over 70 percent of his body. He is listed in critical condition.

     In the United States, self-immolation by fire is an extremely rare form of suicide. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Car Thief Murders Baby: China's Shocking Crime Story the Government Suppressed

     At 7:15 in the morning of Monday, March 4, 2013, Mr. Xu parked his gray Toyota RAV 4 near the supermarket where he worked. He ran into the building, turned on the heat, and returned to the parking lot. To his horror, Mr. Xu discovered that someone had stolen his SUV along with his two-month-old baby who was in the backseat. The car thief probably didn't know the vehicle was occupied.

     The distraught father called the police department in Changchun City, a sprawling megalopolis of 8 million people in northeast China's Jilin Province. Mr. Xu also called a local radio station which broadcast periodic bulletins that included descriptions of the stolen car and the missing baby. Eight thousand police officers were alerted as well as thousands of taxi cab drivers. All of these people, including listeners of the radio station, were on the lookout for the stolen Toyota and its infant passenger, a baby named Xu Haobo.

     Almost immediately a variety of Internet social media sites picked up on the ongoing story. Most people following the case assumed that once the car thief realized he had inadvertently abducted the car owner's child, would deposit the infant in front of a hospital or some other public place.

     The next day, the car had not been recovered and the baby was still missing. Perhaps the car thief was also a kidnapper seeking a ransom. At five in the afternoon of Tuesday, March 5, a man named Zhou Xijun turned himself in to the Changchun police. According to the 48-year-old resident of Gongzhuling City, about an hour after he took Mr. Xu's car, he strangled the baby to death. Mr. Xijun said he buried the corpse in the snow off a country road.

     While the Xu Haobo story was widely circulated in China's Internet social media, Xinwenhua News, the official Jilin Province newspaper, did not report the murder. According to an independent journalist who uses the name "Yingshidian," the Communist run Provincial Propaganda Department had censored reportage of the case. The story was suppressed because it lent credence to concerns that criminals in China were losing all respect for human life. Stories like this were bad for tourism as well.

     A relative of the murdered baby, on a Chinese web site similar to YouTube, criticized the police for not finding the car thief before he murdered Xu Haobo. The relative accused the police of gross negligence in the case.  (Reportedly, the baby was killed an hour after the car theft which renders this criticism unreasonable.)

     Like all high-profile murders, the Xu Haobo case has spawned a lot of rumors. One story going around is that Zhou Xijun, the man who confessed to the car theft and murder, is covering for his son, Zhou Lei. Rumor has it that the son murdered the baby and is on the run from the police.

     The senseless murder of the baby in the stolen car has become one of the most talked about crimes in China's recent history. The murdered infant's mother has been treated for a mental breakdown at the 208 People's Liberation Army Hospital.

     Public outrage has led for calls that the baby's killer be punished with "lingchi"--the slow dismemberment of the prisoner's body. That won't happen, but if convicted, this murderer could be hanged.  

Crime Bulletin: The Amanda Knox Acquittal Overturned

     In November 2007, Seattle exchange student Amanda Knox and her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, were arrested by the Italian police for the murder of their fellow University of Perugia student, British born Meredith Kercher. Prosecutors, at the 2009 murder trial, argued that Kercher had been the unwilling victim of a drug-fueled game of rough sex gone wrong. Kercher's half-naked corpse was discovered under a blanket in her bedroom. Her throat had been slit. Knox, then 20, and Sollecito, 24, were found guilty and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

     An Italian appellate court, in October 2011, overturned the murder convictions on grounds the prosecution's evidence--unreliable witnesses and questionable DNA analysis--didn't support the government's theory of the case. The inmates were released from prison. Amanda Know moved back to Seattle where she's a creative writing student at the University of Washington. (She has written a book about her case that's awaiting publication. I presume the book is nonfiction.)

     Italian prosecutors appealed the conviction reversal to the Court of Cassation, Italy's highest judicial body. On March 26, 2013, the high court overturned the appellate court's acquittal, and ordered a new trial. The decision was not based on the merits of the prosecution's case, but on procedural issues.

     While the U.S. and Italy are parties to an extradition treaty, it's not a given that it will be honored in the Knox case. If she is not returned to Italy, she could be tried in absentia.   

Crime Bulletin: Challenging Fingerprint Experts

     During the first ninety years of fingerprint history, defense attorneys whose clients' latent fingerprints were found as the scenes of crimes had one option--plead them guilty in return for a lighter sentence. No one considered questioning the credibility or competence of a fingerprint expert, and no one dared challenge the scientific reliability of fingerprint identification. Fingerprints either matched or they didn't. There was nothing to challenge.

     Those days are over. Since 2000, there have been numerous cases of latent fingerprint misidentification in the United States and Europe. As it turns out, many fingerprint experts in the United States are undertrained, dishonest, and biased in favor of the police. Most of the nation's competent examiners are overworked due to crime lab budget cuts. Today, it is not unusual for a criminal trial to feature dueling fingerprint experts. This is not good for forensic science, or the criminal justice system.   

Richard Bradford: California Murder Parole Violator Lived 32 Years Under Fake ID

     In 1970, 18-year-old Richard Bradford, a student at San Jose State College, belonged to a hold-up gang that robbed several grocery stores in the San Jose area. On November 2 of that year, during the hold-up of the Spartan Market, Bradford shot and killed Robert Burgess III. The following year a San Jose jury found Bradford guilt of first degree murder and first degree robbery. The judge sentenced the defendant to life in prison.

     In 1978, after serving seven years of his "life" sentence, the authorities released Richard Bradford on parole. While in prison, in anticipation of his early release, Bradford had acquired a birth certificate and Social Security card under the name James Edward Heard.

     Less than two years after he walked out of prison, Bradford skipped out of his parole supervision. He took up the identity of James Edward Heard and moved to Pasadena, California. The convicted armed robber and murderer got married, and became a prominent member of the community.

     By 2010, the parole violator, under his fake identity, owned a home and several other pieces of real estate. He operated the Eston Canyon Treatment Center, a Pasadena drug rehabilitation facility for wealthy addicts. No one in the community had any idea that Mr. Heard was a convicted murderer named Richard Bradford.

     A parole apprehension team, in 2010, began an investigation to find and arrest Bradford for breaking the terms of his murder parole. Investigators caught a break in 2011 when two sets of fingerprints under the names Richard Bradford and James Edward Heard were found to have come from the same person.

     In March 2013, police officers arrested Bradford at a Home Depot store in the town of Monrovia just east of Pasadena. When taken into custody, he was accompanied by his wife. (I don't know if she knew who he really was.) The 60-year-old parole violator is being held without bail at the Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles.

     While I see this case as a gross failure of the state's criminal justice system, prison bureaucrats will probably credit Bradford's successful life after his incarceration as evidence of how well California's corrections department rehabilitates its inmates. Because of Bradford's age, his status in the community, and the fact California's jails are overcrowded, Richard Bradford will probably not be sent back to prison.

     Given the seriousness of Bradford's original crime, I don't believe he should have been paroled in the first place. The question of what to do with him now is more difficult. Should he be rewarded for his crime-free life after his parole, or be punished with jail time for breaking his parole for 32 years? 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Criminal Justice: Al Capone

You can get much further with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone.

Al Capone

Criminal Justice Quote: Signs a Suspect is Lying

     A lying suspect [under interrogation] will speak in fragmented or incomplete sentences such as "It's important that...." He also may feign a memory failure when confronted with a probing question or in responding to a direct accusation of lying. The person will respond with a half-lie, such as "I don't remember," "As far as I know," or "I don't recall;" or, the person my try to bolster his answer with such phrases as "To be perfectly honest with you," or "To be quite frank." [When politicians speak, they are always being "frank."]

     The more sophisticated liars may use the same type of evasions, but they usually plan beforehand so that their answers include a protective verbal coating, such as: "At this point in time," If I recall correctly," "It is my understanding," " If my memory serves me right," or "I may be mistaken but...." By using these tactics, lying suspects seek to establish an "escape hatch" rather than risk telling an outright lie.

Fred E. Inbau, Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, 1986

Crime Bulletin: The Dueling Expert Problem

     The increasing presence of dueling expert witnesses, encouraged by the procedural and adversarial nature of the criminal trial process, is a problem without a satisfying remedy. As a trial technique, defense attorneys often put expert witnesses on the stand whose main job is to muddy the waters and confuse the jury. Trial lawyers call this ploy "blowing smoke."

     If there is an answer to this muddying the waters technique, it will have to come from within the legal and forensic science professions in the form of a tighter code of ethics. Regarding battling experts, judges could help by imposing stricter standards in the area of who qualifies as an expert. (Lawyers like expert witnesses because they can render opinions. Regular witnesses cannot.) This would help keep out the phonies and reduce the opportunity for opposing testimony, particularly in the field of forensic questioned document examination where half the "experts" are under-qualified. The problem also exists in the field of forensic pathology in disputes regarding cause and manner of death. It is also not unusual to see blood spatter analysts on both sides of a case.

     Many jurors, when confronted with conflicting forensic science analysis, disregard the evidence completely. Forensic science was supposed to bring certainty and truth to the criminal justice system, not confusion. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: America's First Bomb Murder

The earliest case which I have found of the use of a bomb to commit murder was in 1854, when William Arrison sent one to the head of an asylum where he had been confined.

Thomas M. McDade, The Annals of Murder, 1961

Crime Bulletin: Sociopaths and Conflict of Interest

It is impossible to explain the concept of conflict of interest to an unethical lawyer, stock broker, or real estate agent. That's because these sociopaths only recognize one interest--their own. So where's the conflict?

Jim Fisher

Crime Bulletin: Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz Retires Under Pressure

     Mayor Martin Chavez appointed Ray Schultz to the position of Albuquerque Police Chief in 2006. Three years later Mayor Richard Berry reappointed him to the job. Since Chief Schultz's reappointment, an unusually high percentage of Albuquerque police officers have been involved in cases of excessive force and police involved shootings.

     Since 2010, Albuquerque officers have shot more than 35 citizens, 18 of the shootings being fatal. This is one of the highest per capita police involved shooting rates in the country. This year the city awarded $10 million to the family of an Iraq War veteran shot to death by an Albuquerque police officer. The victim of the shooting had post-traumatic stress disorder.

     Critics of the Albuquerque Police Department blame the excessive law enforcement violence on a police culture of brutality. Last year, several Albuquerque officers were reprimanded for controversial social media postings that included one by an officer involved in a fatal shooting who described his occupation as "human waste disposal." Instead of protecting and serving, this officer saw his job as using deadly force to clear the streets of undesirables. Clearly unsuited for police work, this man should have been fired.

     In March 2013, the embattled police chief announced that he would be retiring to, as they say, "spend more time with his family." In all fairness to Chief Schultz, because of police unions, firing a police officer has become extremely difficult, and in many cases impossible. Without the power to fire, police administrators do not have much control over the rank-and-file. This is particularly problematic in the era of militarized policing, and zero-tolerance law enforcement.

     In the old days, civilian safety came first, officer safety second. Today the priorities are officer safety and job security.

      

Crime Bulletin: California Daycare Worker Debbie Gratz Spiked Sippy Cups With a Sleep Aid

     In college, it doesn't take much to put students to sleep. A good number of them come to class half-drunk or drugged, and a lot of professors are really boring. In preschool, however, kids tend to be wide awake, and in many cases, pains-in-the-neck. So what can a daycare worker do to calm these little buggers down?

     Recently, at the Morgan Hill Kiddie Academy (sounds prestigious) in Morgan Hill, California, a 59-year-old daycare worker named Debbie Gratz came up with a solution to the hyper-kid problem. She was seen by a colleague spiking kids' sippy cups with the sleep aid Sominex. She must have figured that if you lace their little drinks with sleeping pills, they will drop like flies. Night-night sweet princes and princesses.

     Apparently Morgan Hill Kiddie Academy administrators did not approve of Gratz's behavior altering methodology because they called the police. Following a search of the daycare worker's dwelling, officers took her into custody. Charged with felony child endangerment, Gratz had to wait for her arraignment in the Santa Clara County Jail. According to reports, she has confessed to spiking the kiddie drinks with Sominex. This will not look good on her resume.

     

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Military Involvement in Domestic Law Enforcement

     The U. S. Constitution represents the Founding Fathers' intent to protect Americans against heavy-handed government. Citizens have rights, which include the right to assemble peacefully, the right to speak freely, and the freedom to worship as they please. The Constitution protects against intrusive law enforcement by protecting individual privacy, granting the right against self-incrimination, and providing the right to legal representation. The presumption of innocence, the concept of due process, and limited law enforcement authority protect Americans from tyranny.

     The Founding Fathers also placed limits on the military arm of government. For example, only Congress can fund and declare war (in the last two decades presidents have been declaring war on their own), and the president, a civilian office holder, is commander in chief. By placing military control in the hands of civilians, the Founding Fathers intended to at least discourage military personnel from meddling in civilian governance.

     Notwithstanding the existence of a wide range of procedural civil rights, military involvement in law enforcement, either directly or through highly militarized policing, is counter to the concept of limited government, and is a threat to personal freedom.

     Today, at least half of the nation's SWAT officers are trained by active-duty commandos from Navy Seal and Army Ranger units. Police officers with military special operations backgrounds train the rest. When fully outfitted in Kevlar helmets, goggles, "ninja" style hoods, combat boots, body armor, and black or camouflage fatigues, and carrying fully automatic rifles and machine guns, these police officers not only look like military troops geared for battle, but also feel that way.

     These elite paramilitary teams--composed of commanders, tactical team leaders, scouts, rearguards, snipers, flashbang grenade officers, and paramedics--are organized like combat units, and are just as lethal. But unlike troops in actual military combat, SWAT officers don't encounter mortar fire, rockets, homemade bombs, or heavily armed enemy soldiers.

     A vast majority of SWAT raids, conducted after midnight, involve private homes inhabited by unarmed people who are either asleep or watching television. When a SWAT team encounters resistance, it's usually from a family dog, that often gets shot. Given the hair-trigger intensity of these drug enforcement operations, unarmed civilians who move furtively or are slow to comply with orders, get manhandled, and sometimes shot.

     There has been talk recently about incorporating military drone technology into routine police work. The blurring of the lines between domestic law enforcement and national defense is not a good trend. The continued militarization of American policing will cost all of us our freedoms. 

DeMarquis Elkins and the Cold-Blooded Murder of a Georgia Toddler

     On Thursday morning, March 21, 2013, in the small, southeastern Georgia coastal town of Brunswick, Sherry West pushed her 13-month-old son in a stroller not far from her house in the Old Town historic district. Two young black males approached the 41-year-old mother and her child a quarter after nine that morning. The older kid, described by Sherry West as between 13 and 15-years-old and five-foot-seven to five-nine, pulled a gun and demanded money. The robber's companion, as described by the victim, looked to be between 10 and 12-years-old. The older boy, who was wearing a red shirt, when told by the mother that she didn't have any money, said, "Well, I'm going to kill your baby."

     The terrified mother tried to use her body to protect her son. "Please don't kill my baby," she pleaded.

     The robber, after pushing the mother aside, shot the sleeping child in the head. Before fleeing on foot, the young gunman shot Sherry West in the leg. As the boys ran off, the wounded woman called 911, and tried in vain to save her son by administering CPR.

     Officers with the Brunswick-Glynn County Violent Crimes Task Force rushed to the scene. Deputies with the Camden County Sheriff's Office responded with a tracking dog team. As a Department of Natural Resources helicopter flew over the neighborhood, detectives with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation worked the crime scene. (They did not recover the murder weapon.) The authorities posted a $10,000 reward for information leading to the identities and arrest of the two suspects.

     The next day, the police arrested 17-year-old DeMarquis Elkins and his 14-year-old friend who has not been identified because he's a juvenile. Elkins, under Georgia law, is considered an adult. He has been charged with first degree murder and is being held without bail.

     Sherry West is not a stranger to the tragedy of violent crime. In 2008 in Gloucester County, New Jersey, her 17-year-old son Shaun was stabbed to death in a street fight.

     Intentionally shooting a toddler in the head for no reason whatsoever passes through the heinous crime category into hate-motivated terrorism. If DeMarquis Elkins shot that baby, he should, notwithstanding his age, be executed. If he's not executed, he will someday be free. All of this is assuming, of course, that he's guilty.

UPDATE

     On March 25, 2013, public defender Kevin Gough told an Associated Press reporter that his client, DeMarquis Elkins, was "absolutely 1,000 percent not guilty." 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Crime Bulletin: Can Problems in Forensic Science Be Fixed?

     The nature of science itself, and the fact that forensic science is a service mainly delivered by the government, makes solving its problems a real challenge. Science is complex, constantly in flux, and often subject to disagreement. Government is slow, resistant to change, and difficult to hold accountable. The difficulty in dealing with the government generally is exacerbated by the convoluted structure of our criminal justice system, and the adversarial nature of the trial process. Today, trials are more about winning and losing than achieving truth and justice.

     Most problems in forensic science can be placed into one of three categories: personnel, jurisprudence (courts and law), and science itself. Many of these problems--cuts in governmental funding, the quality of law enforcement personnel, and what legislators and judges do and don't do--are beyond the control of forensic scientists. For these and other reasons, forensic science in America will continue to perform well below its potential. This arm of the criminal justice system therefore represents a failed promise. The gap between reality, and what television viewers see on the CSI shows, is widening.  

Crime Bulletin: Tom Clements, Head of Colorado Corrections, Murdered at Home

     In February 2011, the governor of Colorado appointed Tom Clements to the position of Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. Clements left his job as Director of Operations for Adult Correctional Facilities in Missouri to head up the 6,000-employee department. The 58-year-old corrections administrator, his wife, and two daughters resided in Monument, Colorado, a rural, upscale community in El Paso County 45 miles south of Denver.

     At 8:37 in the evening of Tuesday, March 19, 2013, a member of the Clements family called 911 to report a shooting at the Monument Colorado home. Deputies with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office found Tom Clements lying dead in his front doorway. According to the family member, he had been shot when he answered the doorbell.

     Sheriff's lieutenant Jeff Kramer told reporters that the Clements murder didn't appear to be the result of an attempted robbery. Moreover, it didn't have the markings of a random act of violence.

     On Thursday night, March 21, 2013, a Montague County Sheriff's deputy in northeast Texas near the Oklahoma line, pulled over a black Cadillac with Colorado plates. It was a routine traffic that turned into a violent crime. The driver of the vehicle, a 28-year-old paroled Colorado gang member and white supremacist named Evan Spencer Ebel, shot the deputy twice in the chest, and with a third bullet,  grazed the officer's head. The downed deputy had been wearing a bullet-proof vest therefore was able to call for help and describe Ebel's car.

     Following a high-speed police chase, Ebel slammed his Cadillac into an eighteen-wheeler in Decatur, Texas thirty miles south of the traffic stop and shooting. The Colorado parolee bearing the tattoos "hopeless," and "Evil Evan," climbed out of his damaged car firing at the police. The officers gunned him down on the spot. He died at a hospital in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

     Homicide detectives in Colorado believe that Evan Ebel had murdered Tom Clements. Inside the wrecked Cadillac, police found a Domino's Pizza uniform jacket and a cardboard pizza box. This discovery suggests that Ebel had murdered a 27-year-old pizza delivery man named Nathan Leon in Denver on March 17, 2013.

     Evan Ebel, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, was scheduled for parole on April 13, 2013 but was released early to the custody of his father, Jack Ebel, a Denver area lawyer. The parolee's violent crime history dates back to 2003 when he was convicted of robbery. In 2008 he was found guilty of assaulting a prison guard. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: Public Hangings in Colonial America

When executions were still public events, they provided an enormous interest. Perhaps no single event brought more spectators in those years than a public hanging. People drove for miles to be present; some camped in the vicinity for several days. The large concourse of people naturally brought camp followers to every large gathering. Entertainers, vendors, pickpockets, promoters, evangelists, sight-seers, peddlers, and medicine men would descend on the town before the fatal day.

Thomas M. McDade, The Annals of Murder, 1961

Crime Bulletin: The Locard Exchange Principle in Forensic Science

     The theory that a criminal perpetrator leaves part of himself at the scene of a crime, and takes a piece of the crime site with him, was postulated in 1911 by Dr. Edmund Locard in Lyon, France. Referred to as the Locard Exchange Principle, this concept, along with the idea of interpreting physical evidence to reconstruct what took place at the site of a criminal act, is the basic rationale behind crime scene investigation. The term "associative evidence" describes items that, pursuant to the Locard Principle, can connect a suspect to the scene of an offense. 

Crime Bulletin: State Senator Audrey Gibson's Ammunition-Control Proposal

     Florida Senator Audrey Gibson has recently introduced a bill that would require buyers of bullets to first undergo two-hours of anger-management counseling. Okay. But what about people who buy guns, knives, baseball bats, and cases of beer? What about couples about to get married, or on the brink of parenthood? I have an idea: why doesn't the federal government require all of us to take, say once a year, an anger-management course? (I think I need one now.)

     It is simply impossible to comprehend how people this stupid manage to get themselves elected to office. Even in Florida. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: At The Mercy of a Jury

Having your fate rest in the hands of a jury is the same as entrusting yourself to surgery with a mentally retarded doctor.

Bill Messing

Criminal Justice Quote: Lawyers as Sharks

A lawyer is basically a mouth, like a shark is a mouth attached to a long gut. The business of lawyers is to talk, to interrupt each other, and to devour each other if possible.

Joyce Carol Oates, novelist

Principal Fabrizio Cancels Middle School Honors Night

     A few days ago, David Fabrizio, the principal of the middle school in Ipswich, Massachusetts, shocked parents by canceling the school's March 2013 Honors Night. The idea behind the annual ceremony was to single out students who have earned high grade point averages. The honored students probably received some kind of certificate of achievement. You know, congratulations for a job well-done, keep up the good work kind of thing. The goal, I image, was to encourage and reward excellence. While it all seems pretty harmless, Principal Fabrizio found the tradition hurtful to students who did not earn the right to be so honored. That's why he put an end to Honors Night.

     In Fabrizio's letter to parents, he laid out his rationale for ditching the ceremony. He wrote: "The Honors Night which can be a great sense of pride for the recipients' families can also be devastating (italics mine) to a child who has worked extremely hard in a difficult class, but, who, despite growth, has not been able to maintain a high grade point average." (I wonder how many students actually fit this description. I would guess not many.) Principal Fabrizio also pointed out that many students with bad grades do not get support at home. What he's saying here is that successful students have an advantage. One advantage they might have is superior intelligence.

     As a kid who was a poor student with disappointed and embarrassed parents, I can say that I never resented the good students. Had everyone in my classes been as mediocre as me, I wouldn't have seen how hard work is rewarded through college scholarships and entrance into the better schools. When I enrolled into a college without admission standards, I knew I had a lot of catching up to do.

     While I wasn't happy as a failed student, denying the good students the recognition they deserved would not have made me or my parents feel any better.

     So, what's behind the movement in public education to wish away the reality that academically, not all kids are equal? I wonder if some education administrators resent the high-performing students and their boasting, too-proud parents. (It would be interesting to know what percentage of elementary and middle school educators were mediocre students themselves. It's no secret that in colleges and universities, education is one of the least demanding majors.)

     I notice that Principal Fabrizio has a background in coaching where the good athletes are worshipped and rewarded. The lesser athletes are humiliated and rejected. In sports, if you perform badly, you can get booed. To my knowledge, no one gets booed in the classroom. When he coached, was Mr. Fabrizio concerned that his better athletes had physical advantages over the second-stringers? Did he ever start a hardworking player who was small, awkward, and slow? Would he play a kid who was lazy and out-of-shape? I don't think so. At the end of the season, there are team members who are not awarded varsity letters. Should they be devastated?

     In my opinion, Principal Fabrizio's letter to school parents in Ipswich, Massachusetts is a load of pedagogical crap.

Criminal Justice Quote: Police Involved Shootings

A recent police study found that you're much more likely to get shot by a fat cop if you run.

Dennis Miller

Law Enforcement Fear Mongering

     Police administrators, aware that Americans tend to be wary of governmental authority, have never been above fear mongering. The "thin blue line" metaphor--the notion that a fragile barrier of uniformed cops stands between civilized society and hordes of rapists and looters--is a good example of scaring citizens into accepting and appreciating excessive police authority.

     Those skeptical of the "thin blue line" concept were proven right in the early 1970s following a series of experiments in Kansas City, Missouri by the Rand Corporation. The studies revealed no correlation between police patrols and crime prevention. Government fear mongering, from the "reefer madness" era through "thin blue line" period continues. Now, in addition to the specter of a society collapsing under the weight of drug addiction and crime, the fear of terrorism has propelled the move toward a more militarized, heavy-handed form of law enforcement. Today, getting on an airplane, or entering a public school, is like visiting someone in prison. Police officers patrol many big cities the way soldiers walk the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan. Many politicians want to turn school teachers into armed police officers. (If I had a child in school, I'd advise him not to talk back to any teacher under stress who's packing heat.) If this trend isn't reversed, the day may come when the fear of crime and terrorism will be matched by the fear of the police.

     As Winston Churchill once said, "Democracy means that when there's a knock at the door at three in the morning, it's probably the milkman." Today, in America, it's certainly not going to be the milkman, and if it's a SWAT team at your door, forget the knock.



      

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Anthony Weiner: The Problem With Disgraced Politicians

     I would argue that if you like and respect politicians, you are either one yourself, want to be a politician, or are related to one. Or maybe you are just stupid. (Okay, that was a bit harsh.) But really, who likes these people? Who can like a sociopath?

     Since I harbor such an intense dislike of politicians, I love political scandals. The bigger the scandal, the better I like it. And I don't care which party the disgraced politician represents. In that regard, I am nonpartisan. While major political scandals raise my spirits, the feeling doesn't last very long. That's because disgraced politicians have a way of coming back. I call it the Bill Clinton Syndrome. Even Richard Nixon, the man behind Watergate, the mother of Twentieth Century political scandals, managed to inch his way back to a certain degree of respectability. (Death is usually a big help in that regard.)

     Politicians, as sociopaths, are incapable of experiencing shame or embarrassment. So instead of fading into obscurity with red faces, these people keep clawing their way back into the limelight and positions of power. They resist political oblivion the way cockroaches fight off insecticide.

Anthony Weiner

     The former U. S. Congressman from New York City is one of my all time favorite disgraced politicians. This is the guy who was run out of office in June 2011 for transmitting photographs of his private parts to female constituents. At first he claimed that someone had hacked into his cellphone. That was a lie, and he was caught with his pants down, as it were.

     The beauty of the Weiner scandal is that this man is such a pompous blowhard, pathological narcissist, and clownish fool. If you didn't thoroughly enjoy his fall from grace, you're obviously not a connoisseur of the political downfall. Or maybe you are, but don't like to admit it.

     Anthony Weiner, the media-whore congressman who, before his fall, was considered one of the leading contenders in the upcoming New York City mayoral race, has been chomping at the bit to make a political comeback. In March 2013, less than two years following his colossal disgrace, Weiner shelled out $106,500 for two polls to determine what New Yorkers think of him now. The polls were in anticipation of a possible Weiner run for mayor or city comptroller.

     While the news was bad for him, it was music to my ears. According to reports, New York voters have not forgotten what a fool he made of himself and the people who put him into office. This doesn't mean, of course, that we've heard the last of Anthony Weiner. Like all good sociopaths, he never admits defeat. That's the part I don't like. 

Criminal Justice Quote: The Stupid Pickpocket

Once I pulled a job. I was so stupid. I picked a guy's pocket on an airplane and made a run for it.

Rodney Dangerfield 

Crime Bulletin: Joe Biden's Take on Domestic Violence

In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.

Napoleon Bonaparte

    In a speech delivered in Washington, D. C. on Wednesday, March 13, 2013, Vice President Joe Biden, the self-proclaimed criminal justice expert on subjects ranging from how to stop intruders by shot-gunning them through closed doors, to the problem of domestic violence, once again revealed the scope and depth of his stupidity. In profiling men who physically abuse women, Biden said, "We've learned that certain behaviors on the part of an abuser portend much more danger than other behaviors. For example, if an abuser has attempted to strangle his victim, if he's threatened to shoot her, if he's sexually assaulted her, these are tell tale signs to say this isn't your garden variety slap across the face."

     Joe Biden has the unusual ability to make statements that are both puerile and offensive. While it's obvious that a man who attempts to strangle a woman is dangerous, a man who slaps a woman in the face could be just as dangerous. "Garden variety" or not, a man who has slapped a woman in the face has committed criminal assault. Moreover, slaps have a way of escalating to more severe beatings, and even murder.

     Among the dumb politicians in Washington, Joe Biden has been the most eager to put his stupidity on display. He's done it time and time again. In fact, he's done it so many times and in so many ways, people no longer take much notice. I guess every village has to have an idiot. But when that idiot could become the President of the United States, it's cause for concern. 

Crime Bulletin: Another Gang Rape in India

     On Friday night, March 15, 2013, a Swiss couple on a three-month vacation in India were camped out in the forest 400 yards off a road near the town of Datia in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The couple had ridden their bicycles from the temple town of Orchha. In the morning, they planned to bicycle to the city of Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal. (A British woman in Agra visiting the Taj Mahal four days later had to jump from her hotel balcony to escape being raped by the hotel owner. The tourist injured her leg.)

     The Swiss woman and her male companion, that Friday night in the Indian woods, were set upon by seven or eight men. The intruders beat them, tied the man to a tree, then gang-raped the woman. After committing these crimes, the gang stole the tourists' mobile phone, laptop computer, and their money. ($188) The woman received treatment for her injuries at a hospital in the nearby city of Gwalior.

    In December 2012, as a result of six men gang-raping and killing a 23-year-old student on a New Delhi bus, the Swiss government issued a travel notice warning of the dangers of being raped in India. Historically, the police in India have treated rape as a victimless crime. That attitude, in the wake of the New Delhi case and other recent high-profile crimes against women in the country, might be changing. New laws and tougher law enforcement policies, however, will not, among large portions of India's male population, change the culture of rape in that nation. It is still a dangerous place for women.

     On March 17, 2013, the police in Datia arrested six men in connection with the Swiss tourists case. The next day these men were charged with rape, assault, and theft. All of the suspects are poor farmers from villages near the scene of the crimes. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Forensic Pathology: Cause and Manner of Death

     Forensic pathologists are physicians educated and trained to determine the cause and manner of death in cases involving violent, sudden, or unexplained fatalities. The cause of death is the medical reason the person died. One cause of death is asphyxia--lack of oxygen to the brain. It occurs as a result of drowning, suffocation, manual strangulation, strangulation by ligature (such as a rope, belt, or length of cloth) crushing, or carbon monoxide poisoning. Other causes of death include blunt force trauma, gunshot wound, stabbing, slashing, poisoning, heart attack, stroke, or a sickness such as cancer, pneumonia, or heart disease.

     For the forensic pathologist, the most difficult task often involves detecting the manner of death--natural, accidental, suicidal, or homicidal. This is because the manner of death isn't always revealed by the physical condition of the body. For example, a death resulting from a drug overdose could be the result of homicide, suicide, or accident. Knowing exactly how the fatal drug got into the victim's system requires additional information, data that usually comes from a police investigation. A death investigator, for example, will try to find out if the overdose victim had a history of drug abuse, or if there were signs of a struggle at the scene of the death. Has this victim attempted suicide in the past? Did the victim leave a suicide note? Did someone have a compelling motive to kill this person? Is there evidence of a love triangle, life insurance fraud, hatred, or revenge? These are basic investigative leads that could help a forensic pathologist determine the manner of death.

     When the circumstances of a suspicious death are not ascertained, or are sketchy, and the death was not an obvious homicide, the medical examiner might classify the manner of death as "undetermined." Drug overdose cases that are only slightly suspicious and therefore not thoroughly investigated often go into the books as either accidents or suicides. This is true of other forms of slightly suspicious death. Because a body is found dead in the water doesn't necessarily mean this person has drowned. This victim could have been murdered and then dumped into the water. Even in a death by drowning, the person could have died after being criminally thrown from a boat or off a pier.

     There are more sudden, violent, and unexplained deaths in the United States than the nation's four hundred board-certified forensic pathologists can handle. This gruesome workload ideally should require at least a thousand forensic pathologists. As a result of this personnel shortage, not every death that calls for an autopsy gets one. Because there is also a shortage of qualified criminal investigators, not every death that requires an investigation gets the attention it deserves. This means we don't know exactly how many people in this country are murdered every year. And of the cases we know are criminal homicides, about half go unsolved. This is one of the biggest failures of our criminal justice system. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Forensic Science

Forensic scientists are not policemen. We are scientists. We deal with matters objectively. We do not act on our suspicions.

Dr. Cyril Wecht, forensic pathologist 

Crime Bulletin: Hugo Chavez's Corpse Will Not Be Abused Afterall

     The Venezuelan authorities, following Hugo Chavez's death from cancer a few weeks ago, had planned to put his corpse on permanent display in a glass casket in the Museum of the Revolution not far from the Presidential Palace where he had ruled for fourteen years. In the United States, turning a dead person into a roadside attraction is against the law. It's a crime appropriately called abuse of corpse.

     As noted by the columnist Dale McFeatters, other Marxist rulers have been subjected to this macabre form of post-mortem exhibitionism. The Russian Marxist Vladimir Lenin has been under glass and on display in Moscow's Red Square since his death in January 1924. One can visit Ho Chi Minh, dead since 1975, in Vietnam. Kim Il Sung, the dead North Korean dictator, and his successor son, Kim Jong Il, also dead, can be seen at the former North Korean Presidential Palace.

     As it turns out, Mr. Chavez's corpse will not be permanently housed above ground for all to see and admire. The Russian morticians in charge of embalming the dead dictator for posterity couldn't do the job because by the time they got their hands on Chavez, he had gotten a little ripe. What a shame for two of Chavez's biggest fans, Sean Penn and Jesse Jackson. I guess they will have to console themselves with photographs of the dead anti-American. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

SIDS Is Not a Cause of Death


     Until 1959, whenever a presumably healthy baby died in its bed for no apparent reason, forensic pathologists called it "crib death" or "cot death." These terms described where, not how, the baby died, and didn't sound very scientific. But "sudden infant death syndrome," a purely descriptive term coined by a pediatrician named J. Bruce Beckwith, sounded more technical and more ominous.

     By describing the suddenness of the death instead of the place where it occurred, the term Sudden Infant Death Syndrome carries an implication of violence and foul play. While breaking new ground rhetorically, the introduction of the letters SIDS into the vocabulary of forensic pathology and criminal investigation added nothing but confusion. The time would come when SIDS, in essence, meant suspicious infant death syndrome, a designation that sounds more than vaguely criminal.










Criminal Justice Quote: Prison Overcrowding

On average, drug prisoners spend more time in federal prison than rapists, who often get out on early release because of the overcrowding in prison caused by the drug war.

Michael Badnarik

Stephen Slevin: Who's Going to Prison For Holding a DWI Suspect in Solitary Confinement For 22 Months?

       The Dona Ana County Jail is located in Las Cruces, New Mexico in the south central part of the state not far from the Mexican border. In August 2005, a driving while intoxicated and receiving stolen property arrestee named Stephen Slevin was placed into the 846-cot lockup. The 51-year-old, because of his history of mental illness, was segregated from the jail population. For reasons that defy understanding, Slevin remained in solitary confinement until his release in June 2007. After having Slevin in custody for 22 months, the local prosecutor dropped the charges against the so-called "forgotten inmate." (Had he been truly forgotten, the inmate would have starved to death. Since someone fed this isolated prisoner for 22 months, jail personnel knew of his situation. So how did this happen?)

     The "forgotten" prisoner had entered the Dona Ana County Jail in relatively good health, mentally and physically. He left the place weighting 133 pounds with bed sores and rotten teeth. (During his incarceration, he had pulled out his own abscessed tooth.) Slevin also walked out of the facility suffering from post-traumatic stress. (He is now fighting lung cancer.)

     Attorney Matthew Coyte, in December 2008, filed a civil rights suit on Slevin's behalf against Dana Ana County, New Mexico. County authorities fought the suit, but at Slevin's civil rights trial in March 2012, the jury awarded the plaintiff $22 million. Fighting the case had been an obvious mistake. The county appealed the award on grounds the damages were excessive.

     In March 2013, the Dona Ana County Board of Commissioners dropped the appeal and settled the case. The county agreed to pay the "forgotten inmate" $15.5 million.

     The settlement resolved the civil side of the case. But what about the criminal aspect of Slevin's 22-month wrongful imprisonment? The bureaucrats responsible for this man's ordeal were clearly guilty of a degree of reckless indifference that is criminal. But holding government employees responsible for malfeasance is extremely difficult. The nature of bureaucracy protects incompetent practitioners by making it almost impossible to pinpoint wrongdoing to any one person.

     Had Stephen Slevin been falsely imprisoned in a private sector facility, corrections personnel would be already serving prison sentences.

     If Mr. Slevin, months into his hellish confinement, had committed suicide, this would be a homicide case. The taxpayers of Dona Ana County will foot the bill for this stunning example of governmental negligence, but no public employee will be held criminally culpable for this inexplicable corrections fiasco. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Crime Bulletin: Sherlock Holmes on Criminal Investigation

     The creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, said that a first-class investigator had to have a good mind, exact knowledge, and the powers of observation and deduction. That's true, as far as it goes, but he forgot to mention persistence, audacity, objectivity, and above all, integrity. And a little luck never hurt anyone.


Criminal Justice Quote: Politics

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

Groucho Marx

Crime Bulletin: Ambulance Chasing Lawyers

     To become a successful ambulance chaser, one doesn't need a prestigious legal education, a high law class ranking, or family connections in the profession. To flourish as a personal injury hustler, one must possess an aggressive, slightly sociopathic personality, and a narrow but well refined set of legal skills. All successful ambulance chasers have one big trait in common, and it's a talent that cannot be taught. They are bull-shit artists.


Crime Bulletin: Harlem Mother Jumps to Her Death Holding Infant

     Cynthia Wachenheim lived in an high rise apartment building with her husband and 10-month-old son on Broadhurst Avenue near 147th Street in Harlem, New York. A city employee on maternity leave, the 44-year-old was being treated for postpartum depression.

      Neighbors, at noon on Wednesday, March 13, 2013, heard Wachenheim and her husband arguing before he left for work. At three-thirty that afternoon, the depressed mother, holding her baby in her arms, jumped from her eighth-floor window. She landed on her back, cushioning the baby's fall. The boy bounced off the dead woman's body and rolled onto the street crying. The infant arrived at the Harlem Hospital in critical but stable condition, and is expected to survive.

     The distraught mother left behind a 13-page handwritten suicide letter in which she acknowledged that she had been making her husband suffer. "You're going to think I'm evil," she wrote. 

Where is New Orleans Teacher Terrilynn Monette?

     Terrilynn Monette grew up in Long Beach, California. After attending Wilson High School, she graduated from Cal State San Bernardino with a degree in elementary education. In 2011, the 24-year-old, pursuant to a program called "teachNOLA", moved to New Orleans to educate disadvantaged students. Monette ended up teaching second graders at Woodland West Elementary, a low-performing school in a poor section of the city.

     On Friday night, March 1, 2013, Monette and a few friends were drinking at Parlay's Bar in the Lakeview section of New Orleans. Later that night, at three-thirty in the morning, the bartender decided Monette had enough to drink, and cut her off. Telling her friends that she planned to sleep a few hours in her car before driving home, Monette walked out of the bar shortly after the barkeep refused to serve her any more alcohol.

     The school teacher, wearing a pink and yellow sweater and blue jeans, was last seen at five that morning sleeping in her black 2012 Honda Accord in the Harrison Avenue bar's rear parking lot. Some time after that, she and her car were no longer behind the bar. Terrilynn Monette simply disappeared.

     Deputies with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office have searched a Bayou located between Parlay's Bar and Monette's apartment. They found no signs of her or the vehicle. The Louisiana license number to the missing Honda is WUN 494. Monette is black, five-foot-eight, and weighs 180 pounds. She has shoulder-length hair and a tattoo on her left leg. As of this writing, the authorities have no suspects in her disappearance.

     Given the circumstances of this case (I presume Monette did not move out of her dwelling) the disappearance of this young woman is probably being handled by detectives as a homicide. At this point, investigators are looking for an abandoned car, and a body.

UPDATE

     The body inside a car found by a diver in Bayou St. John on Saturday, June 8, 2013, has been identified as the remains of the missing school teacher. The cause and manner of death is this case will be determined following an autopsy. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: Mass Murder

On the night of November 14th, two men broke into a quiet farmhouse in Kansas and murdered an entire family. Why did they do that? Two worlds exist in this country: the quiet conservative life and the life of these two men--the underbelly, the criminally violent. Those two worlds converged that bloody night.

Truman Capote regarding his book In Cold Blood about the 1959 murder of the Clutter family

Criminal Justice Quote: Serial Killers

I have no desire whatsoever to reform myself. My only desire is to reform people who try to reform me, and I believe the only way to reform people is to kill them. My motto is: Rob 'em all, rape 'em all, and kill 'em all.

Carl Panzram, serial killer

Richard Bistline: Because of Age and Health, Possessor of Child Porn Avoids Prison

     In 2007, 67-year-old Richard Bistline lived with his ailing wife in Mount Vernon, a central Ohio town of 17,000 not far from Columbus, the state capital. In October of that year, FBI agents came to his home, arrested him for possessing child pornography, and seized his home computer. A search of Bistline's computer revealed 305 images and 56 videos of eight to ten-year-old girls being raped by adult men. Bistline had downloaded this material from an online program called "Limewire" which provided access to child pornography without a fee.

     Three years after his arrest, Bistline pleaded guilty in a Columbus U. S. District Court to one count of possessing child pornography. The Sentencing Guidelines for this federal offense, as established by Congress, consisted of a sentence of between 63 and 78 months in prison.

     Assistant United States Attorney Deborah A. Solove, in preparation for Bistline's sentencing hearing before federal judge James L. Graham, submitted a detailed memorandum outlining the government's argument for a sentence that fell within the established guidelines.

     Judge Graham, a 1986 Reagan appointee who was Bistline's age, opened the sentence hearing with statements that telegraphed his decision to be lenient with the child porn possessor. Noting that mere possession of this kind of material did not constitute a very serious offense, Judge Graham declared the federal Sentencing Guidelines for the crime "seriously flawed." The judge also stated that in determining who should go to prison and who shouldn't, the age and health of the convicted person are important considerations. Judge Graham said that he was worried that Mr. Bistline, who over the past decade had suffered two strokes, would not receive adequate health care in prison. Moreover, if he sent this man away, who would care for his sick wife?

     Judge Graham shocked the federal prosecutor when he handed down his sentence of one night in the federal courthouse lockup. That was it. No prison time for a man caught in possession of images and videos of young girls being raped by adult men. Congress and its sentencing guidelines be damned.

     After prosecutor Solove objected to the sentence as being extremely lenient, and outside the bounds of the guidelines, Judge Graham convened a second sentencing hearing two months later. At that hearing, the judge simply added ten years of supervised release to his original sentence. Still no prison time for Mr. Bistline.

     Assistant Unites States Attorney Deborah Solove appealed Judge Graham's sentence to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on the grounds the district court judge had improperly rejected the federal Sentencing Guidelines in this case.

     In January 2012, the panel of three appellate judges handed down its decision. The federal appeals court justices held that a district court judge cannot, without a "compelling" reason, ignore sentencing guidelines created by the U. S. Congress. The justices ruled that in the Bistline case, Judge Graham's personal belief that the guidelines were too harsh for the possession of child porn did not constitute a "compelling" reason for ignoring them.

     In justifying this legal decision, the appellate court laid out the following rationale: "Knowing possession of child pornography...is not a crime of inadvertence, of pop-up [computer] screens and viruses that can incriminate an innocent person. Possession of child pornography instead becomes a crime when a defendant knowingly acquires the images--in this case, affirmatively, deliberately, and repeatedly, hundreds of times over, in a period exceeding a year."

     The 6th Circuit justices noted that Mr. Bistline never expressed genuine remorse for his actions. In fact, the defendant said he didn't understand why the possession of child pornography was even a crime. (Bistline was also angry at FBI agents for seizing his illegally downloaded music along with the child pornography.)

     The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals justices ruled that Judge Graham's sentence "... did not remotely meet the criteria that Congress laid out. We vacate Bistline's sentence and remand his case for prompt imposition of one that does."

     In January 2013, at Bistline's third sentencing hearing, federal prosecutor Solove urged Judge Graham to sentence the defendant to five years in prison. Intent on keeping this man out of prison, Judge Graham sentenced him to three years of home confinement. This sentence is a far cry from the recommended sentence of 63 to 78 months behind bars. If Judge Graham thinks the federal sentencing guideline for the possession of child pornography is too harsh, he should run for Congress. Otherwise, as a judge, he should follow the law.

     

Friday, March 15, 2013

Crime Bulletin: Getting past TSA with Fake Bombs

     Recently, a TSA undercover inspector with a fake bomb in his pants got through two checkpoints at the Newark-Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. He was actually cleared to board a plane.

     Had the bomb been real, it would have been powerful enough to blow a large hole in the aircraft which could have knocked the plane out of the sky.

     In a New York Post expose, a former TSA officer revealed that many TSA employees don't have high school degrees, and were employed by the TSA because they weren't qualified for decent jobs in the private sector. Some, according to the Post article, have criminal records. Not only that, these federal employees entrusted with our safety consider the TSA job a joke. Many hope to use the job as a stepping stone to a better federal gig.

     According to the whistleblower, undercover TSA inspectors carrying fake bombs and other weapons regularly get through security while security agents are patting down old ladies and harassing children in wheelchairs.

     Trusting government employees to keep us safe from airplane bombers is like relying on meth addicts and pedophiles to babysit our children. 

Crime Bulletin: Who Is That Woman In My Wife's Casket?

     Evan Davidson, the moment he looked into his wife's casket at the Simpson Family Mortuary in Inglewood, California, had a serious complaint. The woman on display was not his 82-year-old wife Darlene. When the stunned widower alerted mortuary personnel that they had placed the wrong corpse in his wife's casket, the morticians informed Mr. Davidson that he was mistaken. The confused and upset husband, who had been married to Darlene for 51 years, said he knew what his wife looked like. The morticians didn't budge. They insisted that the grieving husband was wrong. (I guess in the funeral business the customer is not always right.) Mrs. Davidson, the funeral people explained, looked different because she had been ill, and was embalmed. Case closed.

     Three days after Darlene Davidson's funeral, the funeral home called to inform the 73-year-old widower that another mortuary customer had flipped out when the body on display wasn't her departed mother. Could Mr. Davidson come to the funeral home and look at this corpse?

     When Mr. Davidson looked into that casket he was shocked to see his dead wife. The grieving daughter's mother had already been buried as Mrs. Davidson. Oh boy. Mr. Davidson's attorney has asked the California State Cemetery and Funeral Bureau to investigate the mix-up. (If I were an agent with the Cemetery and Funeral Bureau, I'd be curious to know how many people who attended Mrs. Davidson's funeral noticed that the woman in the casket wasn't her.)

     

Criminal Justice Quote: Fingerprints

Jekyll's finger patterns remain the same when he transforms himself into Hyde.

Henry Faulds, English fingerprint pioneer 

Kurt Myers' Upstate New York Killing Spree

     Over the past few years there have been several spree-shootings involving elderly white men. Generally, this is not a demographic associated with criminal homicide. Are these cases an anomaly, or is there something driving older men to mass murder?

     At nine-thirty in the morning of Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 64-year-old Kurt Myers started a fire in his apartment building in the upstate New York village of Mohawk 65 miles east of Syracuse. The tense, jittery loner with the full white beard was not married, and seldom spoke to his neighbors. Other than an old DUI arrest, he did not have a history with the police.

     After starting the fire, Myers walked around the corner to John's Barber Shop. He entered the place carrying a shotgun. Speaking to the  owner, John Seymour, Myers said, "Hi John, do you remember me?"

     Yes, Kurt, how are you?"

     Without saying more, Myers raised his shotgun and shot the barber, wounding him severely but not killing him. Myers then fired on the three customers in the shop. Harry Montgomery, 68, and Michael Ransear, 57, were killed on the spot. Ransear had been a retired corrections officer. Dan Haslauer, the third customer, was shot in the hand and hip. He survived the shotgun blasts.

     Having murdered two men and injuring two others, Myers climbed into his red Jeep and drove to Herkimer, a town of 7,770 one mile from Mohawk. At Gaffey's Fast Lube, he shot and killed employee Thomas Stefka, and a 23-year veteran of the state Department of Corrections named Michael Renshaw. All of the shootings appeared random.

     By Wednesday afternoon, a small army of police officers had Myers trapped inside an abandoned building in downtown Herkimer. At one point Myers fired at the police from a window. The stand-off dragged on through Wednesday and into Thursday. Joseph Malone, the chief of police of both Mohawk Valley towns, told reporters that Myers "...had come out of nowhere. He was not on our radar and hasn't caused any problems." A woman who for the past ten years has waited on Myers at a local bar said that "He wasn't a people person, and he would never talk to anyone."

     Myers worked as a machine operator in the early 1980s at Waterbury Felt, a manufacturer of industrial textiles. The Waterbury Felt executive who had hired him, Steve Copperwheat, ran into Myers three months ago in a Walmart parking lot. The two men had not seen each other in ten years. Copperwheat described the encounter to a reporter with The Washington Post: "I yelled over to him, and he looked at me and said my name, said he was retired and just went booking away. It was almost like he didn't want anybody to know where he was. He was trying to be very distant, which surprised me." According to Copperwheat, Myers, who had never married, had been an exemplary employee who worked twice as fast as he fellow workers.

    Late Thursday morning, March 14, police officers stormed the abandoned building on Main Street. As the SWAT team entered the structure, Myers fired on the officers. The police returned fire, killing the 64-year-old mass murderer. An FBI dog was shot and killed in the exchange.

     While things are quiet again in Herkimer and Mohawk, citizens of these communities are left with six shooting victims, and the mystery of what turned Kurt Myers into a mass murderer at the age of sixty-four.
     

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: The Electric Chair

I am an expert of electricity. My father occupied the chair of applied electricity at the state prison.

W. C. Fields

Crime Bulletin: Accused Pedophile Mark Berndt's $30 Million Settlement

     In January 2012, Los Angeles detectives, after a year-long investigation, arrested Mark Berndt, a 61-year-old Miramonte Elementary School teacher in the Florence section of the city. The case came to light after a drugstore photo technician discovered images of children who had been blindfolded. Many of the students' mouths were covered with duct tape. A Los Angeles County prosecutor charged Berndt with 23 counts of lewd conduct which included allegations that he had spoon-fed semen to the blindfolded children as part of what he called a tasting game. The teacher also stands accused of feeding his students semen-tainted cookies, and placing cockroaches on their faces.

     Berndt has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He is incarcerated in the Los Angeles County Jail in lieu of $23 million bail.

     The Miramonte school teacher had been the target of a 1993 criminal investigation triggered by a female student's claim that he had fondled her. Investigators dropped the case due to insufficient evidence.

     On March 12, 2013, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles United School District announced it will pay $30 million to settle the claims filed by the Miramonte parents of Berndt's violated students.

     When talking about the cost of public education, politicians never mention how much pedophiles cost the American tax payer. (See: "Mark Berndt: The Elementary Teacher From Hell," February 8, 2012 and "Pedophile Teachers in California Easier to Prosecute Than Fire," August 26, 2012.)

Judge Douglas Walker Sentences Baby Killer Dylan Kuhn to 90 Days in Jail

     On November 1, 2011, police officers in Cortez, Colorado, a town of 8,000 in the southwest corner of the state, responded to a call involving an infant who was not breathing. At the residence shared by Dylan Kuhn and his girlfriend April Coleman, police discovered the corpse of their 6-month-old daughter, Sailor Serenity Kuhn.

     Officers found the baby lying half off the bed with a blanket wrapped around her neck. One didn't have to be a trained, experienced homicide detective to know this was the scene of a crime rather than a natural or accidental death.

     According to the 19-year-old father of the dead baby, she had been crying in her bed when he returned home from a Halloween party. He calmed her down and went to bed himself. The next morning, Kuhn found the baby with the blanket wrapped around her neck. Kuhn said that a few days before her death, the infant had fallen off the couch and bumped her head.

     Following the autopsy, the Montezuma County Medical Examiner announced that the child's fatal injuries--a subdural hematoma and hemorrhaging in her optic nerve sheath--had been caused by being slammed violently against a soft but unyielding surface such as a mattress. The medical examiner ruled the baby's manner of death a homicide. The head trauma was too severe to have been caused by a fall off a sofa.

     When police interrogators confronted Kuhn with the forensic pathologist's findings, he admitted slamming the baby down hard on the mattress. He also confessed to placing the blanket around his daughter's neck to throw off investigators. He said he didn't mean to hurt his daughter. As to why he had lied to the police, Kuhn said he was scared, and worried what his girlfriend would think of him if he told the truth. The Montezuma County district attorney charged Dylan Kuhn with child abuse causing death, and the offense of manslaughter.

     Several months after Kuhn's arrest, District Attorney Russell Wasley, perhaps because of procedural mistakes made by the police and his office, approached Kuhn with a plea-bargain offer. If the defendant came clean, the prosecutor would drop the child abuse causing death charge. If the defendant pleaded guilty to manslaughter, the worst sentence he could get would be four years in prison.

     In accepting the deal, Kuhn admitted that he had "aggressively" put the baby to bed that night. She had  been crying, he became frustrated, told her to "shut-up," then slammed her body against the mattress. "I put her to bed too hard," he said. After his confession, Kuhn asked to consult with a defense attorney. The defendant said he was too young to understand how much trouble he might be in. (Kuhn was 19, old enough to vote and serve in the military. Under Colorado law, he is considered an adult. He had assaulted and killed his 6-month-old daughter. He wasn't retarded, or insane. He knew he had committed a terrible crime. That's why he lied to the police.)

     On October 2, 2012, Dylan Kuhn entered his guilty plea to the charge of manslaughter before District Court Judge Douglas Walker. Before imposing his sentence, Judge Walker heard from Kuhn's girlfriend (and mother of the dead baby) and his mother. According to April Coleman, Kuhn had always been good to his daughter. The defendant's mother, Vicki Espinoza, told the court that she was worried about what might happen to her son if he had to serve time in prison. (Perhaps Kuhn's mother should have worried about what might happen to her granddaughter when her son lost his temper.) "I don't know why it [the case] went this far," she said. "It was an accident." (Since when is slamming your baby to death an accident?)

     Judge Walker agreed with the defendant's mother that prison might not be a good thing for her son. (Who is it good for?) The judge also noted that the defendant was young, and had no history of violent crime prior to killing his daughter. In addressing Kuhn, the judge said, "I am giving you an opportunity. Make the best of this opportunity, if nothing else, to honor your daughter's memory."

     The judge's "opportunity" was this: He sentenced Dylan Kuhn to 90 days in jail, and four years of probation. Lest critics (like me) characterized this sentence as insanely lenient, Judge Walker ordered Kuhn to take parenting classes. (So does this mean that Judge Walker believed that the reason Kuhn killed his daughter involved his lack of formal education in parenting? I helped raise three children without parenting classes, and they're still alive.) The judge also ordered Kuhn to undergo mental and substance abuse evaluation. And finally, Kuhn, during his four year probationary period, was prohibited from being alone with any child under the age of ten.

     If the citizens of Montezuma County do not vote this judge out of office the first chance they get, they are idiots. I also think the local bar association should take a hard look at this judge. There is something profoundly wrong in Montezuma County, Colorado.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Crime Bulletin: Abusing Hugo Chavez's Corpse

     Shortly after Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela, died of cancer, officials of that country made a startling announcement. The dead president's embalmed corpse will be on permanent display in a glass casket in the Museum of the Revolution not far from the Presidential Palace where Chavez ruled for fourteen years.

     While Americans Sean Penn and Jesse Jackson mourn the death of the dictator, my thoughts about Chavez's death concern what they are doing to his corpse. In Venezuela, abuse of corpse must not be a crime. In the United States it is, and putting a dead person on permanent display would violate the law.

     I like living in a country where you're not allowed to abuse dead bodies. However, I imagine that Mr. Penn and Mr. Jackson both approve of the display. It will allow them to continue visiting the dictator. Roy Rogers, the singing cowboy, had his horse Trigger stuffed. Trigger never had much to say. Hugo Chavez won't either. 

Crime Bulletin: Michael Boysen Gets Out of Prison, Murders His Grandparents, Then Steals Their Car

     Michael "Chadd" Boysen, on Friday, March 8, 2013, walked out of the state prison in Monroe, Washington after serving six years for armed robbery. His grandparents, an 82-year-old man and his 80-year-old wife, picked up their grandson at the prison, and drove him to their house in Renton, Washington. It was there the grandparents hosted a "welcome home party" for the 26-year-old ex-con.  The grandparents had also prepared a room for Boysen to spend the night.

     Sometime during the early morning hours of Saturday, March 9, Boysen murdered his grandparents in their home. (All the King County Medical Examiner has said is that the victims had not been shot.) Following the double-killing, Boysen stole his grandparents' car.

     On Tuesday evening, March 12, following a day-long stand-off at a motel in Portland, Oregon, police stormed Boysen's room. The found the fugitive lying on the floor with several self-inflicted stab wounds. He is being treated at a Portland hospital. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Mafia

I don't think I will do a Mafia character again. I want to get away from the violence a little bit, because it is starting to bother me personally.

James Gandolfini aka Tony Soprano. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Crime Bulletin: Leader of Indian Rape Gang Found Dead in His Cell

     Ram Singh, a violant man who drank a lot and lived in the slums of New Delhi, India, was in jail, along with four other adults and a juvenile, for the beating, gang-rape, and murder a 23-year-old student on a bus last December. The victim had been penetrated with a metal rod and thrown nude off the moving bus. She died two weeks later at a hospital in Singapore. Her male companion was beaten as well, but he survived the attack. The brutal crime, committed in broad daylight, energized women's rights advocates who have been accusing practitioners in the Indian criminal justice system of treating rape as a victimless crime. The highly publicized rape and murder has already led to legal reforms in the country. (See: "Rape in India: A Victimless Crime," January 1, 2013.)

     At five in the morning on Monday, March 11, 2013, a jail guard found Ram Singh hanging in his cell. He had used a length of cloth to fashion a noose. His cell had been occupied by two other inmates. Knowing that he faced the death penalty if convicted, the suspect had threatened to kill himself, and was on suicide watch.

     While government officials have reported Singh's death as a suicide, his lawyer and members of his family claim he was murdered. India's home minister has admitted a "serious security lapse" by jail personnel. Whether Ram Singh hanged himself or was murdered, very few people in India will mourn his passing. 

Criminal Justice Quote: Serial Killers

Murder is not about lust and it's not about violence. It's about possession. When you feel the last breath of life coming out of the woman, you look into her eyes. At that point, it's being God.

Ted Bundy

Monday, March 11, 2013

Criminal Justice Quote: Trials

The language of the lawyer is the language of the trickster. It's an inhuman language, a sub-language. And justice is hardly ever served. Justice is just forgotten. Our court system are just swamps of dark and devious jargon. It's just a wash of dull, crippled, masked wordage put before a jury of twelve imbeciles or a bored judge.

Charles Bukowski

Crime Bulletin: Joe Biden's Shoot First, Ask Questions Later Doctrine

     Roger Alles, the head of the Fox New Channel, recently said that Vice President Joe Biden, a man he knows, is as stupid as an ashtray. I consider this accurate reporting.

     In a February 2013 interview for Field & Steam Magazine, the Vice President touted the shotgun as the best weapon for self-defense. "If you want to keep someone away from your house, just fire the shotgun through the door," he said. This is bad advice that crosses the stupidity line deep into irresponsible territory. If you don't believe me, ask Oscar Pistorius, the Blade Runner on bail who says he shot his girlfriend to death through his bathroom door because he thought she was an intruder.

     There are hundreds of men serving time in prison for firing blindly through closed doors. In so doing, they killed police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and other people who were not intruders. While some of these homicide defendants panicked and killed by honest mistake, they still went to prison for criminal recklessness.

     But pursuant to the Joe Biden doctrine of shooting first and asking questions later, such through-the-door killings would involve specific, homicidal intent. Know this: There is no such thing in murder as the Joe Biden defense. The Vice President of the United States is telling people to commit criminal homicide. If politicians could be impeached for stupidity, Joe Biden would be out of office.