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Why No Action in the Murder of Bria Metz? Or, How to Derail Justice by Driving Up Costs

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I heard from the father of Bria Metz yesterday: he said it’s been two years since Bria’s murderer, Aurelio Martinez, confessed to the crime.  Yet Martinez still hasn’t been to trial or been sentenced.

Bria Metz, murdered at 17, her body was abandoned by the side of a highway

Aurelio Martinez, sex offender and child abuser, confessed to killing Bria

The state of Florida also hasn’t gotten around to resolving Martinez’ 2003 felony child abuse and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charges.  Apparently, the authorities are too busy doing other things.

Here is my previous post on the disgraceful record of Florida’s serial failure to keep the public safe from Aurelio Martinez.

So why does it take years to try a case in which the murderer confessed?  The answer lies in the machinations of the defense bar, and the perverse, outsized power they wield over criminal procedure and admission of evidence in our courts.  I don’t use the term perverse lightly — while the Florida Bar grandstands around the state pretending to examine problems of evidence that are either exceedingly isolated incidents or trumped-up claims by professional activists using fake statistics and faked “studies,” real problems that result in real denials of justice fester, unresolved — for many thousands of victims who will never receive justice as a result.

It would be nice if the Bar cared about that.  They don’t.

Here is a record of the docket entries in one of Martinez’ current charges.  Some entries are routine paperwork.  Others represent the types of manipulation that defund the courts.  Remember that most docket entries equal your money being spent in some way, large or small — and 155 docket entries into this murder case, there still hasn’t been a trial, just machinations and delays.

Martinez is also churning attorneys — another behavior designed to postpone trial, and a strategy frequently abetted by the defense attorneys themselves.  Must be nice to have that sort of power over other people’s money — and the administration of justice.

Imagine that you are the parent of a murdered child, forced to witness this drawn-out manipulation of procedural rules.  Bria’s family will likely be enduring this sickening game for the rest of their lives.  In the eyes of our legal system, Aurelio Martinez is the victim now:

Pinellas Case Uniform Case Entitlement Date Filed
CRC0912955CFANO 522009CF012955XXXXNO STATE VS MARTINEZ, 06/23/2009
Type Apr Cal Final Disposition Comp Division
01/30/2012 TRL M
Reset Original Sort Docket Date Docket Entry Defendant
1 11/01/2011 REMOVE FROM: MTN/HRG) A
2 11/01/2011 REMOVE FROM: MTN 110311/0830 AM -M-(REMOVE FROM A
3 10/17/2011 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
4 10/12/2011 NOTICE OF TRIAL – 013012 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
5 10/11/2011 REMOVE FROM: TRL 110711/0830 AM -M- A
6 10/11/2011 TRIAL SET: 013012/0830 AM -M- BRING A
7 10/11/2011 ORDER GRANTING: D/MTN TO CONTINUE TRIAL A
8 10/07/2011 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
9 10/04/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED A
10 10/04/2011 NOTICE OF HEARING – 110311 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
11 10/03/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED A
12 10/03/2011 NOTICE OF HEARING: 101111/0830 AM – MTN TO CONTINUE A
13 10/03/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED A
14 09/30/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED (2) A
15 09/28/2011 MOTION: TO CONTINUE TRIAL (2ND) A
16 09/27/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED A
17 09/27/2011 SUBPOENA (028) STATE A
18 09/26/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED A
19 09/23/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED A
20 09/22/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED A
21 09/21/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED A
22 09/19/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED (3) A
23 09/01/2011 ACK OF ADDL TANGIBLE EVIDENCE A
24 08/31/2011 NOTICE OF TAKING DEPOSITION (2) A
25 08/19/2011 ACK OF ADDL TANGIBLE EVIDENCE A
26 06/24/2011 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
27 06/20/2011 NOTICE OF TRIAL – 110711 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
28 06/17/2011 REMOVE FROM: TRL 082911/0830 AM -M- A
29 06/17/2011 TRIAL SET: 110711/0830 AM -M- A
30 06/17/2011 MOTION WITHDRAWN D/MTN TO COMPEL A
31 06/17/2011 ORDER GRANTING: D/MTN TO CONTINUE TRIAL A
32 06/09/2011 MTN/COMPEL MORE ADEQUATE DISCOVERY A
33 06/09/2011 NOTICE OF HEARING: 061711/0830 AM – MTN/CONTINUE TRIAL & A
34 06/09/2011 MOTION: TO CONTINUE TRIAL A
35 04/28/2011 ATTORNEY APPOINTED: SIMONE LENNON A
36 04/28/2011 REGIONAL COUNSEL WITHDRAWN A
37 04/28/2011 TO CONFLICT (FORSETT HEARING) A
38 04/28/2011 ORDER GRANTING: D/MOTION TO WITHDRAW AS COUNSEL DUE A
39 04/18/2011 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
40 04/13/2011 NOTICE OF TRIAL – 082911 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
41 04/12/2011 TRIAL SET: 082911/0830 AM -M- A
42 03/07/2011 NOTICE OF: CANCELLATION OF DEPOSITION 040811 A
43 03/07/2011 NOTICE OF TAKING DEPOSITION A
44 03/02/2011 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
45 02/28/2011 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
46 02/23/2011 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 041211 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
47 02/22/2011 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 041211/0830 AM -M- A
48 02/22/2011 ORDER DENYING: PROSE/MTN TO DISMISS COUNSEL A
49 02/14/2011 ADDITIONAL LIST OF WITNESSES A
50 02/10/2011 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
51 02/08/2011 NOTICE OF TAKING DEPOSITION A
52 02/07/2011 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 022211 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
53 02/04/2011 REMOVE FROM: TRL 022211/0830 AM -M- A
54 02/04/2011 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 022211/0830 AM -M- A
55 02/04/2011 COUNSEL A
56 02/04/2011 HEARING SET: 022211/0830 AM -M- MTN TO DISMISS A
57 02/04/2011 AT 8:30 A
58 02/04/2011 REMOVE FROM MOTION CALENDAR 2/17/11 A
59 02/04/2011 ORDER GRANTING: D/MTN TO CONTINUE TRIAL A
60 02/01/2011 DEFT’S. MOTION: FOR CONTINUANCE OF TRIAL A
61 02/01/2011 HEARING SET: 020411/0830 AM -M- MTN TO CONTINUE A
62 01/28/2011 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
63 01/25/2011 NOTICE OF HEARING – 021711 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
64 01/19/2011 PRO SE MOTION: TO DISMISS COUNSEL A
65 01/18/2011 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED (2) A
66 01/13/2011 SUBPOENA (028) STATE A
67 01/04/2011 NOTICE OF TAKING DEPOSITION A
68 12/13/2010 ADDITIONAL LIST OF WITNESSES A
69 12/09/2010 ADDITIONAL LIST OF WITNESSES A
70 11/23/2010 LETTER – COURT TO DEFT ACKNOWLEDGING RECEIPT OF LETTER A
71 11/23/2010 LETTER-DEFT TO COURT: RE: COMPLAINT CONCERNING ATTORNEY A
72 10/22/2010 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED (3) A
73 10/20/2010 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED (3) A
74 10/18/2010 WITNESS SUBPOENA RETURNED A
75 10/13/2010 NOTICE OF TAKING DEPOSITION A
76 10/12/2010 LETTER-DEFT TO CLK: REQT TO DISMISS COUNSEL A
77 10/08/2010 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
78 10/04/2010 NOTICE OF TRIAL – 022211 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
79 10/01/2010 TRIAL SET: 022211/0830 AM -M- A
80 09/16/2010 LETTER-DEFT TO CLK: COMPLAINT AGAINST ATTORNEY A
81 09/16/2010 LETTER-DEFT TO COURT: REPRESENTATION A
82 09/02/2010 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
83 08/30/2010 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 100110 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
84 08/27/2010 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 100110/0830 AM -M- A
85 08/13/2010 LETTER-DEFT TO CLK: COMPLAINT CONCERNING ATTORNEY A
86 08/03/2010 LETTER-DEFT TO CLK: RE: ATTORNEY A
87 06/23/2010 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
88 06/21/2010 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 082710 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
89 06/18/2010 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 082710/0830 AM -M- A
90 06/18/2010 WAIVED RIGHT TO SPEEDY TRIAL (REAFFIRMED) A
91 06/18/2010 ORDER GRANTING: D/MTN TO CONTINUE A
92 05/05/2010 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
93 04/30/2010 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 061810 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
94 04/29/2010 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 061810/0830 AM -M- A
95 04/29/2010 WAIVED RIGHT TO SPEEDY TRIAL (REAFFIRMED) A
96 04/29/2010 ORDER GRANTING: D/MTN TO CONTINUE A
97 02/23/2010 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
98 02/19/2010 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 042910 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
99 02/18/2010 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 042910/0830 AM -M- BRING A
100 02/18/2010 ORDER GRANTING: D/MTN TO CONTINUE A
Reset Original Sort Docket Date Docket Entry Defendant
1 02/11/2010 REGIONAL COUNSEL APPOINTED A
2 02/11/2010 ORDER WITHDRAW PD DUE TO CONFLICT A
3 02/11/2010 ORDER GRANTING: PD/MTN TO WITHDRAW AS COUNSEL A
4 02/03/2010 NOTICE OF HEARING: 021110/0830 AM A
5 02/03/2010 MOTION TO WITHDRAW PUBLIC DEFENDER & A
6 01/21/2010 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
7 01/20/2010 ACK OF ADDL TANGIBLE EVIDENCE A
8 01/15/2010 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 021810 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
9 01/14/2010 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 021810/0830 AM -M- BRING A
10 11/23/2009 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
11 11/20/2009 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 011410 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
12 11/19/2009 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 011410/0830 AM -M- BRING A
13 11/19/2009 WAIVED RIGHT TO SPEEDY TRIAL (REAFFIRMED) A
14 11/19/2009 ORDER GRANTING: D/MTN TO CONTINUE A
15 10/12/2009 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
16 10/09/2009 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 111909 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
17 10/08/2009 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 111909/0830 AM -M- BRING A
18 10/08/2009 WAIVED RIGHT TO SPEEDY TRIAL A
19 09/09/2009 ACK OF ADDL TANGIBLE EVIDENCE A
20 08/14/2009 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
21 08/10/2009 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 100809 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
22 08/07/2009 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 100809/0830 AM -M- A
23 08/07/2009 WAIVED RIGHT TO SPEEDY TRIAL A
24 08/04/2009 ADDITIONAL LIST OF WITNESSES A
25 07/31/2009 DEMAND NOTICE INTENTION TO CLAIM ALIBI A
26 07/31/2009 ANSWER TO DEMAND FOR DISCOVERY A
27 07/22/2009 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
28 07/20/2009 NOTICE OF PRE-TRIAL – 080709 COURTROOM: M AT 08:30 A
29 07/17/2009 PRE-TRIAL HRG SET: 080709/0830 AM -M- A
30 07/10/2009 NOTICE OF DEFT QUALIFICATIONS AS A PRR – SERVED A
31 07/10/2009 NOTICE OF ENHANCED PENALTY RET’D SERVED A
32 07/08/2009 CASE REASSIGNED FROM DIV T TO DIV M BY COURT ADMIN 4180 A
33 07/06/2009 DEFT INVOCATION CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS A
34 07/01/2009 NOTICE RETURNED SERVED A
35 06/30/2009 DETERMINATION OF STATUS – INDIGENT A
36 06/30/2009 AFFIDAVIT OF INDIGENT STATUS A
37 06/29/2009 NOTICE OF ARRAIGNMENT – 071709 COURTROOM: M AT 09:00 A
38 06/26/2009 NOTICE OF DEFT QUALIFICATIONS AS A PRR A
39 06/26/2009 NOTICE OF ENHANCED PENALTY A
40 06/23/2009 WRITTEN PLEA NOT GUILTY-PUBLIC DEFENDER A
41 06/23/2009 DEMAND FOR DISCOVERY A
42 06/23/2009 PC FOUND IN POLK COUNTY A
43 06/23/2009 INDIGENT CRIMINAL DEFENSE FEE ASSESSED $ 50 A
44 06/23/2009 PUBLIC DEFENDER APPOINTED (INSOLVENCY) – PROVISIONAL A
45 06/17/2009 CASE TO BE TRANSFERRED TO PINELLAS COUNTY A
46 06/17/2009 MEMO OF SENTENCE/ORDER OF COURT (POLK CTY) A
47 06/17/2009 DEFENDANTS ELECTION OF VENUE A
48 06/03/2009 NOTICE OF HEARING RE ELECTION OF VENUE (POLK CTY) A
49 06/01/2009 DEFENDANTS ELECTION OF VENUE (POLK CTY) A
50 06/01/2009 ORDER FOLLOWING 1ST APPEARANCE (POLK CTY) A
51 06/01/2009 POLK COUNTY ARREST WARRANT A
52 05/27/2009 INFORMATION FILED: (1CT) MURDER IN THE SECOND DEGREE (PBL) A
53 05/12/2009 PINELLAS CTY ARREST AFFIDAVIT A
54 05/07/2009 ARREST WARRANT (POLK CTY) A
55 05/07/2009 COMPLAINT – COMPLAINT AFFIDAVIT SECOND DEG (POLK CTY) A

Gaming The System: DragonCon Founder Edward Kramer Caught With Another Boy

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I wonder what Bob Barr has to say about Ed Kramer’s health these days.

Ed Kramer, Pre-Miraculous Recovery/New Child-Endangerment Charges

As reported here, back in 2009 Barr, the former Libertarian Presidential Candidate, helped his client Ed Kramer avoid trial — helped him avoid justice — in multiple felony charges for child molestation and aggravated child molestation.  Barr and fellow defense attorney Edwin Marger managed to convince a judge in Georgia that Ed Kramer simply could not stand trial because it would be too painful for him to show up in a courtroom because of some obscure, obviously pretend spinal illness.

You know, kind of like fantasy role-playing.

Kramer had first been arrested in 2000 — yes, 2000 — on charges of molesting three boys.  The DragonCon founder had managed to “game” the system for nine years.  Then Bob Barr took a little break from running for President and representing Baby Doc Duvalier to score a highly unusual deal for his DragonCon client: house arrest on the grounds of his extreme-yet-vague “disability.”  Not a plea, mind you: just no trial.

In other words, the three young victims were denied justice. Their rights as citizens were literally stripped from them via legal wizardry performed by someone who claims to represent individual liberties.

Well, some people’s liberties.

Of course, Ed Kramer immediately pushed the envelope and demanded release from house arrest. Of course, the judge granted it, along with the right to travel to another state and to “check in” by telephone.  Of course, Kramer didn’t even bother to meet those requirements.  Of course, nobody in our ever-so-vigilant court system bothered to follow up.  Of course, the victims, and the molestation charges, simply got lost in the shuffle.

Ed Kramer, Pre-Pretend Spinal Cord Disease

Everyone knows how this genre fiction ends: of course, Kramer was arrested in Connecticut this week after being found in a motel room with a 14-year old boy:

A 50-year-old man who is already facing multiple charges of child molestation, was arraigned in Superior Court on a risk of injury to a minor charge Thursday after authorities said they found him staying in a hotel room with a 14-year-old boy earlier this week.

Kramer, a science fiction author and co-founder of the popular sci-fi convention DragonCon, was first charged with multiple charges of child molestation and aggravated child molestation by investigators in Gwinnett County, Ga in 2000. The district attorney’s office contacted police in Milford [Connecticut] about the pending charges after receiving a tip Kramer may be in the Connecticut area.

Gwinnett County [Georgia] District Attorney Danny Porter said he was contacted this week by a woman whose daughter is filming a movie in the Hartford-area. Crews started to worry about the way Kramer was acting around the 14-year-old boy, who was hired as an actor in the movie, Porter said.

Kramer claimed he was the child’s guardian, according to police.

On Tuesday, Porter said a crew member contacted Milford police after went to the boy’s hotel room and became concerned when the boy opened the door in a towel. Kramer was allegedly sitting on a bed inside the room, Porter said.

Congratulations, Congressman Barr.  Your client seems to have completely overcome his pesky back problem.

Among other gut-wrenching questions, this question remains: why didn’t anyone with the “movie crew” do something about a molestation suspect sharing a motel room with a 14-year old boy?  One person did eventually come forward, but what about the rest of them?  Surely they knew Kramer — he’s uniquely famous in SciFi circles.  What’s the matter with these people?  Why didn’t they choose a better role for themselves — Avenger of the Innocent, Protector of the Voiceless, anything but More People who are so Emotionally Arrested They Can’t Bring Themselves to Act to Save a Child?

In my alternative fantasy universe, Convicted-Con, the act of denying victims their day in court would be taken as seriously as the act of denying rights to defendants.  In my alternative fantasy universe, law professor bloggers and other activist types would work themselves up in a frenzy whenever some raped child got conned out of their rights by powerful politicians and uncaring pseudo-guardians of the law.

Star Trek Court, Where Defendants Face Justice, Unlike Real Court

In my alternative fantasy universe, when a lawyer gets his sex offender client off on claims of disability, and the disability turns out to be fake, there would be consequences for the lawyer:

Kramer’s attorneys [had] succeed in delaying his trial by arguing his health [was] too frail for lengthy courtroom sessions. One attorney described Kramer to the Daily Post last year as an “anatomy lesson” in decrepitude, suffering from ailments that include a problematic back, weak lungs and narcolepsy. He was said to get around on a motorized scooter and rely on oxygen tanks.

Last year, a judge agreed to abbreviated trial sessions and specialized seating for Kramer, but the trial was again continued and has hung in limbo since. . . Kramer was staying in the motel with the boy. . . Officers descended on the Super 8 and found Kramer alone with the minor, the police report states.

What’s more, [Danny] Porter said at least one witness is claiming to have proof Kramer’s not as sick as he made out.

“They saw him hiking in a rural area — no breathing apparatus, no wheelchair, no cane,” Porter said.

Are we actually supposed to believe that Bob Barr and his partner, Edwin Marger, knew nothing about Ed Kramer’s real physical condition when they claimed he was too sick to attend court in 2009, or that he had basically fled what little court-ordered control they had managed to wrangle for him under extremely questionable circumstances?  Well, here’s some clues:

Ed Kramer sporting a Barr ’08 button

Here’s Ed Kramer in either 2007 or 2008.  He claimed he was too sick to stand trial for molestation, but he looks like he was having a really good time campaigning for his lawyer, Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr.  If anyone knows more about this photo, please contact me.

Ed Kramer at the 2008 DragonCon

Here’s Ed Kramer hanging out at DragonCon when he was supposed to be housebound and in such serious pain from a “spinal injury” that he couldn’t stay awake for trial.  Hundreds of people saw him hanging out at a hotel in downtown Atlanta after midnight, chilling with some guy in latex shorts carrying a bongo drum.  What, they couldn’t pick up a phone when they saw the following story in the newspaper a few months later?  You know . . . acting to protect kids from getting raped, like their favorite superhero might do?

Edward Kramer told Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Karen Beyers he was uncertain he could stay awake and alert enough to assist in his own defense. A spinal injury makes it difficult to sit, stand or breathe, and he is chronic pain, he said.  “I understand your diseases are degenerative,” the judge told Kramer. “I do not believe your ability [to stand trial] is going to improve.” . . . The judge suggested a trial schedule with three breaks a day ranging from 30 to 90 minutes. Beyers also tried to accommodate Kramer by offering to set up a room outside the courtroom for him to lie down in during the breaks and providing an orthopedic chair for him in court.

But he wasn’t too sick to party with female Klingons until the inter-galactical cows came home.  Shame on Bob Barr for using his influence to set this up.  Really, shame on him.

And double shame on his partner, Ed Marger, who classily had this to say about his client’s most recent arrest in a motel room with a young child found wearing nothing but a towel:

I don’t know if this was a 14-year-old child or a 41-year-old midget.

Nice.  What a great way to say: “I’m sorry for playing sleazy games with the lives of children and degrading rape victims in the newspaper while also insulting short people and homosexuals.”

Ed Marger and His Carefully Staged Pelts

Here’s a picture of Marger, pseudo-cornpone, et. al.  That depressed-looking thing sitting on his desk is a taxidermied groundhog: his other moldy client, “Baby” Doc Duvalier, must have been busy that day.

There are a thousand different freak shows in the big city.  Or as Dashiell Hammett used to say, well, I can’t remember what he said.  But the gist of it is this: grey people in grey cities with grey outlooks produce grey moral results.  It takes a village not to notice the guy in the wizard outfit and long black gloves slipping away with the little kid who should have been tucked away safely in bed instead of hovering in a grungy convention hotel lobby looking for someone to look up to.

And don’t ever, ever expect a defense attorney to do the right thing.

~~~

Local reporter Scott Henry keeps up on the Kramer case Here and Here.

The War on Cops: Blame the Courts, Not the Police.

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It is not yet August, and 94 police officers have been killed in the line of duty this year, 87 by the mid-year mark (June 30), and seven more in July.  That’s an increase of 43% since 2009.  But another fact emerging from the statistics is even more chilling: gun killings of officers have more than doubled in the last twenty-four months, rising 22% in 2008 – 2009, and a staggering 41% in 2009 – 2010.

That is an increase of 63% in just two years.

Those numbers are only fatalities.  Attempted murders — including nonfatal gunshots, stabbings, attacks with vehicles, and other aggravated assaults — aren’t counted.  In Tampa Bay, where I live, four police officers were actually shot last month, in two separate incidents in the last week of June.  Two officers survived serious gunshot wounds.  Two others, David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab, did not.  Kocab’s wife, Sara, who was nine months pregnant with their first child when her husband was gunned down, delivered a stillborn baby a few days ago.

Then she got up the next day and went from the hospital to court to face her husband’s killer:

Profile in Courage: Sara Kocab (on the right) in Court

Over the weekend, Chicago buried the third cop ambushed in that city in recent weeks. Also over the weekend, a policeman was shot dead in Detroit, bringing the year’s total there to three.  Warnings have appeared in the Chicago media alleging that more cops will be targeted.  This is especially troubling because all the recently murdered officers were felled in surprise attacks.

Just days after [Michael] Bailey’s death, there is a new warning. The police department has acknowledged that both District 3 and District 6 in Chatham, near Officer Bailey’s home, have received phone call threats against its officers. Text messages containing the gist of the threat and a warning have been circulating among officers there.  “More police officers will be shot&gang bangers in the area are passing the word&every night they will be ambushing police in the Chatham area. Please pass along this info and please be safe,” reads one of the text messages.

Imagine the response if “gang bangers” were targeting anyone other than police.  We have come to expect this and even accept it.  The nation’s top Justice Department official, Eric Holder, has said nothing about the slaughter of cops (he is, after all, a man with a history of pushing clemency for cop killers).  The President, who singled out individual police for public excoriation, somehow can’t seem to find the time to recognize these officers’ sacrifices, even when the murdered police hailed from his own hometown and lived lives steeped in the community volunteerism the President claims to value.

Other than covering crime scenes and funerals, the media has remained almost entirely silent about the war on cops — except when they’re pointing fingers at the police.  But what’s really driving this war?  Even the most cursory survey of cop killings offers a single, extremely obvious answer: courtroom-bred, free-range, grudge-bearing recidivism.  A culture of excessively lenient sentencing emboldens thugs and is papered over by opinion-makers who wouldn’t dream of criticizing the sentencing judges or even the “gang bangers” themselves.

After all, newspaper columnists and reporters wouldn’t want to lose their all-important insider status.  Invitations dry up when you ask the wrong questions, and who wants to blame poor youth when there’s a cop, any cop at all, to finger?

So, at best, you get schizophrenic reporting, like this seemingly promising article by the Chicago Sun-Times.   The reporters flirt with a few facts but end up defaulting to a blame the cops mantra:

This is the story of why they won’t stop shooting in Chicago.  It’s told by the wounded, the accused and the officers [not so much by the officers] who were on the street during a weekend in April 2008 when 40 people were shot, seven fatally.  Two years later, the grim reality is this: Nearly all of the shooters from that weekend have escaped charges. “You don’t go to jail for shooting people,” says Dontae Gamble, who took six bullets that weekend, only to see his alleged shooter walk free.  “That’s why m————- think they can get back on the streets and kill again. You feel me?”

OK, Dontae, so there are no consequences for shooting people.  Who do we blame for this?

So far, not one accused shooter has been convicted of pulling the trigger during those deadly 59 hours from April 18-20 of that year, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found.  Only one suspected triggerman — a convicted armed robber caught with the AK-47 he allegedly used to blow away his boss — is in jail awaiting trial.

And why is that?  Why does it take two+ years to bring an accused killer to trial?  Might there be something wrong with the courts?

Oh goodness, no.  That couldn’t be. Or if there were, reporters couldn’t possibly investigate, because then they might not get invited to boozy lunches with important lawyers and politicians and judges.

It must be the police’s fault.  Cue, curtain left:

The Chicago Police Department’s batting average for catching shooters has fallen to an alarmingly low level. Detectives cleared 18 percent of the 1,812 non-fatal shootings last year. They were slightly better in catching killers — 30 percent of murders were cleared in 2009.  But here’s the catch: When police “clear” a case, that doesn’t always mean a suspect got convicted — or even charged.  Sometimes police seek charges against a suspect, but the state’s attorney won’t prosecute without more evidence. Other times, the shooter is dead, or the victim refuses to testify after identifying the shooter. Cops call those “exceptional” clearances.

Except . . . it’s not “cops” who make up this lingo, or this accounting system, or these statistics.  It’s not as if your front-line street cop wakes up in the morning and says, hey, here’s how I’m gonna enforce the law today.  Police brass and other political appointees, D.A.s, judges: they’re the ones who make the decisions.

But the Sun-Times reporters make it sound as if the only people with any agency, or any responsibility, in the entire justice system are the street cops.

This is the way the vast majority of reporters report crime: they simply don’t bother to look behind things like failed clearance numbers and ask why it’s so hard to satisfy the current status quo for removing known, armed, violent, recidivist felons from the streets.

They don’t bother to ask why evidence that would have sufficed for a conviction twenty years ago isn’t good enough today, or why prosecutors don’t try to bring every charge possible against known, dangerous offenders.  Reporters certainly don’t go to the guy in the black robe and ask why that convicted armed robber who “blew away his boss” with an AK-47 was out on the streets in the first place.

That type of question is considered off-limits, whereas no question about even the greenest police recruit is off-limits.

How many times do judges even have to say no-comment?  You don’t have to not comment if you don’t get asked anything in the first place.

Better to just criticize police.

The Sun-Times story continues with one “gang banger” shooting another “gang banger” who claims he’s too afraid to testify but isn’t too afraid to try to get money out of the government’s victim compensation fund.  Next, the reporter spends an inordinate amount of time following the victim around town as he pontificates against the police while bragging that he has forgiven (and refused to testify against) the thug who shot him.  After recovering from his wounds (doubtlessly on the public dime), then wasting months of police and courtroom resources, Willie Brown changed his testimony but suffered no consequences:

‘I could be Willie the Rat, but I don’t care about s— like that,” Willie Brown said while rolling a joint near Sheridan and Wilson in the Uptown neighborhood.  Brown is 28. He lives in a run-down high-rise and walks with a limp because he got shot in the leg.  He said he was a bad kid, a teenage Vice Lord and stickup man who did prison time for robbing a corner store with a toy pistol in 2003 while high on weed and angel dust. He had the munchies that day and was looking to steal “wam wams and zoom zooms” — prison talk for snacks — when a police officer saw the gun poking from Brown’s waistband and arrested him. He was paroled in 2007.

Did the reporter even bother to check Brown’s real record?  His arrest record?  Just took his word for it?

On April 18, 2008, Brown took a bullet in his upper right thigh outside 1012 W. Sunnyside. He was the 10th person to get shot on that bloody April 2008 weekend.  “That was a horrific moment,” Brown said.  He says he saw the guy who shot him.  Heck, he even talked to the alleged shooter, Darnell Robinson.  Brown was on his way to buy beer about 11:30 p.m. that Friday when Robinson and his brother stopped him in the street.  Robinson supposedly asked, “What is you?” — street slang for “What gang are you in?”  Brown said he told them about his past Vice Lords affiliation.  Robinson said he was in the “Taliban” before he started shooting, according to Brown.

Nice.  Every Chicago cop’s spouse knows that this is what their husband or wife is walking into, every day.

Police arrested Robinson, who was 31 at the time and had been behind bars for residential burglary and selling drugs. Brown identified Robinson as the shooter, and the case headed for a trial.  Robinson, who claimed he was innocent in jailhouse interviews with the Sun-Times, sat in Cook County jail for 13 months until prosecutors had to let him go because Brown changed his story several times.  Why did Brown’s story change? Because “my momma told me to,” he said.  “I did it so he could go home. I’m not no stool pigeon,” Brown said, recounting his story while scarfing down McNuggets at a McDonald’s in Uptown.  “I don’t have anything against him — it’s like he never shot me. I wouldn’t want to see the m———– sitting in jail because that [jail] is hell. I spared that dude. That’s all I did. I did it for my mom.”

How touching.  Our tax dollars support this behavior from beginning, to middle, to violent, bloody end.  This is how cops and other innocent people end up getting shot on the streets.  How about interviewing the judge or parole board officer who let Robinson go free the last time?  Brown?  How about reviewing their real records, step by expensive, bloody step through the courts?

But at least Brown screwed the system “for his mom.”  I wonder if Hallmark makes cards for that.

Brown said he sometimes bumps into Robinson on the street.  “I talked to the guy. He said he was sorry. I said, ‘Forget about it. Don’t worry about it.’ . . . I feel like I should have forgiven [him] for they know not what they do. He needs to be happy and thank God like I did. Everybody should go by that code.”  And in that moment — as Brown talked about forgiveness as his brand of nonviolent street justice — Robinson walked into the McDonald’s with two friends.  “There he is. That’s him right there!” Brown said.  The accused shooter and the victim awkwardly shook hands and hugged — each assuring the other, “We cool.”  Robinson nervously asked if reporters at the table were police officers. Robinson said repeatedly that he didn’t shoot Brown, but he wouldn’t talk more about it unless he was paid $30. Then he disappeared down Wilson Avenue, heading east toward the lake.  Brown said he and Robinson have a simple understanding: “Don’t f— with me. I won’t f— with you.”

Yes, until the next time.  Why didn’t the prosecutor go ahead with the trial anyway?  The public is sick of this.  Or throw Brown in jail alongside Robinson, for lying and changing his story, for false accusations?  How about making Brown pay for his hospital bills if he won’t cooperate with the prosecution?  Would anything short of zero tolerance guarantee that either of these felonious buffoons will live to old age, or at least not kill anyone besides themselves?  And: “forgiveness [is] his brand of nonviolent street justice”???

Among all the prayers this tableau summons, one can only pray that the reporter was attempting irony.

The newspaper article ends with another drug dealer (this one shot, self-admittedly, in a “deal gone bad”) who complains that the cops didn’t do a good enough job investigating his case (though it is a judge who dismisses the charges).  Funny how even the worst thugs know which side of the bread is buttered and kiss up to judges.

So, in the final analysis, courtroom failures don’t exist and the police are responsible for snitching, for the culture of no-snitching, for the lack of evidence, for the rejection of evidence, for being too tough, for being too weak, for responding to crimes, for not responding . . . for merely existing while some thug sits in McDonald’s stuffing his face, pontificating his views on police performance at a reporter who is hopefully just pretending to hang on his every word:

[Repeat felon and shooting victim Dontae] Gamble also said authorities should have done a better job of investigating, putting together a stronger case and getting their facts straight since a judge might not believe a guy like him.

This would be laughable if police weren’t dying.

It’s too bad the Sun-Times reporters spent all their time eliciting opinions from people like Dontae Gamble and Willie Brown instead of focusing on the one striking fact buried amidst all the street-gang high-fives and sentimentalist clap-trap, because this fact explains entirely why police are dying on Chicago’s streets and elsewhere.  It should have been the starting point for the article they should have written:

Shooting victims in Chicago are almost as likely to have a long rap sheet as the shooters. In 2008, 72 percent of murder victims and 91 percent of accused killers had arrest histories, according to police statistics.

Long rap sheets.  Recidivists all.  If 91% of accused killers in Chicago have long arrest histories, it is not the police who are to blame for their presence on the streets: it is the courts and corrections systems that repeatedly cut them breaks and cut them loose.  The recent killer of two police in Tampa had a long rap sheet, as did the man who shot the two other officers who survived, as did the man who shot another Tampa cop last year, as did all the known cop killers in Chicago, and Detroit, and in Oakland and Seattle and L.A.  And so on and on and on.

~~~

The media may have dropped the ball on the war on cops, but thanks to the internet there are other sources of information from police themselves and police-turned-bloggers.  This article, by Dave Smith at PoliceOne blog is worth a thousand afternoons with the likes of Dontae Gamble.  And this column, by Chicago Sun Times columnist Michael Sneed, counters several ill-times, ham-handed screeds by Sneed’s anti-cop colleagues at the paper.

The Guilty Project: Why Were “Papa Love” Speights’ Other Victims Denied Justice?

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Now that fugitive child rapist “Poppa Love” Speights has been tracked down by the police (for the second time — after a Tampa judge actually cut him loose on bail despite his flight from the law on child-rape charges in 2008), maybe more of his victims will come forward.

Then again, that’s what was said the last time, too.

You can hardly blame Speights’ victims for not trusting authorities to keep them safe — some authorities, that is.  The police worked hard, for years, to put Speights away.  Other child victims came forward, at grave personal risk, only to be denied a day in court.  The courts remain bluntly inaccessible to victims of child rape and overly sympathetic to their assailants.  This is true despite decades of advocacy.  Here’s why:

  • Myths of wrongful prosecution, fed by media activists such as Dorothy Rabinowitz, who wildly exaggerated the prevalence of wrongful prosecutions after a handful of unjust prosecutions made headlines . . . twenty years ago.   Rabinowitz and other self-proclaimed “wrongful prosecution experts” irresponsibly claimed that these isolated cases constituted a vast, shadowy movement against innocent, falsely accused defendants.  There was no such thing, and neither Rabinowitz nor any of her equally irresponsible peers ever bothered to try to make a statistical case.  Nor were they asked to do so: it was enough to point fingers, shriek “witch hunt” and dine out on the outrage they were generating — while countless child victims watched their own chance for justice evaporate, thanks in large part to the hysteria Rabinowitz orchestrated.  How many prosecutions were actually found to be flawed?  So few they are remembered by name and may be counted on one hand.  How many victims of child sexual assault were consequently denied even a chance for justice?  It’s impossible to know.  But hundreds of thousands of cases of child sexual abuse have gone un-prosecuted in the twenty years since Rabinowitz et. al. helped put a deep chill on the public’s willingness to believe victims of this crime.
  • Pro-offender biases on the part of judges. Too many judges see their role as defenders of defendants instead of objective arbiters of the law.  This probably has a lot to do with the number of politically-connected defense attorneys who make it to the bench.  I personally can’t conceive of any other reason why some judge let Speights walk free in 2008, even after he was found to have fathered a child by raping a 12-year old.
  • Defendant-biased evidence rules that make it virtually impossible to introduce facts and arguments in the courtroom.  In Trials Without Truth, William Pizzi explains how Supreme Court-driven exclusionary rules have warped the trial system, always in favor of defendants.
  • Public unwillingness to foot the bill (and the defense bar’s successes in padding it).  Even when evidence exists to try defendants, prosecutors working with extremely limited budgets can only afford to try a fraction of cases, or sometimes a fraction of charges against individual defendants.  Add that to the multiple ways defendants can get off on technicalities, and prosecutors are forced to shelve the majority of the cases they ought to be bringing to trial.

The criminal career of “Papa Love” Speights is a direct consequence of these prejudices and shortcomings.  His sexual crimes against children have been known to the police for years, but they never succeeded in bringing charges that stuck, until DNA identified him as the father of an infant whose mother was 12 when she was raped and impregnated by him.  Even then, a judge let him go free to await trial.

Another child victim who had come forward — his own daughter — never got her day in court, says St. Petersburgh Times reporter Alexandra Zayas:

A teenage girl went to police in 2005, saying her father raped her repeatedly for two years, paid cash for her silence and for good measure, showed her a gun.  Prosecutors lacked enough evidence to pursue charges.  A year later, that same man raped a 12-year-old niece and slipped her $20.  He was John Jerome Speights Jr., a 45-year-old with more than 30 children and paternity claims from more than a dozen women. He calls himself Poppa Love.

Speights actually tattoos his name on his wives and female children:

His ex-wife’s thigh “belongs to P. Love.” Daughters are inked “Daddy’s Girl.”  Over the years, he has had access to many young girls, including his own daughters and other relatives.

The details of the daughter’s rape are chilling.  The child reached out to authorities and told the police of other victims, but the State Attorney’s Office declined to act.  Why?

His daughter was 14 when it started. At a family reunion in northern Florida, she told police, she ended up alone with him in a motel room.  He asked if she was a virgin, she told police. He said he was going to give her a test. Then he had intercourse with her, while telling her, “I am not having sex with you,” she said.  It happened more than once, she reported. On a porch, in motels, in his car, near a graveyard. In the front yard of her aunt’s home. In his house, after he locked the other kids out.  The daughter said he told her to think of him as her boyfriend. That he would whip her brothers if she didn’t have sex with him. That if she told, he’d shoot himself, she said, or drive them both off the road. . . Speights denied the allegation. When police came, he fled.  They spoke to his wife. She said neither of them was employed and that she collected disability checks for the kids.  “Eight children live with them,” the detective wrote. “She said that she doesn’t know their ages because there are too many of them to keep straight.”  The daughter reported seeing young girls taken out of the bedroom late at night, but none of them alleged abuse.  Speights skipped his interview with police. His wife told them his attorney had advised him against talking.  The following day, a detective presented the case to the State Attorney’s Office and was told there was insufficient evidence. The case was closed but could be reopened with more proof.

Where was child protective services?  Astonishingly, Speights actually took one of his victims to court for child support — and the victim was thrown into jail.  The girl was 15 when he impregnated  her:

Court files suggest that [the niece's child] wasn’t the first baby he fathered with a teen. In 2004, he filed a child support case in one such case. He was 30 when their son was born. She would have been 15. She could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.  When she failed to pay, the Hillsborough court held her in contempt and Gulfport police threw her in jail.

A judge in Hillsborough County court threw a teen mother in jail at the behest of the adult who impregnated her.  Another judge — or possibly two — let Speight remain free from 2008 to 2010.  If this case does not cry out for a top-to-bottom review of the court’s response to child abuse and sexual abuse cases, what does?

If only crusading journalists like Ms. Rabbinowitz behaved as if victims deserved justice, just like regular people.  Don’t hold your breath, though.

Tomorrow: What, if anything, can be done.

No Answers Yet in Mr. X Case. Lots of Questions.

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The print news coverage of the Michael Harvey trial continues to skirt important questions:

  • Why did the Fulton County (Atlanta) D.A.’s office fail to act for at least three years once DNA evidence linked Harvey to the brutal 1994 murder of Valerie Payton? According to news reports, they identified Harvey’s DNA in 2005 and arrested him in 2008.
  • And why didn’t the G.B.I. make the link between the Harvey’s DNA and Valerie Payton’s rape kit back in 2002 or 2003, at the latest, when they were supposed to have entered his sample into the state database for which they’re responsible?

Meanwhile the AJC’s coverage is even more confusing today than it was a few days ago:

Harvey was released from the Georgia prison system in 2007 after serving two years on an aggravated assault conviction. He also was imprisoned four other times since 1980 for crimes such as aggravated assault with intent to rape, burglary and car theft.  Police arrested him in 2008 in connection with Payton’s death.  His DNA was linked to the crime in 2005, the Fulton District Attorney’s Office said Monday.

OK, don’t ask the D.A. to explain himself about the three-year gap between the DNA match and the murder charges.

But do explain this: how could Harvey have been in the “Georgia prison system” in 2007 when that isn’t recorded in the Georgia Bureau of Corrections database?  The database reports a different record, and they, at least, unlike Fulton County, keep coherent records and behave as if the people who are paying their salaries have a right to know what they are doing:

STATE OF GEORGIA – INCARCERATION HISTORY
INCARCERATION BEGIN INCARCERATION END
02/04/2003 06/14/2003
05/12/1998 09/16/1999
02/04/1985 11/01/1985
10/23/1980 11/02/1984

Maybe Harvey was in the county jail.  But that is Fulton County jail, not the “Georgia prison system.”  The paper seems to be saying (without saying too clearly) that there are these other aggravated assault charges for which he was imprisoned in 2007 (for how long is also unclear).  But he never got sent up to the state system for them.  So, at most, that must have been a sentence of a year or less, which would have placed Harvey in a courtroom in Fulton County after his DNA was linked to a heinous murder, and the D.A. should have known about the match.  Yet that evidence wasn’t, apparently, even brought up in court, or else (one must hope) he wouldn’t have been released in 2007, right?

Also, wouldn’t recidivism sentencing have kicked in by then, murder charges (so bizarrely) notwithstanding?  We do have laws about getting popped for several violent offenses in a row, and they should have applied to Harvey, with his prior kidnapping conviction (His attempted rape conviction presents an interesting quandary: rape counts, but does attempted rape?  It should: why reward failure to complete the crime?).  So in addition to all the other apparently squandered chances to do something about Harvey’s ties to a murder, was the 2007 aggravated assault yet another situation in which some Fulton County Judge didn’t bother to enforce Georgia’s laws? Is it another situation in which Fulton County’s D.A. utterly failed to bother to investigate the criminal history of the defendant and ask the judge for appropriate sentencing?

Why did yet another person with a long history of serious violent and felony property crime (not to mention a DNA link in a bloody murder) stroll into court some time between 2003 and 2007 for another violent crime and get sentenced, apparently, to some brief stint in county jail, if that is indeed what happened?  Where is the curiosity about any of this?  It’s pretty clear it happens every day.

And I still wonder whether Harvey’s multiple aggravated assault charges aren’t actually pled-down sex crimes.

How overwhelmed is Fulton’s criminal justice system? Who is responsible for taking three years to get around to charging Michael Harvey with murder after the belated DNA match, for this?

Payton had over 50 carvings on her body when she was found, and a photo of her 8-year-old son was placed on her stomach, Ross said during opening arguments. Handwritten on the back of the photo were the words, “I’M BACK ATLANTA, MR. X,” written in a block style with all capital letters, Ross said.

There seems to be an insinuation (again, not a very clear one) either in the AJC coverage or coming from the D.A. himself that the reason all of this unfolded so slowly is because Michael Harvey isn’t suspected in any of the other unsolved murders of prostitutes that were so thick on the ground in the 1990′s.

You know, that he was merely the suspect in one heinous murder.

Is the D.A.’s office so swamped (or distracted) that murders are taking decades to process while the murderers are left on the streets to commit more crimes?  For, in reality, Harvey’s DNA should have been taken and compared to outstanding rape-and-murder kits back in 1996, when he was convicted for rape, or in 1999, before he was released, or right away in 2002, when he was re-incarcerated.  There were the beginnings of a good DNA database before 1999, and the first people who were entered into it were people with sex offense convictions, like Harvey.  By 1999, when he was released, that database should have been functional enough to check at least the outstanding rape/murder cases in the state, like Valerie Payton’s death, against the DNA of convicted sex criminals, if it mattered enough to anyone.

Which, apparently, it didn’t.

Or was Payton’s rape kit one of the many left stockpiled on a shelf somewhere in the Atlanta Police Department while Bill Campbell mouthpiece and Chief of Police Beverley Harvard, no friend of rape victims, jetted around the country picking up awards and running political interference for her boss, the soon-to-be convicted mayor?

Harvard presided distractedly over some of the most bloody years on Atlanta’s streets.  Thanks to such official neglect, multiple opportunities to get sexual predators off the streets were simply squandered.  Was the Valerie Payton murder another one?  Was another raped and murdered mother just not important enough?

Or was it the GBI that screwed up? Were they the ones sitting on Valerie Payton’s rape kit?  Michael Harvey’s DNA sample?  You have to really wonder what’s going on, when the spokesperson for the agency is busy telling the public not to worry about all the sex offenders they’ve lost track of but can’t be bothered to explain whether or not his agency is responsible for delays in processing these DNA samples during the time that a murder suspect with a long record of violent crime was still in state custody.

If GBI spokesman John Bankhead or Fulton County D.A. Paul Howard ever came forward and said, Look, we just don’t have enough resources to even pay appropriate attention to murder cases, they would receive resounding support from the public.  But instead, it seems that both men are refusing to explain what went wrong in this investigation.  And they are enabled in flying under the radar by many things, including a Clerk of Court system that behaves as if the public is not entitled to know what’s going on in their courts.

A clever ninth grader could create a database system for sharing court outcomes with the public, using nothing more than his lunch money for implementation, but, sadly, there are no clever ninth graders working at the Clerk of Court’s office.  So long as an uninformed public continues re-electing political cronies to the head offices of the Clerk (and the print media remains silent on that and other well-known, substandard practices), that situation will not change for Atlanta.

Why is there no political push for sunshine in the courts? Neighborhood advocates have worked to great effect with the police to make streets safer, but those efforts are ultimately wasted if similar scrutiny is not applied to the court system, which is directly responsible for repeatedly releasing both violent and property offenders.

This is why full disclosure and frank discussion of the criminal history of offenders like Michael Harvey is so important, and why it is so unsettling that the D.A. is not being forthcoming with that information.  Here is a known alleged killer, and it seems that nobody acted with appropriate speed to restrain him.  Two, or five, or eight years ago, it would have been far easier to try Harvey for this murder.  Fourteen years ago, when he was tried for another rape and should have had his DNA tested, it would have been easier still.

Now, it seems like an afterthought.  And everybody involved seems to be covering each others’ mistakes.  This is justice on the cheap.  We’ve all been accepting utter neglect of most criminal behavior for so long that it doesn’t even seem noteworthy that an accused killer has been walking the streets all this time, in plain view.

Rodney Alcala’s Criminal Appeals: Is Alcala Smart, Or Is The System Stupid?

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Much is being made about Rodney Alcala’s allegedly superior intelligence. I don’t buy it any more than I buy it when defense attorneys wave a piece of paper in the courtroom and claim their client is mentally challenged and thus deserves a break.  It’s just theater.  Alcala’s a haircut with cheekbones: his IQ, whatever it might be, matters far less than the pro-offender sentiments of the era when he was first tried, and re-tried.

It certainly didn’t take a rocket scientist to play the California criminal justice system for a fool back in the 1970′s.  Unfortunately, in many ways, the same is still true.

Here are ten specific breaks the system gave Alcala, breaks that either enabled him to add to his body count or torment the families of his victims.  Such breaks weren’t reserved for serial killers with MENSA memberships, which is why places like L.A. were so fatal for all sorts of women.

How fatal?  Seven, or fifty, or even 100 women and girls, depending on how much evidence Alcala provides and the police uncover with the massive public appeal for assistance now underway.  Again, I have to ask: why weren’t these pictures distributed to the public decades ago?  Why were families forced to sit in limbo while authorities had hundreds of photos linking a known sadistic rapist and murderer to scores of unidentified women and girls?  I’m sure the police, given adequate resources, would have worked these cases.  But we’ve never given police adequate resources.  We still don’t charge even serious offenders with the totality of their known crimes.

Still it’s a tribute to reformers that some (though not all) of these fatal justice system errors would not occur today.

#1: Judicial Leniency, Indeterminate Sentencing Sets a Killer Free, 1971

Rodney Alcala was 25 in 1968, when he was caught in the act of raping and beating an eight-year old child to death.  That’s a chilling number, 25.  Kidnapping from a public place, the brutality of the rape, the extreme violence — all are hallmarks of an experienced, brazen killer who had escalated his behavior long before that crime.  If Alcala conformed to typical patterns (and there’s no reason to believe he did not), he probably started sexually victimizing girls and women around the time he reached puberty, a full decade before he attacked “Tali S.”  That’s potentially a lot of unnoticed crimes:

His first known attack was in 1968, when he abducted a second-grade girl walking to school in Hollywood, using a pipe to badly bash her head and then raping her — only to be caught red-handed because a Good Samaritan spotted him luring the child and called police. When LAPD officers demanded he open the door of his Hollywood apartment on De Longpre Avenue, Alcala fled out the back. Inside, police found the barely-alive, raped little girl on Alcala’s floor. It took LAPD three years to catch the fugitive Alcala, living under the name John Berger in New Hampshire — where the glib and charming child rapist had been hired, disturbingly, as a counselor at an arts-and-drama camp for teenagers.

Attempted murder, plus kidnapping, plus rape of a child, plus absconding.  Seems like he’d never see the light of day again.  Unfortunately, for future victims at least, pro-offender psychologists and other activists had so infiltrated the criminal justice system in California that the horror of Alcala’s crime was ignored by the courts.  From the moment he appeared in some California judge’s courtroom, he ceased to be a (failed) killer and child rapist.  He became a client and recipient of social services, a victim needing guidance, rehabilitation, “education,” and counseling.  It’s a soul-sickening travesty, one that deserves more exposure:

When Alcala was caught hiding out under the assumed name Berger on the East Coast [in 1971], a conviction for brutally raping a child in California was not a guarantee of a long prison sentence. California’s state government of that era had embraced a philosophy that the state could successfully treat rapists and murderers through education and psychotherapy.  The hallmark of the philosophy was “indeterminate sentencing,” under which judges left open the number of prison years to be served by a violent felon, and parole boards later determined when the offender had been reformed. Rapists and murderers — including Alcala — went free after very short stints. He served a scant 34 months for viciously raping the 8-year-old, who is known in official documents only as “Tali” . . . Deeply controversial, “indeterminate sentencing” was ended by then-governor Jerry Brown. But by that time, Alcala was free. . . . Retired LAPD Detective Steve Hodel, who investigated Alcala’s rape of Tali, recalls, “My impression was that it was his first sex crime, and we got him early — and society is relatively safe now. I had no idea in two years [he would be out] and continue his reign of terror and horror. I expected he was put away and society was safe. … It is such a tragedy that so much more came after that.”

“Education and psychotherapy.”  For raping and trying to kill a little girl.  It is important to understand that these highly educated “experts” were not simply trying to grope towards to some psychological discoveries that would only be discovered later.

Knowledge that murder is bad, for example, pre-dates 1971.

As I’ve written previously, I believe Alcala would have received a more severe sentence if he had just bludgeoned the little girl, instead of raping her and bludgeoning her.  I suspect the rape actually acted as a mitigating factor, turning him into a victim in the eyes of the people empowered to run our courts.  For when a prison psychiatrist found him “considerably improved” and ready for release less than three years after being convicted of attempted murder and child rape, that psychiatrist was undoubtedly referring to the fad psycho-sexual therapies in use at the time — and still being promoted by many academicians and practitioners today.  Like Dr. Richard Rappaport, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, UCSD Medical School, San Diego, who testified in Alcala’s most recent trial that Alcala should not be held responsible for serial sex murder because he just can’t help enjoying . . . sexual murder.

#2: Parole Board Leniency, 1974

It takes two to tango: a judge who refuses to hold a sick predator responsible for his crime by giving him an indeterminate sentence, and then a parole board that decides the “rehabilitation’s taken.”  Who served on that parole board in 1974, the one that decided to cut Alcala loose?  I’d love to see the transcript.  If anyone would send it to me, I’ll post it.  This wasn’t some gray-area first offense.  I wonder why the media hasn’t sought out these people and asked them why they let Alcala go.  As public servants, the parole board members should feel obliged to revisit such a devastating error.  A year’s worth of such decisions would make interesting reading — and yet one more interesting corrective to mythic beliefs that our country is too harsh on criminals.

#3: Prosecutorial/Judicial Leniency, Not Believing a Victim, Failure to Punish Recidivism, 1974

After the parole board cut him loose, it took Alcala two months to get caught with another child.  Two months.  Or, possibly, less:

In 1974, two months after he got out of state prison, Alcala was found at Bolsa Chica State Beach with a 13-year-old girl who claimed he’d kidnapped her. He was convicted only of violating parole and giving pot to a minor, however . . .

A convicted, violent, child rapist is found with a 13-year old girl who tells police she has been kidnapped.  What happens next?  Somebody doesn’t believe the child.  Who?  The judge?  The prosecutor?

#4: Parole Leniency, 1977

Alcala served another short sentence, and was apparently declared “re-reformed.”  Then a parole officer cut him some breaks.  It makes you wonder: was there anyone, anywhere in California’s criminal justice system, outside police themselves, who harbored a negative attitude towards violent offenders?

[T]wo years later, upon his second release from prison, the law went easy on Alcala again. His parole officer in Los Angeles permitted Alcala, though a registered child rapist and known flight risk, to jaunt off to New York City to visit relatives. NYPD cold-case investigators now believe that one week after arriving in Manhattan, Alcala killed the Ciro’s nightclub heiress Ellen Hover, burying her on the vast Rockefeller Estate in ritzy Westchester County.Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy, who hopes during the current trial to put Alcala permanently on death row for Samsoe’s 1979 murder and the slayings of four women in the Los Angeles area, says: “The ’70s in California was insane as far as treatment of sexual predators. Rodney Alcala is a poster boy for this. It is a total comedy of outrageous stupidity.”

#5:  Social Leniency, 1977 – 1979: The Polanski Effect

It really does take a village.  Between the time Rodney Alcala was released from prison on his second child offense charge, and when he was captured after the murder of 12-year old Robin Samsoe, it seems that nobody he encountered (outside the police) felt it was right to judge him for — oh, little transgressions like trying to murder a young child he was raping, or being a suspect in several other murders, or being investigated in the Hillside strangler cases, or ending up on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list.  Surely, FBI agents and other detectives approached Alcala’s co-workers and employers when he was being investigated for these crimes; surely his family and friends and professional acquaintances knew about the rape and beating of the 8-year old child.

So why did the L.A. Times choose to hire him anyway?  Why didn’t his supervisors there act on the knowledge that he was circulating his home-made child porn to co-workers?  Why did the Dating Game producers allow a child-rapist on their show?  Why did Alcala have such success in high-end social circles, in the art world, and with celebrities such as Roman Polanski?  Well, that one’s pretty easy to answer.

Was Alcala’s social success, in fact, based on his status as a “sexual outlaw,” being “persecuted by the pigs”?  Such was the argot in newsrooms and art circles, after all.  Funny how all the people who knew him then are so tight-lipped now: it sounds as if he really got around, between slaughtering young women:

1977  Ellen Hover, Jill Barcomb (18), Georgia Wixted (27)

1978  Charlotte Lamb (32), Monique H. (15), Jill Parenteau (21).  And more to come.

#6: Yet More Judicial Leniency, and Help From Mom, 1979

Another kidnapping and rape, another lost chance to get Alcala behind bars.  The police catch ‘em and the courts let ‘em go, leaving two more girls dead.  This type of behavior from the bench, sadly, continues today:

Alcala’s alleged reign of terror might have been halted in early 1979, when a 15-year-old hitchhiker called police from a motel in Riverside County to report she had just escaped from a kidnapper and rapist. Although Riverside police quickly charged Alcala with kidnapping and rape, a judge set his bail at just $10,000, paid by his mother. While free, police say, Alcala killed 21-year-old computer keypunch operator [Jill] Parenteau five months later in her Burbank apartment. The killer cut himself climbing through her window, and prosecutors now say Alcala’s rare blood type has been matched to the blood remnants.  Six days after Parenteau’s slaying, Robin Samsoe disappeared, a child-snatching that sent fear rippling through safe, quiet Southern California communities. Samsoe’s friend Bridget told police the two swimsuit-clad girls were approached that day by a photographer who asked if he could take their pictures. The man was scared off by a suspicious neighbor, but shortly after that, Bridget lent Samsoe her yellow bicycle so that Samsoe could make it to ballet class. Samsoe was never seen again.  Detectives circulated a sketch of the mysterious photographer to the media, and a parole officer recognized his parolee Alcala. Twelve days after she vanished, on July 2, 1979, Samsoe’s skeletal remains were found by U.S. Forestry Service rangers. Alcala was arrested on July 24 at his mother’s house in Monterey Park.

#7:  Criminal Appeals, 1984

Alcala was found guilty of murdering Robin Samsoe in 1980 and was sentenced to death.  But that verdict was overturned in 1984 by the California Supreme Court.  The court found that the jury had been “unduly prejudiced” when prosecutors introduced information about about the rape and attempted murder of the 8-year old child in 1968.

Evidence of prior crimes is sometimes admissible at certain times, so long as the priors are materially similar to to crime being tried.  For instance, is raping and trying to murder an 8-year old girl at all similar to raping and murdering a 12-year old girl?  There’s a four-year difference in the ages of the victims there, and a higher success component on the whole “murder” thing.  I’m sure, however, that the California Supreme Court could not have overturned Alcala’s death sentence on such a frivolous distinction.  It must have been some other frivolous distinction.

#8: Criminal Appeals, 2001

This time, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals got a piece of the action.  They decided that, because one witness’ testimony from a previous trial was read from the stand without the witness being in the room, the entire second trial, which doubtlessly cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of taxpayer dollars to re-try, simply had to be tossed out because of this.

What’s the matter with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals?  Richard Posner says they’re just too large for their own good, with too many different justices thinking together, and he’s got a well-known large brain that thinks in perfect unison with itself.  Me, with my quotidian little intellect, I think they just never saw a serial killer appeal they couldn’t bleed for, since they don’t have to, like, literally bleed, like the victims.  Not a very elegant argument, I know, but maybe it would pass muster before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

#9: Alcala’s Exclusive Access to the Courts, 1979 – 2010

With his denim pantsuit aesthetic and not-very-bright courtroom performances, Alcala doesn’t really present as a brain trust.  But he doesn’t need to be one.  And defendant can tie up the courts — and further devastate victim’s families — with frivolous lawsuits and endless appeals designed to catch certain activist judges’ eyes:

Alcala has spent his time behind bars penning You, the Jury, a 1994 book in which he claims his innocence and points to a different suspect; suing the California prisons for a slip-and-fall claim and for failing to provide him a low-fat diet; and, according to prosecutors, complaining about a law that required he and other death-row inmates to submit DNA mouth swabs for comparison by police against unsolved crimes. Alcala is still as cocky as ever — bold enough to represent himself in the trial for his life, now unfolding in Orange County. And why not? He has a talent for mining legal technicalities and has repeatedly enjoyed success with appellate judges.

Orange County prosecutor Matt Murphy likens Alcala to a video game villain that keeps coming to life and says that the appellate courts have hit restart on this real-life murderous villain’s rampage through the system. The families of the victims as well as those close to the investigation criticize the decisions as misguided political statements by justices who opposed the death penalty and ignored the facts of the case. For Murphy, who tried the latest Samsoe case, each decision to overturn stripped away more evidence from his arsenal against Alcala. And for Robin Samsoe’s family, the legal setbacks have altered the course of their lives, ripping through like aftershock upon aftershock following a devastating earthquake. . . Samsoe’s mother [Maryanne Connelly] spoke eloquently about the hardships she has endured in the 31 years since her daughter’s murder, waiting for justice that never came. . . Meanwhile, her daughter’s killer has spent most of his life in prison, and has perfected the art of working the system to his advantage, filing lawsuit upon lawsuit when he felt his rights were violated while in custody – such as a civil suit against an investigator who did not respond to a request for discovery within 10 days. In fact, a contempt case against the Orange County Jail is still pending. . . Connelly wonders where her rights were, while the man who killed her daughter became comfortably institutionalized. This inequity has become the rallying cry of all the victims’ families, as well as victim’s rights advocates, who say the system has coddled a vicious killer while failing victims’ loved ones.

If the victims’ families had the same rights as Alcala, they could sue him for mental cruelty.  Where such a trial could be held is a difficult question, because his co-defendant would be the justice system itself.

#10: Turning the Courtroom into His Last Killing Field, 2010, and Beyond

“He was blowing kisses at me across the courtroom, and I thought I was going to lose my mind,” Connely said. “And I thought I was going to go crazy, you know. And I reached into my purse and I was going to grab it, you know, and I thought, ‘I can’t do this.’”

That’s Marianne Connelly, speaking recently about Alcala’s 1980 trial for the murder of her daughter: back then, she once brought a gun to the courtroom to shoot Alcala.  I doubt anyone would have blamed her then, and they certainly wouldn’t blame her now, after thirty more years of sitting in courtrooms watching Alcala toy with her, and other victims, for fun.

Where was the judge while Alcala was blowing kisses at his victim’s mother?  Did that judge feel his hands were tied, thanks to our perverse appeals system?  Or did he simply not care?  Why did he allow the defendant to behave that way?

This unique, public humiliation and torture of crime victims is one thing that has not changed in 30 years.  From the most recent trial:

Robin’s brother Tim Samsoe, 44, said the worst thing was watching Alcala perk up in court every time he got the chance to see old photographs of his alleged victims.  “You see the gleam in his eye,” said Samsoe. “He’s enjoying this again.”

According to prosecutors, Alcala always enjoyed torturing his victims:

[Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt] Murphy told the packed courtroom that Alcala took his time terrorizing his victims by choking them with his bare hands, waiting for them to wake up at least once, then strangling them again — sometimes using shoelaces or panty hose. “It is a staggeringly horrific way to die,” exclaimed Murphy. “There is ample evidence the women put up some resistance….He gets off on it. It was fun.”  Once they were dead, Alcala allegedly [he has since been found guilty] would then pose their bodies.

Now the only victims he has access to are the relatives of the women and children he killed:

Robert Samsoe, who was 13 when his little sister was slain, tells L.A. Weekly, “I don’t have any faith in the system. Some people, they are just afforded all the chances in the world. Alcala has cost the state of California more than any other person because of his lawsuits. And they treat him like a king. Everybody is walking on pins and needles around him.

Alcala dragged out his latest trial for weeks, representing himself, attacking victims, rambling on and enjoying himself.  If this judge felt he simply had no power to prevent such behavior, he should now take steps to do something about the warped system of which he is a part.  When is enough enough?

At the trial’s close, Alcala forced family members to listen to a recording of Alice’s Restaurant, a move that nearly drove one columnist to violence.  Frank Mickadeit, of the OC Register, wondered how family members could hold themselves back:

To make the family and jurors listen to somebody, even Guthrie, sing: “I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and guts and veins in my teeth”? I guarantee you, that made nobody in the room think about how horrible Alcala’s death might be, as was apparently his intent. . . In all the years I’ve covered trials, I’ve never once wanted to personally wreak vengeance on a defendant. I can dissociate along with the hardest of professionals. But at Minute 50 on Tuesday, Murphy got me to go to that unprofessional place, where the father, brother and uncle lives.  I think it might have been one young woman’s morgue-photo – a head that was missing a third of its face because Alcala had bashed it away with a rock.  I stared hard at the back of Alcala’s tan sports coat, where the collar met the unruly mass of gray curls that cascades down his back (Arlo-like, if you must know), and I thought hard about that 15 feet between me and that thin neck. A cat-like leap, a bound, a forearm-lock, a snap – he’d never see me coming. The burly deputy sheriff between us would, though, so there was no chance even if I had indulged my momentary fantasy.  I looked to my left. Immediately across the aisle from me was Robert Samsoe, Robin‘s brother – roughly my age and size. He was wearing jeans, penny loafers and white socks, and I could see his right foot tapping nervously during these last 10 minutes of Murphy’s closing. The photo of another victim, her lower lip torn away, flashed up. Murphy hadn’t even begun recounting Robin’s death yet. . . Mercifully, there are no morgue photos of Robin, at least not in the sense that there are of the other murder victims. When they found Robin, just a skull was left – albeit a disfigured one from where Alcala had bashed in her teeth.  Robert Samsoe didn’t leap out of his chair and break Rodney Alcala’s neck, as part of me would have like to have seen.

Of course he didn’t.  The victims figured out long ago that they are not actually people, with human rights, including the right to dignity, in the eyes of the law.  The only person in that courtroom whose rights were being protected was Rodney Alcala.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Criminal Appeals: Why Was Serial Rapist Ali Reza Nejad Out on Bond?

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The good news: U.S. Marshals in Houston caught violent serial rapist Ali Reza Nejad after he slipped off his ankle monitor and fled Georgia upon hearing that the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously reaffirmed his conviction and 35-year sentence last week.

Nejad, Before and After Dye Job

The bad news? Violent serial rapist Ali Reza Nejad was allowed to stroll out of prison after being convicted of two rapes, while his case worked its way through the ridiculous and expensive appeals process in Georgia’s horribly overburdened courts.

More bad news? We all paid for Nejad to play Georgia’s horribly overburdened court system from the comfort of his own home.  Then we paid to track him down again after he fled.  Why on earth didn’t anybody in a position of authority bother to think through the potential effect of the Supreme Court’s negative ruling on this crazy serial rapists’ state of mind and go pick him up, or at least put him under constant surveillance, before he found out that he was heading back to prison for the rest of his adult life?

And why was he allowed out of prison to await appeal on frivolous grounds, anyway?  All rapists are dangerous criminals, but this guy qualifies as central-casting-woman-loathing-sexual-sadist-armed-with-a-gun-escalating-and-stalking-prostitutes-dangerous.

~~~

Criminal Appeals

Nejad appealed his conviction on two grounds: the perennial ineffectual counsel claim, and his lawyer’s insistence that there is some gray area in defining a gun as a deadly weapon.  None of this was about whether Nejad did, indeed, pull guns on women and rape them: it’s just meaningless technicalities piled one on top of another until the courts can’t function or somebody slips up and lets a serial rapist like this back onto the streets.

(I can’t link directly to the pdf files for the Georgia Appeals Court decision that led to Najad being wrongfully released or the Georgia Supreme Court decision that reversed the overturning of his trial verdict and sent him back to prison, but you can access the pdf files by typing Najad v. State.)

As to the first claim, famous-defense-attorney-type Brian Steel, who has been practicing criminal law in the courts and on front pages in Georgia for a very long time, insisted that he had both completely and repeatedly lost the capacity to function as even an ordinary lawyer, let alone a really famous one, throughout the entire trial.

An Appeals Court judge devastatingly called Steel out on this fiction and expressed concern that what the lawyer might be trying to do was perpetrate fraud.  It’s worth reading this and pondering the court’s suggestion that defense attorneys are knowingly front-loading their representation of clients with errors in order to get them off later, when there’s no other expectation of acquittal.  Ugly stuff:

SMITH, Presiding Judge, concurring specially.
I concur fully in the majority opinion, but write separately to point out an area
of increasing concern in claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Trial counsel’s
testimony in this case demonstrates a worrisome trend with serious implications for
the bar
and the administration of justice.
Taking the record on appeal at face value, we are presented with several
possible and equally questionable explanations for trial counsel’s testimony at the
hearing on the motion for new trial. Trial counsel may, despite his many years of
experience, simply have been unaware of the well-established rule of law governing
a defendant’s right to testify. Or he may have in fact so instructed his client in order
to provide a ready-made reversible error on appeal in the event of a conviction. Or
he may have testified untruthfully at the hearing on the motion for new trial in order
to provide his former client with a basis for reversal of his conviction.
None of these possibilities, which are by no means exhaustive, reflects well
upon trial counsel. Whether he is so incompetent as to call into question his ability to continue in this area of practice, or whether he has conducted himself in such a manner as to perpetrate a fraud upon the court, is not for us to say.
But we view any of these possibilities with alarm. The trial court was similarly concerned, asking trial counsel, “Don’t you think you have some responsibility to the system?”  Typically, trial counsel in such situations testify primarily to the factual details of their conduct and decisions, and admit errors only with reluctance and with due regard for their professionalism and pride in their work. The developing trend of emphatically and even eagerly testifying to one’s own incompetence or misconduct is dangerous to the administration of justice, particularly if it is allowed to continue without any consequences for the testifying trial counsel.

There are no consequences, no matter what the defense bar does, or lies about doing.  That’s why we have so many rapists and murderers walking the streets.  Beginning, middle, and end.  We’re all at their mercy, in a system they have been jerry-rigging for half a century.

The Georgia Supreme Court, in an unanimous decision, reversed the appeals court on the determination of incompetent counsel.  They observed that nobody has a positive duty to continually inform a defendant that he may, in fact, testify.

They also reversed the appeals court’s ruling that the jury should have been asked to decide whether holding a pellet gun to someone’s head is assault with a deadly weapon.  It’s extremely settled law that wielding a gun, even a pellet gun, that way is assault per se with a deadly weapon.  I’m surprised that appeals court agreed with Nejad’s lawyer on this matter.  Here is the Supreme Court:

During the jury instructions concerning the two counts charging Nejad
with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, the trial court informed the jury
that the crime is committed when the accused, with a deadly weapon, places
another person in reasonable apprehension of immediately receiving a violent
injury.
The trial court then told the jury that “A pellet gun in the shape of an
automatic weapon is per se a deadly weapon.” The Court of Appeals ruled it
was error to give the “per se” charge, reasoning that a pellet gun is not a per se
deadly weapon and it was for the jury to resolve whether the manner and means
by which it was used made it a deadly weapon. Nejad v. State, supra, 296 Ga.
App. 163 (2).  A firearm is a deadly weapon as a matter of law. Wyman v. State, 278 Ga.
339 (4) (602 SE2d 619) (2004). A firearm pointed at a victim and reasonably
appearing to the assault victim to be loaded is a deadly weapon as a matter of
law, regardless of whether it is loaded and, under such a circumstance, the trial
court does not err when it takes the issue of “deadliness” from the jury.

So there you have it. Ali Nejad picks up prostitutes, rapes them at gunpoint, and does the same to so many women that word gets around on the streets.  The police catch him, being excruciatingly cautious to protect his rights in the process; the courts try him, being excruciatingly cautious to protect his rights in the process; the case is decided by jurors being excruciatingly cautious to protect his rights in the process — and then the moment he is convicted, the free-for-all game-playing begins.

From the moment jurors return a guilty verdict, everything’s perpetually up for grabs, at our expense.  As the manipulations by the defense bar grow more and more extreme, judges and prosecutors can only protest impotently.  We’ve designed a system in which defense attorneys can say anything, do anything, cost the rest of us anything, intentionally throw a trial, intentionally bankrupt the courts — but they cannot be held responsible for this conduct.

I predict that the only people who will be blamed for the Nejad debacle are the people who would have kept him in prison in the first place: the officers tasked with monitoring him after a judge let him go free to await the outcome of the appeals process.  They don’t deserve any blame.  They caught Nejad, twice now.  It’s the rest of the system that has failed to keep the public safe.


Admissability of Evidence, Assignment of Blame: The Paterson, NJ Rape Case

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Man rapes, tortures five daughters, impregnates them repeatedly, forces them to deliver babies at home.

Administers beatings with steel-toe boots, wooden boards.  Withholds food, doles out extreme psychological torture.

Flees authorities.  Keeps the young women captive for decades.  For their lifetimes.  Receives probation after getting caught once.  Some of the babies die.  Daughters, wife forced to secretly bury them.

But what about the admissibility of evidence?  Isn’t that what’s really important here?

AP — A New Jersey man with apocalyptic visions is accused of years of terrorizing his family, raping his five daughters and impregnating three, beating his children with wooden boards and even moving at one point to avoid child welfare investigators.  The nightmarish picture of a family subjected to more than a decade of threats and violence and largely cut off from the outside world is emerging in a state courthouse where prosecutors are preparing to have the man stand trial five times, one per child victim. . . . In her testimony, his daughter described experiencing and witnessing beatings administered with wooden boards and steel-toed boots. She said minor transgressions often were punished by the withholding of food.   The girl’s mother testified some of the babies were delivered at home and never received birth certificates, and said in at least two instances babies who died in the home were buried without authorities being notified.  The children were home-schooled, she said, and were discouraged from interacting with other kids.  “No one really asked questions of each other because somebody would tell on somebody and somebody would get in trouble,” she said.  Even after she became aware of sexual abuse, she said she was too frightened to confront him.  “I was afraid to ever accuse him of being demented, or being a pedophile. I knew the word but I wouldn’t dare use it because it would result in a beating,” she said. “I’m sure my not standing up to him didn’t help the kids. They felt disempowered also. There was just a lot of fear. Everybody was threatened.”  Daryl Pennington, an attorney representing the defendant, did not return messages seeking comment

Now, wait for it . . .

Attorneys are scheduled back in court on Friday, when state Superior Court Judge Raymond Reddin is to rule on the admissibility of the wife’s testimony.

It’s the system, not Judge Reddin’s fault, but they will spend more time in that courtroom quibbling over rules of evidence than talking about the crimes themselves.  Such is our justice system, after fifty years of defense-driven exclusion of evidence rulings.  The truth, the whole truth, about what this man has done will unavoidably take a back seat to our sickening and criminal-biased criminal procedural rules.

So who, other than the defendant, is at fault?

Usually, the media’s default angle in a case like this is the “failure of child protection authorities” line.  But is it really the child protection workers who failed when the court lets him go?  In this case, child protection did their job by getting this animal into a courtroom and at least temporarily removing one of his children from the home.  They some judge cut him loose.

Many reporters view child protection workers as fair game — prosecutors and judges, not so much.

Refreshingly, the AP reporter here does not point fingers at the child protection workers and call it a day.  He seeks comment from the prosecutors in the previous case, where the offender was permitted to walk away from extremely serious charges.  However, the reporter doesn’t name the judge who delivered such a lenient sentence.  Maybe the prosecutors were asking for more time.  Maybe it was the judge’s fault.  Maybe both the prosecutor and the judge wanted to throw the book at this man, but they were constrained by a system that still makes it difficult to hold people responsible for crimes committed against their own children.  Here is the AP account:

As the first [rape] case nears trial, questions have been raised about whether state authorities could have put a stop to the abuse sooner. Some of the crimes are alleged to have occurred while the family was under scrutiny by the state child welfare agency, and after the father had been arrested and pleaded guilty to assault and child endangerment.

During that time, child protection authorities has already brought the man to court.  His success in essentially beating the charges (mere probation, despite fleeing, kidnapping, attempted kidnapping, abuse) cannot be laid at their feet.  Doubtlessly, beating those charges empowered the abuser.  I’m sure the child protection workers feared for his daughter’s lives after the court cut him loose.  Then, this:

Arrested in 2006, [the defendant] stands accused of raping five of his daughters, three of whom are believed to have given birth to a total of six children. He is being held on $1 million bond.  Having been ruled competent to stand trial earlier this year, he faces 27 charges including aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, lewdness, child endangerment, aggravated criminal sexual contact and criminal sexual contact.

He is back in jail now, awaiting trial, but this man was out of jail on bail for the 2006 rape charges for a very long time.  NorthJersey.com has more troubling details about his time out, below.

If the defendant was being evaluated for mental competence, for such serious offenses — five young rape victims, three repeatedly impregnated by him — and if the question was whether he even had the ability to control this behavior (shades of the twinkie excuse of sexual assault), and if his wife and daughters had been tortured by him and were terrorized by him, and he believed their lives were his to destroy, what the hell was he doing out of prison for five minutes, let alone 3+ years, while being “evaluated for psychological competence”?

What type of system says to a serial rapist and torturer: OK, you may not be able to control your rapin’, torturin’ behavior, so we’re going to cut you loose while your lawyer drags out the process of getting you checked out by the yours-and-mine shrinks?

Our system.  I wonder how many other little girls this rapist was able to “get” while awaiting trial this time.  We know some of what he did the last time he walked away with a slap on the wrist:

Authorities say the assaults began in the mid-1980s and lasted until 2002, when the parents separated, and occurred at residences in Paterson, East Orange, Orange and Eatontown. . . According to court records and published reports, the girls’ father was arrested in 2000 and charged with kidnapping for allegedly trying to take three of his children from state custody at a Monmouth County medical center. He posted bail and later pleaded guilty to assault and child endangerment and was sentenced to a year’s probation. Prosecutors in Passaic County say one of the daughters, then in her early teens, was raped as late as January 2002.  New Jersey’s Division of Youth and Family Services declined to comment, citing confidentiality requirements.  But the man’s wife and one of his daughters testified that the agency had indeed removed at least one of the children from the family’s home, and that the family had temporarily moved, first to Jersey City and then to Florida, to avoid the agency’s investigation.

Who was the judge in the 2000 case?  What does he or she have to say about the decision to give him probation for such serious offenses?

NorthJersey.com has more information about the 2006 bail decision. The defendant has been out on bail for years and was only remanded six months ago.  Read this horrifying passage carefully:

It is a complicated series of events that led a state Superior Court judge in Paterson to remand [the defendant] to the Passaic County Jail on Sept. 24 after having been free on $500,000 bail since his 2006 arrest. [He] is awaiting trial on charges he sexually assaulted his daughters and deliberately impregnated them.  [The defendant], 50, committed the sexual assaults from 1985 through 2002 in Paterson, East Orange, Orange and Eatontown, according to prosecutors. Authorities have described him as a “blueblood,” or someone who believes in keeping his bloodlines pure, and that the assaults were a disturbing attempt to create “purebred” offspring.  A hearing is scheduled before state Superior Court Judge Raymond Reddin in Paterson on Tuesday to determine how to deal with the matrix of factors that have made and could continue to make the $280,000 home he used as collateral for his bail insufficient. [The defendant] will remain in jail as long as the matter is unresolved.  What led to the suddenly precarious status of [the defendant's] bail was that prosecutors noticed the defendant was apparently accompanied by a woman and a young child at a recent pretrial conference before Reddin last month, said Joseph Del Russo, Passaic County chief assistant prosecutor. Defendants in sexual assault cases — as a condition of bail — are often ordered not to have contact with small children. Prosecutors checked to see if such a no-contact order was part of [the defendant's] bail conditions set back in 2006. As it turns out, it was. But that became a side issue when prosecutors noticed an even bigger problem, Del Russo said.  “We began to discover that his original bail posting — that is, the original process of posting bail with the County Bail Unit — was flawed,” Del Russo said. The most glaring problem, Del Russo said, was that proof that the property [the defendant] owned was worth $285,000 and was unencumbered — meaning no liens against it — was misleading. The document providing that proof was actually a title search produced by the seller of the property, according to Del Russo.

Let me attempt to reign in my disgust here long enough to paraphrase:

This child-raping animal has been walking free for 3 1/2 years while his attorneys successfully deflected his trial on multiple rape and torture charges.  By now, the defendant is so unworried about consequences that he actually showed up in court with a woman and young child — knowing full well that by having the child with him, he was violating his bail conditions in a child-rape case — in front of law enforcement, the prosecutor, and the judge.

However, the revelation that the child-rapist had another child under his control isn’t what landed him in jail again.

No, the endangering-another-innocent-child-after-impregnating-three-of-your-daughters-six-times-and-raping-two-others isn’t the problem.  Oh, heck no.  That, according to the reporter, the courts can swallow.  Regarding that, they’re good with the guy being out on the streets indefinitely.  Another two or three years, at least.

So what’s this bigger problem than child rape?  Real estate valuation.

The quote bigger problem unquote is that the child-rapist’s house, which he put up for collateral for bail, has some title issues and needs to be reappraised.  Yes indeed, that’s far more relevant than letting a child-rapist traipse out of the courtroom with another little baby in tow:

The most glaring problem, [Passaic County assistant prosecutor Joseph] Del Russo said, was that proof that the property [the defendant] owned was worth $285,000 and was unencumbered — meaning no liens against it — was misleading. The document providing that proof was actually a title search produced by the seller of the property, according to Del Russo.”The seller produced for [the defendant] a title search that showed the house was paid for — free and clear — and unencumbered,” Del Russo said. “Instead of [the defendant] showing his interest in the property, he showed us a document from the seller, rather than from him. So we don’t know, when he brought the house, whether he had a tax lien that followed him, or if he took a second mortgage on it. It was certainly misleading, let’s put it that way.”

Pardon me for being blunt, but shouldn’t the prosecutor be raising hell about the fact that the child rapist has a little child in his custody instead of prattling on to the media about real estate minutiae?

To heck with the mental state of the defendant: unless the NorthJersey.com reporter got the story very wrong, the heads Passaic County authorities need to be examining are the ones on the northern end of their own necks.  While the rest of us examine our hearts.  Doesn’t child rape matter?  Child rape.  Impregnating your daughters, over and over again.  Forcing them to give birth in front of you, for the love of God.  Making them bury their babies in secret.

Kicking their little bodies with steel-toed shoes.  Between rapes.  The prosecutor is busy talking about real estate?

~~~

Whenever I read a story like this, I wonder at the lack of outrage.

  • Where are the campus rape activists and the N.O.W. activists, with their “take back the night” marches and “teach-ins” and glossy “no-means-no” leaflets?  Is that all just . . . self-serving theatrics?
  • Where are the legal activists and law school students and law professors who pour millions of dollars and thousands of hours into investigating perfectly legitimate convictions every year because “every single injustice is unacceptable” . . . unless, of course, it is injustice absorbed by the victims of crime?
  • Where are the across-the-disciplines academics who never met a violent offender who didn’t simply titillate them?  Do they ever doubt their loyalties, ethics, or research claims, looking at a case like this?
  • Where are the tough-on-crime politicians?  Are conservatives still playing shy on child molestation because their “pro-family” constituents don’t like the state messing with private lives?  Are the “dad’s rights” deadbeats whining about attacks on the patriarchy again?  The small government purists linking arms with the A.C.L.U. to denounce prison costs?
  • Where are the crusading journalists, especially self-styled experts like Dorothy Rabinowitz, who has been dining out on the story of two (two!) bad child rape prosecutions from two decades ago, although no pattern of wrongful prosecution was ever uncovered (because none existed)?  Rabinowitz’s large-print account of the Amirault and Michaels cases has done immeasurable damage to the ability of prosecutors to convince jurors that a child has been raped, yet Rabinowitz has never revisited her own claims that these anomalous cases represented anything other than a real good chance to present herself as some sort of breathless freedom fighter.  “Like lightning, the charge could strike anyone” she trilled.  With no supporting evidence.  Because there was none.  This shameful chapter in the usually reliable Wall Street Journal’s history, and Rabinowitz’s histrionic, projection-heavy, thin-on-facts book, No Crueler Tyrannies, could both use an honesty makeover via some attention to the unfolding Paterson case, which has far more in common with the  average child molestation case than the handful of decades-old cases Rabinowitz still rails about.

You know, in the interest of opposing cruel tyrannies.

Robert Chatigny: By Nominating Him, Obama Shows Extreme Contempt For Victims

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Barack Obama is arguably the most offender-friendly, victim-loathing president the country has ever seen.  His judicial and political philosophies are reflexively anti-incarceration.  His political career suggests a particularly disturbing pattern of disrespect for victims of sex crime.

In the Illinois state senate, Obama was the only senator who refused to support a bill allowing victims of sexual assault to have certain court records sealed.  The bill was intended to protect victims from having their sex lives and other extremely personal information (medical and gynecological records) splayed out in the public record for all to see after a trial had ended.  The legislation was written to protect the dignity of women who had been victimized by rapists, and then re-victimized in the courtroom at the hands of sleazy defense attorneys.

The vote for the bill was 58 – 0.  Obama alone abstained from voting, though he was present.

So, while Obama was far from the only liberal in the Illinois state senate, he was the only liberal in the Illinois state senate who believed that a victim of rape has no right to conceal from the public, for example, the fact that she contracted a venereal disease or was impregnated by her attacker.

And, as he had done so many times before, Obama didn’t even display the courage of his convictions by openly voting against the bill.  He voted, merely, “present,” so his opposition to the law would be easier to conceal in subsequent elections.

It would have been far less contemptuous to simply vote “no.”  Then, at least, victims would know precisely what the young senator and constitutional law professor thought of their dignity.  Abstaining from voting sent a stone-cold message — that Obama considered any consideration of the privacy rights of raped women to be quite a few rungs lower than his future political ambition.

It is important to understand that this vote against victims’ rights was no isolated case in the president’s history, as we are reminded today, when news broke that Obama was nominating U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chatigny for the Court of Appeals.

Chatigny is far from the only liberal judge sitting on the bench, but he is the only liberal sitting judge who became so enamored of a sexual serial killer that he denounced the state for deigning to prosecute, let alone convict, the killer.

Michael Ross started raping at an early age, and he had raped and murdered at least eight young women by the time he was caught.  Although there was no question of his guilt, from the moment Ross entered the legal system, he attracted vocal, activist supporters.  This is, sadly, not unusual: raping and slaughtering eight innocent women is, in some circles, quite a draw.  Records from Ross’ trial and appeal barely focus on the young women: they are the usual intricate inquiry into Ross’ feelings, Ross’ rights, Ross’ mood on death row, Ross’ childhood, Ross’ dating disappointments, ad infinitum.

Oh, and the hurt feelings of one hired defense psychologist, who believed he was being dissed by a trial judge.

The system disappears the victims, then the courtroom disappears the victims, then the appeals process disappears the victims, so by the time activists like Robert Chatigny set out to rehabilitate vicious torturers like Michael Ross, there’s no need to haul out metaphysical barrels of lye to dissolve what’s left of his crimes.  That had already been done, with an efficiency that would make an Argentinian death squad spill tears of shame all over the helicopter tarmac.

Judge Chatigny looked at Michael Ross and saw, not a killer, but someone who was suffering from “sexual sadism” and thus should not be held responsible for his actions.  The judge presented a sort of a twinkie defense on Ross’ behalf, the twinkie being Ross’ compulsive inability to stop torturing women.  Ross had been posturing the same defense from death row for two decades: in the killer’s mind, and the judge’s mind, he was the victim of a cruel mother, world, impulse disorder, judiciary, counsel, jury, and insufficiently plumped procedural protections.  But especially, he was a victim of this faux sadism syndrome, the existence of which, in Chatigny’s mind, supercedes the fatal outcome of Ross’ crimes and delegitimates the state’s prosecution of him.

Fox News reports:

[Chatigny] repeatedly stuck up for Ross, saying he suffered from “this affliction, this terrible disease” and suggesting Ross “may be the least culpable, the least, of the people on death row.”  “Looking at the record in a light most favorable to Mr. Ross, he never should have been convicted,” Chatigny said [emphasis added].  “Or if convicted, he never should have been sentenced to death because his sexual sadism, which was found by every single person who looked at him, is clearly a mitigating factor.”

He never should have been convicted?  Really, really enjoying torturing and killing women is a mitigating factor?  This is the mindset Obama chooses to elevate?

Michael Ross: Not a Victim

The legal strategy crafted by Michael Ross and his supporters was to present Ross as a helpless victim deserving of empathy, instead of a vicious killer meriting punishment.  This is not merely a favored strategy of anti-incarceration activism: it is perhaps the most cherished “ethical practice” of the Left.

It is also only effective if the victims’ lives and suffering are simultaneously erased — buried, and forgotten.  Killers can only be elevated if the memory of their victims is systematically denied.  That is what Judge Robert Chatigny did to Ross’ victims in 2005 and what Obama is doing to them now.

I don’t believe for a moment that Obama nominated Chatigny to the higher bench despite the judge’s horrific transgressions in the Michael Ross case: I believe he nominated Chatigny because of those transgressions.  That would be entirely in keeping with the legal and political worldview Obama has endorsed throughout his career.  And, yes, this is extremely disturbing.

Chatigny’s other claim to fame is opposing sex offender registries.  If this administration gets its way, will sex offender registries become a thing of the past?

Here are the names of Ross’ known victims (their photos are here). Little girls, some of them.  All dead, now.  Too bad Eric Holder doesn’t call them victims of hate crime.  If he did, the president would not have nominated the man who set out to liberate, and valorize, their killer:

Dzung Ngoc Tu, 25, a Cornell University student, killed May 12, 1981. Paula Perrera, 16, of Wallkill, N.Y., killed in March, 1982. Tammy Williams, 17, of Brooklyn, killed Jan. 5, 1982. Debra Smith Taylor, 23, of Griswold, killed June 15, 1982. Robin Stavinksy, 19, of Norwich, killed November, 1983. April Brunias, 14, of Griswold, killed April 22, 1984. Leslie Shelley, 14, of Griswold, killed April 22, 1984. Wendy Baribeault, 17, of Griswold, killed June 13, 1984.

Barack Obama should reach out to every one of these families and apologize.

~~~

Senators Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman are supporting Judge Chatigny’s appointment.  Call the Senators’ offices and urge them to withdraw their support.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy suspended hearings on Chatigny’s appointment when prosecutors from Connecticut sent him a letter outlining the Ross scandal.  Call and encourage Leahy to take the prosecutor’s concerns seriously.

Senator Jeff Sessions is vocally opposing the nomination.  Thank the Senator for taking a stand.

Trials Without Truth: The Library Rapist

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Defense attorneys in Tampa Bay are attempting to derail the trial of accused two-time rapist Kendrick Morris.  They are demanding that DNA evidence identifying Morris as the rapist in two extremely violent sexual assaults be thrown out because, they allege, police collected it improperly.

Of course, there is no other way for them to defend their client: his DNA matches the two rapes.  So Morris’ lawyers are treating the courtroom like a casino craps table, not a serious truth-finding forum, a sadly reasonable presumption on their part, in fact.  Warped rules of evidence, piled one upon the other, create countless opportunities for keeping important facts from being considered by judges and juries.

What remains, once enough evidence has been suppressed, is something like kabuki-theater, in which the alleged word choice of a police officer seeking a DNA sample from a dangerous suspect is deemed more important than the facts of the brutal rape itself, or the suffering of the victim, or the community’s safety.

Or the integrity of the court.

mirror_craps_table

Nobody pretends they’re doing anything other than playing games with the truth, because they don’t need to pretend.  A vast choir sings the praises of gaming facts through suppression of evidence.  The loudest voices, of course, are those of the law school professoriate.  When I attended law school, I did not stay long enough to enroll in the criminal law classes, but that was hardly necessary: my property law professor and contracts law professor and legal writing instructor waxed on endlessly about the virtues of defending criminals, by hook or by crook, as it were.

It’s a cult, and a deeply satisfying one, in which reality need rarely impinge.  Until, of course, it is your daughter pulling up to drop off some library books on a school night who encounters one of the inevitable consequences of our lenient criminal justice system.

Since I started writing this blog, I’ve noticed something strange.  I regularly hear from pro-offender activists who are enraged that I would deign to criticize even the sleaziest of defense tactics, as if any act on the part of the defense is some pure Platonic good hovering spotlessly over the crude, bemerded masses demanding justice.

That isn’t the strange part.  I expected that.

What is strange is that many of these commenters then go on to melodramatically assert that they would like to see the particular criminal I happen to be describing locked up for life, or tortured, or killed.  It’s as if they’re trying to relate (or overcompensate) by saying: Well, that guy, he should fry — no, he should be beaten up, then castrated, then killed.  But other than that, it’s fair game to do anything to get your client off, and all the other predators deserve second chances.

I’m confused by this.  Do they really not see that oaks grow from little acorns, and recidivism grows from the little seeds they plant in the minds of young criminals every time they help them game the system?  Do they really not see that, as we let larger and larger swaths of recidivists off the hook for everything short of murder, we’re creating more murderers — particularly if we keep telling these young offenders that they’re the real victims, and the people they victimize are not?

The really offensive thing about Kendrick Morris’ defense is that there are absolutely no consequences for filing some 76 pages of false accusations against the officers who investigated the Bloomingdale library rape.  Morris’ lawyers know he’s guilty, so they’re screaming police abuse.  Throw everything at the wall; malign the reputations of a couple of decent public servants along the way, just to see what sticks.

The victims I hear from are far more sober and rational about the justice system — in contrast to the way they are depicted in the news, and in defiance of the way they are treated.  Like late-stage cancer patients, they are aware that their hopes will probably not survive the trial process.  Even when offenders are made to pay for their crimes, the victims are made to pay, too.  And after any trial is over, an army of activists stand at the ready to take up the inmate’s cause, no matter what horrors he has perpetrated.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We have handed our criminal justice system over to partisans for criminals, and now we must take it back.