Archive for the ·

Wisconsin

· Category...

Quote of the Day: “Getting Into Prison Is Not Easy”

1 comment

Milwaukee’s Chief of Police says what needs to be said, and what nobody else is saying, about the nation-wide push to release state prisoners before their sentences are served:

“Getting into prison is not easy,” Milwaukee Police Chief Edward A. Flynn said in an interview. “You’ve got to get locked up and convicted a lot of times before we get you prison space. We’re looking at a class of offenders that have already demonstrated a history of reoffending, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.”

Unless you actually murder someone as a first offense, virtually every offender serving prison time is a person who has already failed at one or more “second chances.”  How will they behave this time around?  Expect criminologists to cook up statistics purporting pristine conduct by all.  It won’t be true, but expect it anyway.

Read the rest of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article here.

East Coast Rapist, DeKalb County Rapist: Serial Rapists and DNA. It Works. If You Bother to Use It.

no comments

(Hat tip to Pat)

In 2007, I stood by the mailbox of the house I once briefly rented in Sarasota, Florida, contemplating the short distance between my house and the house where my rapist grew up, less than a mile, and a strikingly direct path over a well-worn shortcut across the train tracks.

I had just spent several months and many hundreds of dollars to get copies of the police investigation reports for my rape and some of the court records of the man who was accused of, but never prosecuted for the crime. Every time he was sent away on another sex crime conviction, the police closed all the other rape cases they attributed to him.  In 1987 he was tried for one sexual assault, and at least six other cases were shelved, including mine.

Such was the economy of justice in 1987: rapes were not deemed important enough to expend the court resources to try every known defendant for every crime.  This attitude arose not from the police but from the legal establishment and, by extension, the public.  It was an accepted status quo, not just in Sarasota, but everywhere.

To behave as if each rape victim actually deserved justice and every woman deserved to be safe from offenders was not anybody’s priority for spending money in 1987.  The same can still be said today, though attitudes have spottily improved.  We’ve never spent enough money to thoroughly investigate and prosecute more than a fraction of all crimes.

Criminals know this, though the public remains largely oblivious.

I remember being astonished when the police told me the D.A. would not be prosecuting my case, even though there was evidence and a rape kit.  A few months later, the first rape case in the United States using DNA evidence would be won in Orlando, a mere hundred miles and three jurisdictions away.  There, the D.A. had decided to be aggressive and use this new technology already in use in Britain, and he succeeded.  But more than a decade would pass before DNA evidence was even routinely collected and databased in most states.

A lot of people slipped through the cracks unnecessarily during that decade, including my rapist.  Sentenced to 15 years for his 1997 crime, he walked out of prison seven years later, the beneficiary of both the state’s unwillingness to fully fund prisons and activists’ efforts to get every convict back onto the streets as quickly as possible.  He immediately returned to raping elderly women, his preferred victims, and wasn’t back in prison until 1998.  At least the prisoner activists, and the defense bar, were happy.

Before the statute of limitations ran out on my case, I had offered to return to Florida to testify against my rapist. to try to keep him behind bars for a longer period of time.  The state had the ability to test the DNA in my rape kit.  I hired a private detective and reached out to the then-current Sarasota County D.A.  They practically laughed at me for having the audacity to suggest such a thing and said they didn’t have the money to go back and try old cases.  So Henry Malone walked, and more elderly women were raped.

Have things changed, even now?  Yes and no.  Two serial rape cases in the news show both progress and stagnation.

The stagnation is in DeKalb County, Georgia, the eastern part of metro Atlanta.  I know the area well: I worked there and lived nearby for much of two decades.  A serial rapist is on a real tear in DeKalb, raping at least three women since October and possibly three more since the last week of September.  Police officials told reporters that they had requested rush DNA tests on the three unknown cases from the state lab and were waiting for results.  But when CBS News Atlanta went to the state lab to find out why the tests weren’t done yet, the head of the DNA testing unit told reporters that no such request had been made.

I’m generally sympathetic to the police — less so to police brass, who sometimes rise through the ranks due to politics, not professionalism (there are some great precinct sergeants in Dekalb County, though).  But now that the mistake has been made, the executive command ought to be out in front, showing the public that they are serious about doing everything they can do, as quickly as they can do it, to catch this rapist.  Six, or even three rapes in a few months is escalating behavior, and he threatens his victims with a gun.

Ironically, the police caught several other fugitives while searching for this rapist.  It’s all about resources: we live knee-deep in wanted felons and under-investigated suspects, and our elected officials pretend that this is a perfectly normal way to live.

Meanwhile, police in the Washington D.C. area are using the media to appeal to the public to help them find the “East Coast Rapist.”  There should be more publicity.  This rapist has been active for at least 12 years: DNA tests reveal a pattern of travel between the D.C. suburbs, Connecticut, and Rhode Island during that time.

So there is a chance that somebody else knows the identity of the rapist because of his changing locations.  Profilers used to assume that serial rapists and serial killers were loners, but this, like so many other presumptions (ie. serial killers are usually white men, serial offenders pick only one type of victim) have been proven to be false.

The Washington Post has an interactive map listing the locations and dates of the East Coast rapist’s attacks in today’s paper:

GR2009121700056The rapist may have been in prison for some other crime between 2002 and 2007, and even 2007 and 2009.  You have to figure that officials in Washington D.C., Connecticut, and Rhode Island have already submitted DNA to the national database, so if he had ever been convicted of a sex crime, or even served time for some other felony in most states, his DNA would be on record somewhere.

But who knows?  Maybe he was committing sex crimes in one of the many places where DNA samples don’t get processed properly, like Wisconsin and Michigan and California.  Maybe he’s supposed to be behind bars but hasn’t been picked up yet because nobody is bothering to keep track of thousands of offenders who have absconded on bail, the situation in Philadelphia.

It’s all about resources.  Twenty-two years after the first use of DNA in convicting a serial rapist, there should be no backlogs.  Rape is too important.  Thousands of offenders shouldn’t still be walking out of prison after skipping their DNA tests, through deceit or carelessness.  Every one of these cases represents a denial of justice to someone.

Too bad criminal justice activists and law professors and university president-types don’t get all worked up when the person being denied justice is the victim, instead of the offender.

When I purchased the transcripts from some of Henry Malone’s many perambulations through the courts (and how nice that I had to pay, and pay a lot, for them), I was astonished to read the details of one hearing that was held at Malone’s behest because he demanded reimbursement for a fine related to his car, which had been impounded when he was arrested for sexual assault.  The judge and the defense attorney seemed amused by his bizarre demand.  I don’t find it so funny.  Imagine what we paid for the judge to read that demand, for the lawyer to research the claim and represent Malone in court, for the court reporter, and the security guards, and everything else that went into assuring that Henry Malone would get to be heard in court over an inane and dismissible whim.

The same courthouse where I had been denied the chance to face Malone for raping me because nobody wanted to bother spending the money to try him for more than one rape.  Criminals have rights the rest of us can’t dream of.  It’s all about the resources, and every last dime goes to offenders; they get everything they want, whenever they want it, out of the courts, while their victims wait out in the cold.

DNA Could Have Stopped Delmer Smith Before He Killed, But Nobody Cared Enough To Update the Federal Database

3 comments

This is Delmer Smith, who is responsible for a recent reign of terror on Florida’s Gulf Coast that left women from Venice to Bradenton terrified of violent home invasions, murder and rape:

Delmer Smith gave a DNA sample to the Feds 15 years ago, when he was incarcerated in Michigan on federal bank robbery charges.  And then what did the Feds do?  Well, in fairness, they were super busy not watching Phillip Garrido as he repeatedly raped and impregnated the child he was holding captive in his backyard.

So the feds apparently did nothing with Delmer Smith’s DNA.  Now a slew of women have been raped, and at least one murdered, crimes that could have been easily prevented if the feds had done what they were supposed to do and entered Smith’s DNA into the appropriate database.

But they couldn’t be bothered, just like the states so often can’t be bothered, just like Florida couldn’t be bothered fifteen years ago when they let my rapist walk out of prison to commit more rapes of frail, elderly women because they didn’t bother to link him to other crimes using DNA from kits they were supposed to test, but didn’t.

In precisely the same neighborhoods Delmer just tore through: Sarasota, Venice, North Port.

This time, to be clear, it wasn’t the Florida courts that screwed up: it was federal authorities.  Funny how they all screw up in precisely the same way, though: serial neglect of serial criminals who rape and kill again.  How much do they screw up?  Well, I’m understandably tuned in to this little piece of Florida’s West Coast, but it takes about fifteen minutes on Lexis-Nexus to find similar “mistakes” in every state.  We are letting extremely violent criminals slip through the cracks, and nobody seems outraged about it: nobody seems to be trying to plug the many holes in the system, or even to try to figure out what those holes are.

~~~

What to do?  Although police are usually the ones singled out when a serial offender is on the loose, their actions are rarely the reason recidivists are free.  Blame the courts — from lax prosecutors to lenient judges, to the hash the defense bar has made of our criminal justice system.  Also blame parole boards, and legislators and governors who refuse to fund prosecutions and prisons at realistic levels.

Finally, blame the activists who will do anything to get certain offenders out from behind bars, all the while banging the drum that “America is a prison state: we incarcerate too many people for too long. . .” Any cursory review of crime reports, arrests and convictions shows that precisely the opposite is true: we incarcerate too few people, and we let them go too soon.

People still routinely get a few months in jail for molesting a child, or probation for shooting someone.  But how do we make this visible, when prosecutors and judges want to hide their actions, and reporters won’t report on it?

It’s Time for a “Guilty Project”

Failure to Update DNA Database

Delmer Smith: suspected in a dozen home invasions, several rapes, one  or more murders, all thanks to the failure of federal authorities to enter his DNA profile in the CODIS database.  Too bad the F.B.I. sent a profiler down to Florida tell the cops that the killer was probably a male with anger issues, instead of making sure CODIS (which is the FBI’s responsibility) was up to date.  How many other violent offenders have slipped through the cracks in CODIS?  Does anybody know?

Serial Judicial Leniency, Failures to Prosecute, Failures to Enforce Parole, Failure to Correct DNA Deception, Failure to Update DNA Database

Walter E. Ellis, arrested at least a dozen times, including two (or three) attempted murders; convicted of several serious crimes, including attempted murder; repeatedly released early, despite multiple parole violations; received merely three years for nearly killing a woman with a hammer; charges apparently dropped for attacking another women with a screwdriver . . . and Wisconsin authorities didn’t bother to get a DNA sample from Ellis at the time they discovered that the sample supposed to be his had been “donated” by another inmate, a child rapist.  12,000 other convict samples are currently missing from Wisconsin’s list.

Serial Judicial Leniency, Failure to Update DNA Database, Reliance on Inaccurate Profiling(?)

John Floyd Thomas, first convicted of rape in 1957, arrested multiple times, convicted of rape again, released early again, now suspected of killing as many as 30 elderly women, avoided giving a DNA sample when he was required to do so, apparently without any consequences.  True Crime Report is attributing his ability to elude capture to inaccurate profiling indicating a white killer, but I’m not sure about that because there were surviving victims thought to be linked to the serial murders.

~~~

Where is the Outrage?

Prior to these belated DNA matches, the only one of these three men who served any substantial time in prison was Smith, and that was for robbing a bank, not assaulting a woman.  Authorities in Milwaukee can’t even figure out what happened to one of Walter Ellis’ previous attempted murder charges for an attack on a woman.

Just trying to kill women still doesn’t count for much, it appears.

The flagrant acts of these men, and of thousands of others — the lack of consequences they experience that enables them to attack multiple female victims — all beg the question: why aren’t serial crimes targeting women counted as hate crimes against women?

Why aren’t the resources of the hate crimes movement — the public outrage, the state and federal money, the well-funded private opposition research, the media attention, the academic and activist imperatives — brought to bear on cases where the people being targeted are women?

The answer is shameful.  Hate crimes leaders and opposition researchers don’t want their movement “distracted” by the the fact that women are far and away the most common category of victims targeted because of their identities.  These activists want to keep the focus on the picture they are painting of America, on race and ethnicity and sexual orientation, so they don’t want their statistics “overwhelmed” by a whole bunch of woman victims.

Consequently, activists who otherwise fight to get certain crimes counted as hate crimes fight even harder to keep any serial crime against women from being counted as hate — as the media laps at their heels, quiescent as a warm gulf tide.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has been a central player in this ugly little deception for more than a decade now, so don’t expect changes anytime soon, especially with journalists’ self-enforced code of silence.

However, to give Holder credit where credit is due, he does advocate expanding the federal DNA database, an unpopular position to take in the current administration.

~~~

There is a personal silver lining in the Delmer Smith case. The man who had the temerity and insight to finally put my rapist away for life is the same man who had the temerity and insight to catch Smith before he killed more women.  It was a cognitive leap and real police work, apparently done by linking Smith to the sexual assaults after he got caught in an unrelated crime, a violent bar brawl.  And then locking him up on federal parole violations until a DNA sample could be tracked down.

Thank you, Venice Police Captain Tom McNulty, for taking yet another bastard off the streets.  That’s policing.

More Lessons from the Milwaukee Serial Killer Case: Victims’ Lives Aren’t Worth Very Much

2 comments

Failure to Protect:

Following the identification of Milwaukee serial killer Walter E. Ellis, Wisconsin officials are acknowledging that at least 12,000 DNA samples that were supposed to be taken from convicted felons and databased are missing from the state registry.

Add to that the 50,000 felon samples acknowledged missing in Illinois, and the hundreds of thousands of other samples from both felons and victim kits that are routinely discovered “stockpiled” or “shelved” or simply gone missing, and what becomes visible is a systematic abandonment of the rights of victims and protection of the public from crime.

So why is there no outcry?  Why are ten, or thirty, or fifty dead women so easy to leave behind?  Sure, we read these stories with prurient interest.  The term “serial killer” piques imagination and inspires Hollywood stories.  But nobody seems to be able to take the next step, to behaving as if injustice to victims matters as much as injustice to anyone else.

For it isn’t just that Ellis’ DNA sample disappeared.  It’s far worse than that.  Ellis convinced another felon to give a sample for him.  On discovering the duplication of samples in the database, the tech simply threw out the one wrongly attributed to Ellis and left his profile blank.  It sounds as if this happened all the time, but nobody did anything about it.  Ellis was released from prison three months before the faked DNA sample was noticed, and his address was known, but authorities did nothing to obtain an accurate sample.

Even with a serial killer operating in Ellis’ neighborhood, and his own prior record, there apparently wasn’t enough curiosity about his effort to conceal his DNA.

Bodies, Bodies Everywhere:

DNA technology has been used in criminal convictions in the United States since 1987, when the first rape case was won using DNA in Orlando, Florida.  Despite the astonishing promise of this technology, it was years before some states even began testing suspects for DNA, and nearly a decade passed before the FBI managed to convince the first few states to begin sharing samples.  At every step of the way, civil liberties organizations have fought implementation of DNA testing, except, of course, in cases where it might be used to exonerate someone.

Georgia recently passed the threshold of solving 1500 cold cases from their database, though “solving” doesn’t necessarily translate into convicting the offenders.  Who’s got the money for all that?  And Georgia, like every other state, still suffers from perennial backlogs and rape kits that go missing.  Meanwhile, murderers like Brian Nichols get stables of silk-stocking lawyers on the public dime.

Little wonder the bodies keep piling up.  In addition to the seven murder victims now tied to Walter E. Ellis, twenty other similar, unsolved murders are being investigated again.  That’s twenty-seven raped and murdered women in Milwaukee whose killers were never caught.  Why?  Lack of resources.  Too many murderers, and not enough cops:

Nick Sandoval, a detective . . . said the homicide unit was understaffed and detectives were often overwhelmed by the number of killings they were investigating. There were 85 homicides that year.  “We were so short-handed,” he said. “Homicides would come in and we would start on one and we never really got our teeth into them to the point that we could do decent follow-up work. We would come in the next morning and, lo and behold, we would have another one. It was like a vicious circle.”

Here is what the cold case investigators in Milwaukee had to comb through:

They sifted through 500 names in case files, 15,000 sexual assault cases spanning 23 years, 6,000 prostitute-related investigations, and 2,000 arrests in the geographic areas where bodies were discovered over a 15-year period.

As I mentioned in this post, Ellis was arrested multiple times.  It isn’t clear why he wasn’t convicted and sentenced to prison after some of those arrests.  How much precious police time and manpower got wasted because prosecutors and judges didn’t follow through?

A Convicted Rapist Working in a Hospital?

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, there are so many serial killings and serial rapes being re-investigated now that it takes color-coded charts to sort them out.  Investigators searching for the killer of ten young, black women recently stumbled upon a serial killer responsible for another cluster of crimes: the rapes and rape-murders of dozens of elderly white women in the 1970′s and 1980′s.

Like Walter Ellis, John Floyd Thomas managed to avoid giving police a required DNA sample.  Prior to the advent of DNA, Thomas had twice been convicted of rape, sent to prison, and released.  Later changes in the law required him to submit a sample, but he apparently didn’t comply and was not caught.  He was finally identified by a detective who was trying to solve the young women’s murders by rounding up convicted rapists who had avoided the new DNA law.

One chilling aspect of Thomas is his criminal longevity: his first rape conviction came in 1957, and he is now tied through DNA to a 1986 case.  That’s nearly 30 years — or perhaps longer — of raping and killing women.  Why didn’t he get caught?  Well, he did, of course, once in 1957, and again in 1978, but he was released early, so he could continue doing this:

The “Westside Rapist” became one of the more notorious criminals of the era. Victims ranged in age from the 50s to the 90s. Bella Stumbo, the late Times feature writer, wrote in December 1975 that the “serenity” of the neighborhoods where the victims lived “had been so grotesquely invaded by that elusive maniac the police loosely refer to as the ‘Westside rapist,’ now accused of sexually assaulting at l[e]ast 33 old women and murdering perhaps 10 of them.” She said residents lived in “small colonies of terror.”  The attacks appeared to stop in 1978. That year, a witness took down Thomas’ license plate after he raped a woman in Pasadena. He was convicted and sent to state prison.

Five years later, he was out, and the killings started up again.

Thomas was enabled by his family and by a legal system that made it very difficult to keep him locked away for long.  Others also apparently overlooked his criminal record to give him jobs in social work, a hospital, and a state insurance agency.  It is hard to understand how somebody with a prison record for rape could get a job in social work, or in a hospital, where he had access to vulnerable, elderly, immobilized women — his preferred targets.

Thomas was a work acquaintance of activist Earl Ofari-Hutchinson, who wrote this thoughtful article in the wake of Thomas’ capture.

Released Early and Not Monitored

Meanwhile, investigators are asking why Phillip Garrido, who kidnapped Jaycee Lee Dugard when she was 11 and held her captive as a sex slave for 18 years, was released decades early from a federal conviction for another brutal sex crime.

Decades early.  The federal system, at least, is supposed to be strict when it comes to offenders serving time.  Garrido received a 50-year sentence for an horrific kidnapping and sexual assault in 1976.  11 years later, he was released, apparently in violation of federal sentencing rules:

[Q]uestions intensified Monday over how Phillip Garrido could have served only 11 years in prison after a 1976 rape and kidnapping for which he had been given a 50-year federal sentence as well as a life term in Nevada.

Garrido was convicted of kidnapping in federal court for abducting Katherine Callaway in South Lake Tahoe on a November night nearly 33 years ago and driving her — handcuffed and hogtied — to Reno. He then pleaded guilty to a Nevada state rape charge for assaulting her in a storage unit.

Former Assistant U.S. Atty. Leland Lutfy, who prosecuted the kidnapping case, said Monday that he was “amazed” because, at the time, he believed that defendants convicted of federal crimes were required to serve two-thirds of their sentences — in this case, 33 years. That would have kept him safely away from Dugard, who was snatched from her quiet street in 1991.

“It makes no sense to me,” he said in an interview.

The real question Lutfy and others need to be asking is this: how many more Phillip Garridos are out there?

I wonder why anyone bothers to express surprise that an offender with a life sentence walked out of prison after a few years to commit more violent crimes against women and young girls.  It happens every day.  The U.S. Parole Commission, which was responsible for Garridos’ release, is refusing to answer questions:

A spokesman for the U.S. Parole Commission did not return a call for comment about why Garrido was set free in 1988.

Loyola Law professor Laurie Levenson said that barring an extraordinary situation, “there is no way on a 50-year sentence he should have been out.”

Count me not surprised: parole boards are frequently stacked with pro-offender activists who believe themselves to be above the law.  In trial testimony that should have been reviewed by the federal parole board, Garrido admitted to acting on uncontrollable sexual urges for children as young as seven:

Phillip Garrido admitted that starting in 1968 he hung around schools and pleasured himself while “watching young females.”  “I have done it by the side of schools, grammar schools and high schools, in my own car,” Garrido said in court testimony obtained Tuesday by The Daily News.  Asked how old these girls were, Garrido replied, “From 7 to 10.”

Nevertheless, the parole board decided that he should be released after serving one-fifth of his sentence, and he immediately kidnapped Jayce Lee Dugard.  Three years later, when Jayce was 14, she gave birth to the first of the children with which her rapist impregnated her.  Parole officers apparently didn’t notice that the man they were supposed to be watching had a pregnant prepubescent girl living in a shack in his backyard.

That means the parole officers also did not avail themselves of any records regarding his conviction.  Or something even worse — they knew his history but still viewed Garrido as the real victim of a harsh system.  How could they neglect to check the structures in his backyard, when he was on parole for kidnapping a woman and holding her in a storage unit, and neighbors raised questions about the young females in the storage unit in his backyard?  It belies the imagination, yet the media seems strangely incurious about Garrido’s parole officers.  Why?

~~~

This woman, U.C. Berkeley Police Specialist Lisa Campbell, didn’t think Garrido’s behavior was normal when she saw him dragging his “family” around the Berkeley campus.  She started asking questions and ultimately rescued Jayce Lee Dugard and her daughters:

Walter Ellis, John Floyd Thomas, Phillip Garrido: the cops arrest them, and the judges and parole boards let them go.  Not anymore, at least, for these three men.  But how many women and children had to be raped, and killed, in just these three cases, before anybody in the courts could be bothered to respond appropriately, all the times these men could have been put away?