Friday, July 23, 2010

FL - New Florida commission aims to prevent wrongful conviction

Original Article


By Kate Howard

The 12 people wrongly convicted and later freed by DNA in Florida have much in common beyond their lost years in prison.

Most were pointed to as the criminal by eyewitnesses who were mistaken or misled. Some never saw the evidence that should’ve cast serious doubts on their involvement. All had to ask — sometimes repeatedly — for the DNA testing that would eventually prove their innocence.

A new commission will examine these mistakes in the hopes that wrongful convictions can become a thing of the past. Two Jacksonville lawyers have been named to the 23-member Florida Innocence Commission, created this month for a two-year term by the Florida Supreme Court. The work will begin this fall, its first round of suggested reforms will be issued next summer.

Commission members will not be sifting through cases of prisoners claiming innocence. Instead, the focus will be on dissecting the cases of Florida’s 12 known exonerees and figuring out what went wrong. Members and advocates for the panel say they expect faulty witness identification, problems with jailhouse informants and unreliable science to rise to the top of the list of problems, but they’re keeping their minds open.

Our first interest will be that everyone around the table genuinely appreciates that we all share an interest in preventing the travesties that come from convicting the innocent,” said Hank Coxe, former president of The Florida Bar and a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney on the commission. “When all people share that common interest is when the serious work will begin.”

Howard Coker, another former Bar president and a Jacksonville personal injury attorney who was also appointed to the commission, said it’s premature to say what they’ll find but he’s committed to exploring every avenue that could mean a more just system for defendants.

For me, the field is wide open,” Coker said. “Anything that helps make sure an innocent person isn’t incarcerated is worth considering.”

The majority of Florida’s exonerees were imprisoned after convictions for murder or sex crimes. The only Jacksonville case so far is that of [name withheld], who spent 13 years in prison for the murder of his sister-in-law in Mayport. He was sleeping in the apartment when she was killed, but another man’s DNA was found on the bed and her body. [name withheld] was cleared in 2007 after DNA testing, although prosecutors stopped short of agreeing he was innocent.

The impact on the exonerees has been severe, former Florida State University President Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte said. He led the charge for a commission in Florida, modeled after a successful commission in North Carolina and has worked to get compensation for two of Florida’s exonerees.

He’s been told secondhand about how [name withheld], wrongly convicted for rape, has set off metal detectors and began undressing, expecting a strip search. He knows that [name withheld], wrongly convicted for murder, has sought therapy to deal with the consequences of more than two decades of incarceration.

It’s really strange to me that they don’t seem to be carrying around the kind of anger I’d feel at the system,” D’Alemberte said. “But they are people still terribly burdened by their experiences.”

The bulk of innocence cases in the state are investigated by the Innocence Project of Florida, which represents inmates who could potentially be freed by DNA. Executive Director Seth Miller said he sees this commission as a logical extension of the work they do.

Miller said there’s plenty of research available on how to eliminate the practices that lead to major mistakes:

Make photo lineups more standardized so a person’s choice can’t be influenced, purposefully or subconsciously, by an investigator.

Examine interrogation practices that have led to false confessions.

Ensure that jailhouse informants are used sparingly and appropriately.

If we can start with agreeing that wrongful convictions exist and that there are known causes for those wrongful convictions, we can really focus on what the reforms are going to be,” Miller said. “If the commission can accomplish that, they will be incredibly successful.

Former Monroe County Judge Les Garringer said even one person serving prison time for a crime he didn’t commit is too many. He is executive director of the commission, and he believes there are probably a multitude of cases of wrongful convictions beyond those publicized, where appeals have been won or charges dropped.

The wide availability of DNA evidence has made the general public more aware of the possibility that the right person is not always behind bars, Garringer said.

The Innocence Commission will not be looking at death penalty reform or just the most serious offenses, he said. Any scenario where a person is wrongly convicted needs rectifying, Garringer said.

It’s no less egregious if you’re sitting in prison doing 10 years on a robbery charge than if you’re sitting in prison doing life on a murder,” Garringer said.

You’re incarcerated and you’re innocent, you shouldn’t be there.”

GA - Tracking Sex Offenders

Original Article

See this spreadsheet, which shows most are complying, even though the laws are unconstitutional and draconian, and do not work to prevent crime nor protect anybody. Less than 2% have absconded, and less than 1% in Georgia are predators, yet they are monitoring all 100% as if they are all dangerous. That is a total waste of money and their time, IMO. You will also notice, in the video, that they print the fliers on PINK paper, which is similar to what the Nazi's did in Germany under Hitler's reign.


By Sheila Parker

CHATHAM COUNTY - Chatham County’s Sex Offender Registration and Tracking unit keeps tabs on around 400 sex offenders registered in the county. It's a job that just became a little more complicated with a change in state law relaxing rules about where certain sex offenders can live. Investigators with Chatham County's S.O.R.T. unit make routine checks of area sex offenders to make sure they're living where they say they are. Investigator Warren Blanton says, “We're out there hitting the streets daily and we take it very seriously…we might ask to go inside to verify that the person's clothes are there - show me something that belongs to that person instead of just taking their word for it - we try to actually get involved in making sure that person provided the most accurate information.”
- You cannot enter without a warrant, if they are off probation/parole, and nobody should let them in.

It's a visit Chatham County sex offenders get about 4 times a year though the state only requires a check once a year. Investigators credit that proactive stance for Chatham County's S.O.R.T. unit being number one in the state of Georgia for arrests and prosecutions when offenders turn up missing. “On average there's been upwards of 70 cases per year that have been prosecuted and when you consider the population of sex offenders in Chatham County is roughly 400 and above - that's a good percentage of people in violations,” says Investigator Blanton.

Offenders aren't officially labeled an absconder until the unit has exhausted all leads to track them down...then investigators say they'll call in other agencies and focus on that offender until they're found. “It's something that we take seriously - if you're not living where you say you live and we can't find you within a day or so then we pull out all the stops and we just go forward on the case until you're located,” says Investigator Blanton.

Of the 400 or so sex offenders the S.O.R.T. unit keeps track of - only one is currently listed as an absconder or missing. He is 52 year old [name withheld]. If you spot him - you're asked to call the sheriff's office or Crimestoppers.

The S.O.R.T. unit's job has become more complicated with the relaxing of laws this month regarding how close a sex offender can live to an area where children gather. Formerly a blanket one thousand feet - the rules now vary based on when the offender was convicted.

VA - NSA, Pentagon officials linked to child porn

Original Article
Another Article from Fox


By Declan McCullagh

Dozens of National Security Agency, DARPA , and other Pentagon officials purchased and downloaded child pornography over the Internet, according to a report in The Boston Globe on Friday.

The newspaper said it obtained more than 50 pages of documents revealing that the government workers identified in an internal probe included NSA contractors with top secret clearances, one of whom has fled the country and is believed to be hiding in Libya.

Another involved a person working at the supersecret National Reconnaissance Office, which operates the military's spy satellites, who was transferred to a field office and has not been charged with a crime.

In the United States, it is legal to possess obscene materials, which are generally defined as hardcore pornography involving consenting adults. It is also legal to posses non-obscene pornography.

But the knowing possession of child pornography is a federal felony. In the last few decades, the definition of child pornography has been expanded to include not only depictions of minors being sexually abused, but even images of clothed girls in leotards and, as CNET reported in 2006, photographs of clothed minors in what prosecutors claim were overly "lascivious" poses.

Some, but not all, of the Pentagon workers were charged as a result of the internal investigation, which had not previously been made public. In one 2007 case, the Globe said, a national security official possessed 8,400 pictures, and 200 movies "that were evidence of receipt of child pornography" and was sentenced to five years in prison.

After a series of other recent reports highlighted how federal employees were using taxpayer-funded computers to watch porn at work, the House of Representatives voted 239 to 182 earlier this month to require federally-funded networks to block the viewing or downloading of pornographic materials.

MT - Ted White Confronts Lee's Summit City Council Over $16M Judgment

Original Article


By Leslie Carto

LEE'S SUMMIT - The Ted White saga has now stretched over a decade, as the former Lee's Summit resident was convicted, sent to prison, then vindicated and released of child sex abuse charges before winning a massive lawsuit judgment against the former police officer that investigated his case. On Thursday, Ted White again faced the Lee's Summit City Council, where he asked that the city pay up what he says they owe him.

White sued the city and former LSPD detective Richard McKinley for $16 million for violating his constitutional rights in the case after it was revealed that McKinley was having an affair with White's wife at the time, and revelations that evidence that would have exonerated White in the beginning had gone missing. On Thursday, White's supporters gathered in from of Lee's Summit City Hall to let their disgust over the case be known.

"It's horrendous what he went through," said Lee's Summit resident Lester Masgood.

"It angers me the city wants out of this deal they entered into for their own benefit," said Sean O'Brien, who represented White and convinced a jury of his innocence.

White and his lawyers say that the city is on the hook for the $16 million judgment, because in return for not being named as a defendant in the civil case it agreed to pay the judgment awarded if a jury found White's rights had been violated.

"I want this to be an opportunity for you to make this right," said White at Thursdays council meeting.

In the meeting, only councilman Bob Johnson spoke.

"Let me first say I think you were treated unjustly in America," said Johnson. "I guess my question is there room for discussion compromising the amount?"
- It happens every day, people are slammed with the sex offender label, without any proof of a crime!

Many in the council chambers said 'no', but White agreed to sit down with the city and his lawyer to discuss the situation, but that he was returning to his new home in Utah on Friday.

"I expect you to pay the bill, thank you," said White.

Mayor Randy Rhoads on Thursday released a statement that would seem to leave little room for compromise. The full text of the statement is below.

Lee's Summit Mayor Randy Rhoads' Statement About the White vs. McKinley Case

"On July 8, 2010, we publicly stated our concerns regarding the recent court award of $14 Million plus attorney's fees to Ted White. The court's decision was against a former employee, Richard McKinley, who was found to have violated the constitutional rights of Mr. White. Anyone who is involved in the legal system understands that any outcome may be possible and that there is no certainty until a final judgment has been ordered. This case was between Ted White and Richard McKinley; the City of Lee's Summit was not a party in the case. We did not want to interfere with the court proceedings on this matter until they had been fully completed.

"Since we have made our public announcement, many Lee's Summit citizens have asked why the City is not making the payment to Ted White. As Mayor and City Council, we are responsible for the proper use of taxpayer dollars. It is clear to us that we are restricted by our local ordinance and state law from making this payment on behalf of our former employee. We are obligated to make certain that any payment made to Ted White is legally correct and that the City of Lee's Summit is legally obligated to make the payment. Any effort to not make certain that these conditions exist would be poor fiscal management.

"We would ask our citizens to remain patient during this difficult period of time. We understand that citizens are receiving a lot of public information from Ted White and his legal team. Clearly they are interested in creating some type of "public pressure" to force the Mayor and City Council into making a decision that is not legally permitted at this time.

"Please know that we will make certain that our decisions are legally defensible and will fulfill any and all legal obligations, should they exist, to Mr. White in the future."


WA - Advocates push for Animal Abusers Registry

Original Article
Why not one registry for all criminals?

I'm all for it. See the second link above. We should have one registry for all felons, if it's "constitutional" for sex offenders, then it's okay for everyone else.



Would you want to know if you were living next door to a convicted animal abuser? A new movement is under way to start registering animal abusers like we do sex offenders.
- I'd also like to know about the murderers, gang members, drug dealers/users, DUI offenders, abusive men/women, thieves, money launderers, etc.

You'd never know it now, but 17-year-old Max had a hard start in life.

"We got Max from a shelter," said Renee Young, dog owner. "He'd been abused. All his legs had been broken. He had a tattoo on his stomach. God only knows what that was from."

And though Max has lived his last ten years in the lap of luxury, he still has some emotional scars.

"He jumps and attacks if someone comes up behind him. If you pick him up a certain way, he gets very, very agitated," said Renee.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund says animal abuse is a very serious problem in the United States and they believe not enough is being done to curb it.

"Animal abusers are in every community in this country and they range from people who commit neglect , who don't feed their animals, don't provide veterinary care, to people who commit major felonies, torture and killing of animals, long term abuse," said Joyce Tischler, Animal Legal Defense Fund.

That's why they're spearheading a movement to get states to create a central animal abuser registry, much like a sex abuser registry. They say a registry would help neighbors protect their animals and allow shelters to do better background checks before making adoptions.

"Someone convicted of felony animal cruelty or felony animal abuse would be mandated to register with the local county sheriff or police, his or her name, address, employer, photograph, fingerprints," said Tischler.
- Will they also have to live over 1,000 feet from where animals congregate?

But Harvard economics professor Jeffrey Miron argues that while the registry sounds noble in theory, states just don't have the resources to enforce it.
- Sure they do, they have all the money in the world to enforce it for sex offenders, so why not one registry for all?

"Making sure they're in the registry, making sure they're living where they say they're living. In my judgment those resources could be better used pursuing more important types of crimes, homicides, rapes, assault," said Miron.
- But come on, if it saves one animal, isn't that worth it?  Think of the animals!

Proponents argue a registry could do double-duty, protecting people as well as their animals.

A 1997 study by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Northeastern University found animal abusers are five times as likely to commit violent crimes against people.
- Boy, people who use statistics love these magical goldilock numbers.

"The FBI has been tracking animal abusers, violent animal abusers, since the early 1970s because they have found most serial killers started by violently abusing and killing animals," said Tischler.
- So then they already have a registry?  So put it online, and make sure they have residency restrictions as well.

Max is safe now, but Renee thinks a database would be very helpful to others like him.

"It's a tiny little step on our part to help the animals," she said.

Several states are considering animal abuse registry legislation. Volunteers track cases in a database called More than 16,000 accused or convicted animal abusers are listed.

FL - Self proclaimed vigilante (Barbara Farris) arrested - KARMA SUCKS!

Related Articles | Arrest Info (Enter "FARRIS, BARBARA" as the name)

Original Article
Another Story and Video


ORLANDO - A woman who led a charge to put up cameras at an Orlando trailer park to monitor sex offenders has been arrested.

Barbara Farris was arrested Thursday, and county jail records showed she was taken into custody, on a warrant from Alabama on a charge of menacing.

But details about the charge are not known.

Farris is the president of a group known as the Bee Squad, which tracks sex offenders around Central Florida.

She wanted to put up cameras at Lake Shore Village, where around 100 sex offenders live, because she said it's near a school bus stop.

Video Link

Video Link