Mentally incompetent Utah man dies in hospital after jail episode left him paralyzed
Is this the kind of country where we let mental illness go untreated to the point where someone in jail for fighting with a couple of cops is effectively allowed to commit suicide, while on suicide watch?
Jail video shows a naked Hall with disheveled long hair and beard running headfirst into a wall three times before climbing up on the sink and falling headfirst to the floor. At the time, Hall had been waiting five months for a bed and treatment at the Utah State Hospital. Utah designates 100 beds at the hospital for inmate mental health treatment, but once the beds are occupied, additional defendants await openings from jail cells.
The Utah LegislatureThe Utah Legislature recently set aside $3 million in an effort to resolve a federal lawsuit filed by the Salt Lake City-based Disability Law Center, which alleges mentally ill defendants are not provided a speedy trial and suffer in jail without treatment because the state does not provide enough hospital beds and specialists to treat them.
Why couldn’t they set aside $3 million before they were sued, to solve the problem before anyone died?
More than 13,000 untested rape kits in Florida
This bit sent shivers down my spine:
After Detroit processed a backlog of 11,000 rape kits, police identified more than 100 serial rape suspects.
Why shivers? Because it instantly prompts me to wonder how many women were raped who wouldn’t have been raped if these kits were more efficiently processed.
Bill Cosby charged with sexual assault in Pennsylvania
The TV legend is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting former Temple University employee Andrea Constand when she visited his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004. A probable cause affidavit filed by investigators this week alleges that Cosby “sought to incapacitate” Constand by giving her a mix of pills and wine that sent her slipping in and out of consciousness and left her unable to consent to sexual activity.
Ms. Constand settled her civil case against Mr. Cosby but the latter’s statements in a deposition taken for that case and released to the public by request of the press triggered the Montgomery County District Attorney’s obligation to prosecute Cosby.
Video gamer hunts down, stabs man who killed his online ‘Counter-Strike’ character
Michael Sheridan reports at NYDailyNews.com:
Julien Barreaux reportedly spent six months looking for the person who killed his online character in a virtual knife fight, and eventually found the foe living only a few miles away in Cambrai, a town about 2 hours north of Paris.
The lunatic only got two years’ imprisonment for what pretty plainly looks to me like premeditated attempted murder. I don’t know anything about French law, but that seems like an embarrassing outcome for any prosecutor.
Image is top of French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
Alison Parker, Adam Ward of WDBJ remembered by friends
It’s inappropriate to use these tragic murders as fodder for the never-ending Second Amendment debate, and people on both sides of the isle are already guilty of that.
If the killer’s intent was to terrorize, are those people who are disseminating photographic and video imagery of the murders aiding and abetting that son of a bitch, even after his suicide?
I’m obviously emotional over this thing, as many people are, and the aiding and abetting thing is more a thought experiment than a serious question. But if we don’t at least think about it, try to push the debate forward somehow, if nothing changes at all, Alison and Adam died for nothing. That’s unacceptable.
Lewis James Fogle Free, 34 Years After His Wrongful Conviction
The case against Mr. Fogle itself was never a strong one – it was based entirely upon the testimony of so-called jailhouse informants, including a man himself suspected of the crime. It was only years after the 15-year-old victim’s body was found in the woods that the suspect, Elderkin, named Mr. Fogle as being involved. This accusation came during Elderkin’s fifth statement to police, while Elderkin was receiving psychiatric treatment and with the assistance of hypnosis. No physical evidence connected Mr. Fogle to the murder, and he testified at trial he was nowhere near the scene when the girl was murdered. Nonetehless, the jury convicted Mr. Fogle and the court sentenced him to life in prison without parole.
This gentleman spent more time in jail for something heinous he didn’t do than I have spent being alive. This guy has a wife and kids, who not only haven’t lived with him for 34 years, but who have had to deny he assaulted and murdered a teenager, as well. The District Attorney was admirable in his cooperation with Innocence.
But there is no utility in blaming or blessing any single person: what changes can we make to the criminal justice system that will prevent mistakes like this from happening in the first place?
Maybe life with parole shouldn’t be on the table unless there is conclusive DNA evidence of the defendant’s guilt. I don’t know. But we can’t shrug our shoulders about it. After all, we were happy to incarcerate Fogle for the rest of his life when we thought he took someone else’s life. What will do now that we have effectively taken most of his?
Obama Plans Broader Use of Clemency to Free Nonviolent Drug Offenders
Peter Baker of The New York Times:
In his second term, Mr. Obama embarked on an effort to use clemency and has raised his total commutations to 43, a number he may double this month. The initiative was begun last year by James M. Cole, then the deputy attorney general, who set criteria for who might qualify: generally nonviolent inmates who have served more than 10 years in prison, have behaved well while incarcerated and would not have received as lengthy a sentence under today’s revised rules.
Overincarceration is a real problem. Like any decent lawyer, I’ll cite a few reliable sources.
I don’t have an answer. Longtime readers will know I’m a cynical bastard, despite my best efforts to the contrary. It seems to me like this move is more for the “optics” and less for real effect, but I’d love to be wrong.
Primary source: White House press release
Photo by me
Snapchat selfie gets teen arrested on murder charge
Jill Daly, reporting at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
On Thursday, a woman told police her son had a copy of a Snapchat photo sent from the accused. Jeannette Sgt. Donald Johnston saw the photo, depicting the wounded victim in the chair as found by his mother. It also depicted a young man taking a “selfie” with the victim in the background. The photo had the name “MAXWELL” across the top and the young man was identified by Sgt. Johnston as Maxwell Morton.
The inapplicability of words like “ephemeral” and “private” to Snapchat is well-documented. But it’s not common knowledge, and this suspect’s use of the app to send photos of the deceased victim, including one of the suspect posing with the decedent, illustrates the consequences of that ignorance.
An interesting side effect of the prevalence of photo sharing apps incorrectly seen as ephemeral or private is the preservation of a photographic record of the crime or its aftermath. It’s safe to say that the selfie in question would damage the defense’s case if introduced at trial. This case involved a third-party recipient of the photos, whose mother volunteered the photos to the police, negating the need to obtain a warrant.
It’s a strange reversal of the Big Brother scenario when defendants preserve and disseminate evidence connecting them to crime. Prosecutors and defense attorneys alike should keep well-informed about popular messaging apps of all kinds. The availability, and perhaps questionable admissibility, of documentary evidence generated by smartphones is not something attorneys can ignore in good faith.
Serial podcast presents novel collision of law and technology
The incredible true crime podcast Serial presents a novel collision between technology and the law. This time, it’s not that technology plays or should play a particular part in the case itself, but that a podcast has shed light on a cold case that may lead to an unexpected outcome.
The podcast’s producers interviewed Deirdre Enright, director of the University of Virginia School of Law’s Innocence Project for Episode 7.
Lindsay Beyerstein reports at the Columbia Journalism Review:
The UVA Innocence Project is poised to ask a court to test an old physical evidence recovery kit (PERK) that was used on Lee’s body to test for possible sexual assault in 1999 but was never tested for DNA.
The DNA is an issue that might never have come up but for the Serial producers’ interview with Professor Enright. It’s the first instance I’ve heard of where a podcast may directly affect the outcome of a legal case. And considering the defendant, Syed, has already been sentenced to life in prison, any change at all to his sentence, let alone total exoneration, would be unexpected and important.
It implicates a power to uncover truth in cold cases heretofore reserved primarily to outfits like Professor Enright’s. What’s even more compelling to me is that Serial mixes the modern technology of podcasting with the very old style of serial storytelling. The whole thing exposes how, increasingly, the law benefits from ancillary developments in journalism and technology. It’ll be fascinating to hear the ultimate outcome when we get there.
U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans
John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke, reporting for Reuters Washington bureau:
The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial.
This goes well beyond spying. This is, I would argue, exactly why people object to such domestic spying.
The logic is that those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear. However, the “Special Operations Division” probably isn’t infallible, since, well, no one is, and that means that you may have nothing to hide, and think you have nothing to fear, and be completely wrong.
Innocent people may have been convicted as a result of what appear on their face to be unconstitutional, extrajudicial practices.
Those arguing that the price for protection from terrorists and other would-be evil doers is letting the National Security Agency have a peak at our Gmail will have a much more difficult time making the same case for falsifying an evidence trail.
The defense was often held in the dark and, apparently, at least in some cases, investigators misled both the prosecution and judicial evidentiary discretion.
Oh, and as a cherry on top, here’s a gem from near the end of the Reuters story:
A DEA spokesman declined to comment on the unit’s annual budget. A recent LinkedIn posting on the personal page of a senior SOD official estimated it to be $125 million.
The monitoring of internet communications for sensitive information, it would seem, goes both ways.