Category Archives: Justice

Perry gives the middle finger to international law

By Calvin Palmer

Humberto Leal Garcia Jr had is life brought to an end last night by officials of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. His execution had been authorized by Gov Rick Perry despite pleas from President Obama and President George W. Bush to grant a stay of execution in order to comply with the Vienna Convention.

Leal, a Mexican citizen, had not been informed of his consular rights during his questioning by police, following the 1994 rape and murder of 16-year-old Adria Sauceda in San Antonio. While there is no doubt concerning Leal’s guilt of the crime, his rights were clearly violated.

Perry’s stance on law and order seems only to apply if he agrees with the law in question. His action does little to enhance America’s standing in the international community when he gives the equivalent of the middle finger to the Court of International Justice.

Perry is Pro Life and yet he signs execution orders with alarming regularity. Life is an absolute and not a relative. But there you go, right-wing inconsistency and hypocrisy writ large.

Perry could argue that he was saving Texas the cost of keeping 38-year-old Leal in prison for the rest of his natural life. Seeing as how Perry has presided over a $30 billion state deficit, despite cutting public services to the bone. I suppose every dollar counts just as long as it doesn’t come out of his pocket and his quality of life remains unaffected.

Perry’s tough stance on the death penalty would seem to satisfy the penchant for bloodlust exhibited by a great many Republicans and its tea party acolytes. It is the kind of bloodlust that saw seven people shot and killed in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on the same day Leal was executed.

It will come as no surprise to find that Perry stands firmly behind the right to bear arms and signed a bill this year allowing concealed weapons to be carried on Texas college campuses.

I bet those victims of yesterday’s Michigan shooting rampage wish there had been tighter control on gun ownership. I doubt the shooter, Rodrick Shonte Dantzler, would have killed those seven people with his bare hands.

Death don’t have no mercy in this land.

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Poor health becomes a tired excuse for alleged war criminals

By Calvin Palmer

Lawyers for alleged war criminal former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic attempted to halt his extradition on the grounds of ill health.

“I don’t think the trial will take place. He will not live to the start of the trial,” said Milos Saljic, Mladic’s lawyer. “I will make the appeal to prolong things a little bit, so the extradition does not take place right away.”

Mr Saljic has demanded new medical examinations for his client, aged 69, to test his mental faculties and ability to defend himself in a foreign, international tribunal.

“He is in an alarming state and needs to be examined by an independent team of experts. We think he is not able to be in court and talk about his case because of his neurological problems,” he said.

“He has had three strokes so it is a miracle he is alive anyway. He still speaks incoherently.”

The legal challenge to stop Mladic’s extradition to a UN war crimes tribunal after his arrest last Thursday was rejected today by three judges in a Belgrade court.

Bruno Vekaric, the deputy Serbian war crimes prosecutor, said that Gen. Mladic would be deported to the Netherlands “as soon as possible”.

He is charged with war crimes and genocide for atrocities carried out by troops under his command during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, indictments that include the 44-month shelling of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre.

It seems a common ploy for alleged war criminals to play the ill-health card.

Lawyers for John Demjanjuk, of Seven Hills, Ohio, tried tin 2009 to stop the extradition of the then 89-year-old to Germany to face trial as an accessory to the deaths of 29,000 inmates at the Sobibor camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943 on the grounds of his poor health and being too frail to travel.

Surprisingly, Demjanjuk not only survived the trip to Munich but also stayed alive for his 18-month long trial during which he appeared in a wheelchair and at times a stretcher.

Demjanjuk, 91, was eventually found guilty on May 12 and sentenced to five years in prison. Judge Ralph Alt released him, pending appeal, which could take six months.

The German newspaper Bild last week published photographs of Demjanjuk walking outside the German nursing home in Bad Feilnbach, near Rosenheim, southern Germany, where he now lives under the headline, “The Bad Guy’s Miracle Recovery.”

John Demjanjuk Jr. denounced the newspaper’s “sensationalism” and said his father has always been able to walk short distances on good days and that his medical condition is well documented.

I just wish lawyers for alleged war criminals would come up with a different excuse for halting extradition. They could argue their client wants to see America’s Got Talent 2011 or, if they are really a sad case, the Wimbledon tennis championships!

And if Mladic’s lawyer is so convinced his client “will not live to the start of the trial”, perhaps he could also let us in on the winning numbers of this week’s lottery and practice under the name of Mystic Milos!

[Based on reports by The Daily Telegraph and Associated Press.]

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Former FBI agent has theory proving Amanda Knox’s innocence

By Calvin Palmer

Amanda Knox is innocent, so says former FBI agent Steve Moore based on his years of experience with the bureau.

Moore argues that when someone’s throat is cut, as was the case with British student Meredith Kercher, blood spurts into the air. Kercher would have lost more than four pints of blood. The killer, or killers, would have been covered in her blood and their footprints would have left bloody trails of guilt.

“You cannot just scrub it off,” said Moore. “Blood is God’s way of identifying the man with the knife.”

Moore feels a great injustice has been committed and is trying to whip up counterparts in Italy to do the work to prove his theory is correct and Knox is innocent.

Knox and her former Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were convicted last December for the murder of Meredith in the house in Perugia, Italy, she shared with Knox.

Meredith’s room was found to be full of full of the finger and footprints of Rudy Guede, a drifter, burglar and small-time drug dealer originally from the Ivory Coast. But there was not a single bloody footprint belonging to Knox or Sollecito.

Moore asserts it is “absolutely impossible” they could have been in the room when Meredith died.

“There are no footprints of theirs in the blood,” he said. “To believe the prosecution case, they would have had to have been floating on a magic carpet.”

Moore claims the lack of clarity in their mutual alibi is not the real issue. The onus is on the prosecution to justify its claims.

In a crime scene, Moore says, “the absence of evidence is evidence of absence” of the key suspects, and the prosecutors did not come close to putting Amanda and Raffaele in the room where Meredith died.

Moore is also scathing about the prosecutors’ “read” on the crime scene, which is contradicted by all the forensic evidence, as if a “group of libidinous adolescent boys had tried to imagine the most lascivious thing that they believed could have happened”.

Knox does not satisfy any of the criteria that might suggest she would harm, never mind kill, Meredith, according to Moore. “In the FBI, we took the view that the simplest explanation of a crime is almost always the best explanation,” he said.

He believes not only does Amanda not fit the psychological profile of a killer in any respect, but she also doesn’t fit the profile of a person capable of violence.

Guede, whose guilt is not in doubt, has already had his sentence cut in half, and it could be cut again, setting him free within a year or two. Knox’s supporters believe a deal has been struck.

Moore is quick to point out that he is not writing a book, not being paid as a consultant by the Knox camp in Seattle. Indeed, his mission to expose the faults in the trial has cost him his job with Pepperdine University. He was fired last month for refusing to drop his campaign.

Pepperdine University has an affiliated campus in Italy and Moore’s campaigning on behalf of Knox was causing political problems there.

So there you have it. The Italian prosecutors got it all wrong. The jury was hoodwinked into delivering the wrong verdict as part of a witch hunt, according to Moore.

It all sounds very plausible, just like the theories that the attacks of 9/11 were orchestrated by the CIA. But they are just that theories and devoid of hard evidence and facts.

Is Moore privy to every police report in the Kercher case? No.

Was Moore present at the crime scene shortly after the murder was committed? No

How likely is it that Moore has personal contacts with the police force in Perugia? Unlikely.

Why is Moore the only former member of the FBI to reach these startling conclusions? My guess is personal vanity and ego.

How good an agent was Moore during his time with the FBI? No one knows of his record. It could be that he was an absolute dullard but made good coffee for the rest of the team. He is on record as saying that he quit the FBI because he was tired of foreign travel. Or could it be that he quit because he was still a field agent after 25 years with bureau and had been passed over for promotion on several occasions? We just don’t know but are expected to believe that he is right where everyone else is wrong.

Why haven’t we heard from other law enforcement officers expressing the same opinions as Moore, if they are so self evident regarding Knox’s innocence? Over to you, Inspector Knacker of Scotland Yard.

We only have Moore’s version of why he was fired by Pepperdine University. What is the university’s side of the story? Could it be that Moore was falling down on the job he was employed to do?

His quote, “Blood is God’s way of identifying the man with the knife,” brings into question his credibility both regarding his theory and his abilities as an FBI agent. Perhaps God revealed Knox’s innocence to Moore in a dream. So that explains why the FBI has such a success rate in solving all of its cases.

What we have here is a man in the throes of a mid-life crisis, no longer in a job of any importance and unable to come to terms with his reduced status? What better way to get back into the spotlight, and massage his ego, than to take up this cause célèbre.

Knox is due to appeal against her conviction for murder next month, which probably explains Moore’s timely intervention.

Stefano Maffei, a University of Parma professor of criminal procedure, says the appeal court is likely to agree with the murder conviction but find that mitigating factors outweigh the aggravated ones, which leads to a one-third reduction in sentence.

According to Maffei, 18 Italian magistrates have reviewed the evidence in the Knox case and come to the same conclusion of culpability, which somehow ingrains the decision into the judiciary.

But in the light of Knox’s good behavior, and other sociological reasons, her sentence is likely to be reduced, he said.

The prosecution is also appealing that Knox’s sentence be increased from 26 years to life.

[Based on reports by the London Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph and Seattle Post-Intelligencer.]

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Executives in Stanford’s company to face fraud charges, says SEC

By Calvin Palmer

Several executives involved in Texan billionaire Allen Stanford’s alleged $7 billion Ponzi scheme will face fraud charges, the Senate Banking Committee was told today.

“We have notified several former Stanford executives that we intend to recommend fraud charges against them,” Rose Romero, director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Fort Worth office told US lawmakers. “These persons include former high level executives and financial advisors.”

Stanford, a flamboyant Texan billionaire, has already pleaded not guilty to 21 counts of fraud, money laundering and obstruction. A trial date has not yet been set for him.

The Justice Department has also filed a raft of charges against former Stanford employees, including James Davis, the former chief financial officer of Houston-based Stanford Financial Group, who pleaded guilty last month to counts including fraud.

The company’s chief investment officer, Laura Pendergest-Holt, accountants Mark Kuhrt and Gilberto Lopez, and Leroy King, head of Antigua’s financial services regulatory commission, also face charges.

They are accused of helping Stanford run a massive Ponzi scheme involving the sale of $7.2 billion of Certificates of Deposit.

Romero and other senior SEC officials offered apologies today for failing to detect the massive fraud despite multiple warnings.

“We deeply regret that the SEC failed to act more quickly to limit the tragic investor losses suffered by Stanford’s victims,” said Robert Khuzami, director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division.

 The SEC inspector general found that the agency knew since 1997 that R. Allen Stanford was likely operating an alleged Ponzi scheme. But it didn’t charge the billionaire until February 2009. The charges came a few months after the massive pyramid scheme of financier Bernard Madoff surfaced.

SEC enforcement officials discouraged cases that couldn’t be resolved quickly, the inspector general found.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., asked SEC Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami why no one at the SEC has been fired or demoted for the excessive delay. Other senators on the panel also wanted an answer during the hearing on the issue.

“We seem to have an instance in which one side of the agency was screaming that there was a fire, and the other side said that the fire was too hard to put out,” Dodd said.

Khuzami told the panel that the disciplinary process is under way.

He told the committee the details of the SEC’s failure in the case only have been known since the inspector general’s report was issued in April.

Khuzami also said the agency has toughened its efforts to shut down financial misconduct since the past failures.

He said the SEC is working to provide “maximum recovery” to investors hurt in Stanford’s alleged $7 billion fraud.

Inspector General David Kotz also found that the former head of enforcement in the SEC’s Fort Worth office, who helped quash investigations of Stanford, later represented the billionaire as a private lawyer.

The official briefly represented Stanford in 2006 before being told by the SEC ethics office that it was improper for him to do so.

Kotz indicated he has referred the matter to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution in connection with statements he made to SEC ethics officers.

He also said the official’s representing Stanford appeared to violate Texas’s rules for lawyers.

Kotz said the reforms in the SEC’s enforcement and inspections operations that Khuzami outlined may not have yet taken hold at the lower levels of the agency.

“I think that the intention is there,” he said. “I think it takes time for a culture to be changed.”

Kotz’s office has also found that the agency bungled five investigations into Madoff’s business between June 1992 and December 2008. Madoff’s fraud, which could be the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, destroyed thousands of people’s life savings, wrecked charities and jolted investor confidence during the worst days of the financial crisis.

[Based on reports by AFP and The Houston Chronicle.]

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Courthouse employee charged with spying on women in bathroom

By Calvin Palmer

A maintenance worker at a Pennsylvania courthouse was today charged with using a peephole to spy on women using a bathroom.

Daniel Caul, 37, of Harmony, Pennsylvania, was charged with invasion of privacy.

Caul told police in the past two years he watched 20 to 25 females as they used the bathroom in Beaver County courthouse because he “likes looking at naked women”.

The peephole was discovered by a cleaning crew earlier this month. It was drilled close to a vent in a unisex bathroom near the adult probation office and could be accessed from an electrical equipment room next to the bathroom.

County Commissioner Tony Amadio said other bathrooms in the courthouse were searched but nothing suspicious was found.

“It is an invasion of privacy at the most intimate level,” said Amadio.

Caul, who worked in the courthouse maintenance department for 20 years, has been fired, officials said.

Beaver County District Attorney Tony Berosch said only a limited number of people had keys to the electrical equipment room.

“We knew there were a limited amount of people we had to talk to,” Berosch said. “As the investigation went on, we focused in on Dan.”

Police said Caul did not admit to drilling the hole.

[Based on reports by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and]

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HIV positive No Angels singer admits unprotected sex with several men

By Calvin Palmer

There is something vaguely gothic about the trial of singer Nadja Benaissa in Germany.

The singer with the girl group No Angels is accused of grievous bodily harm after a man she slept with became infected with HIV. She is also facing five charges of attempted grievous bodily harm for sleeping with the men without protection.

The 28-year-old faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty. In less enlightened times, she would be looking at being burnt at the stake for her “crime”.

Benaissa discovered that she was infected with HIV at the age of 16 during routine hospital tests when she became pregnant with her daughter.

She admitted during the opening of the trial in Darmstadt that she had had unprotected sex with several men.

“I’m sorry from my heart,” she said. “The last thing I wanted was for my partner to get infected.”

In a statement through her lawyer, she said she was told that the chance of passing on the virus was “practically zero”.

“Therefore I also concealed the fact that I was infected to my acquaintances. I did not want my daughter to be branded by this.

“I told the band members because I trusted them. I never made it public because I thought that would mean the end of the band.”

Benaissa, who is half German half Moroccan, is alleged to have slept with three men a maximum of five times between 2000 and 2004.

“I was careless during those days,” she said and admitted she did not tell her sex partners about her condition.

The man who claims the pop star infected him said they had a three-month relationship at the beginning of 2004.

He said he got tested after Benaissa’s aunt asked him in 2007 whether he was aware that the singer was HIV positive.

It is alleged another former partner made a complaint to police in 2008.

Benaissa was arrested in April 2009, before a concert in Frankfurt and held in custody for 10 days.

AIDS campaign groups called her arrest a “modern witch hunt.”

Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe said the manner of Benaissa’s arrest and her HIV status being made public was unacceptable, although it did not condone her alleged behavior.

Jörg Litinschuh, spokesman for DAH said of the arrest:  “It centers on a famous woman, sexuality and possible guilt.

“It’s a form of modern witch-hunting and I hope it’s not an indication that the politics of dealing with HIV and Aids is becoming more restrictive.”

A verdict is expected on August 26 and during the course of the trial Aids expert Professor Dr Josef Eberle, of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, is expected to say that the HIV positive man could have been infected by another sexual partner.

No Angels went on to become one of Germany’s popular groups, selling more than five million records before breaking up in 2003. They reformed in 2007 and took part in the 2008 Eurovision song contest.

[Based on reports by Stern, The Daily Telegraph and Bild.]

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Car thief suffocated after being held down by 240-pound man

By Calvin Palmer

The weight of a 240-pound man proved fatal for a would-be car thief, an inquest in Stoke-on-Trent, England heard today.

Bernard Doherty died after being restrained by overweight lorry driver Brian Machin as he attempted to steal a Mitsubishi Shogun belonging to Machin’s cousin, William Jones, also a lorry driver.

Machin, 53, of Middleport, Stoke-on-Trent, used his knee to pin 24-year-old Doherty to the ground while Jones, 57, lay across his legs and held Doherty down while they waited for police to arrive in the early hours of January 9 last year.

When police arrived, they found Doherty unconscious and still being restrained, the inquest was told.

Doherty, from Stockport, Cheshire, was later pronounced dead at hospital after police, paramedics and hospital medics had all failed to revive him.

A post-mortem revealed he died from asphyxia due to an object pressing on his chest area.

Machin and Jones, who said they “showed no malice” towards him, were later arrested on suspicion of unlawful killing. Eventually, the case against them was dropped because prosecutors could not “establish that the force used was excessive”.

Machin had to move out of his home, which he had just spent £2,000 redecorating, “for his own protection” after the death.

The inquest heard Jones had been followed as he drove to Machin’s home when Doherty approached him and said: “Give me the keys to the Shogun, if you don’t, I’ll turn you over”.

He then snatched the keys and jumped into the driver’s seat but Jones struggled with Doherty before Machin pulled him out of the vehicle.

They restrained Doherty, whose face was under the Shogun, and told the inquest they thought he had stopped struggling because he knew he could not escape.

Jones told police: “I said something like ‘give it up son, you aren’t going anywhere’ and it was like he gave up.

“We weren’t restricting his breathing as far as we were aware. We didn’t want to hurt him, we just wanted to let the police have him. We didn’t want to assault anybody.”

His cousin added: “If he had said ‘you’re hurting me’ then we would have pulled him out from under the car. There was no malice towards the lad. I didn’t think I was hurting him.”

Ian Smith, the North Staffordshire Coroner, recorded a verdict of accidental death.

Doherty, who had a partner, Brooke and a four-year-old daughter, Britney, was visiting Stoke-on-Trent to attend a family funeral.

And like any self-respecting grieving mourner, he decided to steal a car for reasons that went with him to his grave.

No doubt his loss is great for Brooke and Britney, although perhaps not with those names, but for the rest of society, Machin and Jones did everyone a big favor.

In the United States, Doherty would have been pronounced dead at the scene after being shot by the two cousins, who would have had no case to answer.

[Based on reports by The Sentinel and The Daily Telegraph.]

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