Friday, November 16, 2018

Back in action: On-going; Jeffrey Havard: Mississippi: Shaken Baby Syndrome; Death Row; Clarion Ledger (reporter Jerry Mitchell)..."Why would inmate risk execution? He says he would rather prove innocence and 'die fighting.'..."In December 2002, Havard went on trial for capital murder. A parade of witnesses — doctors, nurses, the sheriff and others — described an anal dilation the size of a quarter, along with tears, rips, lacerations and bleeding they said they saw in the child’s anal area. Then-state pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne told jurors that Havard had shaken the baby to death, comparing the injuries to those seen in car crashes and falls from significant heights. No defense experts testified because Judge Johnson wouldn’t permit their hiring. He told defense lawyers they could question Hayne about the death. They didn’t bother. Jurors never heard from Havard, either, because his court-appointed lawyers advised him not to testify. After 40 minutes of deliberation, jurors convicted Havard, who professed his innocence when he was sentenced, and recommended the death penalty. Circuit Judge Forrest Johnson told him, “Just when you think that you have seen everything and that you have seen or heard of the absolute low point of evil and human depravity, someone like you comes along and shows us a new low in human behavior." Havard received a sentence of death by lethal injection."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: " His resentencing is set for Nov. 19, where he is expected to receive a life without parole sentence. (District Attorney Ronnie Harper told the judge that his office won't seek the death penalty.) Havard's appeal of the judge's order, however, opens the door for him to possibly receive the death penalty. For 16 years now, he said he has felt like he was underwater. Since 2012, he feels he has been rising up in that water, more and more evidence reflecting his innocence, he said. “Now I’m within an inch or two of the surface.” But instead of breaking through, the judge’s order has blocked his way, he said. He vows to keep fighting. “If it takes a week, if it takes 10 months, if it takes 10 years, the truth is the truth,” he said. “I want the truth to come out.”"

STORY: "Why would inmate risk execution? He says he would rather prove innocence and 'die fighting," by reporter Jerry Mitchell, published by The ClarionLedger on November 8, 2018.



SUB-HEADING: "Jeffrey Havard was on Mississippi's death row for nearly 16 years. So why would he appeal, when it could send him back to death row?

GIST: "Jeffrey Havard became angry when he was removed from Mississippi’s death row in September, nearly 16 years after he entered. His initial reaction to the court tossing out his death sentence was “worse than doing nothing at all,” Havard said in an interview inside the Adams County Jail. “I would rather die, taking my chances on death row and go down being executed, fighting for my innocence, than to just be thrown into prison, life without parole, and waste away.” His lawyers plan to appeal the judge’s decision to the state Supreme Court, opening the door for justices to reimpose the death penalty. So why would anyone risk that? “All I want to do is to be able to tell the jury my story,” Havard said. “I haven’t gotten a chance to do that.” She noticed that Chloe wasn't breathing: It was the night of Feb. 21, 2002, and 6-month-old Chloe Madison Britt was crying. Her mother, Rebecca, was gone, buying something from the store. Havard said he thought Chloe had soiled her diaper, discovering instead she had spit up. He decided to give her a bath, and after she was done, he pulled her out. As he reached for a towel, she was wiggling and fell from his grasp, hitting the toilet, he said. He returned her to his arms, gave her a little shake and spoke to her, he said. “Chloe, are you OK?” She started crying, he said. “I held her in my arms and made sure she was OK. I dried her off, and she quit crying. I thought she was OK.” Chloe Madison Britt, 6 months old, died on Feb. 21, 2002. (Photo: Clarion Ledger) When Rebecca returned minutes later, she checked on Chloe, he said. “That eased my mind, and I didn’t say anything.” He said he gave Rebecca money to rent a movie for them to watch. When she returned, she noticed that Chloe wasn’t breathing and began to scream, starting CPR on her daughter. Havard, who was in the bathroom, said Rebecca yelled out for him to go to his grandparents down the road. He said he replied, “No, let’s get in the car and go to the hospital.” At Natchez Community Hospital’s emergency room, medical personnel scrambled to revive Chloe, who wasn’t breathing and had no pulse. At 10:04 p.m., they got their first ray of hope. Chloe’s blue skin began to turn pink. They could see bruises on her forehead and the front of her thighs. A nurse removed her diaper to take her temperature and said, "Look at this." They noticed the baby's rectum was dilated and called police. Not long after, they lost her pulse. Her face swelled; so did her brain. By 10:50 p.m., doctors declared her dead. 'You're going to be executed for this'; By the time that declaration took place, Havard was already in the back of a squad car. At about 3 a.m., deputies led him from the jail to the interrogation room. It was here, for the first time, that he learned Chloe was dead. “And before I can even react, (the deputy) said, ‘And she’s been raped,’” he recalled. The news stunned Havard. “Son,” he said the deputy told him, “she’s been ripped from end to end. You tell us right f---ing now what you did to her, and maybe that will keep the needle out of your arm up there in Parchman. You’re going to be executed for this.” The words shocked Havard. “That scared the hell out of me,” he recalled. “I was scared to say I dropped her at that point.” The next day, a hospital conducted a DNA test on him, hoping to link him to the sexual assault. When he returned to the jail, authorities handed him with papers that explained his arrest. He said his head spun as he read the words, accusing him of sexual battery and shaking Chloe to death. Authorities continue to say Jeffrey Havard is guilty of a heinous homicide, but he maintains he accidentally dropped 6-month-old Chloe Madison Britt.  When he saw the words “subdural hemorrhage,” he said he realized that accidentally dropping her on the head may have caused her death. He shared his story with deputies, who pressed him repeatedly on the allegations of rape. He said he wanted to be helpful and tried to think of what might explain this, but they continued to believe he had sexually assaulted Chloe. “It was the perfect storm,” he recalled. “It still is.”'Absolute low point of evil and human depravity': In December 2002, Havard went on trial for capital murder. A parade of witnesses — doctors, nurses, the sheriff and others — described an anal dilation the size of a quarter, along with tears, rips, lacerations and bleeding they said they saw in the child’s anal area. Then-state pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne told jurors that Havard had shaken the baby to death, comparing the injuries to those seen in car crashes and falls from significant heights. No defense experts testified because Judge Johnson wouldn’t permit their hiring. He told defense lawyers they could question Hayne about the death. They didn’t bother. Jurors never heard from Havard, either, because his court-appointed lawyers advised him not to testify. After 40 minutes of deliberation, jurors convicted Havard, who professed his innocence when he was sentenced, and recommended the death penalty. Circuit Judge Forrest Johnson told him, “Just when you think that you have seen everything and that you have seen or heard of the absolute low point of evil and human depravity, someone like you comes along and shows us a new low in human behavior." Havard received a sentence of death by lethal injection. "Scientists discredit shaken baby syndrome: In the years that followed the trial, scientists have discredited shaken baby syndrome. In 2001, Minnesota pathologist Dr. John Plunkett conducted a groundbreaking study, examining Consumer Product Safety Commission reports involving falls from playground equipment. He concluded short-distance falls are capable of producing the triad of symptoms previously identified as shaken baby syndrome. "It's clear that low velocity, even a 2- or 3-foot fall can cause serious and fatal brain injury," he told The Clarion-Ledger. "If people had paid attention to the science, it would not have been a mystery." The Clarion Ledger questioned Hayne about the changing science. He backed off his shaken baby conclusion, acknowledging the injuries could have come from a short fall. He cited a 1979 study measuring the falls of children. "You can generate tremendous G forces in a short distance when you hit a very hard surface," he said. Sexual assault was the underlying felony charge against Havard that enabled authorities to pursue the death penalty against him. Authorities believed sexual assault because of the anal dilation, but a 1996 study found anal dilation was common among children who died, especially those who suffered brain damage. Hayne told the Clarion Ledger that he informed prosecutors he didn’t see any evidence of sexual assault. A rape kit found no semen or foreign DNA, and he examined those sections under a microscope. His conclusion? There were no tears, rips or similar injuries to the child’s rectum, he said. “I would think that would be a definitive evaluation.” In 2015, the state Supreme Court ordered a new hearing for Havard, citing the shifting science on shaken baby syndrome, but justices wouldn’t allow the judge to consider evidence that no sexual assault took place. Havard vows to keep fighting: 'The truth is the truth'" At that August 2017 hearing, Hayne and four other experts concluded that Chloe did not die of shaken baby syndrome.
Hayne and another prosecution expert still believed her death was a homicide. Renowned pathologist Dr. Michael Baden of New York City disputed that conclusion, saying the baby’s injuries were consistent with the fall Havard described. “With short falls,” he said, “you can have fatal injuries.” After three days of testimony and hundreds of pages of briefs, Judge Johnson wrote an order that took up less than five pages. Despite the new evidence on shaken baby syndrome, Johnson concluded that Havard was just as guilty, citing the testimony of Hayne and Dr. Scott Benton, chief of the division of forensic medicine at the University of Mississippi’s Medical Center. But the judge tossed out the death sentence, concluding that while the evidence was “not sufficient to undermine this Court’s confidence in the conviction, there is a cautious disturbance in confidence of the sentence of death, even if slight.” That conclusion baffled Havard. “If I’m just as guilty as I was before, what disturbs my death sentence?” he asked. And if there is indeed doubt, he asked, wouldn’t that affect his conviction? His resentencing is set for Nov. 19, where he is expected to receive a life without parole sentence. (District Attorney Ronnie Harper told the judge that his office won't seek the death penalty.) Havard's appeal of the judge's order, however, opens the door for him to possibly receive the death penalty. For 16 years now, he said he has felt like he was underwater. Since 2012, he feels he has been rising up in that water, more and more evidence reflecting his innocence, he said. “Now I’m within an inch or two of the surface.” But instead of breaking through, the judge’s order has blocked his way, he said. He vows to keep fighting. “If it takes a week, if it takes 10 months, if it takes 10 years, the truth is the truth,” he said. “I want the truth to come out.”"

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com.  Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;  

The entire story  can be found at:
https://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2018/11/08/mississippi-inmate-jeffrey-havard-risks-death-sentence-appealing/1857877002/

Thursday, November 15, 2018

David Eastman; Australia; ABC News reports that his retrial has reached the final stretch as the jury retires to deliberate. (Reporter Elizabeth Byrne)..."It is the second time Mr Eastman has been tried over the killing, after a 2014 inquiry found there had been a miscarriage of justice because of problems with the original evidence."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "Police have never found the murder weapon, but have identified it as a Ruger .22 rifle bought from a Queanbeyan gun dealer shortly before the murder.The dealer did not identify Mr Eastman as the buyer, but there were suggestions from other witnesses that Mr Eastman had been seen at the dealer's house. There was also evidence from witnesses about a blue car similar to Mr Eastman's in a street near the Winchester family home in the days before the murder. But Mr Eastman's lawyer George Georgiou rejected the theories about the motive, and questioned the evidence from those who sought to link Mr Eastman to the crime. He took particular aim at the tapes which he said were of such bad quality as to be not appropriate evidence in a murder trial. Mr Georgiou pressed the alternative theory it was a mafia hit, related to Mr Winchester's involvement investigating drug crops outside Canberra."

-----------------------------------------------------------

KEY POINTS:

  • Prosecutors say "too many coincidences" for Mr Eastman to be innocent
  • Defence points to possible mafia involvement
  • Mammoth trial has run for almost six months.
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STORY: "David Eastman trial reaches final stretch as jury retires to deliberate," by reporter Elizabeth Byrne, published by ABC  News on November 13, 2018.

GIST: "A trial lasting almost six months. Legal documents piling up to 36,000 pages. More than 100 witnesses. Dozens of statements. Those figures form the backbone of a mammoth decision for 12 men and women as to whether David Eastman, a former Canberra public servant, shot senior Australian Federal Police officer Colin Winchester as he got out of his car in 1989. It is the second time Mr Eastman has been tried over the killing, after a 2014 inquiry found there had been a miscarriage of justice because of problems with the original evidence. Prosecutor Murugan Thangaraj delivered a circumstantial case to the ACT Supreme Court, telling jurors there were "too many coincidences" for anyone else to have been the killer. He said Mr Eastman had a motive, after Mr Winchester refused to help him out of assault charges. Mr Thangaraj said Mr Eastman was concerned the charges would harm his years-long bid to return to the public service. Prosecutors also said Mr Eastman had made threats, including telling one person the police should be taught a lesson. Tapes of Mr Eastman talking to himself in his home, which Mr Thangaraj said included admissions, were also played to the jury. And there was also evidence Mr Eastman had been searching for a gun through the Canberra Times classifieds. Police have never found the murder weapon, but have identified it as a Ruger .22 rifle bought from a Queanbeyan gun dealer shortly before the murder.
The dealer did not identify Mr Eastman as the buyer, but there were suggestions from other witnesses that Mr Eastman had been seen at the dealer's house. There was also evidence from witnesses about a blue car similar to Mr Eastman's in a street near the Winchester family home in the days before the murder. But Mr Eastman's lawyer George Georgiou rejected the theories about the motive, and questioned the evidence from those who sought to link Mr Eastman to the crime. He took particular aim at the tapes which he said were of such bad quality as to be not appropriate evidence in a murder trial. Mr Georgiou pressed the alternative theory it was a mafia hit, related to Mr Winchester's involvement investigating drug crops outside Canberra. Police said they had found no connection between the killing and Italian crime groups, and the prosecution said it would be unlikely a professional hit man would buy a gun from a dealer in Queanbeyan. The jury must now decide whether there is enough evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, Mr Eastman was the one who pulled the trigger. But for two of the 14 jurors who have sat through the entire trial there was bad news today. Their numbers were pulled out from a barrel, and they learned their role in the trial had ended, leaving only 12 to deliberate:"

 The entire story can be read at:
 https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-14/david-eastman-trial-canberra-jury-retires/10494180

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com.  Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog; 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Back in action: Catch-up; Tommy Zeigler; Florida; WFLA reporter Keith Cote tells the story of a Florida man on death row for 42 years fighting for his life and the private investigator who says Zeigler didn't kill anyone..."He believes if jurors heard from all of the witnesses, or knew about the DNA results that would come years later, and not been intimidated into voting guilty, he would not be where he is today."



PASSAGE OF THE DAY; "Why is the state of Florida so reluctant to allow Zeigler’s case back in court?  Is there a chance he could be the next Florida death row inmate to be exonerated?"

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STORY: "Florida man on death row for 42 years fighting for his life," by reporter Keith Cate, published by WFLA.com on October 29, 2018.

GIST: "It was a gruesome crime. Five people were gunned down in a furniture store in Winter Garden, Florida. Only one made it out alive and that lone survivor is still dodging death 42-years later.  “I didn’t do it,” Tommy Zeigler said. “They got a conviction and here I am stuck. A judge overruled a jury and sent Tommy Zeigler to death row in 1976. Private investigator Lynn Marie Carty has spent years digging up evidence that she believes proves Tommy didn’t kill anyone.  She showed us file folders packed with information about witnesses ignored or prevented from appearing at his trial. “This was all hidden from the judge and the jury,” Carty said. “They didn’t have all the information.  The guy didn’t do anything and we kept him there.” Zeigler swears he is innocent.  What he wants is a new trial to clear his name. “They can use every bit of that testimony,” Ziegler said. “They can bring it all back into that courtroom and present it to a jury and let me present what we have now.” Why is the state of Florida so reluctant to allow Zeigler’s case back in court?  Is there a chance he could be the next Florida death row inmate to be exonerated?"


The entire story can be read at:
https://www.wfla.com/8-on-your-side/tommy-zeigler-says-he-s-been-stuck-on-death-row-for-42-years/1552277043

Read the Wikipedia account: "Controversy": " The case against Zeigler, and his trial, has been the subject of criticism by many, including civil rights activist Bianca Jagger, and a juror who opted to convict Zeigler.[6][4] Among the criticized points, was the judge who oversaw the trial, Maurice M. Paul; months prior to the murders, both Zeigler and Paul testified in an unrelated case on opposing sides.[2] Although the jury at Zeigler's trial recommended life imprisonment, Paul instead sentenced Zeigler to death.[4] At Zeigler's trial, one of the key eyewitnesses for the prosecution, Felton Thomas, testified that on the night of the murders, he, Zeigler, and Charlie Mays drove to an orange grove to fire some guns. The prosecution believed that this was a plan from Zeigler to get their fingerprints on the guns. In 2013, however, Thomas recanted parts of his testimony.[7] In 2011, Zeigler's private investigator, Lynn-Marie Carty, located a new eyewitness named Robert Foster, who, on the night of the murders, attempted to rob a gas station across the street from Zeigler Furniture Store. Don Frye, the lead investigator on the case, had lied about Foster, saying his name was a typographical error.[8] Aftermath: Zeigler was scheduled to be executed on October 22, 1982. However, the U.S. District Court in Jacksonville stayed the execution due to new evidence. Zeigler was then scheduled to be executed on May 20, 1986. The execution was stayed, by the 11th Circuit Court, due to inadequate representation.[9] In April 1988, Zeigler's death sentence was overturned.[10] Zeigler was re-sentenced and again given the death penalty.[2] In 2005, Zeigler's request for a new trial was denied after DNA tests failed to conclude that Charlie Mays was the perpetrator.[4] Zeigler's case was denied bloodstain DNA analysis in 2013 and 2016.[11][12] In April 2017, Zeigler's case was denied Touch DNA analysis.[13] In popular culture: Zeigler's case was featured on television program, Unsolved Mysteries.[14] A documentary entitled "A Question of Innocence" was released in 2014 about Zeigler's case, and the death penalty in the United States.[15] In 1992, a book was released by Phillip Finch on Zeigler's case, entitled Fatal Flaw: A True Story of Malice and Murder in a Small Southern Town."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Zeigler_case


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com.  Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog; 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Back in action. Catch-up; Family of Barry and Honey Sherman: What happens when a brereaved family loses confidence in the police and the pathologists? As this fascinating story by Toronto Star Chief Investigative Reporter Kevin Donovan shows, they hire their own investigators and pathologists, offer a $10-million reward, and offer to share the information they unearth with the police..."As previously reported by the Star, the police did not rule the case a double murder until after a Star story revealed that the Sherman family’s pathologist had made that determination. The family’s pathologist determined it was a double murder after taking note that the Sherman’s wrists had been bound, but no ropes or other ties were found near the bodies. The information from the second pathologist would not be considered by police for almost five weeks, until a story in the Star revealed those details...(Kudos to The Star for its excellent reporting on this complex case. HL);


PASSAGE OF THE DAY (1): "In what Greenspan said was an early attempt to cooperate with police, he said he and his private team passed on information they discovered when they examined the Sherman home, following the police team’s own six-week examination. Among that information, Greenspan said, were a series of “25 palm or fingerprint impressions” private detectives found on surfaces of the house. Greenspan said the police missed those during their examination. The meeting to pass on the palm print evidence was May 17 and according to Greenspan the police were receptive to the delivery of them. But the force has since retained a lawyer to figure out a way to handle future deliveries of information and there has been no further communication from the police on that issue, Greenspan said. As to what, if anything, came from police analysis of the palm prints, Greenspan says he does not know. Greenspan was highly critical of the work of the Toronto police. He said when his private team was granted access to the Sherman crime scene, his team discovered that the locks had not been checked for tampering and the carpets in the home had not been vacuumed by forensic experts. Typically, vacuuming is done to find fibres and other evidence that would escape the naked eye. Greenspan said he does not believe police have yet completed an analysis of fingerprints found at the scene. People who were known to have been in the Sherman home, for innocent reasons, have yet to be fingerprinted, he said. Greenspan also took issue with how, in the early stages of the case, Toronto officers made comments that left the “wrong impression that this was a self-inflicted crime, either a suicide or a murder-suicide.”

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PASSAGE OF THE DAY (2):  "Greenspan has set up a panel of experts to review the tips, and said he has invited Chief Saunders to provide an officer to join that review panel — an unusual partnership between police and private investigators. Greenspan said he knows of no other instance in Canada where there has been a similar partnership. He said his notion is that by providing Sherman-paid resources it will “free the public purse from the burden of the investigation” at a time when due to other cases the Toronto homicide squad is “overtaxed” Asked if he would accept Greenspan’s invitation, Chief Saunders said he wants to see the terms of reference, and added police are open to being involved if the process would withstand the scrutiny of the court of law. “If it meets the test than definitely we’ll be involved,” he said. As previously reported by the Star, the police did not rule the case a double murder until after a Star story revealed that the Sherman family’s pathologist had made that determination. The family’s pathologist determined it was a double murder after taking note that the Sherman’s wrists had been bound, but no ropes or other ties were found near the bodies. The information from the second pathologist would not be considered by police for almost five weeks, until a story in the Star revealed those details."

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STORY: "Family of Barry and Honey Sherman offers $10-million reward for information on murder of billionaire couple," by Chief Investigative Reporter Kevin Donovan, published by The Toronto Star on October 26, 2018.

PHOTO CAPTION (1):   "Billionaire couple Barry and Honey Sherman were found dead in their home on Dec. 15, 2017."

PHOTO CAPTION (2): "A police officer removes caution tape from the Sherman home after six weeks of searching the property in a Jan. 26 file photo."


GIST: "The private investigation team assembled by the four children of Barry and Honey Sherman announced a $10-million reward and something unprecedented in Canadian history: a “public-private partnership” in which the Sherman family’s detectives will obtain tips and information and pass them on to the Toronto Police homicide squad. Catch the killer based on one of those tips and the tipster receives “up to $10 million,” Sherman family lawyer Brian Greenspan told media Friday. “We want to light a fire under the Toronto Police,” Greenspan said. The announcement was made just around the corner from where the Sherman children’s murdered father started his multi-billion dollar generic drug enterprise. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said later he welcomed the offering of the reward, but did not wholeheartedly endorse the Sherman family’s plan. Saunders said he has concerns with how the integrity of any evidence or information obtained by investigators not with the police would be handled. In launching what he called a new “initiative” in the case, Greenspan is taking direction from Sherman children Jonathon, Alex, Lauren and Kaelen. They are the heirs to a fortune of about $5 billion. The bodies of Barry and Honey Sherman were discovered in their basement pool room the morning of Friday, Dec. 15, 2017 by the Sherman’s real estate agent, who was leading another agent and two clients on a tour of the house on Old Colony Rd. The Shermans had put the house up for sale two weeks earlier, at an asking price of $6.7 million. Barry Sherman founded the Apotex generic drug firm in 1974 in a small building in northwest Toronto near factories. It’s the site of a growing complex of Apotex offices. The Greenspan press conference was held in one of those buildings. Long time Apotex employees, who say they they have been devastated by the loss of their founder, refer to the intersection the buildings radiate from as “the corner of Barry and Sherman.” Last December, when the Shermans’ agent came upon the bodies in the pool room, she froze, then turned and hurried the clients and the other agent back upstairs. The Shermans’ agent asked a woman who was in the house watering orchids to go downstairs and confirm what she had seen. She did. The agent then alerted a family member who was in Florida, and, after some discussion, police were called to the scene. Greenspan said the police, when they arrived, completely misinterpreted the crime scene. “They failed to recognize the suspicious and staged manner in which their bodies were situated.” He described how Barry Sherman’s “legs were outstretched with one crossed over the other in a passive manner, wearing his undisturbed eyeglasses and his jacket pulled slightly behind his back which would have prevented use of his arms.” The Sherman couple had their backs against a low railing that surrounds the pool, with leather belts around their neck and the free end wrapped around “a railing forcing them into an upright position,” Greenspan said. In what Greenspan said was an early attempt to cooperate with police, he said he and his private team passed on information they discovered when they examined the Sherman home, following the police team’s own six-week examination. Among that information, Greenspan said, were a series of “25 palm or fingerprint impressions” private detectives found on surfaces of the house. Greenspan said the police missed those during their examination. The meeting to pass on the palm print evidence was May 17 and according to Greenspan the police were receptive to the delivery of them. But the force has since retained a lawyer to figure out a way to handle future deliveries of information and there has been no further communication from the police on that issue, Greenspan said. As to what, if anything, came from police analysis of the palm prints, Greenspan says he does not know. Greenspan was highly critical of the work of the Toronto police. He said when his private team was granted access to the Sherman crime scene, his team discovered that the locks had not been checked for tampering and the carpets in the home had not been vacuumed by forensic experts. Typically, vacuuming is done to find fibres and other evidence that would escape the naked eye. Greenspan said he does not believe police have yet completed an analysis of fingerprints found at the scene. People who were known to have been in the Sherman home, for innocent reasons, have yet to be fingerprinted, he said. Greenspan also took issue with how, in the early stages of the case, Toronto officers made comments that left the “wrong impression that this was a self-inflicted crime, either a suicide or a murder-suicide.” He said the conduct of the police in the early days of the probe “fell well below the standard of how a reasonable officer in similar circumstances should have acted.” Toronto Police Chief Saunders responded to these criticisms, saying that police never reached a “premature conclusion” that it was a case of murder suicide. The reason police initially said that “there was no sign of forced entry” was because the north Toronto neighbourhood where the Shermans lived had seen a spate of break-ins and the officer was trying to reassure the public. “That community was incredibly alarmed,” Saunders told the media. On Greenspan’s criticism of the police probe, Chief Saunders said “we conclude that the investigation was done well. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” the chief told reporters gathered at police headquarters. “But we don’t deal in opinions; we deal in facts.” The Toronto Police Services board issued a statement late Friday saying Saunders has their complete confidence in regards to the Sherman murder probe. Saunders said he supports the Sherman family decision to offer a reward. “Hopefully, there are people out there that have an understanding of information that can help with this investigation …. Anything that helps lead to a successful conclusion, I think, is a good thing.” Departing from protocol around rewards offered by police or CrimeStoppers, lawyer Greenspan did not provide a police number to the public. He provided two dedicated numbers set up by the Sherman family. The tip line was up and running at 2 p.m. Friday. Greenspan has set up a panel of experts to review the tips, and said he has invited Chief Saunders to provide an officer to join that review panel — an unusual partnership between police and private investigators. Greenspan said he knows of no other instance in Canada where there has been a similar partnership. He said his notion is that by providing Sherman-paid resources it will “free the public purse from the burden of the investigation” at a time when due to other cases the Toronto homicide squad is “overtaxed” Asked if he would accept Greenspan’s invitation, Chief Saunders said he wants to see the terms of reference, and added police are open to being involved if the process would withstand the scrutiny of the court of law. “If it meets the test than definitely we’ll be involved,” he said. As previously reported by the Star, the police did not rule the case a double murder until after a Star story revealed that the Sherman family’s pathologist had made that determination. The family’s pathologist determined it was a double murder after taking note that the Sherman’s wrists had been bound, but no ropes or other ties were found near the bodies. The information from the second pathologist would not be considered by police for almost five weeks, until a story in the Star revealed those details. The Shermans were last spotted leaving Apotex headquarters two days earlier on Wednesday, Dec. 13 — Honey at about 6:30 p.m. and Barry at about 8:30 p.m. They had a late-afternoon meeting with architects for a new home in Forest Hill. Police theorize they both died that evening. Police have conflicting thoughts on whether a reward helps in a criminal case, and what the right time is to offer a reward. Some officers, whom the Star spoke to on background because they were not authorized to speak for the force, said there is always a concern a reward will “bring the crazies out of the woodwork.” Assessing the veracity of tips from people who may not have real information takes valuable police resources, they said. Other officers and groups are in favour of rewards. The CrimeStoppers program invites people to submit information anonymously and offers modest rewards of up to $2,000 if a tip leads to an arrest. A 2011 Star story revealed that often the rewards for providing legitimate information to CrimeStoppers go unclaimed. One of the few examples in Toronto of a reward being paid out in a murder case was the 1986 murder of 11-year-old Alison Parrott. Several people gave tips to police at the time of the killing, but the killer was not arrested until a decade later. A $50,000 reward was paid out in that case. The Toronto Star’s continuing investigation has revealed shortcomings with the way the police investigation has progressed. The Star has learned that police were slow to take DNA samples and fingerprints from the many people who passed through the Sherman home in the hours before the Shermans died. Police typically do this to eliminate suspects and focus on DNA and fingerprints that are foreign to a place where a crime was committed. In one case, a friend who was at the Sherman home with the Shermans that Wednesday was not asked for fingerprints and DNA until September, nine months after the murders. The Star has also interviewed numerous people regarding their own interviews with police. These people have said that detectives told them they were perplexed at who did the crime. In one case, a woman interviewed by police in the last two months said an investigator said, “we are at loose ends.”"

The entire story can be read at:
https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2018/10/26/family-of-barry-and-honey-sherman-offers-10-million-reward-for-information-on-billionaire-couples-murder.html

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com.  Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog; 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Back in action: Catch-Up. Star Chamber in Colorado? Denver Post (reporter David Migoya) exposes the concealment of thousands of cases..."This sounds like the Star Chamber to me,” said Alan Chen, a constitutional law professor at University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, referring to the 15th-century English court chastised for arbitrary rulings and secret proceedings. “Colorado is one of the worst states in terms of access to criminal court records for reasons I really have no explanation for. I’ve not heard of this being practiced anywhere else in the country. It’s frightening that if anything improper is going on, no one will know about it or have any way to find out."


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This is really scary stuff. From the point of this Blog, a prosecution could be tainted by the worst abuses of forensic science - and no one would ever know. It's very existence would be hidden forever under the courthouse rug.  From a larger perspective,  secrecy is antithetical to open justice and public confidence in  a state's criminal justice system. It must be permit in only the rarest circumstances as authorized by law, and then only for as long as necessary. This important investigation - with its disturbing findings - is confined to Colorado. I hate to think what might be revealed in some of the other states.

Harold Levy: Publisher. The Charles Smith Blog.

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PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "Until recently, no information about any of the suppressed cases was available publicly — not the names of the defendants, the charges they faced or even the identity of the judges who closed them — until The Post began questioning the practice. The Post identified 66 felony cases that remained closed to the public — including homicides and sex crimes requiring registration as a sexual offender — even though the defendants had already been convicted and sentenced, some to lengthy prison terms. In every suppressed case, The Post found, the judge’s suppression order and the reasons supporting it are shielded from public scrutiny. Courthouse employees and many law enforcement officials, including prosecutors, will not even acknowledge the suppressed cases exist, The Post found. That means someone could be arrested, charged, convicted and sent to prison in Colorado without anyone seeing why, how or where, and whether the process was fair. “This sounds like the Star Chamber to me,” said Alan Chen, a constitutional law professor at University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, referring to the 15th-century English court chastised for arbitrary rulings and secret proceedings.  “Colorado is one of the worst states in terms of access to criminal court records for reasons I really have no explanation for. I’ve not heard of this being practiced anywhere else in the country. It’s frightening that if anything improper is going on, no one will know about it or have any way to find out."

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QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “Court records in general are a critically important source of information for the public,” said Jeff Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. “Without access to court records and proceedings, Coloradans can’t monitor the judicial system. They can’t know whether it’s working properly or not.”

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STORY: "Shrouded justice: Thousands of Colorado court cases hidden from public view on judges’ orders," by reporter David Migoya, published by The Denver Post on July 12, 2018.
SUB-HEADING: "A Denver Post investigation found more than 6,700 cases — the bulk of them criminal — were suppressed."
GIST: "Thousands of court cases across Colorado — hundreds of them involving violent felonies — are hidden from public view, concealed behind judges’ orders that can remain in effect for years, The Denver Post has found. More than 6,700 civil and criminal cases have been restricted from public access since 2013, usually by judges who agreed to a request from prosecutors or defense lawyers to shield them, The Post found. Of those, 3,076 are still under suppression orders that keep the details away from the public — 345 are felony criminal cases — as they work their way through the legal system, according to state computer records. Until recently, no information about any of the suppressed cases was available publicly — not the names of the defendants, the charges they faced or even the identity of the judges who closed them — until The Post began questioning the practice. The Post identified 66 felony cases that remained closed to the public — including homicides and sex crimes requiring registration as a sexual offender — even though the defendants had already been convicted and sentenced, some to lengthy prison terms. In every suppressed case, The Post found, the judge’s suppression order and the reasons supporting it are shielded from public scrutiny. Courthouse employees and many law enforcement officials, including prosecutors, will not even acknowledge the suppressed cases exist, The Post found. That means someone could be arrested, charged, convicted and sent to prison in Colorado without anyone seeing why, how or where, and whether the process was fair. “This sounds like the Star Chamber to me,” said Alan Chen, a constitutional law professor at University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, referring to the 15th-century English court chastised for arbitrary rulings and secret proceedings.  “Colorado is one of the worst states in terms of access to criminal court records for reasons I really have no explanation for. I’ve not heard of this being practiced anywhere else in the country. It’s frightening that if anything improper is going on, no one will know about it or have any way to find out. Although courtrooms remain open to the public, including hearings for suppressed cases, the only way to know when a hearing is to occur is to be there when it is scheduled. A Denver Post reporter happened to attend one hearing in which a murder suspect pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and no public record of the event existed. The only way to learn the defendant’s name was to be there when the judge announced it. According to interviews and analysis of cases that were later opened to the public, the reasons behind a suppression order are varied: Prosecutors don’t want to alarm other members of a drug ring as they’re being rounded up; the case involves a juvenile defendant; or law enforcement says a criminal investigation is ongoing. Civil cases have been suppressed as well, typically — though not all — to shield victims of abuse or sexual assaults from publicity. But there are other reasons as well. The Post found one criminal case — that of a board member and part-owner of the Broomfield Academy charged and convicted of felony sexual assault of a child and misdemeanor child abuse — in which prosecutors requested and received a suppression order to avoid publicity. The case remains suppressed. It found another — of a member of the Adams County 14 school board eventually convicted with attempting to lure a child for sex — in which the judge ordered the suppression at the outset, without anyone even asking for it, because the judge “had concerns about releasing information,” records obtained by The Post show. The case remains suppressed. The case of Clifford Galley, 28, convicted of attempted first-degree murder, was one of a number The Post found that remained suppressed long after the defendant went to prison. Galley was sentenced to 169 years in prison and won’t see freedom in his lifetime. Documents related to the case were suppressed after his arrest in 2013 and no one except for his lawyer, prosecutors or a judge could see them. Last month, a judge lifted the suppression order after The Post asked prosecutors questions about it. His appeal, however, remains suppressed. Denver Post emails to several of the judges responsible for suppressed cases went unanswered except for one, and that judge passed it along to state court administrators to respond. Suppressed cases are different than those sealed by the court, the reasons for which are limited by state law. Sealed cases are restricted to those where a defendant was exonerated or, under certain conditions, the case was dismissed, such as with a deferred sentence. Some low-level drug felonies can also be sealed under specific criteria. By contrast, a judge may suppress a case for any reason at his or her discretion — usually, but not always, at the request of lawyers in the case, but most frequently prosecutors. Once a case is suppressed, it remains so until a judge reopens it, which The Post found often does not happen because neither defense lawyers nor prosecutors ever bother to ask. “This isn’t right; it can’t be right. It’s a chance for them to victimize our family all over again,” said Mark Chalfant, whose son, Mark, was killed in a Taco Bell parking lot in Aurora in July 2014. Four teenagers were convicted in the case — one as a juvenile — yet all the records remain closed under suppression orders three years later. Although media attention about the shooting and the arrests was widespread, the court cases were immediately suppressed. Only the 30-year sentence of triggerman Sterling Hook made a headline in a local newspaper a year later — after prosecutors released the information. “No one else ever gets to know what they’ve done,” Chalfant said, noting that no one other than family attended court hearings spread over a year. “That’s just wrong." Court records “critically important”: Open-records experts and several attorneys interviewed by The Post were troubled by the newspaper’s findings, saying it runs against the Colorado and U.S. constitutions and their guarantee of an open and accessible court system. “Court records in general are a critically important source of information for the public,” said Jeff Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. “Without access to court records and proceedings, Coloradans can’t monitor the judicial system. They can’t know whether it’s working properly or not.” The Colorado Supreme Court in June refused to declare that access to court records is an absolute right guaranteed by the First Amendment or the Colorado Constitution. But that decision dealt with a specific document that had been sealed within a court file, not the entire case itself or its details. The Post’s investigation also found: — Most suppressed cases had scant or no media attention, and the majority of the few that did were typically at the time of a defendant’s arrest, before anything was suppressed by a judge. Several suppressed cases did get press coverage when charges were filed and again after a defendant was sentenced, when prosecutors issued an announcement — but nothing in between. — Until recently, no trace of a suppressed case existed in the public-access computers the state provides at county courthouses throughout Colorado, or the online for-pay services that compile the same data and the state recommends to the public. That has changed since The Post began inquiring. Until last week, the public still could not see what charges had been brought against a person in a suppressed case or see any details about it, such as the next court hearing or any sentence given. — Sealed cases are restricted by law to only the judge who issued the order, and acknowledging their existence is prohibited. Public information about suppressed cases, however, per Colorado Supreme Court rule, should include names and case numbers, though the details of a case and the courtroom proceedings around it have been restricted. Despite that, court officials and some prosecutors’ offices still treat the two types of cases as the same and refuse to give any information about a suppressed case. — Public schedules posted daily outside of courtrooms, called dockets, show the cases being heard that day, including the names of defendants. If the case is suppressed, however, the docket only shows that a time is allotted for a hearing, but not why or for whom. — Even high-profile cases that received intense publicity are under suppression orders, meaning access to any of their court records today is prohibited. Among them: Aurora theater shooter James Holmes; witness killers Sir Mario Owens and Robert Ray; and Jessica Ridgeway killer Austin Sigg. The media was able to follow these cases by appearing at a public court hearing to learn when the next was to be held. Many times prosecutors and defense lawyers say they simply forgot the case was still suppressed. “That’s very troubling”: The Denver Post began investigating suppressed cases in Colorado nearly a year ago after reporters were denied access to records and expressed concern about the practice. The Post obtained data from the State Court Administrator that helped it determine the extent to which suppressions have been used in each judicial district in Colorado. The Post then reviewed dozens of suppressed cases that have been unsuppressed to see how the practice was being used. Since 2013, there have been 6,707 cases suppressed by judges in Colorado, and the bulk of them were criminal cases, The Post found — misdemeanors first, then felonies, followed by civil court matters. A judge’s suppression order was lifted in 3,631 of them, meaning the public can now access the cases, sometimes soon after a defendant was arrested or parties to a civil lawsuit were served with court papers, records show. “Generally it’s one thing to suppress a (single) document, which is very legitimate, but when entire files begin to disappear from the public record, that’s very troubling,” Denver attorney Larry Pozner said. “We’re very skeptical in America of things done in the dark, and other than juvenile law, you can walk into an American courtroom and take notes, and they can’t say, ‘It’s none of your business, get out of here.’ ” The Post’s analysis found that the number of suppressed cases varies dramatically from county to county. Prosecutors in La Plata County, where Durango is the county seat, have suppressed 366 felony cases over the past five years, the most by any jurisdiction, records show. But those cases were nearly always unsuppressed once a defendant was arrested and brought to court, the longest taking two years, The Post found. “It’s not uncommon to suppress a case until the defendant is arrested and the warrant served,” said Christian Champagne, district attorney for Colorado’s Sixth Judicial District that includes La Plata, Archuleta and San Juan counties. “Ours is an area where people come through and leave for long stretches of time.” In the 18th Judicial District, which is made up of Arapahoe, Douglas, Lincoln and Elbert counties, 62 cases are still suppressed from public view even though the defendants have been tried, convicted and sentenced, The Post found, the highest among the state’s 22 judicial districts. The majority of the cases — 47, most of them from a single drug-conspiracy investigation from four years ago — are in Arapahoe County, followed by 14 others in Douglas County, and one in Elbert County. That total doesn’t include 115 active felony cases that are still under suppression in the district — nearly half the statewide total, The Post found. “I still think there are some legitimate reasons on behalf of the safety of certain victims and witnesses … that we ought to have the ability to continue to suppress those,” 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler said. In 2015, prosecutors asked that the Douglas County sex-assault case against Broomfield Academy then-owner and board member Michael Greenberg, 62, be suppressed because it likely would garner a lot of media attention. A television station reported his arrest. There was no media report after the suppression order was issued. The private school is to close this year, according to its website. The case has remained suppressed ever since even though Greenberg pleaded guilty to felony sexual assault of a child in which he received a four-year deferred sentence, and to a misdemeanor charge of child abuse. He is a registered sex-offender in Centennial, records show. Following The Post’s inquiry, prosecutors have asked a judge to unsuppress the case. “Our office filed a motion to suppress, the reason being is that the case would be subject to extensive pretrial publicity,” Brauchler’s Senior Chief Deputy District Attorney Rich Orman told The Post in an email, saying he and Brauchler were not consulted by the DA who handled the case. “This was a mistake, and we should not have sought suppression of a court file for this reason.” Brauchler said suppression orders sometimes are important to solving serious crimes, but concedes that once their usefulness is over, cases should not remain hidden from public scrutiny. “Already in many cases, specifically gang and some domestic violence cases, the concern over an individual’s own safety is so strong that if you can’t provide some other assurance, even in the short-term, I think we’ll lose out on cooperation from a lot of key witnesses,” Brauchler said. “But the public should maintain the ability to scrutinize what we do, why we do it and how we go about that.” After speaking with The Post, Brauchler’s office began unsuppressing many of the cases and instituted policies limiting how the practice should be used in the future. There are some cases, however, that Brauchler said should remain suppressed for the safety of the defendant — one of whom is serving a 16-year prison term in a rural county jail after having testified against another defendant who was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, records show. There have been no suppressed cases involving a criminal defendant in Denver District Court the past five years, the years The Post reviewed, according to records. “This is just a completely foreign procedure in my years of experience as a district attorney,” said former Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey. “In my 33 years, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve never even heard of suppressing an entire case. How can you have cases that don’t even show up on a court docket? I’ve never seen such a thing.” Experts in open-records law say the practice of suppressing entire cases rubs against the grain of a system intended to be transparent. “The most outrageous, unjustifiable and unconstitutional thing you’ve found is the public being denied the right to know which cases are on file in our courts of law against which defendants, and to have access, at the minimum, to the indexes of those cases,” said Denver attorney Steven Zansberg, an expert on open-records laws who represents a number of media outlets including The Denver Post. “How is there a case where the public doesn’t know how or why someone is arrested or in prison?” he asked. “Courts throughout the land have held the public — we the people — have a constitutional First Amendment right to have access to those records.” Many cases suppressed: When Frank Huner Jr., a 58-year-old Sedalia man, was charged in July 2017 with first-degree murder for allegedly killing his son, whom he said he mistook for an intruder, news of his arrest peppered the media. Since then, however, there’s been not a word about the Douglas County case — and not a single reference to it could be found anywhere among the state’s courthouse databases available for the public to search criminal and civil cases. Courthouse employees refused to identify the case even existed. During the course of The Post’s investigation, the State Court Administrator has changed the computer programs that provide the public with information about criminal and civil cases so that a defendant’s name, case number and the county where the case is being heard is displayed. Until a week ago the public could not see the charges they faced or details about a suppressed case’s progress through the judicial system. Such is the case of Daniel Pesch, a 34-year-old Littleton man charged in December 2017 for the 2010 murder of Kiowa High School science teacher Randy Wilson. The case has been suppressed since the moment it was filed, even though the media covered Pesch’s arrest. It’s only been recently unsuppressed after dozens of hearings. Still, several key portions of the case remain concealed from public view. As well with Jeffrey Falk, 54, a former ThunderRidge High School math teacher sentenced in June 2016 to 21 years in prison for victimizing young boys and collecting “a library of child porn.” He had pleaded guilty in Arapahoe County district court to three counts of sexual exploitation of a child two months earlier. His arrest in 2015 made headlines, but the four cases against him were immediately suppressed until he was sentenced. No other stories were published until after he pleaded guilty, was sentenced, and prosecutors later made a public announcement in June 2016. One of the four cases against Falk was unsuppressed a month after that, records show — but the other three felony cases for which he was sentenced remained closed. That changed on June 13 after The Post began asking why. The first-degree murder case in Adams County against juvenile Aidan Zellmer remains suppressed even though a judge has already ruled the 15-year-old is to stand trial as an adult. And despite media coverage about the case, the warrant affidavit that describes the evidence that led to Zellmer’s arrest remains suppressed, as well as any other information about the case against him. Even when a defendant has been charged, convicted and sent to prison, if the case is suppressed, some district attorney’s offices still treat it as if the matter has been sealed, even though the two are very different. The short answer is that suppressed and sealed means the same thing to the extent the public is barred from access,” Denver district attorney’s office spokesman Ken Lane told The Post when asked to provide information about a suppressed case from 2013 in which Denver was the special prosecutor in a different county. “So, if whatever case you’re referring to is in fact suppressed by a court order, then respectfully, I’m not going to violate a court order and release case information to the public.""

The entire story can be read at:
https://www.denverpost.com/2018/07/12/suppressed-colorado-court-cases-hidden-public-view/

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com.  Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog; 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions: His bitter legacy: All of concern to this Blog - one directly relevant: Number 14!


COMMENTARY: "25 Ways Sessions and His Justice Department Criminalized and Terrorized Communities of Color,  by Connor Maxwell and Danyelle Solomon,  published by the Center for American Progress on November 7, 2018. (Connor Maxwell is the research associate for Race and Ethnicity Policy at the Center for American Progress. Danyelle Solomon is the senior director of Race and Ethnicity Policy at the Center.)

GIST: Number 14:  "Data reveal that innocent African Americans or black Americans are seven times more likely to be convicted of murder than their white counterparts, partly due to insufficient and inaccurate forensic evidence. Forensic science is critical in closing racial disparities and ensuring justice is served. Despite its necessity, as attorney general, Sessions undermined efforts to improve the reliability of forensics by eliminating the National Commission on Forensic Science."

THE OTHER 24:

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CIVIL RIGHTS:

  1. A fair and accurate U.S. census is essential for the equitable distribution of federal resources and full political representation. But as attorney general, Sessions sabotaged the 2020 census by helping Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross add a new question about immigration status. The Sessions DOJ attempted to justify this blatant effort to suppress census participation by citing its responsibility to protect against voter suppression in communities of color.
  1. Hate crimes and white nationalist extremism are a resurgent threat to communities of color. But instead of expanding resources to combat hate, Sessions asked Congress to eliminate the DOJ’s Community Relations Service, which is dedicated to addressing racial tensions and preventing hate crimes.
  1. Voter purges are a devious suppression tactic designed to keep people of color by the thousands from voting by targeting them for removal from lists of registered voters. Instead of defending American citizens’ fundamental right to vote, the Sessions DOJ urged the Supreme Court to greenlight harmful purges nationwide.
  1. Black transgender individuals face heightened levels of discrimination and a devastating 20 percent unemployment rate. But as attorney general, Sessions threatened to make matters worse by reversing Obama-era policies that sought to protect transgender workers from employment discrimination.
  1. While the national unemployment rate was less than 5 percent in 2017, it was more than 10 percent among Hispanics with disabilities and almost 14 percent among blacks with disabilities. Yet, in 2018, Sessions revoked critical employment protections for people with disabilities, finding that they were “unnecessary, inconsistent with existing law, or otherwise improper.”
  1. Hate speech is a pervasive problem on college campuses, one that undermines access to higher education for students of color. But Sessions exploited his position as attorney general to criticize and make light of universities that seek to create inclusive, hate-free learning environments.
  1. Transgender students of color face tremendous barriers to education. But under then-Attorney General Sessions, the DOJ rescinded federal protections for transgender students in K-12 schools, denying them the ability to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity.
  1. Affirmative action plays a critical role in expanding access to higher education for students of color and in closing stark racial disparities in degree attainment. But under Sessions’ leadership, the DOJ consistently sought to undermine race-conscious admissions policies.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE:

  1. African Americans or black Americans are more than twice as likely as white Americans to be arrested for drug possession, despite using and dealing drugs at comparable rates. As attorney general, Sessions rejected the data and ordered prosecutors to pursue the harshest drug sentences possible—without regard to an individual’s role in a drug conspiracy. Sessions also ordered prosecutors to pursue the death penalty in certain nonviolent drug trafficking cases. Black Americans already face 19 percent longer sentences for the same crimes as whites and are far more likely to receive the death penalty. This DOJ policy will only exacerbate racial disparities.
  1. In his role as attorney general, Sessions pushed prosecutors to crack down on marijuana possession in states where it is legal and lobbied legislators to reverse federal protections for medical marijuana. According to a recent CAP/GBA Strategies survey, more than two-thirds—68 percent—of voters support marijuana legalization, including a majority of Democrats, independents, Republicans, and the three largest racial and ethnic groups.
  1. Police are almost four times more likely to use force against black people than against white people. Again rejecting the data, then-Attorney General Sessions eliminated training and supervision requirements for law enforcement seeking to obtain surplus weapons and equipment from federal agencies.
  1. Private prisons profit from the incarceration of human beings and house a greater share of immigrants and people of color than public prisons. In partnership with the Trump White House and in his capacity as attorney general, Sessions supported expanding the use of private prisons as part of the DOJ’s immigration crackdown and renewed war on drugs campaign.
  1. Violent crime has declined significantly in recent decades. Yet, then-Attorney General Sessions ignored the data and instead peddled false narratives about crime to justify police crackdowns in communities of color.
  1. Data reveal that innocent African Americans or black Americans are seven times more likely to be convicted of murder than their white counterparts, partly due to insufficient and inaccurate forensic evidence. Forensic science is critical in closing racial disparities and ensuring justice is served. Despite its necessity, as attorney general, Sessions undermined efforts to improve the reliability of forensics by eliminating the National Commission on Forensic Science.
  1. Returning citizens, especially people of color, face systemic barriers to re-entry following incarceration. One of the key barriers to successful re-entry is housing. In his role as attorney general, Sessions threatened to shut down halfway houses and limit access to transitional services.
  1. While far too many police officers make the ultimate sacrifice, officer deaths in 2017 were the second-lowest in more than 50 years. Despite this, then-Attorney General Sessions misrepresented data about the rate of violence experienced by law enforcement to justify the overpolicing in communities of color.
  1. When low-income people, especially people of color, interact with the criminal justice system, they frequently face steep fines and fees and inordinate cash bail requirements that force them to remain in jail or enter into costly contracts with bond companies. Despite these problems, Sessions asked courts to disregard an Obama-era letter requesting them to be lenient and cautious of overcharging low-income defendants of color.
  1. Police reform agreements play a critical role in improving public safety and rebuilding trust between law enforcement and communities of color. Despite success under these agreements, then-Attorney General Sessions effectively barred the DOJ from investigating and addressing systemic law enforcement misconduct at the local level.
  1. The chief law enforcement officer of the United States should be fair, impartial, and devoted equal justice under law. As attorney general, though, Sessions exposed his backward views in racially charged statements about the importance of the “Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement.”

IMMIGRATION:

  1. In April 2018, then-Attorney General Sessions announced a draconian zero-tolerance immigration policy of prosecuting anyone who arrives in the United States without documentation—even families seeking asylum. This policy resulted in the separation of more than 2,600 children from their parents. Despite public outcry, a federal court order, and evidence that deterrence doesn’t work, the administration has failed to reunite all of the separated families months after the reunification deadline. The zero-tolerance policy remains on the books today.
  1. Entangling local law enforcement with immigration enforcement diminishes public trust and public safety and places a significant financial burden on taxpayers. Despite such concerns, the Sessions DOJ sued California for refusing to help round up immigrants across the state. Furthermore, the department has attempted to strip funding from places that have adopted commonsense policies to prevent entanglement between local authorities and federal immigration enforcement.
  1. In 2017, then-Attorney General Sessions announced that the administration would eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He also repeatedly refused to defend DACA in federal court. These actions have disrupted the lives of 800,000 DACA recipients, most of whom are people of color, and some of whom now face detention or deportation.
  1. The decision to deport an individual to a country where she or he could experience abuse, neglect, or even death requires significant and thoughtful consideration. As attorney general, Sessions forced judges to rush deportation cases by revoking policies that allow additional time for deliberation. Moreover, he implemented quotas in order to expedite the rate of deportations.
  1. Thousands of people of color facing gender-based violence and or gang violence in their countries of origin have fled to the United States seeking safety. Rather than embracing these survivors and expanding access to victims’ services, Sessions declared that they will likely no longer qualify for asylum.
  1. Over the past two years, the Trump administration has advanced three versions of its xenophobic Muslim ban. This policy puts thousands of refugees’ lives at risk and undermines the national security of the United States. Yet, the DOJ under Sessions repeatedly defended these efforts and successfully secured support from conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court to let the travel ban take effect.
Authors’ note: While “African American” and “black” are frequently used interchangeably, this column uses “African American” wherever possible to refer to the population of interest. However, the authors use terminology that is consistent the underlying data source. For this reason, this uses both “African American” “black,” depending on the source. 

The entire commentary can be read at:
https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/news/2018/11/07/460631/25-ways-sessions-justice-department-criminalized-terrorized-communities-color/

Here's one to add to the list (HL): New York Times: "Sessions, in Last-Minute Act, Sharply Limits Use of Consent Decrees to Curb Police Abuses."..."The move means that the decrees, used aggressively by Obama-era Justice Department officials to fight police abuses, will be more difficult to enact. Mr. Sessions had signaled he would pull back on their use soon after he took office when he ordered a review of the existing agreements, including with police departments in Baltimore, Chicago and Ferguson, Mo., enacted amid a national outcry over the deaths of black men at the hands of officers."
 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/08/us/politics/sessions-limits-consent-decrees.html

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.

Back in action: Catch-up; (Perils of mixed DNA); Donnell Fulcher: ABC10 News (reporter Melissa Mecija) reports that he has been freed due to changes in DNA standards..."The judge sentenced Fulcher to 14 years, but he received credit for time he already served. Because of that, Fulcher will be released from custody tonight or tomorrow. This result comes after the San Diego County District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit took a second look at cases involving DNA mixtures, meaning more than one DNA source is found in a sample. Fulcher’s case relied heavily on this type of evidence."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "The top forensic science group that analyzes DNA released guidelines that are now more conservative, which affected Fulcher’s case. Earlier this year, the District Attorney’s office agreed to give Fulcher a new trial. “We still believe that we have the right guy, but we lost confidence in the conviction so we wanted to give the defendant a chance to have a new trial if he wanted. He chose to plead guilty instead, so at the end of the day, I believe justice was done,” Jimenez said. Fulcher has always maintained his innocence."

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STORY: "Man convicted of Barrio Logan murder to be released due to changes in DNA standards," by reporter Melissa Mecija, published by ABC10 News, published on October 29, 2019.

SUB-HEADING: "Donnell Fulcher's conviction was overturned."

GIST: A San Diego man convicted of murder will be a free man, decades before his scheduled release. Donnell Fulcher’s conviction for a Barrio Logan murder in 2006 was overturned due to changes in DNA standards, said Deputy District Attorney Hector Jimenez. On Tuesday, Fulcher pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm rather than go through a third trial. The judge sentenced Fulcher to 14 years, but he received credit for time he already served. Because of that, Fulcher will be released from custody tonight or tomorrow. This result comes after the San Diego County District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit took a second look at cases involving DNA mixtures, meaning more than one DNA source is found in a sample. Fulcher’s case relied heavily on this type of evidence. The top forensic science group that analyzes DNA released guidelines that are now more conservative, which affected Fulcher’s case. Earlier this year, the District Attorney’s office agreed to give Fulcher a new trial. “We still believe that we have the right guy, but we lost confidence in the conviction so we wanted to give the defendant a chance to have a new trial if he wanted. He chose to plead guilty instead, so at the end of the day, I believe justice was done,” Jimenez said. Fulcher has always maintained his innocence. “I don’t think you can put any limit on the happiness that going free can have for someone who’s serving a life sentence. He is very, very happy. His family is very happy. This is really a joyous moment for all of them,” said Fulcher’s defense attorney Knut Johnson. This would have been Fulcher’s third trial. His first trial ended in a mistrial."

The entire story can be read at:
 https://www.10news.com/news/man-convicted-of-barrio-logan-murder-to-be-released-due-to-changes-in-dna-standards

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com.  Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;