January 21, 2009
Plunging into Vacant Orifices in Vacant Sex Shop
(Australia). An Aussie man has been arrested for repeatedly breaking and entering into an adult shop to have sex with a blow up doll. Her name is Jungle Jane and he didn't even stay to cuddle her (or so it appears). Instead, he abandoned her in an alley behind the store where his DNA was collected from the doll. Story here. UPDATE: Jungle Jane didn't make any incriminating statements against the suspect but she reportedly had a shocked look on her face.
December 09, 2008
Interrogation Upheld in Country Where Right to Counsel Unavailable
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Nov. 24 upheld the admission of statements elicited overseas by U.S. agents from suspects in the custody of a country that does not provide a right to counsel during interrogations. “[I]nsofar as Miranda might apply to interrogations conducted overseas, that decision is satisfied when a U.S. agent informs a foreign detainee of his rights under the U.S. Constitution when questioned overseas,” the court said (In re Terrorist Bombings of U.S. Embassies (Fifth Amendment Challenges), 2d Cir., No. 01-1535-cr(L), 11/24/08).
No Right to Appointed Counsel.
The defendants in this case were convicted of participating in al Qaeda's bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa. The proof at trial included evidence of statements they made while in the custody of Kenyan officials during interrogations by agents of the U.S. Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The agents had concluded that appointed counsel was not available to indigent suspects in Kenya, so the agents gave the defendants versions of the Miranda warnings that advised them that they would have a right to counsel during any questioning in the United States. They also presented the defendants with the Advice of Rights form often used by U.S. officials conducting interrogations overseas. With respect to the presence and appointment of counsel, the AOR form states:
In the United States, you would have the right to talk to a lawyer to get advice before we ask you any questions and you could have a lawyer with you during questioning. In the United States, if you could not afford a lawyer, one would be appointed for you, if you wish, before any questioning.
Because we are not in the United States, we cannot ensure that you will have a lawyer appointed for you before any questioning.
If you decide to speak with us now, without a lawyer present, you will still have the right to stop answering questions at any time.
A federal district court later ruled that the rights advisories initially given to the defendants were misleading in that they may have given the impression that the right to counsel attached only in the United States and that the defendants did not have the right to consult with counsel they retained privately. Accordingly, the court suppressed statements elicited from the defendants up until they were later given rights advisories that cleared up any possible misunderstanding regarding their attachment of the right to counsel. The defendants, however, appealed the district court's decision to allow the admission of later statements elicited from them in Kenya.
AOR Was Good Enough.
In an opinion by Judge José A. Cabranes, the Second Circuit observed that the citizenship status of suspects and the location of interrogations are not relevant to the applicability of Fifth Amendment protections because that provision regulates the admissibility in U.S. courts, not the way interrogations are to be conducted. “Accordingly, we hold that foreign nationals interrogated overseas but tried in the civilian courts of the United States are protected by the Fifth Amendment's self-incrimination clause,” the court said.
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
November 24, 2008
2nd Circuit Upholds Warrantless Extraterritorial Searches of U.S. Citizens
A federal appeals court in Manhattan upheld the convictions on Monday of three Al Qaeda operatives in a ruling that bolsters the government’s power to investigate terrorism by holding that a key Constitutional protection afforded to Americans does not apply overseas.
The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holds for the first time that government agents may obtain admissible evidence against United States citizens through warrantless searches abroad.
The searches must still be reasonable, as the Constitution requires, Judge José A. Cabranes wrote, adding that the government had met that standard in its search of the home and monitoring of the telephone of one defendant, Wadih El-Hage, a close aide to Osama bin Laden, who was a naturalized American citizen living in Nairobi, Kenya.
“The Fourth Amendment’s requirement of reasonableness — but not the Warrant Clause — applies to extraterritorial searches and seizures of U.S. citizens,” the judge wrote.
Mr. El-Hage and two other defendants had appealed their convictions for participating in a terrorism conspiracy, led by Mr. bin Laden, to kill Americans around the world. The conspiracy included the 1998 bombings of two American embassies, in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which killed 224 people and wounded thousands. They were convicted in Manhattan federal court in 2001 in the last major terrorism trial in the United States before the Sept. 11 attacks.
The two other defendants whose convictions were upheld were Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-’Owhali and Mohammed Saddiq Odeh. A fourth defendant, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, did not appeal his conviction. The men were convicted in a federal trial in Manhattan in early 2001. All four men are serving life sentences in the so-called Super Max prison in Florence, Colo.
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
October 21, 2008
U.S. Drops War Crimes Charges against Guantanamo Detainees
The Pentagon official in charge of prosecutions at Guantanamo on Tuesday dismissed war-charges against five detainees, the latest setback to the government’s military commission system.
The official, Susan J. Crawford, has broad power over the military commission tribunals, including the power to dismiss charges, but she does not have to provide public explanations for her decisions and did not on Tuesday.
But a statement from her office said the charges against the five were dismissed without prejudice, which means “the government can raise the charges again at a later time.”
After the decision was announced, Col. Lawrence J. Morris, the chief military prosecutor, said that supervising lawyers in his office had asked Ms. Crawford to withdraw the charges. He said all five would be resubmitted after a review of their files, which had been handled by a prosecutor who left the office after questioning the judicial fairness at Guantanamo.
The best known of the five detainees is Binyam Mohammed, a former British resident who claimed harsh torture methods had been used against him. Government officials have accused him of taking part in a plan to attack the United States with a radioactive dirty bomb.
The Bush administration has long said that it would like to close the detention camp, where 255 detainees are being held on the naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But officials have said in recent days that no action would likely be taken before the end of Mr. Bush’s term in January. One reason they cited was uncertainty about how legal cases against the remaining detainees would be handled inside the United States.
Ms. Crawford also dismissed without prejudice charges that had been presented to her against four other detainees: Noor Uthman Muhammed, Sufyiam Barhoumi, Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi, and Jabran Said Bin al Qahtani.
All five cases had been handled by Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, a military prosecutor who stepped down from his position in September, saying publicly that there were systemic problems in the prosecution that raised ethical issues. Colonel Vandeveld, an Army reserve officer and the latest person to quit the prosecutor’s office in Guantanamo, said the prosecutors did not fully comply with rules that require that they turn over any information that might help the defense.
Colonel Morris has denied that Colonel Vandeveld’s departure was related to a dispute about complying with legal rules for the proper handling of cases.
“I don’t want to unduly attribute responsibility to him,” Colonel Morris said of reviewing the files handled by Colonel Vandeveld. “We have found that there is more work to be done on all these cases.” He said he had recently appointed new prosecutors to each of the cases.
But detainees’ lawyers cast the decision to withdraw the charges as the latest in a series of difficulties government lawyers have had in pressing cases against Guantanamo detainees.
“My impression is it is just a mess, and the floor is collapsing underneath them,” said Clare Algar, the executive director of Reprieve, an international legal organization that represent many detainees including Binyam Mohammed.
REad full story here. [Brooks Holland]
September 14, 2008
Stimulant Use Surges in Asia, Mideast
emand for amphetamines, ecstasy and other synthetic drugs appears to have stabilized in the West, but the problem is worsening in Asia and spreading to new markets in the Middle East, a U.N. report said Tuesday.
Manufacturing and trafficking of illegal stimulants is also getting more sophisticated, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said in a 2008 assessment that pointed to the growing involvement of local and international crime syndicates.
Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. agency, warned that amphetamine-type drugs are seen as "a cheap and available tonic for our fast and competitive times."
In North America and Europe, where pill popping is largely recreational, demand has leveled off or even declined in recent years thanks to effective controls on the chemicals used to make them.
But in fast-growing developing countries, where the drugs are often used to boost stamina on assembly lines or to keep drivers awake behind the wheel, use is on the rise.
"The problem has shifted to new markets over the past few years," the U.N. report said, adding that, even so, production appears to have stabilized worldwide at about 551 tons annually.
The market, retail and wholesale, also has remained steady at around $65 billion since 2001.
Asia is still driving demand, with nearly half the region's countries reporting increases in methamphetamine use.
But the most dramatic shift has been in the Middle East, where seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants accounted for a staggering 25 percent of the global total in 2005-2006, up from just 1 percent in 2000-2001, the United Nations said.
The largest market in that region was Saudi Arabia, a trend apparently linked in part to a growing number of migrant workers, with more than 12 tons of amphetamines seized two years ago.
The surge in Middle East busts has resulted in a sharp drop in the global share of seizures in East and Southeast Asia, home to the most amphetamine users in real numbers, with its percentage of total seizures more than halving from 67 to 31 during the same period.
But there have been worrying changes in the type and scale of production in that region.
"A decade ago, synthetic drugs were a cottage industry," said Costa, pointing to recent seizures of industrial-size clandestine laboratories.
"Now they are big business, controlled by organized crime syndicates that are involved in all phases of this illicit trade, from smuggling precursor chemicals to manufacturing the drugs and trafficking."
Countries where law enforcement is weak or where local officials are complicit are most selected as bases for such operations.
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
September 09, 2008
Mixed Verdict in London Terror Trial
But the jury failed to reach verdicts on the more serious charge of a conspiracy to have suicide bombers detonate soft-drink bottles filled with liquid explosives aboard seven airliners headed for the United States and Canada.
The failure to obtain convictions on the plane-bombing charge was a blow to counterterrorism officials in London and Washington, who had described the scheme as potentially the most devastating act of terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks seven years ago this week. British and American experts had said that the plot had all the signs of an operation by Al Qaeda, and that it was conceived and organized in Pakistan.
The arrest in August 2006 of two dozen suspects, including the eight put on trial, set off a worldwide alarm in the airline industry and led to a tightening of airport security, including time-consuming restrictions on passengers carrying liquids and creams in their carry-on luggage that remain in force at most airports around the globe.
But the case was hampered from the beginning, prosecutors said, by an investigation that was cut short, by the conflicting demands of intelligence agencies, and by problems with introducing evidence in the courtroom. To protect sources and methods, the prosecution was unable to introduce material from British or foreign intelligence agencies. In addition, Britain does not allow information in court that has been gathered from domestic wiretaps.
The arrest in Pakistan of Rashid Rauf, a Briton of Pakistani descent who American, British and Pakistani officials said was a liaison to Al Qaeda, set off a series of events that led the British police to roll up the London-based cell far earlier than they had intended. The haste in making sweeping arrests made it hard for prosecutors to persuade the jury that the bomb plot had reached the stage at which an attack on airliners was imminent.
Partly as a result, prosecutors never convinced the jury that the suspects were prepared to strike immediately, or even that they had chosen planes as their targets. Nor did they convict a man whom they had accused of having links to Al Qaeda in Pakistan.
Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said it might decide to call for a retrial of the case if it decides it might win convictions on the most serious charges. A decision on that is expected within weeks. In addition, a number of other suspects will face trial related to the plot.
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
August 26, 2008
Afghan Opium Harvest Down?
Afghanistan’s opium harvest has dropped from last year’s record high, the United Nations announced Tuesday, contending that the tide of opium that engulfed Afghanistan in ever rising harvests since 2001 was finally showing signs of ebbing.
“The opium floodwaters in Afghanistan have started to recede,” Antonio Maria Costa, the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, wrote in the foreword of the 2008 annual opium poppy survey, published Tuesday. “Afghan society has started to make progress in its fight against opium.”
Poppy cultivation has dropped by 19 percent since 2007, and had fallen beneath 2006 levels as well, the report said. The harvest was also down, although by a lesser margin because of greater yields, dropping by 6 percent to 7,700 tons.
More than half of Afghanistan’s provinces have now been declared poppy free — that is, 18 of 34 provinces grow no, or very little, poppy, up from 13 poppy-free provinces last year.
The results, gathered by the United Nations through satellite imagery and checks on the ground, are a success for the Afghan government’s strategy of weaning farmers off the illicit crop through persuasion, incentives and local leadership. A drought in northern Afghanistan also helped bring numbers down, although that has also increased the hardship farmers are suffering.
The report underscores a trend, first seen last year, that the more stable, better-administered provinces are succeeding in curbing illicit drug production, according to diplomats and government officials. A swathe of blue on a United Nations map of Afghanistan, stretching across from the north-east to the north-west of the country, now denotes decreasing or no poppy cultivation.
Two provinces that have been large-scale poppy producing regions in the past, Badakhshan in the north-east and Nangarhar in the east, have been declared poppy free this year, a consequence of effective local leadership and the support of religious leaders, elders and local council members, Mr. Costa said at a news briefing in Kabul Tuesday evening.
Nevertheless, Afghanistan’s poppy crop still remains the world’s largest, and now 98 percent of the crop is grown in the lawless southern and south-western regions that are in the grip of a virulent insurgency. Two-thirds of all opium in Afghanistan in 2008 was grown in the province of Helmand, where the Taliban control whole districts. Eight thousand British troops working with government soldiers have failed to make much headway, either in curbing Taliban activities or the drug industry.
“If Helmand were a country, it would once again be the world’s biggest producer of illicit drugs,” Mr. Costa wrote.
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
August 05, 2008
Texas Executes José Medellín
In a case that has drawn international attention, Texas executed José E. Medellín on Tuesday night in defiance of an international court ruling and despite pleas from the Bush administration for a new hearing.
The execution came just before 10 p.m. Central time, shortly after the United States Supreme Court denied a last request for a reprieve. Protesters for and against the death penalty clamored in the rain outside the Huntsville Unit, about 70 miles north of Houston, where Mr. Medellín was executed by lethal injection.
“I’m sorry my actions caused you pain,” he said to the witnesses present. “I hope this brings you the closure that you seek. Never harbor hate.”
Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, rejected calls from Mexico and Washington to delay the execution, citing the torture, rape and strangulation of two teenage girls in Houston 15 years ago as just cause for the death penalty.
Mr. Medellín and five other teenage boys in his street gang took part in the rape and murder of the girls, Elizabeth Pena, 16, and Jennifer Ertman, 14. The gang raped the girls for an hour, then strangled them. Their corpses were found two days later.
Two other members of the gang were also sentenced to die. Two had their sentences commuted to life in prison. The sixth, Mr. Medellín’s brother, Vernacio, is serving a 40-year sentence.
Mr. Medellín’s case has become the focal point of a dispute between Mexico and the United States over whether some Mexicans have been denied fair trials because they were never given an opportunity to talk to a consul. A 1963 treaty requires foreigners accused of crimes to be given that opportunity.
Over the last five days, Mr. Medellín’s lawyers tried to stop the execution by arguing to the Supreme Court that it should be put off until Congress had a chance to pass pending legislation that would require a review of similar cases. They argued that Mr. Medellín would be deprived of life without due process if he died before Congress acted.
But the court, in a 5-to-4 decision, said the possibility of Congressional action was too remote to justify a stay. Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in dissent that to permit the execution would place the United States “irremediably in violation of international law and breaks our treaty promises.”
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
Feds Charge 11 in Massive Identity Theft Scheme
The Justice Department said on Tuesday that it had charged 11 people in the theft of tens of millions of credit and debit card numbers of customers shopping at major retailers, including TJX Companies, in one of the largest reported identity-theft incidents on record.
The United States Attorney in Boston said those charged were involved in the theft of more than 40 million credit and debit card numbers.
TJX, of Framingham, Mass., which owns the Marshall’s and TJ Maxx chains, was the hardest hit by the ring, acknowledging in March 2007 that information from 45.7 million credit cards was stolen from its computers.
The charges focus on three people from the United States, three from the Ukraine, two from China, one from Estonia and one from Belarus.
The authorities said that the scheme was spearheaded by a Miami man named Albert Gonzalez, who hacked into the computer systems of retailers including TJX, BJ’s Wholesale Club, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority, Forever 21 and DSW Inc. The numbers were then stored on computer servers in the United States and Eastern Europe.
They then sold the information to people in the United States and Europe, who used it to withdraw tens of thousands of dollars at a time from automated teller machines, the authorities said.
“This case clearly shows how strokes on a keyboard with a criminal purpose can have costly results,” Michael Sullivan, the United States attorney in Boston, said in a statement. “Consumers, companies and governments from around the world must further develop ways to protect our sensitive personal and business information.”
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
July 30, 2008
Beheading as a More Humane Form of Execution?
BBC News: Three Indonesian militants facing execution for the 2002 Bali bombings want to be beheaded rather than killed by firing squad, their lawyer has said.
The three - Amrozi, Mukhlas and Imam Samudra - are expected to include the request in an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Their lawyer, Muhammad Mahendradatta, said beheading was a more humane form of punishment than firing squad.
Their execution was postponed last month to allow for a final appeal.
"Our clients would seek to have a more humane capital punishment. It should be done in accordance with Islamic law, which is by beheading," Muhammad Mahendradatta told the Associated Press news agency.
He said death by firing squad was inhumane because the men would suffer for at least two minutes before dying, which he called "torture".
However Indonesian law insists capital punishment be carried out by a firing squad.
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
July 19, 2008
Ex-Diplomat Asserts Cultural Claim for Child Sex Sentence Reduction
An ex-diplomat convicted of having sex with teenage girls in the Congo and Brazil and taping the encounters is asking a judge for leniency, claiming that cultural differences in those countries make sex with girls more acceptable.
Gons G. Nachman, 42, pleaded guilty in April to possessing child pornography after admitting that he had sex with 14- to 17-year-old girls while serving as a consular officer in Brazil and Congo and documenting the encounters in pictures and videos.
The judge has agreed to delay Nachman's sentencing until Aug. 22 so that he can be examined by noted forensic psychologist Stanton Samenow. Defense attorney Stephen Stine said in court papers that a psychological examination might show that cultural differences led Nachman to believe that sexual contact with teenage girls was acceptable, and that should have an impact on what kind of sentence he receives.
Prosecutors rejected the notion that Nachman's victims somehow deserve less protection because they were not born or raised in America.
"Children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Brazil have the same inherent value as children in the United States," prosecutor Ron Walutes wrote in court papers.
Prosecutors are asking for a 20-year prison term, the maximum he could receive under the law and much higher than the term of nine to 11 years called for under federal sentencing guidelines.
In a letter Nachman wrote from jail to the director of the Foreign Service pleading with him to intervene and get the charges dropped, Nachman explained the cultural differences as he sees them.
"In the Congo, women develop quickly, both physically and emotionally, due to the substantial responsibility society places on them from early childhood," Nachman wrote. "In Kinshasa, the vast majority of teenagers are sexually active with men that are substantially older. ... Their main concern is marrying young girls to men with financial stability, a concern dating thousands of years and cutting across cultural lines."
The case has been unusual on several fronts. It includes allegations that Nachman pressured attractive female visa applicants in Brazil for sex. Nachman admitted that he had sex with two women whom he met in the visa application process, but he denied coercing them and he was never charged in the matter.
Another odd twist is Nachman's prominence in the nudist community: In the 1990s, when attending law school at the University of Pennsylvania, Nachman led several public demonstrations advocating nudity. Nachman now contends that he was targeted for investigation in part because of his well-known affinity for the nudist lifestyle.
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]
The Exclusionary Rule as the American Exception
Bradley Harrison was driving a rented Dodge Durango from Vancouver to Toronto in the fall of 2004 with 77 pounds of cocaine in the trunk when a police officer pulled him over, found the drugs and arrested him.
A year and a half later, an Ontario trial judge ruled that the officer’s conduct was a “brazen and flagrant” violation of Mr. Harrison’s rights. The officer’s explanation for stopping and searching Mr. Harrison — confusion about a license plate — was contrived and defied credibility, the judge said, and the search “was certainly not reasonable.”
In the United States, that would have been good news for Mr. Harrison. Under the American legal system’s exclusionary rule, the evidence against Mr. Harrison would have been suppressed as the result of an unlawful search.
But both the Canadian trial judge and an appeals court refused to exclude the evidence. Mr. Harrison was sentenced to five years in prison.
“Without minimizing the seriousness of the police officer’s conduct or in any way condoning it,” the Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled in Mr. Harrison’s case in February, “the exclusion of 77 pounds of cocaine, with a street value of several millions of dollars and the potential to cause serious grief and misery to many, would bring the administration of justice into greater disrepute than would its admission.” The case is now before the Canadian Supreme Court.
The United States is the only country to take the position that some police misconduct must automatically result in the suppression of physical evidence. The rule applies whether the misconduct is slight or serious, and without regard to the gravity of the crime or the power of the evidence.
“Foreign countries have flatly rejected our approach,” said Craig M. Bradley, an expert in comparative criminal law at Indiana University. “In every other country, it’s up to the trial judge to decide whether police misconduct has risen to the level of requiring the exclusion of evidence.”
But there are signs that some justices on the United States Supreme Court may be ready to reconsider the American version of the exclusionary rule. Writing for the majority two years ago, Justice Antonin Scalia said that at least some unconstitutional conduct ought not require “resort to the massive remedy of suppressing evidence of guilt.”
The court will soon have an opportunity to clarify matters. The justices will hear arguments on Oct. 7 about whether methamphetamines and a gun belonging to Bennie Dean Herring, of Brundidge, Ala., should be suppressed because the officers who conducted the search mistakenly believed he was subject to an outstanding arrest warrant as a result of careless record-keeping by another police department.
Elsewhere in the world, courts have rejected what the Ontario appeals court in Mr. Harrison’s case called “the automatic exclusionary rule familiar to American Bill of Rights jurisprudence.”
Australia also uses a balancing test. It considers the seriousness of the police misconduct, whether superiors approved or tolerated it, the gravity of the crime and the power of the evidence. “Any unfairness to the particular accused” in most cases, the High Court of Australia wrote in 1995, “will be of no more than peripheral importance.”
The European Court of Human Rights, a notably liberal institution, refused in 2000 to require the suppression of illegally obtained evidence. Using such evidence to convict a man charged with importing heroin into England, the court said, did not make his trial unfair.
In the United States, by contrast, evidence against criminal defendants is routinely and automatically suppressed when police misconduct is found. In the last week of June, for instance, courts in Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington state suppressed evidence in cases involving drugs, guns, burglary and child pornography under the mandatory version of the exclusionary rule.
Some specialists in comparative criminal law say that the decentralized nature of American law enforcement, with thousands of local police departments around the nation, requires a more rigorous and consistent approach to deterring misconduct. The law enforcement systems in Canada and England, by contrast, are notably less fragmented and may be subject to more stringent professional discipline.
But not always. The officer who pulled over Mr. Harrison’s car in Ontario thought the car should have had a front license plate, even though the car was from Alberta, which does not require one. “We respect the decision of the courts,” said Sgt. Pierre Chamberland, a spokesman for the Ontario Provincial Police, but “their criticism alone does not by default lead to an internal complaint.”
Supporters of the American practice say that only strict application of the exclusionary rule can effectively address violations of the Fourth Amendment, which bans unreasonable searches and seizures.
Read the full article here. [Brooks Holland]
June 10, 2008
French Judge Aids in San Francisco Homicide Investigation
A French judge has arrived in
San Francisco to oversee an unusual probe into the death of a French
citizen whose stabbing has puzzled police investigators for more than a
year. Police have said they are handling the June 2, 2007, death of
36-year-old Hugues de la Plaza as a possible homicide, although they
have also angered his acquaintances by suggesting he killed himself.
The chief medical examiner's office has been unable to determine what
caused the 36-year-old sound engineer's death.
A French judge has arrived in San Francisco to oversee an unusual probe into the death of a French citizen whose stabbing has puzzled police investigators for more than a year.
Police have said they are handling the June 2, 2007, death of 36-year-old Hugues de la Plaza as a possible homicide, although they have also angered his acquaintances by suggesting he killed himself. The chief medical examiner's office has been unable to determine what caused the 36-year-old sound engineer's death.
De la Plaza's body was found inside his locked apartment on Linden
Street in Hayes Valley. Police first said he may have stabbed himself
after ingesting drugs, but no bloody knife was recovered and no drugs
were found in his system. Investigators said a surveillance video that provided partial
coverage of the apartment showed de la Plaza returning home from a
nightclub early the morning he died, but no one else entering. They
theorized that he might have washed a knife after stabbing himself,
something friends dismissed as preposterous. No note was found, but de la Plaza had written on a notepad, among
other things: "Learn as if you were to live forever," and, "Live as if
you were to die tomorrow." Friends of de la Plaza, led by his ex-girlfriend Melissa Nix,
mounted a campaign and worked with de la Plaza's family in France to
persuade San Francisco police to conclude the case was indeed a
homicide. The government in Paris soon offered assistance and has had a French investigator working in San Francisco for several months. As part of France's involvement, a number of witnesses in the case
have been subpoenaed under the authority of the U.S. District Court to
appear June 17 before French Judge Brigitte Jolivet to give "testimony
of potential violations of French law, including murder." San Francisco
police will be involved in the questioning at the Hall of Justice. The French judge is more an independent investigator than a final arbiter of facts.
De la Plaza's body was found inside his locked apartment on Linden Street in Hayes Valley. Police first said he may have stabbed himself after ingesting drugs, but no bloody knife was recovered and no drugs were found in his system.
Investigators said a surveillance video that provided partial coverage of the apartment showed de la Plaza returning home from a nightclub early the morning he died, but no one else entering. They theorized that he might have washed a knife after stabbing himself, something friends dismissed as preposterous.
No note was found, but de la Plaza had written on a notepad, among other things: "Learn as if you were to live forever," and, "Live as if you were to die tomorrow."
Friends of de la Plaza, led by his ex-girlfriend Melissa Nix, mounted a campaign and worked with de la Plaza's family in France to persuade San Francisco police to conclude the case was indeed a homicide.
The government in Paris soon offered assistance and has had a French investigator working in San Francisco for several months.
As part of France's involvement, a number of witnesses in the case have been subpoenaed under the authority of the U.S. District Court to appear June 17 before French Judge Brigitte Jolivet to give "testimony of potential violations of French law, including murder." San Francisco police will be involved in the questioning at the Hall of Justice.
The French judge is more an independent investigator than a final arbiter of facts.Continue reading article here. [Brooks Holland]
May 24, 2008
Adam Liptak Examines Elected Judges in the United States
N.Y. Times: Last month, Wisconsin voters did something that is routine in the United States but virtually unknown in the rest of the world: They elected a judge.
The vote came after a bitter $5 million campaign in which a small-town trial judge with thin credentials ran a television advertisement falsely suggesting that the only black justice on the state Supreme Court had helped free a black rapist. The challenger unseated the justice with 51 percent of the vote, and will join the court in August.
The election was unusually hard-fought, with caustic advertisements on both sides, many from independent groups.
Contrast that distinctively American method of selecting judges with the path to the bench of Jean-Marc Baissus, a judge on the Tribunal de Grand Instance, a district court, in Toulouse, France. He still recalls the four-day written test he had to pass in 1984 to enter the 27-month training program at the École Nationale de la Magistrature, the elite academy in Bordeaux that trains judges in France.
“It gives you nightmares for years afterwards,” Judge Baissus said of the test, which is open to people who already have a law degree, and the oral examinations that followed it. In some years, as few as 5 percent of the applicants survive. “You come out of this completely shattered,” Judge Baissus said.
The question of how best to select judges has baffled lawyers and political scientists for centuries, but in the United States most states have made their choice in favor of popular election. The tradition goes back to Jacksonian populism, and supporters say it has the advantage of making judges accountable to the will of the people. A judge who makes a series of unpopular decisions can be challenged in an election and removed from the bench.
“If you want judges to be responsive to public opinion, then having elected judges is the way to do that,” said Sean Parnell, the president of the Center for Competitive Politics, an advocacy group that opposes most campaign finance regulation.
Nationwide, 87 percent of all state court judges face elections, and 39 states elect at least some of their judges, according to the National Center for State Courts.
In the rest of the world, the usual selection methods emphasize technical skill and insulate judges from the popular will, tilting in the direction of independence. The most common methods of judicial selection abroad are appointment by an executive branch official, which is how federal judges in the United States are chosen, and a sort of civil service made up of career professionals.
Outside of the United States, experts in comparative judicial selection say, there are only two nations that have judicial elections, and then only in limited fashion. Smaller Swiss cantons elect judges, and appointed justices on the Japanese Supreme Court must sometimes face retention elections, though scholars there say those elections are a formality.
“To the rest of the world,” Hans A. Linde, a justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, since retired, said at a 1988 symposium on judicial selection, “American adherence to judicial elections is as incomprehensible as our rejection of the metric system.”
Sandra Day O’Connor, the former Supreme Court justice, has condemned the practice of electing judges.
“No other nation in the world does that,” she said at a conference on judicial independence at Fordham Law School in April, “because they realize you’re not going to get fair and impartial judges that way.”
Continue reading article. [Brooks Holland]
February 26, 2008
Accused 9/11 Co-Conspirators' Defense Problems
From miamiherald.com: Two weeks after the Pentagon announced plans to stage death-penalty trials for six Guantánamo captives as alleged Sept. 11 co-conspirators, none of the men has seen a military defense lawyer.
Only one of the six has an assigned lawyer, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Bryan Broyles. But Broyles failed to see his client during a Feb. 13-16 visit to the isolated Navy base.
Lawyer visits will be a key precursor in the Pentagon's bid to put Khalid Sheik Mohammed and five other alleged 9/11 co-conspirators on trial. On Feb. 11, the Pentagon announced plans to simultaneously try the men by military commission -- and to seek to execute them if they are convicted.
But Army Reserves Col. Steve David said so far he had only assigned Broyles to the complex six-defendant case -- to defend Mohammed al Qahtani, a Saudi considered the least valuable captive among the six men.
Broyles blamed the prison camps lawyer, Navy Capt. Patrick McCarthy, for placing obstacles in the path of his bid to meet Qahtani in the company of a civilian lawyer, Wells Dixon, of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
The Army colonel told The Miami Herald he went to the base specifically to meet Qahtani and another Saudi war-court candidate, Ahmed al Darbi, with Dixon -- and was thwarted by the military, not the detainees, on both counts.
In a statement, the prison camps spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Rick Haupt, blamed the conflict on defense lawyers -- describing their failure to comply with prison camp bureaucracy and on scheduling conflicts. But, in the end, Haupt said, the bureaucracy issues were ''moot'' because Darbi and Qahtani refused to meet the military defense lawyer at their assigned time.
A core issue is Broyles' bid to have Dixon join the meetings with the men -- who claim brutal treatment in U.S. custody.
Absent an introduction by the civilian lawyer, Broyles said, the detainee might not believe he is there to help in his defense and instead suspect an interrogation trick.
Qahtani was once known as The 20th Hijacker, suspected of failing to join the 19 other suicide bombers in the 9/11 attacks because he was turned away from entry into the United States at an Orlando airport.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
January 07, 2008
Charles Taylor's War Crime Trial Begins
From NYTimes.com: The war crimes trial of Charles Taylor, Liberia's former president, heard its first testimony Monday and saw video of victims telling of being sexually assaulted or dismembered by rebels who plundered West African diamond fields.
The trial before the international tribunal in this Dutch city resumed following a six-month break, having been adjourned in June after Taylor boycotted proceedings and fired his lawyer.
Back in court, Taylor looked confident and blew a kiss to supporters in the gallery as his new lawyers challenged the prosecution to prove that he was behind the widespread murder, rape and amputations during Sierra Leone's civil war.
Prosecutors allege the so-called ''blood diamonds'' mined in Sierra Leone were smuggled through neighboring Liberia and that Taylor used the profits to arm the rebels. Taylor, 59, is accused of orchestrating the violence from his presidential palace in Liberia's capital, Monrovia. He has pleaded innocent to all 11 charges.
He is the first former African head of state to face an international tribunal.
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
December 06, 2007
Philippine Court Convicts 14 in 2001 Kidnapping
From NYTimes.com: A Philippine court convicted 14 members of the Abu Sayaff group today in the 2001 kidnapping of 20 people off an island resort, including three Americans, two of whom were eventually killed.
The 14 were sentenced to life imprisonment. Four others were acquitted.
Robert Courtney, a Department of Justice attaché at the United States Embassy in Manila, said the verdict “sends a strong message about the capability of Philippine law enforcement to deal with terrorist activities.”
The kidnappers took their hostages to the island of Basilan, which was Abu Sayyaf’s base of operations at the time. Guillermo Sobero, a Peruvian-born American from California, was beheaded. Some of the others paid ransoms and were freed.
There were accusations of collusion between Abu Sayyaf and some elements of the military, particularly after the kidnappers managed to escape from a hospital in Basilan that had been surrounded by soldiers. A subsequent Senate investigation found “circumstantial evidence” of collusion between the militants and some civilian and military officials.
Thirteen months after the kidnappings, an
American-supported military operation tried to free the remaining
hostages, including Martin and Gracia Burnham, a missionary couple from
Wichita, Kan. But Mr. Burnham and a Filipino nurse, Ediborah Yap, were
killed. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
December 02, 2007
CIA Secret Holding Cell in Jordan
From washingtonpost.com: Over the past seven years, an imposing building on the outskirts of Amman, Jordan has served as a secret holding cell for the CIA.
The building is the headquarters of the General Intelligence Department, Jordan's powerful spy and security agency. Since 2000, at the CIA's behest, at least 12 non-Jordanian terrorism suspects have been detained and interrogated here, according to documents and former prisoners, human rights advocates, defense lawyers and former U.S. officials.
In most of the cases, the spy center served as a covert way station for CIA prisoners captured in other countries. It was a place where they could be hidden after being arrested and kept for a few days or several months before being moved on to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or CIA prisons elsewhere in the world.
Others were arrested while transiting through Jordan, including two detained during stopovers at Amman's international airport. Another prisoner, a microbiology student captured in Pakistan in the weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has not been seen since he was flown to Amman on a CIA plane six years ago.
The most recent case to come to light involved a Palestinian detainee, Marwan al-Jabour, who was transferred to Jordan last year from a CIA-run secret prison, then released several weeks later in the Gaza Strip. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
November 28, 2007
British Teacher in the Sudan Gets 15 Days in Jail for Naming a Teddy Bear Muhammad
From NYTimes.com: The British teacher in Sudan who let her 7-year-old pupils name a class teddy bear Muhammad was found guilty on Thursday of insulting Islam and sentenced to 15 days in jail and deportation.
Under Sudanese law, the teacher, Gillian Gibbons, could have spent months in jail and been lashed 40 times.
“She got a very light punishment,” said Rabie A. Atti, a government spokesman. “Actually, it’s not much of a punishment at all. It should be considered a warning that such acts should not be repeated.”
British officials, meanwhile, were furious. As soon as the news broke that Ms. Gibbons had been convicted, the British foreign office in London, which had called the whole ordeal “an innocent mistake” summoned the Sudanese ambassador — for the second time in two days. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
November 27, 2007
French Protestors and Police Clash After Car Accident
From nytimes.com: Dodging rocks and projectiles, the French police lined the streets of this tense suburb Tuesday where angry youths have vowed to seek revenge for the deaths of two teenagers who died in a weekend collision with a police car.
Police union officials warned that the violence was escalating into urban guerrilla warfare, with shotguns aimed at officers — a rare sight in the last major outbreak of suburban unrest, in 2005.
More than 80 have been injured so far — four of them as a result of gunfire — and the rage was still simmering Tuesday afternoon. Inside the city hall of Villiers-le-Bel, a group of visiting mayors appealed for calm while police officers dodged rocks outside.
“We are sitting targets,” said Sophie Bar, a local police officer who stood guard outside. “They were throwing rocks at us and it was impossible to see where they came from. They just came raining over the roof.”
The violence was set off by the deaths of two teenagers on a motorbike who were killed in a crash with a police car Sunday night. The scene, with angry youths targeting the police mostly with firebombs, rocks and other projectiles, was reminiscent of three weeks of rioting in 2005.
Rest of Article. . .[Mark Godsey]