Dec 19, 2009

Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied

James Bain, 54, was just 19 years old in 1974, and without a criminal record, when he was convicted of kidnapping and raping a 9-year-old Lake Wales boy, largely on the jury's faith in the boy's identification.

But a recent DNA test called Bain's conviction into question. On Thursday, after much anticipation, Bain was expected to walk out of the Bartow courthouse, on a conditional release, until prosecutors could finish their investigation.

Instead, Bain got something even better.

Mere minutes before the 9 a.m. hearing, prosecutors received a call from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that verified the Innocence Project of Florida's DNA test results: The semen on the victim's underwear did not belong to Bain.

Instead of asking for a conditional release for Bain, State Attorney Jerry Hill moved Thursday to vacate Bain's sentence and to drop the charges against him.

About 9:45 a.m., Bain and his family finally heard the words they'd waited 35 years to hear:

"You are a free man," Circuit Judge James Yancey said. "Congratulations."

Bain had served more time behind bars than any of the 245 other prisoners exonerated through post-conviction DNA testing in the United States, including 10 others in Florida.

Since May 2001, he had asked the courts four times to test the DNA. With help from the Innocence Project, he filed his fifth and final request in July. Yancey granted the motion in October, without objection from the State Attorney's Office, and allowed the test.

The results were released last week, when prosecutors began working to verify the results and to rule out other possibilities.

The FDLE also concluded that the sperm found on the underwear did not belong to the victim, said spokesman Chip Thullbery. They'll run the DNA code in a statewide database and look for a match.

After the hearing, IPF lawyer Melissa Montle held Bain's hand as he walked down the courthouse steps and embraced his sisters inside a swarm of news reporters and cameras.

At the microphone stand, Bain remained calm and smiling.

He plans to spend time with family, to go back to school for reading and writing, and to watch "Titanic," a film he says helped him survive prison life. He wants to travel. Out of his seven siblings, he is the only child who has yet to visit Nassau, his father's home city in the Bahamas. He used a cell phone for the first time to call his mother, who waited at home for him in Tampa.

Once inside the public defender's office, Bain ate his first snack outside of prison: a glazed donut and a bottle of Mountain Dew. His belongings - notebooks, newspaper clippings and other saved artifacts - fit into a netted laundry sack. He remained calm and patient, as his family waited eagerly to take him home. Bains said,

I can't be angry. People had a job to do back then. It's just sad the way the outcome was.
According to Florida law, Bain is entitled to $50,000 for every year he was wrongfully incarcerated. That would amount to $1.75 million, but Thursday afternoon, Bain said money is not his priority.

Until the Innocence Project became involved, he said he felt "neglected" in the slow and complicated judicial process. He's seen a lot of innocent people during his time in prison, and says DNA testing should be made more accessible.

Had Bain's case been investigated today, the State Attorney's office says the trial might have gone differently. Many investigators are now trained to interview children, and DNA testing has replaced serology as the choice science.

Public Defender J. Marion Moorman said Thursday the DNA in Bain's case should have been tested earlier, but added that the larger problem is the number of cases, including Bain's, built on witness testimony. Moorman said,
We hear all the time from our clients that they are innocent. We get jaded and cynical, particularly those of us who've done this for a long time. This just, once again, teaches us the value of listening to our clients, of going the extra mile and giving them our 100 percent.

Dec 8, 2009

Blogging A Bridge (or something) Too Far

Case # 07

A federal judge declared a mistrial Monday in the case of a notorious New Jersey hate blogger charged in June with threatening to kill judges.

According to court documents, after a three-judge panel of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit of Appeals upheld a Chicago handgun ban in June, Hal Turner blogged at Turner Radio Network that the judges should be “killed.”

A federal judge declared a mistrial Monday in the case of a notorious New Jersey hate blogger charged in June with threatening to kill judges.

According to court documents, after a three-judge panel of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit of Appeals upheld a Chicago handgun ban in June, 47-year old Hal Turner blogged at that the judges should be “killed.”
Let me be the first to say this plainly: These judges deserve to be killed. Their blood will replenish the tree of liberty. A small price to pay to assure freedom for millions.
A day later he posted addresses, photos, maps and other identifying information about Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook and Judges Richard Posner and William Bauer, the authorities said.

The mistrial was declared after jurors, deliberating their second day, said they were hopelessly deadlocked. A retrial was set for March 1.

Turner, who claimed he was an FBI informant paid to disseminate right-wing rhetoric, maintained at his trial last week that his speech was protected by the First Amendment.

I don't care if he posts a banner on his blog:
Free Speech: No Matter who Doesn’t Like It!
This guy is guilty of shoutting "FIRE" in a theater crowded with trigger-happy, self-righteous gun-owners. He should do his freaking time.

Get me on that jury!

Nov 29, 2009

From the Sarasota, Florida Police Log (apparently)...

An elderly Florida lady did her shopping and, upon returning to her car, found four males in the act of leaving with her vehicle.

She dropped her shopping bags and drew her handgun, proceeding to scream at the top of her lungs,
I have a gun, and I know how to use it! Get out of the car!
The four men didn’t wait for a second threat. They got out and ran like mad.

The lady, somewhat shaken, then proceeded to load her shopping bags into the back of the car and got into the driver’s seat. She was so shaken that she could not get her key into the ignition.

She tried and tried, and then she realised why. It was for the same reason she had wondered why there was a football, a Frisbee and two 12-packs of beer in the front seat.

A few minutes later, she found her own car parked four or five spaces farther down.

She loaded her bags into the car and drove to the police station to report her mistake.

The seargent to whom she told the story couldn’t stop laughing. He pointed to the other end of the counter, where four pale men were reporting a car jacking by a mad, elderly woman described as white, less than five feet tall, glasses, curly white hair, and carrying a large handgun.

No charges were filed.

The moral of the story? If you’re going to have a senior moment… make it memorable.

N.R.A. - Sponsored Terror Strikes Again

A gunman walked into a coffee shop and shot and killed four police officers Sunday morning in what sheriff's officials described as an "execution."

The officers were sitting in the cafe at a strip mall near the Tacoma suburb of Parkland with their laptop computers, preparing for their day shifts, when a man came in and opened fire, Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said.

The officers were obviously targeted because they were in full uniform and no one else was shot at, Troyer said. Authorities scoured the area for the gunman, who is believed to have fled on foot or by car.

The NRA is sponsors free and open ownership of assualt (non-hunting) weapons for all Americans; for all Americans who haven't yet used them to murder people. This freedom is also spreading to Canada and especially to Mexico. Guns don't kill people. People with guns kill people. The NRA sponors this self-inflicted terrorism.

Make no mistake about it. And do not forget it.

Nov 27, 2009

Roman Polansky Out on Bail?

A Swiss court granted Oscar-winning filmmaker Roman Polanski $4.5 million bail on Wednesday, allowing him to remain in the country and under house arrest at his Gstaad ski resort and chalet.  Swiss officials will not appeal the decision and the 76-year-old will be released “as soon as possible” after serving two months in jail.
Polanski is waiting extradition to the United States after pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a minor (a 13-year-old) in 1977.  Polanski served 42 days in a psychological testing facility at Chino State Prison, but fled to France 31 years ago following the evaluation period and before sentencing.
The Swiss are hoping Polanski isn’t a flight risk this time due to the bail amount, his own family, and his age.  The Chinatown director will be subjected to “constant electronic surveillance,” reports the AP.
Meanwhile, Polanski’s lawyers will be arguing for a dismissal of the case and Los Angeles prosecuters will continue the extradition process so he can face sentencing.  His lawyers said “he will not accept being extradited to the United States.”
Unfortunately we live in a world where a person can rape a teen, disappear for over three decades, serve a few months, shell out four and a half million, and kick back in a mansion.
This also gives Polanski the freedom to edit his latest film, The Ghost starring Ewan McGregor, Tom Wilkinson, Kim Cattrell, and Pierce Brosnan.  The film will need its music and sound reworked for the scheduled March 2010 release, where sadly it will gain more attention because its director is under house arrest for drugging and raping a teenager.

Nov 15, 2009

She Shot, He Shot. Who Shot Maj. Nidal Hasan?


My veteran readers know in how much high esteem I hold women who can shoot and shoot straight. Sgt Kimberly Mundley is no exception. Heroism is walking in the direction of shots fired at Ft. Hood and is of Presidential Medal of Freedom stature. (Is that too hyperbolic?) She was wounded three or four times - severely enough for my tastes.

But there's nothing so important as the unvarnished truth. Sgt Mundely stopped some bullets. And maybe fired her own.

OTOH, we don't want another Jessica Lynch case.

If Sgt Mark Todd fired the bullets that actually dropped Hasan and prevented further killing, he should get top billing. That's what this story indicates.

The real story should beat a good story, every time.

And if Hasan's case ends up with his life imprisonment in a penitentiary as well as in his own crippled body, that would be a fitting end. Let him rot and die a natural death, his name forgotten.