Police Go Overboard in Arrest & Kill Suspect Lying Face Down

January 29, 2009

Oscar Grant was shot on New Year’s Day by police in Oakland, California, on a Bay Area Transit train platform. The 22-year old butcher’s apprentice was lying face-down on the platform, ordered by police to lie there, when he was shot in the back. Grant was among several people who had been removed from the train by officers investigating a fight. Passengers captured cellphone videos of the shooting, which have been viewed thousands of times on Internet and news sites.

Johannes Mehserle, who resigned from the transit police force a week after the shooting, has been charged with the murder of Grant. He was arrested in Lake Tahoe, NV, where he had gone to avoid angry mobs. He was returned by Oakland Police. The District Attorney of Alameda County, Tom Orloff, said refused to speak to Oakland police or transit police investigators. Mr. Mehserle’s lawyer, Christopher Miller, said he expected his client to be cleared of all charges.

When no charges had been filed nine days later, the apparent execution nature of the shooting and, of course, the fact that the unarmed Grant was black, and Mehserle is white led to several days of demonstrations in Oakland. These turned in small riots, complete with police in riot gear, shooting tear gas and crowds running through the streets, setting cars on fire and smashing storefronts. Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums asked for calm asked the people to be patient as police conducted their investigation of the shooting.

Oscar Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, asked the people to use restraint. “I am begging the citizens not to use violent tactics, not to be angry. You’re hurting people that have nothing to do with the situation. Please stop it, just please stop, ” she said.

Police supporters later gave their version. They said Grant and the other young men on the platform were violently harassing other passengers, that Grant was struggling against the officers, that the officer who fired the shot believed he was firing a taser instead of a handgun.

It’s possible the officer thought he was firing a taser instead of a handgun. However, if tasers look just like handguns (which I’d be surprised at this) then this points out a serious problem with the equipment used by law enforcement, which probably would have produced other “accidents” before this. The other possible alternative is that the officer got caught up in an emotional situation and carried the “enforcement” too far.

If someone is on the ground, face down, it’s inconceivable that he could be considered uncooperative, or a threat…..so that leads us to the question of who can the accused look to for protection? Who will protect us from those who are supposed to protect us? After all, this is still America, where the accussed is presumed innocent, until proven guilty.

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Another Corrupt District Attorney Makes Citizens Pay

January 17, 2009

Harry Connick, then the New Orleans District Attorney, wrongfully convicted a man named John Thompson in 1983. Thompson spent 18 years on death row but eventually was proved to have been wrongfully convicted. Then Thompson sought compensation in federal court for this injustice. The jury awarded Thompson $15 million, but the District Attorney’s Office is now making noises about taking bankruptcy because it cannot pay the judgment.

Harry F. Connick , now deceased, was no stranger to controversy. The father of the well known jazz singer, Harry Connick, Jr. Harry F. Connick had been put on trial in 1990 himself. The then-District Attorney since 1974, was tried in federal court for racketeering by aiding an illegal gambling operation. Connick was accused of returning to the big time gambler, Walton Aucoin, gambling records that had been seized in a 1988 raid. The trial was originally prosecuted by the local U.S. Attorney, who had worked for Connick, John Voltz, who then recused after accusations of his personal bias against Connick. Besides Aucoin, six other defendants included gamblers Wilson Abraham, a New Orleans businessman and customer of Aucoin, who lent Connick $15, 000 in a political campaign and actor Paul Burke, Palms Springs, California. Connick was acquitted, although all the other defendants were convicted.

Nor is the New Orleans District Attorney’s Office a stranger to controversy. In October, 2007, Eddie Jordan, the then-District Attorney resigned from office, pressed by a $3.7 million dollar race discrimination civil rights verdict against his office that threatened to shut down the office. Jordan had already faced criticism for dismissal of high-profile murder cases, mass resignations in the office, and failure to prosecute crimes n a city with the nation’s highest murder rate, especially the chaos following Hurricane Katrina. The race discrimination judgment came from the 2005 federal court case in which the jury found he had, as accused, discriminated against the 43 white employees whom he fired because of their race. Only after Eddie Jordan had resigned from office did state and city officials help pay the $3.7 million judgment. Ultimately, the State of Louisiana agreed to pay $1.6 million, the city of New Orleans agreed to pay $1.1 million, and the District Attorney’s Office pay $600,000 to satisfy the judgment.

Now the facts of the latest verdict against the New Orleans District Attorney’s Office for the wrongful conviction of John Thompson. Thompson had had his execution postponed half a dozen times until it was discovered he did not commit the armed robbery of which he was convicted. Then it was revealed prosecutors at his trial had hidden blood tests that proved he had not committed the robbery. Put on trial again for the murder of Raymond Liuzza, Jr. Thompson at this latter jury trial used all the evidence the District Attorney had hidden from the jury in the original trial, and the jury acquitted him after only a half-hour deliberation.

Now exonerated from having committed the crime yet imprisoned for 18 years by the wrongful acts of the District Attorney’s Office, Thompson filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court. The jury decided in favor of Thompson and award him $15 million. The present District Attorney, Leon Cannizzaro, defended that lawsuit and now must come up with a way to pay for it. Cannizzaro did not do himself proud when arguing to the appellate federal court that Thompson did not deserve this $15 million in the trial court. Canizzaro argued to the appellate court that death row wasn’t really all that bad, that Thompson had been allowed all that gotten to watch TV and play chess and all his medical care was taken care of as he waited for execution date after execution date to be re-set.

The appellate court remarked that the District Attorney presented a “misleading, rosy picture” of life on death row. The court knew that Thompson had spent nearly two decades of his life in the Angola prison in a six-by-nine foot cell without windows or air conditioning for 23 hours a day. The court heard evidence describing the prison with screaming out at all hours of the day and night, and with inmates who hurled human excrement and “the stench that permeated” the joint. Thompson received four visits a year from family members, but was otherwise left to himself to contemplate his impending execution. Experts testified that Thompson suffers from post-traumatic stress. No surprise there. So the District Attorney’s Office followed up the railroading of John Thompson with an attempt to cover up the extent of their wrongdoing.

Caught red handed now, with no where else to hid its crimes, the New Orleans District Attorney is now asking the State of Louisiana to grant his office permission to seek Chapter 9 bankruptcy.


Criminal Defendants Experience Excessive Force by Law Enforcement

January 8, 2009

A random sample of emergency room physicians inquired whether police used excessive force. Virtually all said police use excessive force to detain and arrest suspects, as reported in the January, 2009 issue of the Emergency Medicine Journal.

There were 315 respondents to the survey. Of these, 99.8 percent believed police used excessive force, and 97.8 percent reported they had emergency cases in which they suspected excessive force or the patient stated law enforcement had used excessive force. Emergency physicians at public teaching hospitals were approximately four times more likely to report seeing cases of suspected police excessive force than physicians at university or community teaching emergency departments, according to Dr. Jared Strote of the University of Washington, Seattle.

Most emergency physicians (71.2 percent) stated they did not report cases of suspected law enforcement excessive force. The most common type of injury cited was blunt trauma from fists or feet, followed by overly tight handcuffs.

Most of the respondents (96.5 percent) reported they had no departmental policies on reporting their suspicions or they did not know or a policy to guide them, while 93.7 percent said they had received no education or training in dealing with such situations. However 69.5 percent of the responding physicians believed it was within their scope of practice to refer cases of suspected use of excessive force for investigation and almost half (47.9 percent) felt that emergency physicians should legally be required to report cases of suspected use of excessive force by law enforcement.

While this excessive use of force appears to be routine, most people arrested by law enforcement do not bring civil rights actions against the officers. It is a very difficult thing to prove and practically, close calls would be decided in favor of the police. Unless it’s especially outrageous, such as a case a number of years ago, where police were caught on video severely beating a suspect who was not resisting or being confrontational, this is a charge that is not commonly brought against law enforcement.

However, when someone does experience a severe instance of excessive force they certainly need and deserve good legal representation. That’s why I recommend people go to my website at http://www.criminallawoffice.com to learn how to choose the right lawyer as well as other important information.