Law Enforcement Agent will Not receive honor

May 25, 2009

Four law enforcement officers died last year from on-duty traffic accidents, but only three of them will have their names inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Special Agent Robert P. Flickinger will not be included.  Flickinger was a 16-year veteran of the Chickasaw Nation police officer, or, as it is called, the Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Department.  He died March 7, 2008, in a two-car crash on State Highway 199.   Flickinger tried to pass another car on a hill east of Madill, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, which resulted in the accident.  Flickinger had been with the Chickasaw Nation since 2004, was a graduate of the FBI National Academy and a member of the Lighthorse scuba diving and SWAT teams.

“The only reason given by the national memorial was that he was passing in a no passing zone,” Dennis Lippe, state law enforcement memorial chairman, said. “We and [Chickasaw Lighthorse] Chief of Police Jason O’Neal do not agree that a mistake in judgment should keep an officer from being honored – if it was in fact a mistake in judgment and not some other reason like falling asleep at the wheel or a medical reason,” Lippe said.

Two Oklahoma officers being honored this year also may been at fault in traffic accidents.  Latimer County Deputy Dustin Duncan was headed home on a Le Flore County highway when his patrol car crossed into oncoming traffic and collided with another vehicle. Kiefer police sergeant Les Wilmott, rear-ended a tractor-trailer on a Rogers County highway.  The case is closed, but highway patrol investigators never determined the accident’s cause.

If human error should disqualify officers from having their names engraved on the national memorial, Lippe said, then many officers would not be honored.  Flickinger was added to the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial last May, “and he will continue to be honored in Oklahoma,” Lippe said.

Being at fault did not prevent the inclusion of Jeffrey Rominger, an officer with the Oklahoma City Police Department, in the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial. The City of Oklahoma City even named a stretch of Interstate 40 for officer Rominger, who died in 2000 while cresting a hill in pursuit of a car on the wrong side of Interstate Highway 40 at highway speeds.  The driver of the car he was chasing, Patrick Kiplinger, was killed, along with Kiplinger’s 15-year old passenger nephew.  Also killed in the inferno was an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper, Matthew Evans, who was coming from the opposite direction, in the correct lane of traffic, unaware of the wrong-way, high-speed chase coming directly at him.

Kiplinger’s only known crime that night was what Jeffrey Rominger told the dispatch.  “I’ve got one running from me.”  Would Kiplinger have continued in the wrong direction had he not been pursued?  Whatever Kiplinger’s past criminal record was, was this chase worth it?  The wrong way on an interstate highway?  If the vehicle coming from the other direction had not been another law enforcement, this “accident” would likely be given a closer look.   Should shooting into a crowd of people be permitted?  Isn’t that analogous to speeding the wrong way on an Interstate highway cresting a hill?  If to anyone else, why not to law enforcement?  Only to stop the most dangerous crime, of which there is no evidence here.  Perhaps the City of Oklahoma City thought that since officer Rominger gave his life in the event, he deserved to have that stretch of highway named after him.  It is small comfort to the citizens of Oklahoma City or anyone passing through on Interstate 40, however, that this is what it means to “Protect and Serve.”

Larceny in Oklahoma instead of Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers

May 15, 2009

When you find apparently abandoned property, you may think it’s “finders keepers.”  But in Oklahoma, if you find it and keep it, you could be prosecuted.

Larceny – Lost Property

One who finds lost property under circumstances which gives him knowledge or means of inquiry as to the true owner, and who appropriates such property to his own use, or to the use of another person who is not entitled thereto, without having first made such effort to find the owner and restore the property to him as the circumstances render reasonable and just, is guilty of larceny.
Oklahoma Statutes, Title 21, Section 1702 (Supp: 2009)

Interestingly, this statute which was enacted in 1910, has not one court decision construing it.

What is the penalty for such larceny?  That depends on the “degree” of the larceny, which in turn is defined by the value of the item found:

Degrees of Larceny

Larceny is divided into two degrees; the first of which is termed grand larceny, the second petit larceny.  Title 21, Section 1703 (Supp: 2009)

Grand Larceny and Petit Larceny – Definitions

Grand larceny is larceny committed in either of the following cases:

1. When the property taken is of value exceeding Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00).

2. When such property, although not of value exceeding Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), is taken from the person of another.

Larceny in other cases is petit larceny.
Oklahoma Statutes, Title 21, Section 1704 (Supp: 2009)

Wrongful Convictions in Houston Caused by Bad Forensics

May 6, 2009

Now it’s the turn of Houston to develop a rash of wrongful convictions.  Gary Alvin Richard is expected to be released any day due to errors from the Houston crime lab.  He has spent 22 years in prison for a rape. The conviction for that rape was based upon forensic tests which now indicate he did not commit the crime.

Richard is the latest case to discredit the Houston Police Department crime lab.  Richard , if ultimately cleared of this crime, would be the fourth person whose conviction was overturned because of faulty forensics from the lab.

Both prosecutors and Richard’s defense lawyers agree that Richard should be freed on bail, but prosecutors are not convinced Richard is innocent of the crime. Prosecutors agree that the new lab results contradict the findings that were used to convict Richard at trial, but prosecutors maintain they do not know Richard is innocent of the rape.  Gary Alvin Richard’s lawyer, Bob Wicoff, claims the new tests prove his client’s innocence.

Other problems in the Houston lab have prompted a review of past cases.  A review was undertaken of more than 150 cases involving questionable blood-typing evidence.  The review showed in Richard’s case that crime lab analysts had conflicting results from their tests but reported only conclusions that pointed toward conviction.  Then they destroyed the physical evidence that was tested, thus eliminating any possibility of DNA testing.

While Richard was in prison, his mother, father and brother died.  His son, nine years old when he entered prison, is now 32 years old with two children.   But Richard himself is philosophical about it all.  Richard not surprisingly had prior convictions, convictions for drug dealing and theft. He said it was “God’s will that he ended up in prison.”  “I probably would have ended up back in prison or dead,” Richard also said in an interview from jail.  “I have gotten a hold of my life. I am not angry.”

Without waiting to pour over any other evidence, without a moments thought about any scintilla of evidence they might use to convict Richard in a retrial, the prosecution ought to dismiss all charges against Richard just for his attitude.