Having a Wonderful Adventure from Somewhere on the Road

September 7, 2014

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Good morning:

Crane-Station and I were hacked rendering our computers inoperable. Our place was burglarized, our property vandalized and stolen. Our bank account was breached and money stolen.

Our lives were threatened.

We left Kentucky in a hurry to avoid a worse fate.

This problem began when someone burglarized our home and obtained the access code to our AT&T router, which wasn’t difficult to do since it was printed on the side.

Our apartment was trashed.

Then both of our computers were hacked. Our administrator privileges were usurped, our passwords were altered, and we could no longer log-in to our computers.

I was able to reset and restore my computer to the state it was in when I purchased it, but Crane ended up in the same place unable to log-in after she reset hers.

My computer now appears to be operating normally with assistance from HP Tech Support.

Looks like we offended some people.


Jahar Tsarnaev finally cries in court today

May 4, 2015

Jahar Tsarnaev finally displayed emotion in court today when his Aunt Patimat Suleimanova took the stand to testify on his behalf in the penalty phase. She is his mother’s older sister. As soon as she took the stand, she began hyperventilating and sobbing hysterically. She was unable to speak and had to be excused. As she left the witness stand, Jahar began to cry. That is the first time during the trial that he has displayed any emotion.

Today was devoted to family witnesses who traveled from Russia to testify on his behalf. We learned a lot about his parents, particularly the change his mother, Zubeidat, went through after she transformed into a Muslim fundamentalist who cast aside her jewelry and wardrobe of colorful clothes and started wearing the hijab. Unfortunately, none of the witnesses have had any contact with Jahar since he was 8-years-old. They described a happy and beautiful boy whom everyone loved.

The defense also elicited evidence that the eldest brother in Chechnya culture occupies a position of authority in family life relative to the siblings and this would have been true in the Tsarnaev family. Jahar has been described by a female college friend as a follower and not a group decision maker.

Difficult to tell how this testimony affected the jury.

I was touched today by this statement from Becki Norris, one of Jahar’s teachers.

“I have discovered the painful truth that when you care deeply for someone, that does not stop even when he does unfathomably horrible things.”

Her statement perfectly captures today’s testimony.


I love the smell of capitalism burning in the morning

May 2, 2015

Ray Schultz, the former police chief of the embattled Albuquerque Police Department that the DOJ is investigating, has been accused of improperly accepting perks and consulting work from Taser International in return for assisting the company to be awarded a lucrative $1.95 million no-bid contract to supply the department with body cameras. His accuser is the New Mexico State Auditor Tim Keller who recently completed an audit of the department. Keller says Schultz started working as a consultant for Taser International when he was still employed and being paid as the police chief.

Amy Connolly of the UPI reports,

The state auditor’s office found Schultz and others in the police department received a number of perks from Taser as they helped secure the contract, including tickets to a party at a San Diego nightclub, an all-expenses paid trip to Scottsdale, Ariz., for training and speaking engagements in Texas.

“The contracts between the city and Taser circumvented the competitive process, or, in former APD Chief Raymond Shultz’s own words, the process was ‘greased.’ The taxpayers are not well served when the process is gamed by our leaders,” Keller said.

Schultz denies wrongdoing.

I love the smell of capitalism burning in the morning.


Jubilation in Baltimore: Six police officers have been charged with crimes including murder and manslaughter

May 1, 2015

Maryland State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced this morning that she has charged six Baltimore police officers with crimes for the death of Freddie Gray, including second degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, second degree assault, false imprisonment and misconduct in office.

Let’s break it down.

Mosby said Freddie Gray did not commit a crime and police did not have probable cause to arrest him for a crime. The knife they found in his pocked was not a switchblade knife, as reported by police. It was a closed fold-up knife that is legal to possess and carry. Therefore, the arrest was unlawful and his restraint constituted false imprisonment.

The second degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and second degree assault charges are based on placing Gray in the back of the police van with his wrists handcuffed behind his back and his feet shackled together without protecting him from injury during the ‘rough ride’ that followed by buckling him into a seat with a seatbelt. He was no longer breathing when he was removed from the vehicle and the first medic who responded found him in cardiac arrest. He died one week later.

The cause of death was a fatal injury to his spinal cord while riding in the police van during the ‘rough ride.’

The Maryland State Medical Examiner concluded that Freddie Gray’s death was a homicide.

Here is a list of the six officers and their charges:

1. Officer Caesar R. Goodson, Jr., is the only one charged with second degree ‘depraved heart’ murder. He drove the police van in which Gray was riding. In fact, the vehicle is alleged to be the murder weapon. He is also charged with involuntary manslaughter, second degree assault, manslaughter by vehicle (gross negligence), manslaughter by vehicle (criminal negligence) and misconduct in office.

2. Officer William G. Porter is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second degree assault and misconduct in office.

3. Lieutenant Brian W. Rice is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second degree assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment.

4. Officer Edward M. Nero is charged with second degree assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment.

5. Officer Garrett E. Miller is charged with second degree assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment.

6. Sergeant Alicia D. White is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second degree assault and misconduct in office.

Warrants have been issued for the arrests of the six police officers. Five of them are in custody.

Marilyn Mosby is a 35-year-old black woman. She was elected State’s Attorney in November. Her mother and father were police officers. In fact, she is the latest of five generations of police officers in her family. She began her press conference stating, “I have heard your call for no justice, no peace.”

With the assistance of the Sheriff’s Department, her office conducted its own independent investigation. That was a good thing because a report filed yesterday in the district court by the Baltimore Police Department claiming that Gray possessed an illegal switchblade with an automatic spring was a lie. The statement that he was banging his head repeatedly in an attempt to hurt himself also is a lie.

Mosby rejected the police union’s request for an independent prosecutor.

Jubilation in Baltimore is spreading like wildfire.


Pay-to-play reserve sheriff’s deputy claims he mistook his gun for a taser when he killed a man in handcuffs

April 14, 2015

Tulsa police officer, Sergeant Jim Clark, who was appointed to investigate the shooting death of Eric Harris, 44, came up with an incredibly lame explanation to justify his conclusion that no crime was committed and no departmental policy was violated.

Vox sets the scene,

Robert Bates, a white reserve deputy in Tulsa County, Oklahoma, shot and killed Eric Harris, an unarmed black man, during an April 2 sting operation after Harris was pinned to the floor by multiple officers.

In video footage released Friday, it appears Bates meant to use his stun gun on Harris, warning deputies that he was going to use his Taser before firing a shot from his actual gun. Immediately after firing, he shouted: “I shot him! I’m sorry!”

The footage was taken after a sting operation, in which officers caught Harris illegally selling guns, NBC News and CNN reported.

Robert Bates, 73, is a pay-to-play reserve sheriff’s deputy. When he is not playing cops and robbers, he is an executive with an insurance company.

Harris is black and yet another unarmed victim of a police shooting.

USA Today reports what Sergeant Clark said,

“Reserve Deputy Bates did not commit a crime,” he said. “There’s no other determination I could come to.”

Clark cited “slip and capture,” a psychological phenomenon where, under stress, someone’s behavior “slips” off the intended path after being “captured” by a stronger response demanded by the brain.

Clark determined that Bates was a “victim” of the phenomenon.

We have at least criminal (gross) negligence here. Besides Harris being black, maybe they decided to call this an accident because Bates has ‘paid’ a lot to play cop.

Sheriff’s Maj. Shannon Clark told the World that Bates donates his time and is a highly regarded member of the Reserve Deputy Program. He has also donated multiple vehicles, guns and stun guns, Clark said.

“There are lots of wealthy people in the reserve program,” he said. “Many of them make donations of items. That’s not unusual at all.”

I don’t know if I am more shocked by the killing or the incredibly lame justification to excuse it.

I guess the smell of greasepaint and the roar of the crowd beats watching a movie.

UPDATE: CNN reported late yesterday after I published this article at Firedoglake that Reserve Deputy Sheriff Robert Bates has been charged with second degree manslaughter.


Anthony Ray Hinton is free at last after 30 years on death row

April 4, 2015

Anthony Ray Hinton is free at last after 30 years on death row. The Washington Post reports,

Anthony Ray Hinton was one of Alabama’s longest-serving death row inmates, having spent more than half his life incarcerated. Now, after three decades of insisting that he is innocent in the 1985 murders of two men, the 58-year-old Hinton is finally a free man.

“The sun does shine,” Hinton said just after his release from jail on Friday, according to AL.com.

His freedom came down to the same four bullets that put him in jail to begin with.

“I shouldn’t have (sat) on death row for 30 years,” he told reporters according to CNN. “All they had to do was to test the gun.”

He added: “Everybody that played a part in sending me to death row, you will answer to God.”

Hinton was convicted of two separate killings of restaurant workers — the Feb. 25, 1985, slaying of John Davidson, and the July 2, 1985, killing of Thomas Vason — even though there were no eyewitnesses linking Hinton to the crimes, no fingerprints linking him to the scene, and no other physical evidence except for the questionable link between a set of bullets and a gun found in Hinton’s home.

Subsequent tests of the only physical evidence in the case raised serious doubts about whether the weapon in Hinton’s home had fired those bullets — and it even called into question whether the bullets were all fired from the same gun.

Why was he convicted, you ask? His lawyer thought he was limited to spending $1,000 to hire an expert, so he hired a civil engineer who was blind in one eye, could not handle a microscope and did not know much about ballistics. Needless to say, he did not fare well on cross examination.

The United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) unanimously vacated his conviction and death sentence last year and remanded the case to the trial court to hold a hearing to determine if his lawyer’s failure to provide effective assistance of counsel prejudiced his defense. He was granted a new trial and on Wednesday prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss the case on the ground that three ballistics experts could not link the bullets to the gun.

Thanks to one of my heroes, Bryan Stevenson, Anthony Ray Hinton is free at last.


Tsarnaev, prosecution blood lust and the death penalty

April 1, 2015

I am opposed to the death penalty in all cases, no matter how egregious. I always have been. I oppose the death penalty for many reasons. Today, I’m going to talk about one of them with which most readers may be unfamiliar.

Trying a death case changes people, particularly prosecutors, and not for the better. I’m talking about prosecution blood lust and the desire to kill. Desire to kill the defendant, my client. The human being whose life I am desperately trying to save. I’ve seen prosecutors cheat to win by concealing exculpatory evidence and cutting secret deals with jailhouse snitches to reward them for falsely claiming that my client confessed to a murder he did not commit. I saw it on Monday morning when the prosecution attempted to bury Dzhokhar Tsarnaev beneath a mountain of blood soaked garments and ghastly autopsy photographs.

The prosecution went too far. The desire to arouse and inflame the passions of the jurors to kill Dzhokhar Tsarnaev prevailed over reason. The defense had admitted that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had committed the crimes charged. The prosecution did not need to literally wave Martin Richard’s bloody, sooty and melted clothes in front of the jury, but they did.

Rule 403 of the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE) requires the trial judge to weigh the probative value of the evidence against its prejudicial value. When the prejudicial value substantially outweighs the probative value, the judge should exclude the evidence. Judge O’Toole admitted all of it and it was unnecessary.

The ruling is discretionary and will not be disturbed on appeal unless the judge manifestly abused his discretion.

In deciding whether a trial judge manifestly abused his discretion by admitting gory and grisly evidence, an appellate court will consider whether the evidence likely affected the verdict. That is, whether the verdict would have been different but for the evidence.

I think the answer is the error likely will not affect the verdict in the guilt/innocence phase. But I cannot confidently say that about a death verdict in the penalty phase.

I think this is another example of Judge O’Toole navigating perilously close to reversible error.

Just because the government has a slam dunk case does not mean that the court can ignore the rules of evidence on the ground that any error is necessarily harmless.

The government should not be permitted to strip the defendant naked and flog him in front of the jury.

That is what basically happened on Monday and it was wrong.

For more information on what happened Monday, please read my article, Tsarnaev: Government rests after presenting graphic and disturbing autopsy evidence.


Andreas Lubitz, Tarasoff and the duty to warn

March 29, 2015

Troubling evidence has emerged that Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings copilot, may have been delusional and mentally unfit to work, much less fly a commercial jet carrying 144 passengers and a crew of 6, including himself. Reuters reports today,

The co-pilot suspected of crashing a passenger jet in the Alps may have been suffering from a detached retina but investigators are unsure whether his vision problems had physical or psychological causes, a German newspaper said on Sunday.

Bild am Sonntag also reported how the captain of the Germanwings Airbus screamed “open the damn door!” to the co-pilot as he tried to get back into the locked cockpit before the jet crashed on Tuesday, killing all 150 aboard.

Another German newspaper, Welt am Sonntag, quoted a senior investigator as saying the 27-year-old co-pilot Andreas Lubitz “was treated by several neurologists and psychiatrists”, adding that a number of medications had been found in his apartment in the German city of Duesseldorf.

Police also discovered personal notes that showed Lubitz suffered from “severe subjective overstress symptoms”, he added.

Lufthansa, the parent company of the budget airline, said the carrier was unaware of a psychosomatic or any other illness affecting Lubitz. “We have no information of our own on that,” a Lufthansa spokesman said.

The terrible crash and loss of life raises an interesting question: Whether and to what extent do mental health professionals have a duty to warn police and potential victims that a patient is a threat to their lives and safety. More specifically, should the mental health professionals treating Lubitz have warned Germanwings (Lufthansa) that he was mentally unfit to pilot one of its commercial aircraft?

I do not know European law on the subject, but I am familiar with U.S. law.

In Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, 551 P.2d 334 (1976), the California Supreme Court created a new cause of action in tort for the negligent failure of a mental health professional to notify the police and potential victim regarding a threat to harm or kill communicated by a patient to the mental health professional. Before Tarasoff, mental health professionals were prohibited by the therapist/patient privilege of confidentiality from disclosing threats to harm or kill others uttered by patients during treatment.

The unique facts and equities of Tarasoff compelled a majority of the California Supreme Court to ignore legal precedent and create a new cause of action against mental health professionals founded in negligence to compensate victims of violence committed by a patient under the care and treatment of a mental health professional who failed to warn the police and the victim of a threat to harm the victim uttered by the patient.

In Tarasoff,

An exchange student by the name of Poddar met another student, Tarasoff, at UC Berkeley. During one encounter, Tarasoff kissed Poddar. Poddar took the affections to be very serious, and once Tarasoff learned of Poddar’s feelings, she immediately told him that she was involved with other men and not interested in pursuing a serious relationship. As a result, Poddar became depressed, resentful, and stalked Tarasoff. Once Tarasoff left the country for a study session abroad, his condition improved, and he sought counseling from a psychologist at UC Berkeley. During their sessions, Poddar admitted his intent to kill Tarasoff. The psychologist, believing Poddar to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, requested that campus police detain Poddar and that he be civilly committed as he was a danger to others. Poddar was detained, but appearing rational, was released. Tarasoff then returned and Poddar stopped seeing the psychologist. Tarasoff was not warned of the threat posed by Poddar and eventually stabbed and killed her. Tarasoff’s parents sued the psychologist and other University employees asserting that they had a duty to warn Tarasoff or her parents of the danger she was in, and they were negligent in releasing Poddar without providing a warning.

The Court held that,

Therapists and other mental health professionals may not escape liability merely because the victim was not their patient. When a mental health professional determines that a patient presents a serious danger of violence to another, he or she is obligated to use reasonable care to protect the intended victim from the potential danger. This obligation, this duty, may require warning the police, the intended victims, or others likely to warn the victims of the danger.

After Tarasoff, many mental health professionals complained that a substantial percentage of their patients commonly expressed anger and even rage during counseling sessions. They raged against their spouses, family members, teachers, bosses and all manner of persons in positions of power and authority over their lives. Statements like, “I dream about killing [insert object of frustration and rage here],” were typical. Most of the time these statements were not intended as threats to kill by the patient and not perceived as threats to kill by the therapist.

After Tarasoff, therapists suddenly were concerned about their potential exposure to ruinous lawsuits, damage to their professional reputations and public humiliation, if they failed to report a threat that a patient later carried out. They realized that they were risking the loss of their careers every time they dismissed a threat as a figure of speech and declined to report it to the police. Many decided to report all threats, no matter how unlikely they believed that a threat would be carried out.

Although the CYA approach protected the therapist, it caused many problems for patients. Consider, for example, a patient’s frustrated statement to the therapist that the next time his boss insults him in front of others, he is going to kill him. If the therapist reports this statement to the police and to the boss, the boss likely will fire the patient, despite the patient’s claim that he never intended to carry out the threat.

Getting your patients fired from their jobs or divorced by their spouses as a consequence of your desire to eliminate your potential liability for failing to warn is an unacceptable, unprofessional and possibly unethical practice.

Therapists also lamented that the accuracy and reliability of predicting future violence was only marginally more accurate than flipping a coin and they complained that the Tarasoff Rule was forcing them to predict future violence accurately everytime they decided to risk not reporting a patient’s threat in order to protect the patient from suffering probable adverse consequences.

Law enforcement agencies also expressed frustration and concern that their ability to carry out their primary policing responsibilities was being compromised by having to investigate threats and warn the potential victims or their families about the threats.

Despite widespread sympathy and concern for the Tarasoff family and recognition that something needed to be done to prevent another tragic and preventable homicide, increasing numbers of mental health professionals in California, and other states whose supreme courts had adopted the Tarasoff Rule, began to question its wisdom and propose changes.

For example, the California Legislature passed a law immunizing mental heath professionals from civil suit for failing to warn or protect reasonably identifiable potential victims, so long as the mental health professional’s decision not to attempt to warn or protect was made in good faith. Other state legislatures soon passed similar laws.

Should the mental health professionals treating Andreas Lubitz have warned his employer that he was unfit to fly and a danger to everyone on that flight?

What do you think?


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