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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Watery Graves: The Mystery of Foss Lake

     There's no telling how many murder victims lay on the bottom of America's lakes, rivers, and ponds. Most people don't realize that these boating, swimming, and fishing sites are also the unmarked graves of people who have gone missing and might never be found. It's a sobering thought.

     Whenever a lake goes dry or is drained, law enforcement officers often gather to recover guns, knives, cars, safes, cellphones, computers, wallets, and other potential indicia of foul play. Occasionally, the remains of missing persons are exposed as well. When that happens, one mystery is solved and another is created.

     On September 10, 2013, Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer George Hoyle, while testing a sonar detection device from a boat on Foss Lake 110 miles west of Oklahoma City, discovered a pair of vehicles sitting under twelve feet of murky water.

     A week after the vehicles were detected, Darrell Splawn, a member of the state's underwater search and rescue team, dove into the lake for a closer look. At this point, officers believed they had found a pair of stolen cars.

     When officer Splawn opened the door to one of the vehicles and probed its interior, his hand came in contact with a shoe. He also discovered, near the car, a human skull. The diver surfaced to report his finds. When the diver slipped back into the muddy water to check on the other vehicle, he saw skeletal remains inside the second car.

     Once the heavily corroded cars--a 1952 Chevrolet and a 1969 Chevy Camero--were pulled out of the reservoir, they revealed their gruesome secrets. Each vehicle contained the skeletal remains of three people. Officers also recovered, among other items, a muddy wallet and a purse.

     On April 8, 1969, 69-year-old John Alva Porter, the owner of a 1952 green Chevy, went missing. In the car with him that night were his brother Arlie and 58-year-old Nora Marie Duncan. These three residents of nearby Elk City, along with the Chevy, disappeared without a trace. No one had any idea what had happened to them.

     Jimmy Williams, a 16-year-old from Sayre, Oklahoma, a town of 4,000 a few miles from the lake, owned a 1969 Chevrolet Camero. On the night of November 20, 1970, he and two friends--Thomas Michael Rios and Leah Gail Johnson--both 18, were riding in Williams' car. Instead of going to the high school football game in Elk City, the trio had gone hunting on Turkey Creek Road. The teenagers and the Camero were never seen again.

     While the six skeletal remains are presumed to match the two sets of missing persons, it would take months to scientifically confirm their identities. Forensic scientists in the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office compared DNA from the bones with DNA samples from surviving family members. Dr. Angela Berg, the state forensic anthropologist, determined the gender, general stature, and approximate ages of the people pulled out of the lake. She did this by analyzing leg and pelvic bones along with the skulls. This data was compared with information contained in the missing person reports.

     What the 44-year-old remains did not reveal was the manner and cause of these deaths. While the six people presumably drowned, they could have been murdered by gun, knife, or blunt instrument then dumped into the lake. To rule out foul play, the forensic pathologist and the anthropologist looked for signs of trauma such as bullet holes, knife wounds; and smashed or broken bones. The forensic scientists also attempted to determine if the fates of the people inside the two cars were somehow connected.

     Custer County Sheriff Bruce Peoples told an Associated Press reporter that it was possible these underwater victims had been driven accidentally into the lake where they had drowned. "We know that to happen even if you know your way around," he said. "It can happen that quick." While that is certainly possible, until murder is ruled out, it should be presumed.

     In October 2014, the forensic pathologist officially confirmed the identities of the six sets of remains. Two months later, the medical examiner's office ruled out foul play. Some of the victims' family members, however, remained skeptical and suspected foul play in the deaths.
     

What Happened to Kristi Richardson?

     In 1979, Ronald Richardson and his wife Kristi started the Richardson Trucking Company, a Casper, Wyoming business that specialized in the transportation of oil and gas industry equipment.

     On April 29, 2013, Ronald Richardson, at age 63, died. Kristi, his 60-year-old widow, took control of the company. She resided in an affluent suburb of Casper, a city of 55,000 in the central part of the state that had become the center of a booming oil and gas industry that had brought crime and violence to a community with a traditionally low crime rate.

     Late in the afternoon of October 6, 2014, Kristi Richardson drove to her daughter Amber's house a block from her residence to drop off a birthday card and visit her grandchildren. At seven-forty that evening, she took a routine call from one of her drivers. The next call, one made to Kristi's cellphone at eleven that night, went unanswered.

     The next morning, when Kristi Richardson didn't show up for work at the trucking company, an employee called the house. When no one picked up the phone, the employee notified the owner's daughter.

     Because all of the doors were locked at Kristi's house, her daughter gained entry into the dwelling by using a garage door opener. Kristi's car sat in the garage and her purse, containing her credit cards and $800 in cash, lay on the kitchen counter.

     In the bedroom, Amber found her mother's cellphone lying on the bed. The only items missing from the home were Kristi's garage door opener and a hoodie she regularly wore. The daughter reported her mother missing to the Casper Police Department.

     Over the next several days, officers with the Casper Police Department, Natrona County Sheriff's Office, fire and EMS personnel, and citizen volunteers searched for the missing woman. The authorities used a helicopter to search parts of Casper Mountain.

     Members of Kristi's family, who believed she had been the victim of foul play because she never left the house without her car, posted a $25,000 reward for information regarding her disappearance and whereabouts. Kristi's daughter told a reporter that "I believe someone was at the house before she got home."

     The Casper Star Tribune reported that crime scene investigators had found traces of blood and urine on the missing woman's bed. Detectives were looking into the possibility that Kristi had been abducted and murdered by either an employee, customer, or business competitor.

    In February 2015, Casper police officers executed a search warrant on a credit report of a man who wanted to have a romantic relationship with the missing woman. Prior to the search, detectives had interrogated this man as a "person of interest."

     As of September 2018, Richardson remained missing and no arrests have been made in the case. The missing woman's family has offered a $250.000 reward for information regarding her disappearance and or murder.

Lawyer Suicides

     Lawyers are killing themselves [according to] the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention….Lawyers ranked fourth when the proportion of suicides in that profession is compared to suicides in all other occupations in the study population….They come right behind dentists, pharmacists, and physicians.

     Lawyers are also prone to depression, which the American Psychological Association identified as the most likely trigger for suicide. Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers.

     Prominent lawyers keep turning up dead….Kentucky has seen 15 known lawyer suicides since 2010….There was no clear explanation for the rash of suicides in Kentucky, two of which came days apart. "It's been primarily men," said Kentucky Bar Association Executive Director John Meyers. "To a large degree it's been trial attorneys. The men are primarily middle-aged."

Rosa Fores and Rose Marie Arce, "Why Are Lawyers Killing Themselves?" CNN, January 20, 2014

Saturday, September 29, 2018

How The Mere Accusation Of a Serious Crime Can Destroy The Accused

Decency and justice requires that before the accusation of a serious crime of moral turpitude is made public by the authorities or the media, there must be, at the very least, enough evidence to support an arrest of the accused. This is particularly true if the accused is a public person of excellent reputation whose career depends on his or her high character. This also applies if, due to the passage of time and vagueness of the accusation, it is extremely difficult for the accused to establish his or her innocence. Just because an accused is presumed innocent in law does not mean that person will be presumed innocent by the public at large. Shame on any politician or journalist who intentionally violates this basic tenet of human decency. Stirring up public anger and resentment through unproven crime accusation puts everyone at the mercy of an angry, politically motivated mob. This has happened in the McCarthy era, the McMartin Preschool Child Abuse Case, the Memphis Three Murder Case, and the JonBonet Ramsey Case. And now it's happening again. This is a terrible time for fair minded, reasonable people who have lost trust in the political process and journalism.

Vehicles In The History of American Crime

     The invention and popularity of the automobile changed and defined the nature of criminal behavior in America and around the world. The motorized vehicle became the instrument, and the fruit of crime. Cars, in the old days referred to as "machines," provided a degree of mobility that changed the nature of law enforcement as well. By 1920, police departments across the country were entirely motorized, and soon after that, they were equipped with two-way radios. In 1926, the U.S. Supreme Court, in U.S. v. Carroll, held that an automobile could be searched without a warrant if there was probable cause to believe the vehicle was being used in the commission of a crime. In those days, the offense often involved the transportation of contraband liquor. A motorized America, and the resultant mobility of the criminal, contributed to the federalization of American law enforcement. By the 1930s, bank robbery, kidnapping, interstate car theft, and transporting prostitutes across state lines (White Slave Traffic Act) became federal offenses investigated by the FBI. By 1947, the FBI Crime Lab featured a reference collection of tire treads against which crime scene impression could be compared.

     Many crime and police history buffs are fascinated with vehicles owned or used by serial killers, mafia bosses, depression era bank robbers, and famous murder victims. People who collect and restore old cars are interested in this aspect of crime history as well. Police and crime museums around the country exhibit old police cars, paddy wagons, and vehicles that had been used in historic regional crimes.

Bonnie and Clyde Death Car

     On May 23, 1934, a small army of cops in southern Louisiana ambushed the depression era outlaws, Bonnie and Clyde. In a barrage of bullets, the police riddled the couple's 1934 gray Ford sedan, killing them both. These folk-hero degenerates had stolen the deluxe sedan in Topeka, Kansas from a woman named Ruth Warren. (For awhile the car was known as the "Warren Death Car.") When the federal government refused to release the blood-soaked, bullet-ridden Ford, Ruth Warren, realizing its value as crime memorabilia, sued the government and won.

     From 1940 to 1952, the shot-up Ford was on exhibit at an amusement park in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1952, a man with the name Ted Toddy, bought the car for $14,500. During the 1980s, the Bonnie and Clyde vehicle sat on display at several casino-resorts in Nevada. I'm not sure where the car is today, but not too long ago it could be seen at Whiskey Pete's Resort and Casino in Prim, Nevada. (In January 2012, at an auction in Kansas City, Missouri, a collector bought two Bonnie and Clyde bank robbery guns. The Thompson submachine gun, and the 1897 Winchester 12-gauge shotgun, had been recovered in 1933 from the couple's hideout in Joplin, Missouri. The collector paid $210,000 for the weapons.)

Al Capone

     The vicious prohibition era gangster from Chicago, during his murderous career as a bootlegger, owned several cars. The vehicle most closely associated with Capone is a 1928 green Cadillac limousine. The armor-plated V-8, equipped with bullet-proof windows, sold for $621,500 at a 2010 auction in California. The fact President Franklin D. Roosevelt had used the car after Capone went to prison, added to its value.

The Lindbergh Kidnap Car

     Bruno Richard Hauptmann, on the night of March 1, 1932, drove his 1930 blue Dodge sedan from the Bronx, New York to the Charles Lindbergh estate near Hopewell, New Jersey. The 36-year-old unemployed carpenter used the homemade wooden extension ladder, compressed across the back seat of his car, to climb to the Lindbergh baby's second-story nursery window. Today, in West Trenton, the New Jersey State Police Museum and Learning Center, features the ladder in its Lindbergh case display. But the Museum does not possess the car Hauptmann used to commit the "crime of the century."

     In 1958, after the state of New Jersey sold Hauptmann's Dodge at auction for $800, it disappeared. If you own a 1930 4-door Dodge that was once blue, check the vehicle identification number against the VIN on record at the New Jersey museum. You might own an important piece of American crime history.

Ted Bundy's "Teaching Tool"

     Crime memorabilia collector Arthur Nash, in 2010, sold the 1968 Volkswagen Beetle owned by the executed serial killer, Ted Bundy, to the privately owned National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington, D.C. (The museum opened in 2008.) In the 1970s, Bundy lured many of him female victims into the car where many of them were raped and murdered. Museum speakers at the vehicle's unveiling, aware that critics would accuse them of using Bundy's death car to extract admission fees from true crime sickos, insisted they were using the Volkswagen as a "teaching tool." At the highly publicized unveiling, one of the museum owners said, "Specifically, we don't recommend hitchhiking to anyone. This car represents a warning sign that you have to be careful."

JFK Assassination Vehicles

     Early in 2011, at an auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, a bidder paid $120,000 for the ambulance that had carried the slain president, on November 23, 1963, from Andrews Air Force Base to the Bethesda National Hospital in Maryland. There has since been a debate over the authenticity of this purchase. Some believe the ambulance is a fake.

     In 2012, the same auction house offered for sale the 1963 Cadillac hearse used to carry President Kennedy's body from the Dallas hospital to Air Force One at Dallas Love Field.

Other Infamous Vehicles

     A few other collectible crime cars include: John Dillinger's 1933 Essex-Terraplane; the 1931 black Lincoln owned by Dutch Schultz; O. J. Simpson's 1995 white Ford Bronco; and the D.C. Snipers's Chevrolet Caprice. 
   

The Identification of Cremated Bodies

Dental devices can be helpful in identifying a cremated individual. Even though dental crowns seldom end up in the urn, dental posts, made of stainless steel or titanium, which are used to affix artificial crowns onto small tooth stumps, can be extremely important. Not only do they vary considerably in chemical composition, in size and in shape (each brand looks very different), but they are often altered by grinding the ends when the dentist inserts them into the tooth. These altered tips can be compared with dental radiographs or dental x-rays and be identified absolutely individually. They will show up in dental x-rays before death, and again in x-rays taken of the cremated remains. They can be as unique as fingerprints, because the dentist has shaped them to fit a particular tooth.

Dr. William R. Maples, Dead Men Do Tell Tales, 1994

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Kim Nguyen Police Brutality Case

     At three in the morning, March 17, 2013, 28-year-old Kim Nguyen and two of her male acquaintances were waiting for their designated driver outside a bar in Los Angeles' Koreatown. Police officers David Shin and Jin Oh, in a marked LAPD patrol car, pulled up to the trio. Following a brief questioning of Nguyen and her friends, the young officers drove off.

     For some reason the officers circled back to Nguyen and her companions. As the patrol car approached the bar's parking lot, Nguyen crossed the street to an all-night coffee shop. At this point the officers decided to arrest the Loyola Marymount University graduate student for public intoxication. (This part of LA must be crime-free.) One of the officers handcuffed Nguyen behind her back and placed her into the back of the patrol vehicle.

     The young woman's friends asked the officers where they were taking Nguyen. The officers drove off without answering that question.

     Video footage from a surveillance camera at an intersection not far from Nguyen's arrest showed her lying on her back in the street with a badly bloodied face. The video did not reveal how Nguyen had exited the patrol vehicle. Because she was not moving, it appeared she was either dead or unconscious.

     A patrol car occupied by another set of officers pulled into surveillance camera view. These officers were followed thirty seconds later by the car containing the arresting cops. Officers Shin and Oh were observed standing over Nguyen's body. Finally one of them crouched down next to her and rolled her onto her side. (Perhaps to take off the handcuffs.) Nguyen had regained consciousness and was writhing in pain. Paramedics arrived at the scene, gathered up Nguyen, and took her to a nearby hospital.

     Nguyen's jaw had been shattered and she suffered bleeding on the brain. She had also lost several teeth. Doctors kept her heavily sedated for several days.

     According to the responding paramedics, the LAPD officers told them that Nguyen had fallen out of the patrol car as it accelerated to 10 miles-per-hour from a stop sign. Surveillance camera footage, however, contradicted this account. Video footage showed the patrol car carrying Nguyen traveling through a stop sign at a much higher speed.

     Since Kim Nguyen had no memory of how she got from the patrol vehicle to the street, and patrol cars are equipped with locks that officers can engage when transporting arrestees, how this woman exited the patrol car remained a mystery. Moreover, it was apparently a mystery that no one at the LAPD was interested in solving.

     In September 2013, a reporter with the Los Angeles Times doing a story about Nguyen's lawsuit against the police department asked a police commander if the department had launched an internal investigation into the matter. Commander Andrew Smith said that he didn't know if such an inquiry had been conducted. According to Commander Smith, now that a lawsuit had been filed against the LAPD an investigation would be conducted for sure.

     In May 2015, the UCLA graduate, with her state civil lawsuit unresolved, filed a suit against the police department in federal court. Her attorney told reporters that the officers involved had sexually assaulted her. Surveillance camera footage revealed that Nguyen's left bra strap was broken and the top of her dress was pulled down to her waist. According to the lawsuit, when she awoke from the trauma days later, she found bruising on the inside of her thighs.

     On February 17, 2016, in a case not directly related to the Kim Nguyen case, Los Angeles police officers James Nichols, 43 and Luis Valenzuela, 40, were charged with sexually assaulting four women in their patrol car,while the officers were on duty. The alleged rapes occurred at various locations between 2008 and 2011. As of March 2017, the officers involved in Nguyen's arrest had not been criminally charged.

     The Los Angeles Police Department, on February 4, 2017, settled Kim Nguyen's lawsuits for $35 million. In a city that is virtually bankrupt, bad police behavior extracts a high cost on taxpayers.
         

The Jeffrey Lee Michael Murder Case

     Jeffrey Lee Michael, a 44-year-old unemployed truck driver, lived on Juniata Valley Road in Geeseytown, a village 70 miles west of Harrisburg in south central Pennsylvania. Mr. Michael hadn't worked since being injured in a traffic accident in the spring of 2012. As Christmas approached, Michael had been behaving in a way that made his neighbors "uneasy." Health problems, a divorce, and child custody battles mixed with his apocalyptic beliefs based upon biblical prophecy and the ancient Mayan end-of-the-world calendar, had turned Mr. Michael into an unstable, unpredictable, walking time-bomb. Other than a few speeding tickets, Jeffrey Michael had not been in trouble with the law.

     On Friday morning just before nine o'clock on December 21, 2012, Jeffrey Michael loaded several handguns into the cab of his pickup truck. Before driving off, he aimed one of the guns at the Juniata Valley Gospel Church across the road from his house and fired a bullet through one of its windows. With a gun in his hand, Michael walked across the street and entered the building where he encountered two women who had come to the church to decorate the interior for an upcoming children's Christmas party. Although he didn't know either of these church volunteers, Mr. Michael shot 58-year-old Kimberly Scott in the head, killing her on the spot. (The other woman either wasn't in the room at the time, or escaped being shot by fleeing the scene.) The dead woman's husband owned and operated the car dealership in nearby Duncanville.

     Before climbing into his pickup, Michael approached Ken Lynn, a neighbor who was about to get into his car to go Christmas shopping with his wife. The 60-year-old neighbor, seeing Michael come toward him with a gun in his hand, tried to flee but was shot before he could get away. The calm, matter-of-fact gunman killed him with a single bullet to the head.

     After randomly murdering Kimberly Scott and Ken Lynn, Jeffrey Michael got behind the wheel of his truck and drove north on Juniata Valley Road. Less than a mile from his house, after intentionally ramming into the rear of another pickup stopped at an intersection, Michael climbed out of his vehicle with a gun in his hand and approached the other driver, William Rhodes. Michael shot the 38-year-old construction worker in the head, killing him instantly.

     Having murdered three people he didn't know, Mr. Michael got back into his truck and continued to drive north on the rural road. He had traveled a mile or so when a pair of southbound Pennsylvania State Police cruisers sped past him. As they went by, Michael fired shots at the police cars, striking both vehicles. With the fired-upon officers in pursuit, Michael crashed head-on into an oncoming police vehicle. The collision caused one of the pursuit cruisers to slam into the back of Michael's truck.

     Immediately following the crash, Jeffrey Michael climbed out of his damaged truck and opened fire on the state troopers. The officers responded in kind, killing him instantly. Before he died, Michael had shot one of the state troopers in the wrist and chest. Had this officer not been wearing a bullet-proof vest, he may have become Mr. Michael's fourth murder victim. A second officer had been injured by bullet fragments and flying car glass and the third had been hurt in the head-on vehicle collision. The state police officers were treated at a hospital in Altoona and released.

     A few days after Jeffrey Michael's murder spree, the Blair County coroner and the district attorney announced that this police-involved shooting had been legally justified. It appeared that Jeffrey Michael, after randomly murdering three people he didn't know, had committed suicide-by-cop. Since he had left his house that day with suicide on his mind, why hadn't this mentally disturbed man just blown his brains out? What compelled him to take three innocent lives before getting into the hopeless gun battle with the police? In murder-sucide cases, this is always the question that goes unanswered. We also wonder if steps could have been taken to stop these murders before they happened. But the problem is, you can't prevent what you can't foresee. And who could have foreseen this?

The Get-A-Way Kayak

     A fast-paddling Good Samaritan in a kayak helped sheriff's deputies in Washington state nab a suspected Christmas mail thief…Deputies received multiple calls on Wednesday morning December 24, 2014 that a man and a woman were going through mailboxes around the town of Sammamish. While deputies were on their way, residents spotted a car filled with mail and used their cars to block it in.

     The suspected mail thieves ran off, and one was caught immediately. The other fled into a nearby pond with a kayak he stole out of a yard. A resident grabbed his own kayak, caught up with the suspect and convinced him to return to shore where he was arrested.

     The sheriff's office said the suspect didn't get very far because he was using his hands to paddle.

"Good Samaritan in a Kayak Helps Nab Suspected Christmas Mail Thieves in Washington State," Associated Press, December 25, 2014 

A Farmer's Revenge

     On July 3, 2012, police in Newport, Vermont, a town of 5,000 ten miles from the Canadian border, arrested Roger Pion for possession of marijuana. The Orleans County prosecutor also charged the 34-year-old farmer with resisting arrest. The next day, Pion posted his $15,000 bail and walked out of jail.

     A month later, on August 2, 1012, Roger Pion drove his parent's 15-ton farm tractor into town. He pulled the massive machine onto the Orleans County Sheriff's Office parking lot, and in monster truck derby fashion, drove over and crushed seven of the county's police cruisers. Deputies sitting at their desks yards away, due to the noise from their office air conditioning units, didn't hear Mr. Pion flattening more than half of the department's patrol car fleet.

     Stunned bystanders looked on as Pion, after driving his tractor on top of the row of police cars, headed out of town. Since farm tractors do not make good get-away-vehicles, an officer with the Newport Police Department, two miles out of town, pulled the car-crusher over. After a scuffle, the city officer took Pion into custody.

     When the monster tractor rolled off the pancaked police cars, it left behind $250,000 in property damage. The Orleans County prosecutor charged Mr. Pion with seven felony counts of unlawful mischief, one count of leaving the scene of an accident (this was no accident), and aggravated assault of a police officer. A magistrate set Pion's bond at $50,000. The Great Vermont Patrol Car Destroyer was housed in the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport.

     If Roger Pion enrolled in some kind of anger management program, maybe he would at least learn how to take out his anger on the right people. The sheriff's office, the agency whose vehicles he flattened, had nothing to do with his July 3 marijuana bust. He should have been furious with the police department.  

     In October 2014, State's Attorney Alan Franklin and defense attorney Chandler Matson agreed that the police vehicle masher had been insane at the time he pancaked the cars. As a result, the local folk hero was not prosecuted. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Bill Cosby Rape Case

     Bill Cosby, married to his wife Camille for more than 50 years, was one of the most recognizable comedians in the world. A graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia where he starred in track, the 77-year-old still resided in eastern Pennsylvania. When the former TV star began criticizing certain aspects of black culture a few years ago, he became a somewhat controversial figure. While conservatives generally considered him a courageous speaker of the truth, many liberals and members of the black community considered him a traitor to his race.

     In November 2014, Mr. Cosby's good name and wholesome image came under public attack in connection with allegations of past behavior that violently clashed with his longstanding public persona. On November 16, 2014, 64-year-old Joan Tarshis told a CNN interviewer that Cosby, in 1969 when she was nineteen, knocked her out with a drugged drink and raped her.

     Tarshis said she met Bill Cosby in 1969 over lunch in Los Angeles. She accompanied him back to his bungalow on the set of "The Bill Cosby Show" to work on some comedy routines. After she drank a bloody Mary he had mixed for her, she passed out. She awoke to find him removing her underwear. In an effort to avoid being sexually assaulted, she told him she had an infection that he'd pass on to his wife. Instead of raping her, Cosby allegedly forced her to give him oral sex. She did not tell anyone, not even her mother, about what had happened to her.

     Cosby later called Tarshis at her home in New York to invite her to watch him perform at The Theater at Westbury. She accepted drinks at Cosby's hotel and in his limousine before the performance. While at the theater she began to feel drugged. She asked the chauffeur to take her home in the limo where she passed out. The next morning, Tarshis woke up naked in a hotel bed next to Cosby.

     Out of "guilt and shame," Tarshis did not reveal that Cosby had sexually assaulted her for the second time. She didn't think that anyone would take her word over a man revered as America's dad.

     On Saturday November 16, 2014, Scott Simon, in an interview on NPR, repeatedly asked Cosby if the rape allegations were true. Each time Cosby simply shook his head, no.

     The Cosby rape allegation scandal intensified the next day when a reporter with Village Voice wrote about a comedy routine on a 1969 Cosby album involving "Spanish Fly," a drug that supposedly made women beg for sex. As part of the comedy bit, Cosby joked that when he visited Spain he tried to acquire the drug.

     Janice Dickinson, the 59-year-old former supermodel, sat for an interview conducted by "Entertainment Tonight" co-host Kevin Frazier that aired on November 18, 2014. According to Dickinson, Bill Cosby had sexually assaulted her in 1982 after they had dinner in Lake Tahoe. He had invited her there to open a show for him. After dinner at his hotel, he gave her a pill and a glass of red wine. She passed out. "The last thing I remember," she said, "was Bill Cosby in a patchwork robe, dropping his robe and getting on top of me."

     Dickinson told the "Entertainment Tonight" interviewer that she wanted to expose Cosby in her 2002 memoir, No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World's First Supermodel. The publisher, however, got cold feet when Cosby and his lawyers threatened a lawsuit.

     Cosby's lawyer, Martin Singer, in a letter to the Associated Press, claimed that Dickinson's allegations were "false and outlandish." According to the lawyer, she contradicted her story in her memoir where she described stopping at Cosby's hotel room door after they had dinner. When she declined to enter the room, he said, "After all I've done for you, this is what I get."

     On November 19, 2014, a detailed and damaging article about Bill Cosby and another alleged rape victim, 41-year-old Andrea Constland, came out in the Internet publication, "Mailonline." In November 2002, the 29-year-old former Temple University basketball star met Bill Cosby. She became a regular dinner party guest at his home and considered him a mentor.

     Constland, while visiting Cosby at his home in January 2004, told him she had been stressed at work. To help her relax, Cosby allegedly gave her what he called a "herbal medication." Shortly after consuming the three blue pills, she became dizzy and her knees began to shake. A little later she was unable to move her arms and legs. At that point Cosby gave Constand another drug. He led her to the sofa where she passed out. When she awoke her outer clothes and her underwear were in disarray.

     Constand waited a year before reporting that Bill Cosby had raped her. She had returned to Canada, her native country. It was there she reported the assault.

     Bruce Castor, the then district attorney of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the site of the alleged rape, was informed by the Canadian authorities of Constand's allegations. He launched an investigation. In the "Mailonline" article, the former prosecutor lamented the fact he didn't have enough evidence to file charges against Bill Cosby. "I wanted to arrest Cosby,"  he said, "because I thought he was probably guilty." But being able to prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt and thinking that a suspect is guilty are two different things."

     Mr. Castor, in the "Mailonline" piece, pointed out that Constand's one-year delay in reporting the crime hurt the case. "We couldn't test for hairs, fibers, DNA and drugs that might have linked the victim to Cosby or his house."

     In March 2005, Andrea Constand sued Bill Cosby for causing her "serious and deliberating injuries, mental anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, sleeplessness, anxiety, and flashbacks." The plaintiff asked for $150,000 in damages. Her attorney had rounded up thirteen other women who supported her claim that Bill Cosby was a rapist.

     In 2006, Bill Cosby settled the Constand civil suit out of court. Given the damaging publicity the trial would have brought him, and the relatively small amount asked for by the plaintiff, this was not surprising. Some took this as a sign of his guilt while others simply considered it a good business decision on his part.

     Shortly after the "Mailonline" article came out, executives at Netflix postponed Cosby's comedy special that was scheduled to air on November 28, 2014. NBC followed suit by scrapping a Bill Cosby project that was in development. TV Land cable network stopped airing reruns of "The Bill Cosby Show."

     On Friday night, November 21, 2014, Cosby appeared at the Maxwell C. King Center For The Performing Arts at Eastern Florida State College in the central Florida town of Melbourne. Following his 90-minute set he received a standing ovation from an adoring audience. One of the male attendees to the show, in speaking to a reporter with the Los Angeles Times, said, "If he raped all these woman, why did they not say something before?"

     The University of Massachusetts Amherst, where Cosby earned his master's and doctorate in education in the 1970s, cut ties with the comedian on November 28, 2014. According to a university spokesperson, "Bill Cosby has agreed to resign as an honorary co-chair of UMass Amherst's capital campaign. He no longer has any affiliation with the campaign nor does he serve in any other capacity at the university."

    On September 25, 2018, after being convicted of the aggravated assault of Andrea Constland fourteen years earlier, the judge sentenced Bill Cosby to three to ten years in prison. Following the sentencing hearing, Cosby was led out of court in handcuffs. His criminal past had finally caught up with him. This was clearly a case of justice delayed.
     

Gary Irving: The Bail Jumping Rapist

     In 1978, a jury in Norfolk County, Massachusetts found 18-year-old Gary Irving guilty of three counts of rape with force, unnatural acts, and kidnapping. Irving had knocked one of his victims off her bike, dragged her to a secluded area, and viciously raped her. He had threatened a second rape victim with a knife. The convicted rapist faced up to life in prison.

     Immediately following Irving's guilty verdict and sentencing, the rapist's attorney asked Judge Robert Prince to extend his client's bail a couple of days so Irving could make final arrangements before being packed off to prison.

     The prosecutor in the case, Louis Sabadini, pointed out that if Irving was not sent straight to prison, he would flee. Extending bail to a convicted rapist who was facing at least 35 years in prison was simply out of the question. This young man was a violent, sexual predator.

     Judge Prince shocked the prosecutor and the rape victims' families by granting Irving the weekend to settle his affairs before his incarceration. Irving took this opportunity to flee the state. Except perhaps for Judge Prince, Irving's bail jumping surprised no one.

     If there was anything surprising in the Irving case, it was how long it took the authorities to find this rapist and put him behind bars where he should have been living since 1978.

     In trying to find this fugitive the police received plenty of help from reality television. The Irving bail jumping case was featured on "America's Most Wanted," "Unsolved Mysteries," and "Real Stories of the Highway Patrol." It seemed that Gary Irving had somehow left the planet.

     On Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 35 years after Judge Prince set the rapist free, local police and FBI agents arrested Irving at his home in Gorham, Maine where the 52-year-old had been living under the name Gregg Irving. (He hadn't even bothered to change his last name.)

     On July 14, 2014, Judge George Singal sentenced Gary Irving to 47 years. The 57-year-old won't be eligible for parole until he's 84.

     What can you say about a judge who made such a reckless decision? What was he thinking? Could he have been that stupid, or were his motives more complicated, and perhaps pathological? One can only hope that Mr. Irving, during his 35 years of freedom, didn't rape more victims. If he did, Judge Prince was his accomplice. (The judge has since died.)

Rapists Who Murder Their Victims

     Although the murder of a rape victim certainly may indicate hostile motivation, at least some such murders may be due to the simple fact that killing the victim greatly increases the rapist's chances of escaping punishment by removing the only witness to the rape….Rape-murders, however, are a very small percentage of all murders.

     Young women, highly overrepresented as rape victims, are also at the greatest risk of being killed by their assailants….Young women appear to resist rape more than females in other age groups. The strong sexual motivation of the rapist to rape a young victim, in combination with her greater resistance, may account for young women's overrepresentation in homicides with sexual assault.

Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer, Rape, 2000

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Justin Schneider Assault Case: Justice Denied

     In 2017, 34-year-old Justin Schneider, a husband and father, worked as an Air Traffic Controller at the Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska. In August 2017, at an Anchorage service station, he asked a 25-year-old woman he didn't know if he could give her a lift. She said yes and climbed into his vehicle.

     Instead of driving the woman to her destination, Schneider took her to a remote area where he grabbed her, put his hands around her throat, and threatened to kill her if she screamed. The victim passed out and when she awoke, Schneider was zipping up his trousers after masturbating on her. He gave her tissue to clean off the semen. He told her that he hadn't really intended to kill her, that it was just a threat to keep her quiet. She grabbed her belongings and alighted from the vehicle. As he drove off she had the presence of mind to note his license plate number.

     From the side of the road the victim used her cell phone to call 911. She provided the attacker's license plate number. After being examined at a local hospital, the victim picked Justin Schneider out of a police lineup.

     Following his arrest, a grand jury sitting in Anchorage indicted Schneider on counts of kidnapping and felony assault, crimes that together carried a prison sentence of up to 99 years. Shortly thereafter, the prosecutor in charge of the case dropped the kidnapping charges because the woman had gotten into Schneider's vehicle willingly. (In Pennsylvania and most other states, restraining a person in a vehicle against their will constitutes kidnapping.)

     Following the indictment, Schneider lost his air traffic control job.

     On September 22, 2018, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Grannik allowed Schneider to plead guilty to one count of second-degree felony assault. Judge Michael Corey sentenced Schneider to two years in prison then suspended the prison time by giving him credit for a year in jail and a year of house arrest. The convicted felon not only walked out of the courthouse a free man, he was not required to register as a sex offender.

    Schneider did not have to register as a sex offender because under Alaska law, "physical contact with bodily fluid such as semen" did not qualify as a sexual offense.

     It's not surprising that the disposition of this case caused a public uproar. In defending the state's handling of this case, a spokesperson with the Alaska Department of Law announced that the plea deal had been based on an expert's opinion that Mr. Schneider would not re-offend. This absurd rationale did not attenuate the criticism of the prosecutor or the judge.

     In responding to the public outrage over the Justin Schneider case, Alaska's governor Bill Walker said he planned to propose legislation that would make "coming in contact with semen" a sex offense that carried a sentence of two to twelve years in prison plus registry as a sex offender. Even those who chose to believe the words of a politician were not put at ease regarding how the authorities had handled this case.

     Justin Schneider said the experience would make him a better person. That didn't make anyone feel any better either.

The Michael Barbar Murder Case

     On 2009, 51-year-old Michael Barbar, a native of Lebanon, lived with his wife Maysam and their two daughters, ages 10 and 6, in a two-story house in Perris, a Riverside County town of 70,000 in southern California. Michael had a 19-year-old daughter from a former marriage who didn't live with him and Maysam.

     In mid-August 2009, Michael learned that his 43-year-old wife, at the time attending cosmetology school, had not been faithful to him. According to information that had come to his attention, Maysam, over the past six months, had been with three other men. He also learned that the 6-year-old Tamara, the child he had helped raise from birth, had been conceived as a result of Maysam's affair with a man in 2000.

     Some time after receiving this disturbing information, Michael Barbar checked Tamara out of school early one day and took her to a McDonald's where he swabbed the inside of her mouth for a DNA sample. On November 6, 2009, the paternity test revealed that she was not his child.

     On the night of November 13, 2009, after handcuffing Maysom behind her back during sex, he wrapped an electrical cord around her neck and strangled her to death. He then placed her nude body face-down on the master bedroom floor and covered it with a blanket.

     In Tamara's bedroom, Barbar coiled a television cable around her neck as she slept. When the 6-year-old awoke and struggled, he bashed her head against a bedpost twenty times, crushing her skull. In a third bedroom, the 10-year-old sister heard Tamar's cries and the sounds of her violent death. After the murder, she heard her father carrying what sounded like trash bags out of the house. The next morning, Barbar's surviving daughter discovered her sister's body. The door to the master bedroom was locked. She called 911.

     Following the double murder, Michael Barbar drove to nearby Cabazon, California where, at the Morongo Casino, he played the slots. The next morning, he drove east to Deming, New Mexico, a border town 60 miles west of Las Cruces. His plan was to enter Mexico and from there fly to his homeland of Lebanon. On November 15, 2009, the police in Deming interrupted his escape by taking him into custody.

     In early June 2012, Barbar went on trial in a Riverside County Superior Court for the murders of Maysam and Tamara Barbar. Because he was being tried for a double, premeditated murder, the defendant, under California law, was eligible for the death penalty. Barbar's defense attorney, while he didn't deny that his client had committed the homicides, argued that the killings had not been premeditated. According to the defense version of the case, when Michael confronted Maysam with the paternity test results, she had mocked him with a smirk. So enraged by the victim's smirk, Barbar snapped and killed his wife and the 6-year-old who was not his daughter. As a result, this was a crime of involuntary manslaughter. (Sometimes defense attorneys are paid to embarrass themselves. This is one of those cases.)

     Prosecutor John Aki offered the jury of seven women and five men a wealth of evidence that showed the defendant's preparation and planning for the murders. He had acquired a set of fake identification, rented a car, researched flight schedules between Mexico and Lebanon, and had withdrawn $30,000 from his bank account. On July 13, 2012, after only three hours of deliberation, the jury found the 54-year-old defendant guilty of two counts of first-degree murder.

     On July 30, the penalty phase of the trial before the same jury got underway. For Michael Barbar, the two possible outcomes involved life without parole, and state imposed death. On August 10, 2012, the jury recommended that Judge Edward Weber sentence Michael Barbar to death.

     Crime scene investigators, on the morning after the murders, had found, among Michael Barbar's possessions, a copy of Truman Capote's nonfiction novel, In Cold Blood. In that book, the two men who murdered a Kansas farm family in 1959 were hanged. Barbar would not end up dangling at the end of a rope. Because the authorities in California do not execute anyone, Mr. Barbar will avoid the death penalty altogether.
        

"Linkage Blindness" in Serial Killer Investigations

     Law enforcement investigators do not see, are prevented from seeing, or make little attempt to see beyond their own jurisdictional responsibilities. The law enforcement officer's responsibility stops at the boundary of his or her jurisdiction. The exception is generally only when hot pursuit is necessary. The vary nature of local law enforcement in this country and a police department's accountability and responsiveness to its jurisdictional clients isolates the department from the outside world.

     The National Crime Information Center [NCIC] provides officers with access to other agencies indirectly, to obtain information on wanted persons and stolen property. However, the sharing of information on unsolved crimes and investigative leads is not a function of this extensive nationwide information system. Reciprocal relationships between homicide investigators are at best informal and usually within a relatively limited geographical areas.

     Linkage blindness exemplifies the major weakness of our structural defenses against crime and our ability to control it. Simply stated, the exchange of investigative information among police departments in this country is, at best, very poor. Linkage blindness is the nearly total lack of sharing or coordinating of investigative information and the lack of adequate networking by law enforcement agencies. This lack of sharing or networking is prevalent today with law enforcement officers and their agencies. Thus linkages are rarely established among geographic area of the country between similar crime patterns or modus operandi. Such a condition directly inhibits an early warning or detection system of the serial murderer preying on multiple victims. [Today there is a national databank designed to help in the identification and investigation of serial murder. But many police departments don't bother contributing information to the computerized repository. Moreover, within federal law enforcement, there is still little coordination and cooperation between agencies.]

Steven A. Egger, The Killers Among Us, 1996

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Dr.Thomas Woodrow Price: A Headmaster's Double Life

     In 2007, Dr. Thomas Woodrow Price, known to his friends as "Woody," became the headmaster of the Branson School, a private college preparatory institution in California's upscale Marin County in the San Francisco bay area. Students of the school--320 of them--paid an annual tuition of $39,475.

     The 54-year-old headmaster and his wife resided in the suburban community of Ross. Price's wife was the principal of the Prospect Sierra School, a private preparatory institution in El Cerrito, California. Price and his wife exemplified the upper middle class rewards of higher education and ambition. They were highly respected members of their affluent community.

     Thomas Price had earned a master's degree in education administration from Columbia University in New York City. He went on to acquire a doctorate in education leadership from the University of Pennsylvania, another Ivy League school. Before moving to Marin County, California he held administrative positions at the Newman School in New Orleans and the Abington Friends School in Philadelphia.

     On the evening of Friday October 3, 2014, deputies with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office responded to a 911 call from a young man who said his 21-year-old girlfriend was holed up in a hotel room doing drugs with an older man. The 911 caller identified his girlfriend as Brittany Hall and said that she and the man were staying at the Hyatt Place off Highway 50 in Rancho Cordova, a suburban community 15 miles east of Sacramento. The hotel was located about 100 miles from Dr. Price's home in Ross, California.

     When Dr. Price answered his hotel room door, he came face-to-face with two sheriff's deputies who asked about Brittany Hall. From the hallway outside of the single room, the officers saw a young blond woman lying on the bed. They shouted her name but she didn't respond. The deputies pushed past the headmaster into the room where they revived the young woman who was obviously under the influence of narcotics.

     The hotel room looked like what one of the officers described as a "den of drug activity." Deputies seized, among drug paraphernalia, quantities of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and prescription pills. The man who had rented the hotel room identified himself as Dr. Thomas Price, the head of a prestigious prep school in Marin County.

     Officers booked Brittany Hall, a resident of Elk Grove, California, into the Sacramento County Jail on charges of drug possession with the intent to distribute. Dr. Price was booked on the same charges. The next day the headmaster posted his $75,000 bond and was released. Brittany Hall spent the weekend behind bars before she was bailed out of custody.

     Shortly after his arrest, Dr. Price resigned from the Branson School. Although he told investigators that Hall had been a casual hookup, evidence surfaced that he had been involved with her for up to two years. At any rate, it became obvious that Dr. Thomas Price had, for some time, been living a double life.

     On April 2, 2015, Dr. Price pleaded no contest to a pair of misdemeanor drug possession charges in return for three years probation. Brittney Hall's case, as of September 2018, remained either unresolved or more likely unreported.

The Repressed Memory Debate

Something has gone wrong with therapy, and because that something has do do with memory, I find myself at the center of an increasingly bitter and fractious controversy. On the one side are the "True Believers" who insist that the mind is capable of repressing memories and who accept without reservation or question the authenticity of recovered memories. On the other side are the "Skeptics" who argue that the notion of repression is purely hypothetical and essentially untestable, based as it is on unsubstantiated speculation and anecdotes that are impossible to confirm or deny. Some skeptics are less circumspect, referring to repression as "psychomagic," "smoke and mirrors," or just plain "balderdash."

Dr. Elizabeth Loftus (and Katherine Ketcham), The Myth of Repressed Memory, 1994 [I think most social scientists in the field today side with the skeptics. In the criminal justice system, innocent people have gone to prison on the strength of what turned out to be bogus repressed memory testimony.

The Unreliability of Memory

     Think of your mind as a bowl filled with clear water. Now imagine each memory as a teaspoon of milk stirred into the water. Every adult mind holds thousands of these murky memories....Who among us would dare to disentangle the water from the milk?...Memories don't sit in once place, waiting patiently to be retrieved; they drift through the brain, more like clouds or vapor than something we can put our hands around....

     This view of memory has been a hard sell. Human beings feel attached to their remembered past, for the people, places and events we enshrine in memory give structure and definition to the person we think of as our "self." If we accept the fact that our memories are milky molecules, spilling into dream and imagination, then how can we pretend to know what is real and what is not? Who among us wants to believe that our grasp on reality is so provisional, that reality in fact is impenetrable and unfathomable because it is only what we remember, and what we remember is rarely the literal truth?

Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, The Myth of Repressed Memory, 1994

Killer Boobs: Criminal Suffocation by Breasts

     In April 2010, Claire Smedley from Blackpool, England told a British newspaper reporter that she had nearly killed her boyfriend with her size 40LL breasts. (While I know bullet calibers, I have no idea what 40LLs look like other than they are big.) With her boyfriend Steven's face buried in her super-bust, Claire misinterpreted his flailing for oxygen as sexual excitement. After barely escaping breast asphyxiation, Steven ended the relationship and vowed only to date flat-chested woman. (Just kidding.)

     In Germany, a lawyer named Tim Schmidt claimed that his girlfriend, a woman armed with a pair of 38DDs attempted to suffocate him by breast. Mr. Schmidt described his near-death experience to a German newspaper reporter: "I asked her why she wanted to smother me to death with her breasts. She told me: 'Pleasure--I wanted your death to be as pleasurable as possible.' " (Really? I can't image, as I'm fighting for my last breath, thinking, these babies are nice.)

     Ambulance personnel and Snohomish County sheriff's deputies, shortly after midnight on Saturday, January 12, 2013, responded to a 911 domestic disturbance call from a mobile home in the Airport Inn Trailer Park outside Everett, Washington. Residents Donna Lange and her boyfriend (who was not named) had been drinking alcohol and smoking pot all night with a man and two other women. The 51-year-old Lange and her boyfriend had gotten into a fight. The fight escalated and moved to the back of the trailer house. At some point, Lange allegedly threw the 5-foot, 7-inch, 175 pound man to the floor. The 5-foot, 6-inch, 195 pound Lange then climbed on top of the downed drunk and passed out. The victim lay trapped under her body with his face buried in her breasts. (I'm not making this up.)

     When the police and the medics stormed into the trailer, they found the boyfriend still lying on the floor. He was not breathing. In his hands were clumps of Lange's hair. CPR didn't help, and upon arrival at the Swedish Hospital in Edmonds, medical personnel pronounced the 50-year-old boyfriend dead. Cause of death: suffocation.

     Questioned at the hospital, Donna Lange told police officers that she had no knowledge how her boyfriend had died. A few days later, a Snohomish County prosecutor charged Donna Lange with second-degree manslaughter. (A lesser homicide charge involving an accidental death caused by reckless behavior, or during the commission of a crime that was not a felony.) If convicted, Lange could have been sentenced to a maximum five years in prison. (I can find no record that the prosecution went through with this case. I suppose the charges were dropped or Lange pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was fined or put on probation. Any update would be appreciated.)

     Just when you think there is nothing new in the world of deviant behavior or unnatural death, a case like this comes along. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Ronald J. Harris Murder Case: There's No Such Thing As An "Open And Shut" Case

     Over the past several years, places of worship have become places of sudden, violent death. A few preachers, a church organist, and a handful of congregants were murdered inside their churches. Most of these homicides occurred during religious services. Some of the killers belonged to the church while others were outsiders. All of these murderers were caught, and most were pathologically motivated.

     None of the church murders involved acts of terrorism. Notwithstanding these bizarre incidents, inside a church on Sunday or any other day was still one of the safest places to be. This was not true in many middle eastern countries as well as other places around the world where there is religious persecution and related terrorism.

The Killing of Pastor Ronald J. Harris

     Lake Charles, Louisiana is located in the southwest part of the state. At 8:30 Friday evening, September 27, 2013, 53-year-old Woodrow Karey, armed with a shotgun, walked into the Tabernacle of Praise Worship Center in Lake Charles. Pastor Ronald J. Harris was standing in front of the church preaching to sixty revival service congregants when Karey blew him off his feet with a blast from his shotgun. As the preacher lay bleeding on the church floor, Karey stood over him and fired a second shot into his head, killing Reverend Harris instantly.

     As congregants, including the pastor's wife, mother and daughter scrambled for cover, Woodrow Karey walked out of the church. Shortly thereafter, the shooter called 911. Karey identified himself, and informed the dispatcher of what he had just done. Kerey said he wanted to turn himself in, and informed the 911 dispatcher where the police could find him.

     In a matter of minutes after Woodrow Karey's 911 call, deputies with the Calcasieu Parrish Sheriff's Office took him into custody without incident. Before being hauled off to jail, the shooter took the officers to a wooded area where he had hidden a .22-caliber pistol and a shotgun.

     Detectives believed that Karey had shot Ronald Harris because the pastor and Karey's wife Janet had been having an affair.

     A parish prosecutor initially changed Woodrow Karey with second-degree murder. He was held on $1 million bond at the Calacasieu Corrections Center. According to reports, Mr. Karey did not have a criminal record. The authorities did not reveal if he had a history of mental illness or some kind of grievance against the pastor or the church.

     In December 2013, following  a plea agreement, a grand jury indicted Karey for the lesser offense of manslaughter. The judge reduced his bail to $500,000. In Louisiana, manslaughter carried a sentence of 10 to 40 years. The defendant's trial was scheduled for late 2014.

     In June 2014, a second grand jury indicted Karey for the more serious homicide of second-degree murder. However, in January 2015, Calcasieu Parish Judge Clayton Davis, on the grounds the prosecution reneged on their promise only to pursue manslaughter in the case, threw out the second indictment.

     In June 2015, an appellate court reinstated the second-degree murder charge. The Kaey defense appealed that decision and on September 7, 2016, the Louisiana Supreme Court granted Karey a stay, further delaying the resolution of this so called "open and shut" case.

     Woodrow Karey finally went on trial in April 2018. Janet Karey took the stand for the defense and testified that Pastor Harris, over a period of 14 years, had repeatedly raped her. The defendant took the stand on his own behalf and said he had killed the minister after learning of what the victim had done to his wife.

     Following the closing arguments, the case went to the jury. After deliberating three hours, the jury stunned virtually everyone in the courtroom with the verdict of not guilty. After five years behind bars, Mr. Karey was a free man.

     Woodrow Karey had confessed to killing the pastor, and 40 to 50 people saw him do it. The not guilty verdict was particularly difficult for the victim's mother, wife and daughter who were in church that day and who had witnessed the killing.

Tiresome Political Memoirs

The memoir genre isn't helped by all the mandatory books that politicians turn out. These first-person tales of coming to the capital, of being made a better man by victory then defeat and a forced return home, have a standard narrative arc. These books also contain an agreed upon measure of falsification and their steady consumption may wipe out the market for serious political nonfiction.

Thomas Mallon, In Fact, 2001 

Should Registered Sex Offenders Have Access to Facebook? A Clash of Rights

     Constitutional law in America could be described as an ongoing struggle between the interests of society and the rights of individuals and groups. In this battle, most citizens, unless their individual rights are threatened, come down in favor of the government. This is particularly true when the individuals complaining about their rights being violated are convicted sex offenders.

     The Indiana legislature, in 2008, passed a bill barring most registered sex offenders in the state from using social networking sites that allow access to youngsters under eighteen. The law, passed without a single opposing vote in the state house and senate, and signed by Governor Mitch Daniels, made it a crime for registered sex offenders to access Facebook and sites like it.

     While the vast majority of Indiana's citizens embraced the new legislation, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a class-action suit on behalf of the state's registered sex offenders challenging the constitutionality of the law. According to the ACLU, the law violated its clients' First Amendment rights to free speech.

     In June 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt upheld the social networking ban as constitutional on the grounds the state has a strong interest in protecting children from pedophiles. Judge Pratt, in her opinion, described Internet sites like Facebook as "virtual playgrounds for sexual predators."

     The ACLU appealed the U.S. District Court ruling to the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. In January 2013, the three-judge panel handed down its decision. The Indiana law denying registered sex offenders the right to avail themselves of Facebook and the other networking sites violated their right to free speech.

     As a result of the federal appeals court decision, registered sex offenders in Indiana who have been found guilty of violating the 2008 law, can petition state courts to have their convictions vacated. If they don't, their convictions will stand.

     It's not surprising that the appeals court decision to strike down this law was extremely unpopular in Indiana. Very few people have sympathy for sex offenders, even after they have "paid for their crimes." That's because most of them re-offend. Once a sex offender, always a sex offender. (This is particularly true of serial rapists and pedophiles.)

     If alcoholics are prohibited from flying airplanes, why should convicted sex offenders be allowed to use Facebook to network with each other and prowl for victims? A lawyer for the ACLU would answer that question this way: citizens don't have a constitutional right to fly a plane. However, because I believe that child safety should trump this constitutional right of sex offenders, I do not agree with the circuit court's decision in this case.    

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Murder She Wrote: The Nancy Crampton Brophy Murder Case

     Sixty-three-year-old Daniel Brophy, a master gardener and expert on marine biology who also knew a lot about the growing of mushrooms, was the chief instructor at the Oregon Culinary Institute located in the Portland, Oregon neighborhood of Goose Hollow. Brophy and his 68-year-old wife of 27 years, Nancy Crampton Brophy, resided in nearby Beaverton, Oregon.

     Nancy Brophy was a self-published author of nine "romance suspense" novels featuring, according to the author's website, "pretty men and strong women." She promoted her fiction, available on Kindle, on her website. All of her male protagonists were Navy SEALS.

     At eight-thirty on Saturday, June 2, 2018, officers with the Portland Police Bureau responded to a 911 call regarding a man who had been found shot to death in the culinary school's kitchen area. The authorities identified the victim as Danial Brophy. He had been shot with a 9mm pistol.

     Other than perhaps a disgruntled culinary student, detectives didn't have a clue as to who had shot the instructor. Without an eyewitness, they didn't have much to go on.

     On Sunday, June 3, 2018, the day following Chef Brophy's homicide, Nancy Brophy wrote the following on her Facebook page: "For my Facebook friends and family, I have sad news to relate. My husband and best friend, Chef Dan Brophy was killed yesterday morning...I am struggling to make sense of this right now."

     The next day, Nancy Brophy attended a candlelight vigil for her dead husband that was held outside the Oregon Culinary Institute.

     By July 2018, detectives had started thinking about the possibility that Mr. Brophy had been killed by his wife. In November 2011, on her blog "See Jane Publish," Nancy Brophy had posted a 700-word essay entitled, "How to Murder Your Husband." Regarding her marriage to Daniel Brophy, she wrote: "My husband and I are both on our second (and final--trust me!) marriage. We vowed, prior to saying 'I do,' that we would not end in divorce. We did not, I should note, rule out a tragic drive-by shooting or a suspicious accident."

      In her murder essay, Brophy wrote that she and her husband had their "ups and downs but more good times than bad." The romance novelist also had plenty to say on the subject of murder: "I find it easier to wish people dead than to actually kill them...But the thing I know about murder is that every one of us have it in him/her when pushed far enough."

     In her treatise on how to commit murder, Brophy gave this advice to anyone contemplating criminal homicide: To get away with the crime, she said, do the killing yourself. She warned against hiring an assassin to do the job because when most hit men get caught they roll over on the mastermind to save their own necks. (Actually, this is not bad advice.)

     In Brophy's 2015 novel, The Wrong Cop, the female protagonist fantasizes about murdering her husband. In The Wrong Husband, also published in 2015, Brophy's female hero tries to flee an abuse marriage by faking her own death.

     On September 5, 2018, detectives with the Portland Police Bureau took Nancy Crampton Brophy into custody for killing her husband, Daniel. At her arraignment hearing, the prosecutor charged her with murder and the unlawful use of a weapon. (Presumably the 9mm pistol.) The defendant pleaded not guilty and the judge denied her bail. Officers booked the homicide widow into the Multnomah County Jail where she would await her trial.

     At the prosecutor's request, the judge sealed the probable cause affidavit in support of Nancy Brophy's arrest. As a result, exactly what evidence the authorities had connecting her to her husband's murder remained a mystery.  (This suggests to me that detectives were investigating the possibility of an accomplice in the case.)

     

Raymond Roth: A Scam Artist Who Faked His Death

     On July 28, 2012, Jonathan Roth reported his 48-year-old father, Raymond Roth, missing. Raymond, his wife Evana, and their 22-year-old son lived on Long Island in Massapequa, New York. According to Jonathan, his father, while swimming off Nassau County's Jones Beach, had been swept out into the Atlantic Ocean.

     As officers from the U. S. Coast Guard and various law enforcement agencies searched for Raymond Roth, he was relaxing in Orlando, Florida at his timeshare condo. A couple of days into the search for Raymond's body, his 43-year-old wife Evana came across emails between her missing husband and their son that laid out their plan to defraud the life insurance company of $410,000.

     According the scheme, Evana would receive the life insurance payout, and Raymond would start a new life in Florida. Evana Roth, not a party to the fraud, called the Nassau County Police.

     On August 2, 2012, Raymond was driving back to New York. He had agreed to meet with law enforcement authorities in Massapequa. In Santee, South Carolina, a police officer pulled him over for driving 90 mph. After Roth failed to show up for his meeting with the authorities in Nassau County, a prosecutor charged him with insurance fraud, conspiracy, and filing a false report.

     Police officers, on August 6, 2012, took Raymond Roth and his son into custody. Both men made bail, and entered not guilty pleas to the criminal charges.

     On March 22, 2013, Raymond Roth and a Nassau County prosecutor agreed on a plea deal. In return for his guilty plea, the judge, on May 21, 2013, sentenced him to 90 days in jail and five years of probation. If Roth didn't pay $27,000 in restitution to the U. S. Coast Guard, and $9,000 to the Nassau Police Department, the judge would incarcerate him up to four years.

     Jonathan Roth pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation.

     People who fake their own deaths as a method of defrauding an insurance company rarely succeed. The most common technique in crimes like this involves staging phony drownings. Whenever a heavily insured person goes swimming or boating and doesn't come back, and the body is not recovered, alarm bells go of in the insurance company's office. In a world in which we are under constant video and computer surveillance, it's hard for insurance scam artists to remain dead very long.

     Shortly after pleading guilty to insurance fraud, Raymond Roth was in trouble again with the law. In Freeport, New York, he identified himself to a woman as a police officer and ordered her into his van. She fled into a nearby store and called the police. Instead of jail, the authorities took Roth to a psychiatric ward where he tried to commit suicide. A local prosecutor charged him with criminal impersonation and attempted kidnapping.

     In April 2014, Raymond Roth pleaded guilty to impersonation of a police officer and attempted unlawful imprisonment. The judge sentenced him to two to seven years in prison.

The Michelle Boyer Double Murder-Suicide Case

     In 2014, 40-year-old Jonathan Masin, an employee of Texas Instruments, broke up with Michaelle Boyer, a fellow employee at the massive corporation. Three years earlier, Boyer and her husband, Charles Hobbs, were divorced. The 45-year-old Boyer lived in a house in Dallas not far from her ex-husband's place.

     Jonathan Masin, a resident of Murphy, a quiet suburban community northeast of Dallas, had left Boyer for a 38-year-old woman named Amy Picchiotti. Amy, a physical trainer, had left Larry Picchiotti, her husband of seven years, in March 2014. Amy, the mother of two young girls, moved in with Masin.

     Michelle Boyer reacted with anger when Masin left her for another woman, a person she had considered a friend. She made her feelings known by sending her former boyfriend threatening emails and text messages.

     At eight in the morning of Saturday, May 10, 2014, Jonathan Masin's father, concerned about his son (for reasons that were not reported), called the local police department and requested a welfare check at his house in Murphy.

     Inside the dwelling, in separate rooms, officers found the bodies of Amy Picchiotti and Jonathan Masin. The partially clothed, barefooted couple had been shot to death with a handgun. Neighbors later told the police they had heard what might have been gunshots at 6:30 that morning.

     In Dallas, thirteen miles from the murder scene, police officers came upon Michelle Boyer's SUV parked on the street in front of her ex-husband's house. They found her slumped behind the wheel with a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. The suicide gun matched the caliber of the firearm used to murder Picchiotti and Masin.

     Inside the vehicle, officers recovered a suicide note that described the double murder in Murphy. According to one of Boyer's friends, she felt that Picchiotti had stolen Masin from her. The jilted woman felt betrayed and extremely angry. While the authorities did not release the text of the suicide note, the motive behind the double murder presumably involved revenge.

     The longtime Murphy city manager, James Fisher, told reporters there hadn't been a criminal homicide in this community as long as he could remember.  

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Linsey Attridge's Outrageous False Rape Report

     In 2008, Linsey and Gary Attridge were married in the central Scotland town of Grangemouth. The 26-year-old bride had grown up in Grangemouth where her mother worked as a seamstress and her father was a window cleaner. Linsey and her new husband, a financial advisor, honeymooned in Malta.

     Less than two years after the wedding, Linsey was unhappy with her marriage. In August 2010, after meeting kickboxing instructor Nick Smith online, Linsey and her daughter moved into the 32-year-old's house in the northern city of Aberdeen. By the summer of 2011, that relationship had fallen apart after Linsey confessed to having sex with one of Nick Smith's friends while Nick was in the house asleep. Although they were no longer a couple, Nick allowed Linsey and her daughter, to whom he had become a surrogate father, to continue living in his house.

     In August 2011, while browsing through Facebook pages, Linsey came across a photograph of 26-year-old Philip McDonald, a cook at a downtown Aberdeen cafe. He was pictured with his 14-year-old brother James. Philip lived outside of the city in a modest flat with his partner Kelly Fraser and their daughter. To Linsey, Philip and James McDonald were total strangers.

     A few days after stumbling across the Facebook photograph, Linsey Attridge, in a scheme to rekindle her relationship with Nick Smith, decided to falsely report that that Philip and James McDonald had broken into her house and brutally raped her. Before alerting the authorities, she staged the crime by overturning furniture, punching herself in the face, and ripping her clothing.

     Police officers who responded to the false rape report found a woman who looked and acted as though she had been beaten and sexually assaulted. She submitted herself to various physical examinations including tests for sexually transmitted diseases. In an act of extreme self-centered cruelty, LInsey Attridge identified Philip and James McDonald as her rapists. (Since they were total strangers, I don't know how Linsey explained knowing who her attackers were.)

     Two days after receiving the false crime report, police officers arrested the younger brother at his mother's house. James McDonald was a student at a residential school for teenagers with behavioral problems. (This made him an ideal rape suspect.) Less than a hour after taking James into custody, police officers walked into the cafe where Philip worked as a cook.

     On the worst day of Philip McDonald's life, the detectives who showed up at the cafe told Philip that he and his brother were the prime suspects in a brutal rape case. The officers asked the shocked and frightened young man to accompany them to the police station for questioning. In the police vehicle en route to police headquarters, the officers identified the victim and described the home invasion and crime. Philip broke down and cried. (The officers probably took this as a sign of guilt.)

     At the police station, detectives photographed, fingerprinted, and swabbed the rape suspect for DNA. During the five-hour interrogation, when a detective revealed exactly when the crime had taken place, Philip was relieved. While the two men were supposedly raping Linsey Attridge, Philip was at home putting his daughter to bed. Several members of his family were in the house with him that night. His relatives would vouch for his whereabouts at the time of the rape. He had an alibi.

     The detectives questioning Philip were not interested in his so-called alibi. Everyone had an alibi. Big deal. Philip didn't realize that police investigators, once they have a suspect in their cross-hairs, are extremely reluctant, even in the face of exonerating evidence, to change targets.

     Over the next two months Philip McDonald's life was a living hell. He couldn't be out in public without being harassed, and had to enroll his daughter in another school. By October 2011, Linsey Attridge's story began to unravel. When pressed by detectives who had finally become skeptical, she admitted that she had made the entire story up. She had done it in an effort to attract attention and sympathy from her estranged boyfriend, Nick Smith. In so doing, she had put Philip and his brother through hell, wasted police resources, and made the detectives look like monkeys. Cops hate people who lie to them about as much as they hate rapists.

     Shortly after Linsey Attridge's false report confession, a pair of detectives walked into the cafe to inform Philip that he was in the clear. That was it. Out of the blue he was accused of rape, and out of the blue he was told that his ordeal had ended. The cops left the restaurant without offering even an insincere apology. Like their counterparts in American, and probably throughout the world, police officers never say they are sorry. Why? Because they are not sorry.

     A local prosecutor charged Linsey Attridge with the crime of filing a false report. In June 2013, the defendant pleaded guilty to the charge in an Aberdeen courtroom. The judge shocked everyone by sentencing Attridge to 200 hours of community service and two years probation. Nick Smith, her former boyfriend, was in the courtroom that day. He told reporters outside the court house that he thought the judge's sentence was "ridiculous." He was right. 22

      

Looking Back at England's Child Sex Exploitation Scandal

     In Rotherham, a city of 250,000 in northern England, five men from the Pakistani community were convicted in 2010 of grooming teenage girls for rape. The victims were trafficked across northern England by crews made up of Asian men. The high-profile trials brought to light other child sex exploitation rings run by Pakistani men in the cities of Rochdale, Derby, and Oxford.

     English authorities, responding to public pressure in the wake of the trials and accusations, asked Alexis Jay, the former chief social worker for the Scottish government, to investigate the scandal and publish a report on the depth and scope of the criminal operation. She released her report on August 25, 2014.

     Ms. Jay and her investigators determined that from 1997 to 2013, 1,400 girls, some as young as eleven, were sexually assaulted in the massive criminal enterprise. They were gang-raped, beaten, and threatened. The author of the report wrote: "There were examples of children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told someone."

     How could so many girls be exploited, by so many men, for so long? According to Alexis Jay, "Police regarded these child victims with contempt." Moreover, a good number of these children were known to child protection agencies. Police chiefs, detectives, and council members chose to believe the sex was either consensual or the allegations of rape were false. These crime were, according to the report, "effectively suppressed."

     In some instances, parents who tried to rescue their children from the exploitation operators were themselves arrested. (Police bribery must have been rampant.) In the report, Alexis Jay wrote: "The collective failures of political and police leadership were blatant. From the beginning, there was growing evidence that child sexual abuse exploitation was a serious problem in Rotherham."

     Following the publication of Ms. Jay's shocking report, Roger Stone, the head of the Rotherham City Council resigned. Outraged parents and others called for the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire to step down as well. The commissioner told reporters he had no intention of resigning. No one else in the public sector has been held accountable for the scandal.

     Currently, authorities in northern England were investigating 32 other cases of child sexual exploitation by Pakistani men and their Asian accomplices. 

Thornton P. Knowles On Diversity

Even people in the same family are diverse. They don't look the same, think the same, behave the same, or believe in the same things. Family members argue a lot, fight among themselves, and once in a while even kill each other. So it shouldn't be surprising that religious and ethnic groups, as well as nation states, go to war with each other. Maybe the world would be a safer place if the family of man wasn't so diverse.

Thornton P. Knowles

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Julia Merfeld Murder-For-Hire Case

     Early in 2013, 27-year-old Jacob Merfeld and his wife Julia moved from Keyport, a small Monmouth County town in eastern New Jersey, to Muskegon, Michigan. While they settled into their Muskegon apartment, the couple's two children, a 4-year-old daughter and a boy who was two, were cared for by Jacob's parents in neighboring Wisconsin.

     There was nothing about Jacob Merfeld, a member of the U. S. Coast Guard, or his 21-year-old wife that seemed out of the ordinary. To the outside world they appeared to be a typical middle-class couple doing their best to raise their children and succeed in life.

     In late March 2013, Julia told co-worker Carlos Ramos that she wanted out of her marriage. She said that although her husband was a nice guy who treated her well, she had found someone else, a person she wanted to live with. While Ramos found this revelation mildly provocative, what came out of this woman's mouth next truly shocked him.

     Julia, over a period of several days, talked about how her husband's death would be so much better for her than a divorce and all that went with such a prolonged, complicated process. For one thing, a divorce would be embarrassing, and it would break Jacob's heart. So this was her plan: She would pay Carlos $50,000 out of Jacob's $400,000 life insurance policy if he murdered her husband. The money would be paid to the hit man in $10,000 installments.

     When this ordinary, unexceptional young wife and mother offered Carlos $50,000 to commit cold-blooded murder, he didn't take her seriously enough to notify the authorities. Carlos figured she was either joking or just blowing off steam. The cool, unemotional way Julia discussed having her husband dispatched by a contract killer made the whole proposition seem unreal.

     Carlos Ramos started to change his mind about Julia as she continued to talk about her murder-for-hire fantasy, and his role in it as the hit man. He eventually decided that she meant business, and that his best course of action involved notifying the Muskegon County Sheriff's Office about her deadly plan. He certainly had no intention of becoming a hired killer. The fact she even considered him a candidate for such an assignment boggled his mind, and convinced him there was something profoundly wrong with this woman. She spoke of murdering another human being the way one would speak of squashing a cockroach.

     On April 9 and 10, 2013, an undercover officer with the Muskegon County Sheriff's Office who posed as a hit man, met with Julia Merfeld in the officer's car in a Fruitport Township parking lot. With the hidden camera running, the murder-for-hire mastermind explained her reasons for such a drastic solution to a common problem: "It's not that we weren't getting along," she said. "But as terrible as it sounds, it was easier than divorcing him. You know, I don't have to worry about the judgment of my family. I don't have to worry about breaking his heart." (I'm sure if given the choice, Jacob Merfeld would say, "break my heart, please.")

     Julia instructed the phony hit man that she didn't want him to kill Jacob as part as a staged burglary that turned violent. Her reason for not wanting him to do that was self-serving: she didn't want to scare off the person she hoped would move into the apartment with her after Jacob's death. Besides, an inside killing would be, in her words, "messy."

     Julia said she hoped the hit man would do his job in such a way that wouldn't cause Jacob a lot of pain. She recommended the breaking of his neck. (This woman had obviously seen movies featuring trained killers adept at fatally snapping necks. In real life, breaking a person's neck is not an efficient or easy way to commit murder.) The undercover cop remarked that he usually killed people with guns and knives. Throughout the murder-for-hire conversation, the officer repeatedly told Julia that he was going to put two bullets in Jacob's "noggin." To that she repeatedly responded, "Okay."

     Julia informed the undercover officer that she did not want to know in advance when he planned to commit the murder. "It would be better if you surprised me," she said. "The more shocked I am when it happens, the better. I just want to make it as non-suspicious as possible."

     At one point during her two meetings with the sheriff's deputy, Julia asked, "What happens if you are caught?" The officer assured Julia that as long as he or an associate kept receiving the hit money installments, her name would be kept out of the investigation. (It's hard to image anyone stupid enough to believe that a captured hit man would not immediately roll over on the mastermind.)

     Toward the end of their second meeting on April 10, 2013, Julia handed the undercover officer $100 in upfront money to show that she was serious about having her husband murdered. She also gave the officer a floor-plan to the apartment, a photograph of  her husband, and written directions to the apartment complex where she hoped the hit man would kill Jacob as he walked out of the building. At this point, the man Julia thought was a contract killer, displayed his badge and placed her under arrest.

     A Muskegon County prosecutor charged Julia Charlene Merfeld with solicitation to commit murder. The local magistrate denied her bail.

     On June 27, 2013, faced with the certainty of a conviction based on the videotapes of her conversations with the undercover officer, Merfeld pleaded guilty to the solicitation charge. Three days later, as she stood before the sentencing judge, the defendant said, "I do not believe I'm above punishment. I know what I did was wrong and I take full responsibility. My tears are for remorse, not pity."

     Julia's husband, the man she tried to have murdered, also spoke at the sentencing hearing. Jacob Merfeld told Judge William C. Marietti that he had forgiven his wife because she was a "godly woman who did an ungodly thing." Jacob asked the judge not to send his wife to prison.

     Judge Marietti sentenced the murder-for-hire mastermind to six to twenty years behind bars, a light sentence given the circumstances of this case.

     

Freddie Lee Hall: Should Cold-Blooded Killers Be Spared The Death Penalty Simply Because They're Stupid?

     Throw a ball in any maximum security prison and it will bounce off a lot of stupid men. If these vicious rapists, thugs, and murderers were smart, they wouldn't be behind bars. Thank heavens so many criminals are dimwits. Moreover, it's not stupidity that makes a person violent. Most stupid people obey the law and wouldn't hurt a fly. So, just because a cold-blooded, sadistic killer has an IQ so low he can't get into community college is no reason to cut him a break when it comes time for the death penalty. Take Freddie Lee Hall.

     In February 1978, 33-year-old Freddie Lee Hall was out on parole in connection with a recent conviction for assault with intent to rape. Given his long history of violent crime, it's hard to believe he wasn't in prison. Hall and one of his criminal associates, on February 21, 1978, were in Leesburg, Florida looking for a car to steal for use in an armed robbery.

     That afternoon Hall and his accomplice spotted 21-year-old Karol Hurst coming out of the Pantry Pride Grocery Store. She was seven months pregnant. As Hurst walked toward her car the men accosted her and forced the terrified victim into Hall's vehicle.

     Hall drove off with the abducted woman in his car. The accomplice followed in the victim's vehicle. Hall drove Hurst to a wooded area where the two thugs raped and beat the victim savagely before, execution style, they shot her to death. To hide the body, Hall dragged the pregnant corpse deeper into the woods.

     That night, in the murdered woman's car, Hall and his friend drove to the convenience store in Hernando County they planned to hold up. As they sat in the parking lot waiting for the right moment to strike, a suspicious clerk inside the store called the sheriff's station. The sheriff's office happened to be across the street from where Hall and his accomplice were casing out the robbery.

     Deputy Lonnie Coburn pulled into the parking lot and confronted the suspicious men. After getting the drop on the deputy, Hall shot the officer to death with his own service revolver.

     A jury found Freddie Lee Hall guilty of two counts of first-degree murder on June 23, 1978. Jurors, by an eight to four vote, recommended the death penalty. The judge, four days later, sentenced Hall to death row.

     At Hall's sentencing hearing, his lawyers argued that their client was too stupid to execute. Hall had been classified by public school officials in the 1960s as "mentally retarded." Ten years before his death sentence, Hall had scored as low as 60 and as high as 80 on IQ tests. According to the American Psychiatric Association's Manual of Mental Disorders, an IQ of 70, plus or minus five points, represents the upper range of intellectual disability.

     Over the years, Hall's anti-capital punishment attorneys arranged to have him examined by a battery of psychiatrists and other medical practitioners who declared the death row inmate mentally disabled.

     In 2002, the United States Supreme Court barred states from executing "mentally disabled" prisoners. The high court left the determination of who is so afflicted to the states. In Florida, as measured by an IQ test, the threshold for concluding that an inmate is mentally disabled is a score below 70. (In Florida, people with IQs as high as 75 are classified as mentally disabled for purposes of state welfare.)

     On March 3, 2014, appellate attorneys appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Freddie Lee Hall. The death house lawyers, in challenging Florida's mental threshold for execution, argued that IQ tests alone were insufficient in establishing mental disability.

     Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out the brutality of Hall's crime, and noted that it had taken several steps for Hall to abduct then kill the pregnant woman. The killing of the police officer was certainly premeditated. Didn't the crime itself reflect sufficient mental capacity?

     On May 27, 2014, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that defendants whose IQ scores are near 70 should not be executed. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy noted that states should not "view a single factor as dispositive in determining intellectual disability." As a result of this high court decision, Freddie Lee Hall will live out his useless life on death row.
 
     If a criminal is smart enough to read, get a driver's license, plan a robbery, and make an effort not to get caught, he should be smart enough to execute. Implicit in this Supreme Court decision is the notion that somehow society is to blame for all the stupidity in this country.