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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Linsey Attridge's 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 Attridge 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 he was in the house asleep. Although they were no longer a couple, Nick Smith allowed Linsey and her daughter, to whom he had become a surrogate father, to remain in his house.

     In August 2011, while browsing through Facebook pages, Linsey Attridge 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 Attridge 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 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. 

     Two days after receiving the false crime report police officers arrested 14-year-old James McDonald at his mother's house. He was a student at a residential school for teenagers with behavioral problems. Less than an hour after taking James into custody police officers walked into the cafe where Philip McDonald worked as a cook.

     On the worst day of Philip McDonald's life, the detectives told him 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 Philip McDonald 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 a solid alibi.

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

     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 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 incompetent fools. 

     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 he had been cleared. The officers left the restaurant without even offering an insincere apology. Like their counterparts in America, and probably throughout the world, police officers rarely say they are sorry. Why? Because many of them are not sorry. The rest are afraid of being sued.

     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 her 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." By that he meant lenient. He was right. This woman should have been locked up for at least five years.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Best Crime Movies

 Fargo  (1996)

     Set in North Dakota and Minnesota, this dark comedy features a car salesman who arranges to have his wife kidnapped for ransom and a pregnant small town police chief who investigates a pair of related highway murders. Any film that has one killer stuffing another into a wood chipper can't be bad. This film works on all levels.

The Informant  (2009)

     A fact-based comic drama about a pathologically lying FBI whistle-blower in the mid-1990s Archer Daniels Midland lysine price-fixing conspiracy. The film is an adaptation of journalist Kurt Eiechenwald's 2000 book of the same name. Matt Damon, the whistle blowing company embezzler, is brilliant as a stiff from Indiana with a background in science who gets in over his head.

Insomnia  (1997)

     A psychological thriller set in a small Alaskan town near the Arctic Circle about a true crime novelist (Robin Williams) who murdered a high school girl, and the world-weary Los Angeles Detective (Al Pacino) out to arrest him. The exhausted cop (who can't sleep because the sun never sets), tries to cover-up the accidental shooting of his partner by switching ballistics evidence. A riveting small town tale set in a northern wilderness.
    
One Hour Photo  (2002)

     This tense leisurely paced psychological drama features a lonely and alienated box store camera film developer (Robin Williams) who develops a pathological fixation on a man, his wife and their boy who he thinks is the ideal American family. His disillusionment triggers an event that leads to his undoing. This film is more about mood and the bleakness of one man's life than it is about criminal violence.

Se7ven  (1995)

     A gritty detective yarn featuring a pair of homicide investigators (Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman) trying to identify and stop a serial killer whose victims have violated one of the seven sins of gluttony: envy, lust, pride, sloth, greed and wrath. In the end the young detective is faced with a sickening dilemma pertaining to the sin of envy. This film is graphic and brutal.

The Departed  (2006)

     Set in Boston, Massachusetts this film is about the rise and bloody fall of Irish crime boss Francis Costello (Jack Nicholson). The film features two state cops (Leonardo Di Caprio and Matt Damon), one corrupt and the other working undercover to identify him. Loosely based on the life of the real Boston mobster Whitey Bulger who, after years as a fugitive, was eventually arrested in California. A great film with a lot of big stars in big roles. (In 2018 Mr. Bulger was beaten to death by fellow inmates who considered him a rat for having been a FBI informant.)

Donnie Brasco  (1997)

     In the 1970s FBI agent Joe D. Pistone infiltrated the Bonanno crime family in New York City. The agent's (Johnny Depp) undercover stint led to the conviction of dozens of Mafia figures. The FBI pulled the agent, using the name Donnie Brasco, off the case just before his cover was blown. A realistic depiction of a crime family, its hierarchy and the type of people who become "made" men.

Goodfellas (1990)

     Unlike "The Godfather" that in some ways romanticized and glorified the Mafia of the 1940s and 50s, the wiseguys portrayed in Goodfellas are realistically portrayed as violent thugs in cheesy suits. The film is based on the true story of Henry Hill (Robert De Niro), the Irish hood from Brooklyn who masterminded the 1970s multi-million-dollar Air France heist at JFK. In the end, drugs, greed and recklessness bring down this crew of fascinating degenerates. An adaptation of Nicholas Pileggi's 1986 book Wiseguy.

Pulp Fiction  (1994)

     This Quentin Taratino Los Angeles noir classic features a pair of philosophizing hit men (John Travolta and Robert Jackson), a boxer (Bruce Willis) on the lamb because he didn't throw a fight and an underworld crime scene cleanup specialist (Harvey Keitel). The film, comprised of loosely connected episodes told in flashbacks and flashforwards, broke new ground in visual storytelling.

Dead Presidents  (1995)

     This loosely fact-based film is about a group of men returning to the Bronx after combat duty as Marines in Vietnam. The action comes to a head when an armored truck heist goes terribly wrong. The film transforms violence into choreographed art.

The Onion Field  (1979)

      This film adaptation of Joseph Wambaugh's 1973 nonfiction book of the same name (Wambaugh also wrote the screenplay) tells the story of the 1963 execution style murder of LAPD officer Ian Campbell. Gregory Ulas Powell and an accomplice abducted Campbell and his partner Karl Hettinger at gunpoint and drove them to an onion field near Bakersfield where Powell murdered Campbell. In 1972 Powell's death sentence was commuted to life. Powell, played in the movie by James Woods, never expressed remorse for the cold-blooded murder. Powell died in prison on August 12, 2012 from prostate cancer. The film, an indictment of the California criminal justice system, makes the time and effort to convict these two killers--endless defense motions, court delays, appeals and the like--a part of the story. Young movie goers today may find this classic film a little slow. 

Training Day  (2001)

     This police drama, covering a single day, follows the on-duty actions of a corrupt LA narcotics cop (Denzel Washington), his crew of dirty officers and a trainee (Ethan Hawk). In this film, except for the trainee who has traded in his uniform for plainclothes, you can't tell the good guys from the bad guys. An unflattering look at Los Angeles, the drug culture, and the cops.

The Firm  (1993)

     A young hotshot lawyer (Tom Cruise) realizes his prestigious Memphis law firm is corrupt and behind the murders of two former law partners. The young lawyer is caught between the FBI and his murderous employer. The film also stars Gene Hackman as the new attorney's legal mentor. A tense Sydney Pollack thriller.

Serpico  (1973)

     The true story of New York Police Officer Frank Serpico (Al Pacino) who blew the whistle on the culture of police corruption in the 1960s and 70s. Serpico's courage led to the Knapp Commission Hearings in 1971 and a series of  police reforms. Based on the nonfiction book of the same title by Peter Maas.

Ronin  (1998)

     An international crime thriller set in France about former special forces operatives and intelligent agents (Robert De Niro et. al.) whose mission involves stealing a mysterious package from a heavily guarded convoy. Some great car chase scenes.

Casino (1995)

     A Martin Scorsese film about the real life Las Vegas casino manager Frank Rosenthal (Robert De Niro) who ran three casinos in the 1970s and 80s. A gripping and vivid adaptation of Nicholas Pileggi's book of the same title, the film depicts Las Vegas during its gangster era. The movie also stars Sharon Stone as De Niro's out-of-control wife. Also starring Joe Pesci as an out-of-control gangster who, like De Niro, comes to a bad end. Both men had outlived their time as Las Vegas moved out of its gangster era.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Judge James L. Graham Child Pornography Sentencing Case

     In 2007, 67-year-old Richard Bistline lived with his ailing wife in Mount Vernon, a central Ohio town of 17,000 not far from Columbus, the state capital. In October of that year FBI agents went to his home, arrested him for possessing child pornography, then seized his home computer. A search of Bistline's computer revealed 305 images and 56 videos of eight to ten-year-old girls being raped by adult men. Mr.  Bistline had downloaded this material from an online program called "Limewire" which provided access to child pornography without a fee.

     Three years after his arrest Richard Bistline pleaded guilty in a Columbus U. S. District Court to one count of possessing child pornography. The sentencing guidelines for this federal offense, as established by Congress, consisted of a sentence of between 63 and 78 months in prison.

     Assistant United States Attorney Deborah A. Solove, in preparation for Bistline's sentencing hearing before federal judge James L. Graham, submitted a detailed memorandum outlining the government's argument for a sentence that fell within the established guidelines.

     Judge Graham, a 1986 Reagan appointee who was Bistline's age, opened the sentence hearing with statements that telegraphed his decision to be lenient with the child porn possessor. Noting that mere possession of this kind of material did not constitute a very serious offense, Judge Graham declared the federal sentencing guidelines for this crime "seriously flawed." The judge also stated that in determining who should go to prison and who shouldn't the age and health of the convicted person were important considerations. Judge Graham said that he was worried that Mr. Bistline, who over the past decade had suffered two strokes, would not receive adequate health care in prison. Moreover, if he sent this man away, who would care for his sick wife?

     Judge Graham shocked the federal prosecutor when he handed down his sentence of one night in the federal courthouse lockup. That was it. No prison time for a man caught in possession of images and videos of young girls being raped by adult men. Congress and its sentencing guidelines be damned.

     After prosecutor Deborah Solove objected to the sentence as being extremely lenient and outside the bounds of the guidelines, Judge Graham convened a second sentencing hearing two months later. At that hearing the judge simply added ten years of supervised release to his original sentence. Still no prison time for Mr. Bistline.

     Assistant United States Attorney Solove appealed Judge Graham's sentence to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on the grounds the district court judge had improperly rejected the federal sentencing guidelines in this case.

     In January 2012 the panel of three appellate judges handed down its decision. The federal appeals court justices held that a district court judge cannot, without a "compelling" reason, ignore sentencing guidelines created by the U. S. Congress. The justices ruled that in the Bistline case Judge Graham's personal belief that the guidelines were too harsh for the possession of child porn did not constitute a "compelling" reason for ignoring them.

     In justifying this decision, the appellate court laid out the following rationale: "Knowing possession of child pornography...is not a crime of inadvertence, of pop-up [computer] screens and viruses that can incriminate an innocent person. Possession of child pornography instead becomes a crime when a defendant knowingly acquires the images--in this case, affirmatively, deliberately, and repeatedly, hundreds of times over, in a period exceeding a year."

     The 6th Circuit justices noted that Mr. Bistline never expressed genuine remorse for his actions. In fact, the defendant said he didn't understand why the possession of child pornography was even a crime. (Bistline was also angry at FBI agents for seizing his illegally downloaded music along with the child pornography.)

     The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals justices ruled that Judge Graham's sentence "... did not remotely meet the criteria that Congress laid out. We vacate Bistline's sentence and remand his case for prompt imposition of one that does."

     In January 2013, at Bistline's third sentencing hearing, federal prosecutor Solove urged Judge Graham to sentence the defendant to five years in prison. Intent on keeping this man out of prison, Judge Graham sentenced him to three years of home confinement. This sentence was a far cry from the recommended sentence of 63 to 78 months behind bars.

     If Judge Graham believed that the federal sentencing guideline for the possession of child pornography was too harsh, he should have run for Congress on pro-child pornography platform. Otherwise, as a judge, he should have followed the law.
     As of 2023, 84-year-old James L. Graham was still a federal district judge in central Ohio. 

Monday, November 27, 2023

Don't Bring Your Guns to Gonzaga

     In the fall of 2013 Gonzaga University students Erik Fagan and Daniel McIntosh resided in a university owned off-campus apartment complex in Spokane, Washington. The seniors at this Jesuit institution were good students who had never been in trouble with the law or the school. But thanks to an uninvited and unwelcome visit to their apartment by a total stranger that all changed.

     On the night of October 24, 2013 John M. Taylor, a 29-year-old man with six felony convictions that included drug possession, unlawful imprisonment and riot with a deadly weapon, knocked on roommates' apartment door. When Erik Fagan answered the knock he encountered a black man who boldly asked for $15. Not feeling comfortable giving a stranger money simply because he asked for it, Fagan offered Taylor canned food and a blanket.

     Rather than accept the gifts and walk away, Taylor entered the apartment and demanded the money. At this point, with an intruder in the dwelling who wanted cash, Erik called out for Daniel McIntosh.

     Fagan's roommate entered the room carrying a loaded 10 mm Glock pistol. The sight of the firearm was enough to prompt the intruder's prompt retreat from the apartment.

     While running a potential robber out of their apartment by exhibiting a gun was the right thing to do, reporting the incident to the campus police department turned out to be a mistake.

     The roommates were visited that night by officers with the Spokane Police Department accompanied by Gonzaga security personnel. After receiving a description of the intruder police officers took John Taylor in for questioning a short time later.

     If Fagan and McIntosh thought they had acted responsibly and could move on they were wrong. Gonzaga administrators, now aware that two of their off-campus students were living under the same roof with a firearm, were horrified. Possessing that weapon violated the school's zero-tolerant policy of no guns on campus owned property.

     Rather than wait for daybreak, several campus police officers, at two that morning, rousted Fagan and McIntosh out of bed.

     Gonzaga officers not only confiscated Daniel McIntosh's pistol, they seized Erik Fagan's shotgun.

     McIntosh's firearm had been given to him by his grandfather. The student, in complying with the law, had acquired a state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon. Fagan possessed the shotgun because he liked to hunt.

     On November 8, 2013 a panel of university personnel at a disciplinary hearing found Fagan and McIntosh guilty of possessing guns on school property and putting others in danger.

     The guilty students, due to public outrage over the university's handling of this case, were placed on probation. The boys probably would have been expelled.
     As for John Taylor, he was not charged. In the weird world of academia, John Taylor, the criminal, was considered the victim.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

The Joseph Oberhansley Murder Case

     On Wednesday night September 10, 2014, Tammy Jo Blanton, following an argument with her boyfriend Joseph Oberhansley, threw him and his belongings out of her house. A few hours later Blanton's father changed the locks on her Jeffersonville, Indiana dwelling.

     The next day at three in the morning Tammy Blanton called 911. Her 33-year-old ex-boyfriend had returned and was trying to break into her house by kicking in the back door. Police in the southern Indiana town confronted Oberhansley at the Locus Street residence.

     Instead of taking Joseph Oberhansley into custody for attempted burglary and threats, officers ordered him off the property and told him to stay away from his former girlfriend. Oberhansley, just before he drove off in his 2002 Chevrolet Blazer, complained to the officers that the police aways favored the woman in domestic disputes.

     From his 46-year-old ex-girlfriend's home, Oberhansley drove to his mother's place. He got her out of bed and complained about his mistreatment at the hands of Tammy Blanton and the police officers his ex-girlfriend had summoned. He left his mother's home at three-thirty that morning.

     The Jeffersonville police must have known that Joseph A. Oberhansley was an unstable and dangerous man. In 1998, outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, shortly after Sabrina Elder, Oberhansley's 17-year-old girlfriend gave birth to their child, he shot her to death. He shot the victim's mother in the back and in the arm when she tried to protect her daughter. The mother survived her wounds.

     After shooting his girlfriend and her mother Joseph Oberhansley put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. The bullet entered his frontal lobe and damaged his brain. A year later he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sent to prison. He got out of prison in 2012 after spending eleven years behind bars.

     In March 2013, after putting a man into a chokehold and fighting the Jeffersonville police when they broke up the fight, a Clark County prosecutor charged Oberhansley with assault and resisting arrest. He posted his bail and was released from the county jail.

     In July 2014 Mr. Oberhansley led Jeffersonville police officers on a vehicle chase that ended up with his arrest in Louisville, Kentucky. Due to a bureaucratic screwup the judge set Oberhansley's bail at $500. Once again Oberhansley walked out of jail a free man.

     On Friday September 11, 2014 when Tammy Jo Blanton did not show up for work, the police, at ten o'clock that morning returned to her house. They were met at the door by Oberhansley who had a fresh cut across the knuckles of his right hand. Officers searching him found a bloody folding knife in his back pocket.

     Officers discovered Tammy Jo Blanton's body beneath a vinyl camping tent draped over the bathtub. She had been stabbed numerous times in the chest and head. Her killer had also slashed her throat. Her torso had been cut open and several of her internal organs were missing.

     Officers at the murder scene found a piece of skull sitting on a bloody dinner plate. A kitchen skillet contained traces of blood as did the handle to a pair of tongs. Searchers found hunks of human flesh in the victim's garbage can.

     Confronted with this physical evidence of horrific violence, Joseph Oberhansley confessed that he had stabbed and slashed his ex-girlfriend. He cut out her heart, her lungs and other internal organs that he claimed to have eaten. Some of the body parts he cooked, others he consumed raw.

      Charged with murder, abuse of corpse and breaking and entering, Mr. Oberhansley appeared before Clark County Judge Vickie Carmichael on September 15, 2014. At the arraignment hearing the defendant took back his confession. "Obviously you've got the wrong guy," he told the judge. Moreover, he claimed that he was not Joseph Oberhansley but a man named Zeus Brown. The suspect also asserted that he didn't know how old he was or if he were a U.S. citizen. The judge denied him bail.

     To reporters after the arraignment, Clark County prosecutor Jeremy Mull said, "There's a motive and a reason behind Oberhansley's denial of guilt. There's no doubt in my mind he is responsible for Tammy Jo Blanton's murder."

     On March 8, 2017, Clark County Circuit Judge Vicki Carmichael, pursuant to a defense motion declaring the defendant mentally incompetent to stand trial, ordered additional psychiatric examinations of the accused killer. These examinations were to be conducted by mental health experts selected by the court, not by parties to the case. At the time Oberhansley was receiving psychiatric treatment at the Logansport State Hospital in Logansport, Indiania.

     In October 2017, after the testimony of three mental health experts, Judge Carmichael ruled that Oberhansley was unfit to stand trial. However, on August 9, 2018, after an Indiana state psychiatrist testified that the defendant was mentally competent, Judge Carmichael ruled that the murder trial could go forward. 
     On September 18, 2020, after six days of testimony the Clark County jury found Joseph Oberhansley guilty of murder and burglary. Judge Carmichael sentenced him to life in prison. 
     The criminal justice system had failed to protect Tammy Jo Blanton.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Joseph McGuinniss And The Jeffrey MacDonald Murder Case

     Joe McGuinniss was born in Manhattan, New York on December 9, 1942. Raised by well-to-do parents in New York City and Los Angeles, he graduated in 1964 from Holly Cross University in Worcester, Massachusetts. After failing to get into Columbia University's graduate school of journalism, McGinniss became a staff reporter for the Worcester Telegram. 

     Following stints at The Philadelphia Bulletin and The Philadelphia Inquirer, McGuinniss published his first book in 1968. The Selling of the President, a nonfiction account of the marketing of presidential candidate Richard Nixon, became a bestseller and remained on The New York Times bestseller list for six months. That book established the 26-year-old author's reputation as a serious investigative journalist and landed him a job as writer-in-residence at the Los Angeles Harold Examiner.

The Jeffrey MacDonald Murder Case

     On February 17, 1970 Green Beret Captain and Army surgeon Jeffrey MacDonald reported a deadly invasion of his home at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. At the scene Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) officers found MacDonald's wife Colette and his two daughters, Kimberly and Kristen, stabbed to death. MacDonald himself had superficial puncture wounds. According to MacDonald he had struggled with the hippie intruders who had murdered his family.

     Following an internal military review of the case Captain MacDonald was cleared of wrongdoing. But in January 1975 a federal grand jury indicted him on three counts of first-degree murder. He vigorously maintained his innocence and stuck to his original version of the mass murder.

     At some point after MacDonald's indictment Joe McGuinniss entered the case as a journalist who intended to write a book exonerating the Green Beret officer. The writer acquired access into the inner circle of the MacDonald defense team by gaining MacDonald's trust as a loyal friend. In reality, the more McGuinniss learned about the case the more convinced he became of MacDonald's guilt. The true crime writer believed that MacDonald, a sociopath who wanted to be free of  his family, had murdered his wife and daughters in a homicidal frenzy aided by his abuse of diet pills.

     In 1979, when the jury found MacDonald guilty as charged, Mr. McGuinniss, to maintain his position within the MacDonald defense team, feigned shock and outrage. But when McGuinniss' book on the case, Fatal Vision, came out in 1983 it was Jeffery MacDonald and his supporters who were shocked and outraged by the author's duplicity. In the book the author made a strong case for MacDonald's guilt.

     Shortly after the publication of Fatal Vision, a book that quickly became a runaway bestseller, Jeffery MacDonald sued the true crime writer for beach of contract.

     When the first of its kind lawsuit went to trial several well-known true crime authors such as Joseph Wambaugh and Norman Mailer testified on McGuinniss' behalf as expert witnesses. According to Wambaugh and Mailer, McGinniss had done what any serious investigative journalist would do to get to the bottom of a case. In other words, a true crime writer has no duty to be honest with the person he's writing about. At the conclusion of the trial some jurors bought McGuinniss' defense but others did not. This led to a hung jury.

    The insurance company for the publisher of Fatal Vision, shocked and concerned that some of the jurors had sided with a man who had killed his wife and two children over the journalist who had written the book about the mass murder, settled the suit out of court for $325,000. In the court of public opinion Joseph McGuinniss did not come off as a likable person. Ordinary people did not approve of his journalistic trickery.

     In 1989 journalist Janet Malcolm wrote a long piece about the MacDonald-McGuinniss suit in The New Yorker. A year later the article came out as a book called The Journalist and the Murderer. Malcolm's defining of the journalist/subject relationship as inherently exploitive itself became a source of debate. Regarding the MacDonald/McGuinniss relationship Janet Malcolm famously wrote: "Every journalist who is not too stupid or full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible."

     Jerry Allen Potter and Fred Bott published a book called Fatal Justice that argued for MacDonald's innocence. According to these authors, McGuinniss's book is full of substantive errors and groundless speculation.

     Regardless of one's take on the MacDonald's guilt or innocence, Fatal Vision is an exceptionally well written account of a fascinating murder case. It also popularized the concept of the sociopathic killer who appears normal on the outside but in reality is a pathologically narcissistic liar without feelings of guilt.

     Joe McGuinniss followed Fatal Vision with two bestselling true crime books. Blind Faith, published in 1989 is about a New Jersey man who hired a hit man to murder his wife, and Cruel Doubt, published in 1991, features teenage murderers inspired by the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons.

     The method McGuinniss used to research his 2011 book The Rogue, a biography of Sarah Palin, also stirred controversy. In 2010 he rented a house in Wasilla, Alaska next door to the former vice presidential candidate. Critics called McGuinniss a peeping Tom and Palin accused him of stalking her and her family. The book, failing to break new ground about a person the public had lost interest in did not make the bestseller list.

     On March 10, 2014 Joe McGuinniss died in a Worcester, Massachusetts hospital from prostate cancer. At his death at age 71 he was living in Pelham with his second wife Nancy Doherty. He was survived by three children.

     Fatal Vision is considered by many to be a true crime classic equal to Joseph Wambaugh's Onion Field, Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and Norman Mailer's Executioner's Song.

     In December 2018 the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the 75-year-old Jeffrey MacDonald his latest bid for a new trial.

     Jeffery MacDonald remains in prison and continues to maintain his innocence. 

Friday, November 24, 2023

Serial Killer Paul Dennis Reid

     In 1988 a judge in Texas sent a drifter named Paul Dennis Reid to prison for twenty years. Seven years later a parole board set the 27-year-old serial armed robber free. Reid left the state in 1995 for Nashville, Tennessee in hopes of becoming a country western star. Instead of performing at the Grand Ole Opry, Mr. Reid ended up washing dishes at a number of Shoney's restaurants in and around Nashville.

     On February 16, 1997, the day after the manager of a Shoney's fired him, Paul Dennis Reid walked into Captain D's restaurant in Nashville and shot, execution style, two employees. On March 23, 1997 he murdered three McDonald's workers in Hermitage, Tennessee. A month later Reid killed two Baskin-Robbins employees in nearby Clarksville.

     Police officers arrested Reid in June 1997 in Cheatham County, Tennessee. He was taken into custody while trying to kidnap one of his former Shoney's restaurant bosses.

     Convicted of seven first-degree murders in 1999, Paul Dennis Reid landed on death row at the Riverbend Maximum prison in Nashville. He claimed that the "military government" had him under constant surveillance and was the force behind his murder convictions. Reid said his trials had been "scripted" by the government.

     Immediately after the serial killer's convictions his team of lawyers began appealing his seven death sentences on the grounds he was too mentally ill to execute. By 2002 several execution dates had come and gone. It was around this time that Reid informed his attorneys to stop appealing his case. Arguing that the death row prisoner was not mentally competent, and therefore couldn't determine his own fate, his attorneys ignored his request.

     In 2003, to a newspaper reporter with Clarksville's Leaf-Chronicle, Reid said he had "sincere, profound empathy" for his victims' families. (I'm sure that made them feel better.) "I would say to them that if I have violated you or offended you in any manner, I plead for your forgiveness." 

     A pair of Tennessee courts in 2008 ruled that Mr. Reid was mentally sound enough to be executed. Four years later the state supreme court declared that Reid's attorneys could not continue to appeal against the condemned man's wishes. By now he had been on death fourteen years.

     At six o'clock on the evening of Friday, November 1, 2013, after being treated two weeks at a Nashville hospital for an undisclosed illness, Paul Dennis Reid died on his own. He was fifty-five years old.

     Doyle Brown, the father of one of Reid's victims at the McDonald's in Hermitage, said this to an Associated Press reporter who asked him how he felt about the death of the man who had murdered his daughter: "I'm glad he's dead. I wish it happened through the criminal justice system several years ago rather than him just getting sick and dying."

     Members of Reid's family, people who fought for years to keep him from being executed, mourned his death. They didn't view their relative as an evil cold-blooded serial killer but as a victim of severe mental illness.

     Since sane people can fake mental illness and crazy people can on occasion act perfectly normal, Mr. Reid's true nature will remain a mystery. However, since most mentally ill people are not violent, the fact that some are violent suggests that crazy people can also be evil. Mentally ill or not, Dennis Reid was evil. Therefore the legal effort to save his life was a waste of time and money. Attorneys should have better things to do. 

Thursday, November 23, 2023

The Anders Behring Breivik Mass Murder Case: The Insanity Defense in Norway Versus the United States

      The Anders Behring Breivik Mass Murder Case
     On July 21, 2011, 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik set off a bomb in Oslo, Norway that killed eight. Breivik, later that day, opened fire at a summer camp on Utoya Island, killing sixty-nine people, most of whom were children. Breivik's bombing and shooting spree also injured 151 in the city and on the island. The mass murderer surrendered without incident to a SWAT team that showed incredible restraint.

     After confessing to the bombing and shooting spree, Mr. Breivik told his interrogators that he was a commander of a resistance movement aiming to overthrow European governments and replace them with "patriotic" regimes that would deport Muslim immigrants.

     A pair of psychiatrists, on thirteen visits, spent 36 hours talking with Breivik. The doctors concluded that because Breivik was a paranoid schizophrenic he was not a proper candidate for conviction and imprisonment as a criminal. As a result, prosecutors decided not to try Breivik for mass murder. Instead, he would be adjudicated insane and sent to a mental institution for an indeterminate period.

      Under Norway's insanity defense doctrine, defendants who "lost touch with reality" are not considered criminals because their "crimes" are symptoms of the killer's mental illness. Breivik's victims, in other words, were killed by paranoid schizophrenia, not an evil, cold-blooded murderer.

     Norwegian critics of the decision not to try Breivik as a criminal defendant called attention to Breivik's extensive planning and gruesome efficiency in the slaughter of his helpless victims. In the opinion of the Swedish forensic psychiatrist Anders Forsman, Breivik carried out his murderous mission in a rational way. He was, in Forsman's words, an "efficient killing machine."

      In January 2012, under intense public pressure, the Oslo District Court ordered a second expert panel to evaluate Breivik's mental state at the time of the killings. In April 2012 the second psychiatric evaluation determined that Mr. Breivik possessed an antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. He was, in other words, not a psychotic who had lost touch with reality. 
     In August 2012, following Breivik's mass murder conviction, the judge sentenced him to 10 to 21 years in prison, Norway's maximum sentence. Had he been adjudicated insane the mass murderer could have been shut away in a mental institution for life.

     The Insanity Defense in the U.S.
    Had Anders Breivik embarked on his murderous rampage in the United States he'd have almost no chance of successfully raising the insanity defense. This is because in America most states operate under the M'Naghten Rule. Under this doctrine of legal insanity, a criminal defendant is not insane unless: "At the time of the commission of the act, the defendant was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it, that he did not know what he was doing was wrong." Popularly referred to as the "right/wrong test," a defense attorney has to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his client did not realize the act in question was wrong. Regardless of how mentally ill criminal defendants are, almost all of them know that what they are doing is wrong. In other words, in most states, merely because a criminal defendant has been diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic is not enough to support the insanity defense. For this reason very few defendants succeed in being found not guilty by reason of insanity. In the United States the law requires a degree of mental impairment that rarely exists in psychiatric medicine. 

     Serial killers like Ted Bundy are rarely found not guilty by reason of insanity. The Unabomber Ted Kaczinsky, diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, was convicted of murder in 1996 and sent to prison. 

     In the United States jurors are not comfortable with finding mentally ill serial killers and mass murderers not guilty for any reason. They don't completely trust the social scientific findings of psychiatrists who testify for the defense. And jurors don't want to replace the concept of good and evil with sane and insane. Serial killers and mass murderers, to jurors, while obviously mentally unbalanced, are still evil and dangerous people. In America, evil people who murder are going to be punished criminally. That doesn't mean, however, that they don't receive some psychiatric treatment (drugs) in prison. But it does mean, whether medically "rehabilitated" or not, they are never going to be free.

     John Hinckley Jr., the man who shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981, was found not guilty by reason of insanity. This is because he was tried in federal court which applies a less demanding standard of legal insanity. In 2016 Hinckley was released permanently from the mental institution so he could live with or near his mother in Williamsburg, Virginia. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

The Walmart Store From Hell

     After graduating from high school in 2008, 18-year-old John Crawford III joined the U.S. Marines. He was discharged shortly after he signed up when military doctors discovered that he suffered from a heart condition.

     In 2014 Mr. Crawford resided in Beavercreek, Ohio, a suburban community outside of Dayton in the western part of the state. On Tuesday evening August 5, 2014, the 23-year-old, his girlfriend Tasha Thomas and his two children from a previous relationship were shopping at the local Walmart to purchase, among other things, the ingredients to make S'mores for an upcoming family cookout.

     The trouble began as John Crawford stood in the sporting section of the store examining a Crossman MK-77 BB/pellet air rifle. A couple of Walmart shoppers saw Crawford holding the air gun in his left hand and called 911. One of the callers, Ronald Ritchie, reported that a man in the store had pointed the gun at two children and was trying to load the weapon.

     When approached by two Beavercreek police officers at 8:26 PM, Mr. Crawford was standing in an aisle away from the sporting section. He was accompanied by his children and on his cellphone talking to their mother, LeeCee Johnson. LeeCee heard her son inform the officers that the gun was not real.

     The police officers ordered Crawford to release the weapon and drop to the floor. As he turned toward them they shot him twice. His children looked on in horror as their father sank to the floor with two bullets in his body.

     A few hours later John Crawford died at a nearby hospital.

     In the panic and confusion immediately following the in-store shooting, Angela Williams, a 37-year-old nursery home worker with a heart condition, collapsed as she scrambled from the violence. Later that night she went into cardiac arrest and died.

     A few days after the fatal police-involved shooting, Beavercreek Police Chief Dennis Evers told reporters that the officers fired their guns when Mr. Crawford failed to obey their command to drop the air rifle.

      John Crawford was shot by officer Sean Williams and Sergeant David Darkow. Both officers were placed on paid administrative leave.

     While the authorities refused to release surveillance camera footage of the shooting to the media, members of the Crawford family and their attorney Michael Wright viewed the video. According to the attorney, the Walmart video revealed that the police officers did not give John Crawford the chance to comply with their orders before shooting him.

     In 2010, one of Mr. Crawford's shooters, officer Sean Williams, shot and killed Scott Brogli, a retired master sergeant with the U.S. Air Force. According to officer Williams and his partner, Brogli had charged them with with a knife while the officers were investigating the 45-year-old's drunken beating of his wife. A local grand jury reviewed the case and decided not to bring charges against officer Williams.

     Two weeks after the Crawford shooting Sergeant David Darkow went back on duty. Office Williams remained on leave.

     On September 7, 2014, The Guardian newspaper published a long article about the John Crawford shooting case. In that piece the reporter included quotes from 911 caller Ronald Ritchie who had changed a crucial component of his initial account of the incident. "At no point," Mr. Ritchie said, "did he [Crawford] shoulder the rifle and point it at somebody." Instead, Ronald Ritchie said Mr. Crawford had merely waved the gun around.

     In his 911 call, Ronald Ritchie told the dispatcher that the man with the gun was trying to load it. The emergency dispatcher, in relaying this information to the responding officers, reported that the Walmart man "just put bullets inside the gun." According to The Guardian the air rifle was not loaded.

     The dead man's father, John Crawford II, having viewed the Walmart surveillance footage, said this to The Guardian reporter: "You can clearly see people in the store walk past him, and they didn't think anything about it. Everybody was just kind of minding their own business. He wasn't acting in any type of way that would have been considered menacing. It was an execution, no doubt about it. It was flat-out murder. And when you see the surveillance camera footage, it will illustrate that."

     Attorney Michael Wright, in discussing the autopsy report with The Guardian reporter revealed that Dr. Robert Shott, the Montgomery County Deputy Coroner, told him that John Crawford had been hit in the back of his left arm just above the elbow. The second bullet entered the side of his torso left of his belly button. According to the attorney, the ballistics evidence supported the theory that when first shot, Mr. Crawford was not facing the officers.

     Montgomery County grand jurors, in 2015, decided not to indict either officer of negligent homicide or lesser offenses. Following this decision, the U.S. Department of Justice conducted an investigation into the shooting. In 2017 the DOJ announced that it was not seeking federal charges against the officers.
     On November 21, 2023 at eight-thirty in the evening, a gunman entered this same Beavercreek Walmart store and shot four people. The shooter (at this writing unidentified) turned the gun on himself, taking his own life. The victims were expected to survive their wounds.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

The Justin Harris Murder Case

     Justin Ross Harris, a 2012 graduate of the University of Alabama, lived in suburban Cobb County outside of Atlanta, Georgia with his wife Leanna and their 22-month-old son Cooper. On the morning of Wednesday, June 18, 2014, with the toddler strapped into his carseat in the back of his father's 2011 Hyundai Tucson, Justin Harris drove straight to the administrative offices of Home Depot where he worked. Instead of first dropping Cooper off at the boy's day school he left his son in the car.

     At noon that day, with the temperature in suburban Atlanta at 92 degrees, Mr. Harris ate lunch at a restaurant not far from Home Depot then returned to work. When he climbed into the sweltering vehicle at four o'clock the boy was still in the carseat.

     The boy's father drove to a nearby shopping center where, within hearing range of several people, he yelled, "Oh my God, what have I done? My God my son is dead!" Someone at the scene called 911.

     About an hour after responding to the shopping center parking lot, paramedics, unable to revive the boy, pronounced him dead. Officers with the Cobb County Police Department took Justin Harris into custody on suspicion of murder, felony-murder and cruelty to a child in the first degree.

     Following an interrogation at police headquarters, a Cobb County prosecutor formally charged Mr. Harris with the above three offenses. At his arraignment the suspect pleaded not guilty. The judge denied him bond.

     According to investigators, Justin Harris' wife Leanna said this to him at the police station following his interrogation: "Did you say too much?" Employees at Cooper's day school told police officers that when they called the boy's mother to inform her that he had not been delivered to class that morning she said, "Ross (Justin) must have left him in the car."

     Following a search of the suspect's dwelling and office detectives discovered that Justin and Leanna had conducted Internet searches on the subject of hot car death. One of their inquires read: "how long does it take for an animal to die in a hot car?" When confronted with this incriminating evidence Mr. Harris explained he had been fearful about his son dying inside a hot car. Detectives didn't buy the suspect's explanation.

     Leanna, in filling out a routine victim's statement form, in the place for the victim's name wrote "self" rather than Cooper Harris.

     Upon completion of the victim's autopsy the medical examiner ruled that the boy's cause of death was consistent with dying from heat inside of a vehicle. The forensic pathologist wrote that "investigative information suggests the manner of death as homicide."

     Shortly after police officers took Justin Harris into custody his family and friends established an online petition calling for the prosecutor to drop the felony-murder charge. According to the petition, Cooper Harris' death was "a horrible accident. The father loved his son immensely. They were loving parents who are devastated. Justin already has to live with a punishment worse than death." The Harris support group also created an online fundraising account for the suspect and his wife.

     On August 9, 2014 Leanna Harris' attorney, Lawrence Zimmerman, told reporters that he was concerned that the Cobb County District Attorney's Office would bring homicide and/or child cruelty charges against his client.

     As the January 2015 trial approached, Justin Harris' attorney, Maddox Kilgore, insisted that the child's death was a tragic accident and not an act of criminal homicide. The prosecutor, on the other hand, believed the death had been an intentional killing motivated by the suspect's desire to live a child-free life.

     From the Harris home detectives acquired 120 computer discs containing videos, photographs, cellphone records, emails and the contents of other material on the suspect's computer hard drives. From this data investigators learned that on the day of Cooper Harris' death Mr. Harris was exchanging sexually graphic texts with a minor girl and another woman. This evidence led to the additional charge of dissemination of pornography to a minor.

     On November 16, 2016, following a five-week trial featuring Leanna Harris as the defense's chief witness, a jury in Brunswick, Georgia found Justin Harris guilty of first-degree murder. Following the verdict, Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring told reporters that Harris, in killing his child, "had malice in his heart."

     On December 16, 2016, the judge sentenced the 36-year-old Harris to life in prison without the chance of parole. 

Monday, November 20, 2023

The Michael Marin Poison Pill Arson Case

     Former Wall Street trader Michael Marin lived alone in a $3.5 million 10,000 square-foot mansion in Biltmore Estates, a high-end neighborhood in Phoenix. The attorney and art collector who owned original Picasso sketches among other valuable paintings had scaled six of the world's seven tallest mountains. In May 2009 he had reached the summit of Mt. Everest. The 51-year-old had four grown children.

     While Michael Marin had been able to climb Mt. Everest he had not been able to climb out of debt. Besides falling behind in his Biltmore Estates mortgage, Mr. Marin couldn't keep up the $2,500-a-month payments on a second home and owned $34,000 in back taxes. He had amassed numerous other debts as well.

    During the early morning hours of July 5, 2009 flames broke out in Marin's Biltmore Estates mansion. Wearing scuba gear to protect himself from the smoke and toxic gases, Marin escaped through a second-story window of the burning house by climbing down an emergency rope ladder.

     The fire insurance pay-out to a policy holder who was in deep financial trouble raised suspicion that the blaze had been intentionally set and motivated by insurance fraud. Marin's convenient, well-prepared and bizarre escape from a dwelling engulfed in flames added to the suspicion he had torched the dwelling. (There aren't too many inhabitants in houses consumed by flames who escape down a rope ladder in scuba gear.) This financially-strapped man was either very lucky, extremely prepared for a fast-developing fire or an arsonist.

     After fire scene investigators found several points of origin and traces of accelerants at these separate fire starts, the arson investigators declared the fire incendiary. Since Michael Marin was the last person in the dwelling before the blaze and had a rather obvious motive for burning the place down, the Maricopa County prosecutor charged him with arson of an occupied structure, a felony that carried a 10 to 20 year sentence. When taken into custody in August 2009 the former high-roller and adventurer said he was "shocked" that anyone would accuse him of such a crime.

     On Thursday, June 28, 2012 a Maricopa County jury found the 53-year-old defendant guilty of arson. Just seconds after the verdict was read Michael Marin popped something into his mouth then took a swig from a sports bottle. His face turned red, he started to cough then convulsed and collapsed to the floor. Fire personnel who happened to be in the courtroom (it was an arson case) rushed him to a local hospital where he died a few hours later.

     The quickness of Marin's demise after putting something into his mouth led to speculation he took some kind of poison pill.

     On July 27, 2012 a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office revealed that Mr. Marin had lethal traces of cyanide in his system. Investigators had also found a suicide note Marin had written shortly before his death.

     In the annals of crime there is rarely anything new. It's all been done before. But Michael Marin's dispatching of himself with a poison pill like a captured cold war spy added a new line to the history of crime. 

Sunday, November 19, 2023

The Brittany Murphy Case

     In 2003, 26-year-old film actress Brittany Murphy purchased a house in West Hollywood that had been owned by Britney Spears. Four years later she married a British writer/director named Simon Monjack who moved into the multi-million dollar mansion.

     At eight o'clock Sunday morning on December 20, 2009 Brittany Murphy's mother Sharon called 911 to report that her daughter had collapsed in the shower. Paramedics found the 32-year-old actress unconscious. Two hours later at a nearby hospital Brittany Murphy died. 
     Shortly after her death Murphy's husband Simon Monjack told a People magazine reporter that Brittany had been suffering from laryngitis and flu-like symptoms. He said she had been taking antibiotics and was on herbal remedies that wouldn't speed up her heart. Monjack insisted there were no substances in the house at the time of her death that could have harmed her. "There was prescription medication in the house for her female time and some cough syrup. That was it," he said.
     In February 2010 the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office released Murphy's autopsy report that revealed she had died of "multiple drug intoxication, pneumonia and iron deficiency anemia." According to a toxicological analysis of her blood Murphy possessed elevated levels of hydrocodine, acetaminophen and chloropheniramine, ingredients commonly found in over-the-counter cold medications. 
     As a result of the autopsy and toxicological findings, Brittany Murphy's manner of death went into the books as natural, caused by a weakened state of health made worse by an accidental overdose of cold medications. According to the coroner, Brittany Murphy's death could have been prevented by a visit to her doctor. If the Los Angeles Coroner's Office's cause and manner of death determinations were correct, the young actress had contributed to her own demise. 
     In the months following the film star's death stories appeared in the tabloid press suggesting that she had died from anorexia or from an accidental drug overdose. Rumors were also circulating that she had committed suicide. 
     On May 23, 2010, six months after her death at nine thirty at night someone called 911 requesting medical assistance at the West Hollywood home still occupied by Simon Monjack. Emergency responders found the dead body of the 40-year-old once married to Brittany Murphy. He had been scheduled that fall for triple-bypass surgery. 
     According to the forensic pathologist who performed Mr. Monjack's autopsy at the Los Angeles Coroner's Office, he had died a natural death caused by pneumonia and anemia. The toxicology report showed he had been taking prescription medication. 
     In response to rumors of foul play in Murphy's and Monjack's deaths, assistant coroner Ed Winter told reporters that "at the time of their deaths both of them were in very poor health. I don't think they ate correctly or took care of themselves. They didn't seek medical attention."
     Brittany Murphy's father, a man named Angelo Bertolotti who had served three stretches in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta for various racketeering offenses, had never been a factor in Murphy's life. But after her death he became involved by filing a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Coroner's Office and the Los Angeles Police Department. 
     Bertolotti brought the legal action in an effort to force the coroner's office to test his daughter's hair for traces of heavy metal poisons. Bertolotti believed that additional toxicological testing would prove that she had not died from pneumonia, anemia and a lethal mix of cold medications. 
     The Los Angeles Coroner's Office defended its decision not to test Murphy's hair follicles for traces of heavy metal poison on the grounds there was no indication that she had died from arsenic poisoning. (Professional death investigators, rather than basing their conclusions on personal assumptions, apply forensic science to unravel the mystery of sudden unexplained deaths.) 
     In July 2012 a judge dismissed Angelo Bertolotti's lawsuit. However, as a consolation, Bertolotti acquired from the coroner's office samples of his daughter's hair, blood and tissue for independent toxicological testing. He promptly sent the samples to a private lab in Colorado for analysis. 
     The private laboratory, in November 2013, reported high levels of ten heavy metal poisons in Brittany Murphy's hair. According to the toxicological report her system contained, among other poisons, aluminum, manganese and barium, poisons found in rat poison, pesticides and insecticides. According to the private crime lab the presence of these toxic substances strongly suggested the possibility of a homicidal poisoning. 
     Armed with the private toxicological findings, Angelo Bertolotti demanded that the Los Angeles Police Department re-open its investigation into Brittany Murphy's death. He also wanted the Los Angeles Coroner's Office to change its manner and cause of death rulings to homicidal poisoning. 
     Speaking to reporters after the release of the private toxicological report, Mr. Bertolotti said, "Vicious rumors, spread by tabloids, unfairly smeared Brittany's reputation. My daughter was neither anorexic or a drug addict." 
     A few days after the new revelations in the case, Bertolotti appeared on the TV show "Good Morning America." He said, "I have a feeling that there was a definite murder situation here. It's poison, yes, I know that." Bertolotti pointed out that the Colorado forensic lab was an accredited facility that "cannot be ignored."
     Los Angeles Chief Coroner's investigator Craig R. Harvey, in response to the private laboratory's toxicological findings, said this to reporters: "The Los Angeles Coroner's Office has no plans to reopen our inquiry into the [Murphy] death. We stand by our original reports."

     In speaking to a reporter with Fox News on November 20, 2013, addiction specialist Dr. Damon Raskin said the private toxicology results made him suspicious of foul play. Moreover, "Other than lab error, there is no other good medical explanation for these abnormal levels of heavy metals. Therefore, some type of poisoning is clearly a possibility."

     Fox reporter Hollie McKay also questioned Dr. Shilpi Agarwal, a Los Angeles based physician who said it was extremely unlikely that Murphy had elevated levels of the heavy metals in her system without being given supplements or unintentionally ingesting them.

     Dr. Michael Baden, the famed forensic pathologist, had a different interpretation of the new toxicological findings. He said this to a Fox News reporter: "The grouping of heavy metals is more suggestive of hair product use--dyes, soaps, heat, etc. than of rat poison…When hair samples are stored for so long, the increased sensitivity of new chemical tests will pick up whatever was in the hair's container. Was the container tested?"
     On Tuesday May 26, 2020, the Investigation Discovery channel renewed interest in the case by airing a documentary called, "Brittany Murphy: An ID Mystery." HBO Max, in December 2021 aired a two part series on the case called, "What Happened to Brittany Murphy?" As of November 2023 Brittany Murphy's death remains officially un-investigated. 

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Forensic Science

     The principle role of the forensic scientist is to identify physical crime scene evidence by comparing it to known samples obtained either from a suspect's person or from an object such as a gun, shoe or burglar tool that this person possessed, wore or was associated with. Forensic science relies on the principle that criminals leave part of themselves at the scene of the crime. Evidence left at the site of a crime might include blood, semen, latent fingerprints, shoe impressions, bite marks, hair follicles and textile fibers. Moreover, the suspect will often inadvertently take something away from the crime scene. A criminal might, for example, leave the crime site carrying traces of the victim's blood and tissue under his fingernails.

     The theory that a criminal perpetrator leaves a part of himself at the scene of a crime and takes a piece of the crime site with him was postulated by Edmund Locard, who in 1911 in Lyon, France, established the world's first crime lab. Referred to as the Locard Exchange Principle, this idea, along with the need to reconstruct what took place at the site of a criminal act, is the basic rationale behind crime scene investigation. The term "associative evidence" describes traces of things that, pursuant to the Locard Exchange Principle, associates a person to the site of the offense.

     Simply put, forensic science involves the application of hard science and technology to the investigation of crime, the proof of guilt or innocence at a criminal trial and the resolution of factual issues in civil litigation. The most widely used components of forensic science are forensic chemistry, toxicology, biology, mineralogy, serology (bodily fluids), anthropology (bones), pathology (autopsies and cause and manner of death) and odontology (identification by teeth). The process of firearms identification, once called forensic ballistics, incorporates knowledge and science in a variety of fields including gun-smithing, ordnance, ballistics, chemistry, metallurgy, microscopy, photography and the forensic pathology of gunshot wounds. Latent fingerprint identification and forensic document examination--the identification of unknown handwriting and the analysis of paper, ink and printing instruments--are also within the forensic science field. Blood spatter interpretation and identification by human bite mark impressions, while often treated as forensic science, are not hard science and should not be considered as such.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Diane Staudte and the Power of Poison

     In 2012, 62-year-old Mark Staudte resided with his wife Diane and their four children in a modest neighborhood in Springfield, Missouri. The couple had met years earlier at a small Lutheran College in Kansas. While active in the church, Diane and Mark kept to themselves. A man with strong political opinions who regularly wrote letters to the editor, Mr. Staudte had not been good at holding down a steady job. He eventually stopped trying and devoted most of his time to family matters and playing in a band he formed called "Messing With Destiny."

     Mark Staudte's 51-year-old wife Diane played the organ at church and unlike her husband didn't have much to say. The couple's oldest child, 26-year-old Shaun, suffered from a mild form of autism. Sarah Staudte, 24, was having a hard time finding a job. Rachel Staudte, two years younger than her sister Sarah, was a dean's list student at Missouri State University. She played the flute at church. The youngest member of the family was an eleven-year-old girl.

     On April 8, 2012, Easter Sunday, Mark Stuadte died suddenly at home. To the emergency personnel who rushed to the house Diane explained that her husband hadn't been feeling well. He had recently experienced three seizures. When asked if her husband had a history of this she said he had not suffered seizures in the past.

     The Greene County Medical Examiner Dr. Douglas Anderson, without an autopsy or ordering toxicological tests, ruled Mark Staudte's manner of death as natural. The forensic pathologist did not identify specifically what had caused this man to die. Pursuant to Diane Staudte's instructions her husband's body was cremated. At his memorial service friends and family couldn't help noticing that Diane's demeanor bordered on jubilant.

     On September 2, 2012, almost five months after Mark Staudte's sudden and mysterious passing tragedy once again visited the Staudte house. This time it was Diane's oldest child Shaun who became ill and suddenly died at the age of 26. Once again Dr. Douglas Anderson, without the aid of an autopsy or toxicological tests, ruled his death as natural. The medical examiner did not, however, identify the disease that had taken the young man's life. Diane Staudte made sure that Shaun's body, like his father's, was consumed by fire. For a woman who, within a period of five months had lost her husband and her oldest child, Diane seemed unfazed by the unexpected deaths. Indeed, her spirits seemed to have been lifted.

     On the day after Shaun's passing the Springfield police received an anonymous tip from a man who said he was a friend of the Staudte family. According to the caller Mark and Shaun Staudte had been poisoned to death by Diane. The police did not act on this tip because, according to the medical examiner, both men had died natural deaths. Without a finding of homicide there was nothing to investigate.

     Sarah Staudte fell ill on June 10, 2013. Paramedics came to the house and rushed her to a nearby hospital. The next day as the 24-year-old fought for her life the Springfield police received a second anonymous tip in which the caller accused Diane Staudte of poisoning the third member of her family. This time the Springfield police sent a detective to the hospital to question doctors and nurses.

     According to hospital personnel who were caring for the young woman, her mother had visited the patient briefly during which time she joked around with the medical staff. One of the nurses informed the detective that Diane Staudte told hospital personnel that she wasn't going to let her daughter's illness ruin a Florida vacation she planned to take in the near future. A physician described Sarah's condition as "very suspicious." The doctor told the investigator that in his opinion she had been poisoned. Sarah Staudte returned home after a week in the hospital.

     On June 20, 2013, after being asked to appear at the Springfield Police Department for questioning, Diane Staudte, following a short interrogation, confessed to poisoning all three members of her family. Over a period of days before the deaths of her husband and son she had spiked their drinks with the sweet taste of antifreeze. Diane had poisoned her husband's Gatorade simply because she "hated" him. She had laced Shaun's Coke with the poison because she considered him "worse than a pest." Diane told her interrogators that she had poisoned her oldest daughter Sarah because the girl "would not get a job and had student loans that had to be paid." Diane insisted that in murdering Mark and Shaun and attempting to kill Sarah she had acted alone.

     When detectives questioned Rachel Staudte, the 22-year-old college student, she admitted that she had helped her mother commit the crimes. The two of them had used the Internet to research how to administer antifreeze as a poisoning agent.

     On June 21, 2013 a Greene County assistant prosecutor charged Diane and Rachel Staudte with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree assault. The judge denied both women bail.

     According to doctors, while Sarah Staudte survived her poisoning she would suffer the neurological effects of the antifreeze for the rest of her life. The eleven-year-old Staudte girl was living with relatives. With her father and brother dead, her mother and one of her sisters charged with murder and assault, and the other sister permanently disabled, this girl's family no longer existed. Such is the power of poison.

     In May 2015 Rachel Staudte pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree assault. She agreed to testify against her mother in the event her case went to trial. The judge sentenced the 25-year-old to two life prison terms plus twenty years. Under the terms of this sentence she wouldn't be eligible for parole until she served 42 years.

     On January 20, 2016 Diane Staudte pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder in the death of her husband and one count of first-degree assault in the poisoning of her daughter, Sarah. Pursuant to the plea deal she avoided the death penalty but would spend the rest of her life behind bars.

     In May 2016 ABC News acquired video tapes of the police interrogation of Diane Staudte and her daughter Rachel. As part of her confession, the mother said, "I'm not a perpetual killer. I'm just stupid. I regret doing it. I really do. I've screwed up everybody. I've screwed up my whole family."

Thursday, November 16, 2023

The Forsythia Owen Murder Case

     On September 25, 2002 19-year-old Forsythia Owen and her boyfriend of nine months got into an argument in the living room of her Denver Colorado apartment. Before the fight broke out she had impaired him by slipping a drug into his drink. In the course of the dispute Forsythia Owen grabbed a knife from the kitchen and stabbed her boyfriend in the chest.

     Paramedics rushed the victim to a nearby hospital where he survived his puncture wound. (I don't know who called 911.) Owen greeted police officers at the scene by saying, "I'm the one who stabbed him. Arrest me." And that's what the officers did.

     A local prosecutor charged Forsythia Owen with assault with a deadly weapon causing serious bodily harm. Pursuant to a plea deal the assistant district attorney allowed Owen to plead guilty to the lesser offense of felony assault. The prosecutor dropped charges related to Forsythia Owen's assault of police officers while she was in custody.

     In January 2003 the judge sentenced Forsythia Owen to four years probation.

     Owen, a serious abuser of cocaine, alcohol and methamphetamine, had been diagnosed as having a "mood disorder" and "attention-deficit/hyperactivity." Because of her substance abuse, psychiatrists were unable to determine the degree to which she may have been psychotic as well. 

     Ten months into her probation a drug treatment administrator kicked Forsythia Owen out of the program for "non-compliance" and "minimal progress" for continuing to use cocaine and meth. Rather than send her to prison, probation officials enrolled her in a Denver community corrections program. After refusing to cooperate with the social workers the judge, in December 2004, sent Owen to prison for three years. If they couldn't fix this woman the authorities could at least get her off the street.

     In 2013 the 30-year-old ex-felon lived in the Denver suburb of Englewood with her 12-year-old daughter. On Sunday morning, September 22, 2013, Englewood police officers responded to a 911 call concerning a badly beaten man lying in an alley. Officers found 42-year-old Denzel Rainey in the alley bleeding from a severe blunt force head wound and other injuries. Paramedics rushed Rainey to the Swedish Medical Center where he died a short time later.

     Mr. Rainey, a married man with three children struggled with alcohol abuse that led to his homelessness. He was attacked in the alley where he slept at night.

     According to the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy Mr. Rainey had a fractured skull, lacerated liver, broken arms, fractured left hand and six broken ribs. The medical examiner's office listed the cause of death as blunt force trauma. The manner of death: homicide.

     On Monday the day after the attack in the Englewood alley detectives spoke to a man who said that one of his neighbors, a woman named Forsythia Owen, had come to his house on Sunday with a story about a man who had inappropriately touched and abused her daughter. The man she accused was the homeless guy who had just been murdered in the alley.

     Later that day when questioned by detectives, Forsythia Owen admitted beating the man in the alley with a baseball bat. After confronting him about molesting her daughter she started swinging the bat. Advised of her Miranda rights Owen said, "I need a lawyer."

     An Arapahoe County prosecutor charged Forsythia Owen with first-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon causing serious bodily harm. A magistrate denied her bond after the police booked her into the Arapahoe County Detention Center.

     Denzel Rainey, other than having driving under the influence convictions and an arrest for marijuana possession, did not have a criminal record. Moreover, there was no information on record regarding accusations of sexual offenses. Mr. Rainey's widow, Lisa, told reporters that "I just don't know what caused her to do that to Denzel. If he did anything to provoke the attack I need to know the answers for closure for me and closure for my kids."

     In speaking to a correspondent with a Denver television affiliate, Lisa Rainey said, "I think Owen is covering for somebody and I want to know: what was the real reason why she did that to my husband. He doesn't deserve to be dead. He would never hurt a child."

     At a March 17, 2014 pre-trial hearing Forsythia Owen's attorney Joe Archembault pleaded her not guilty by reason of insanity. Judge Marilyn Antrim ordered the defendant to undergo psychiatric evaluation at the mental health Institute in Pueblo, Colorado.

     The Arapahoe County prosecutor dropped the first-degree murder charge against Owen to second-degree murder and added first-degree assault and the charge of tampering with evidence.

     The Forsythia Owen murder trial got underway on February 4, 2015. Ten days later the jury, having rejected the insanity defense, found the defendant guilty as charged.

     On May 9, 2015 Judge Marilyn Leonard Antrim sentenced the 32-year-old Owen to 38 years in prison.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

The Police Killing of David Hooks

     David Hooks, a respected and successful businessman lived with Teresa his wife of 25 years in an upper-middle class neighborhood in East Dublin, Georgia. Hooks' construction company did a lot of work on area military bases such as Hunter Army Airfield and Fort Stewart. This meant that Hooks had passed background investigations conducted by the Department of Homeland Security and the ATF.

     On September 22, 2014 a meth-addled burglar named Rodney Garrett broke into Mr. Hooks' pickup truck. The burglar then stole the family's Lincoln Aviator SUV. The next day Mr. Garrett surrendered to deputies with the Laurens County Sheriff's Office.

     Perhaps to curry favor with the police, Rodney Garrett told deputies that in Mr. Hooks' pickup he came across a bag that he opened hoping to find cash. Instead he found 20 grams of methamphetamine and a digital scale. Before searching Mr. Hooks' house for drugs officers knew they would need more than the word of a meth-addicted burglar and car thief to get a judge to sign off on a warrant. In an effort to bolster this unreliable evidence a deputy sheriff told the issuing magistrate that in 2009 another snitch said he had supplied David Hooks with meth and that Mr. Hooks had resold it.

     The local magistrate, based on the word of a meth-using thief in trouble with the law, and the six-year-old word of another snitch in another case that had gone nowhere, issued a warrant to search 
David Hooks' residence for methamphetamine. By no stretch of the imagination was this warrant based upon sufficient probable cause.

     To execute the Hooks drug warrant the sheriff, in typical drug enforcement overkill, deployed eight members of a SRT (Special Response Team) to raid the dwelling with officers armed with assault weapons and dressed in SWAT-like combat boots, helmets and flack-jackets.

     At eleven in the morning of September 24, 2014, just two days after Rodney Garrett broke into Hooks pickup truck and stole his SUV, Teresa Hooks, while on the second-floor of her house heard vehicles coming up the driveway. She looked out the window and saw several masked men with rifles advancing on the residence.

     Teresa Hooks ran downstairs into a first-floor bedroom where her husband was sleeping. She shook him awake and screamed, "the burglars are back!" Mr. Hooks jumped out of bed, grabbed his shotgun and walked out of the bedroom as members of the raiding party broke down his back door and stormed into the house. In the course of the home intrusion officers fired eighteen shots. Mr. Hooks did not discharge his weapon. At some point in the raid he was shot twice and died on the spot.

     According to the official police version of the fatal shooting of a man in his own home, Mr. Hooks came to the door armed with a shotgun. Officers reported that they had broken into the dwelling after knocking and announcing their presence. When Mr. Hooks refused to lower his weapon the officers had no choice but to shoot him dead. 

     A 44-hour search of the Hooks residence by deputy sheriffs and officers with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation failed to produce drugs or any other evidence of crime.

     On October 2, 2014 the Hooks family attorney, Mitch Shook, told reporters that the police had forced their way into the house without knocking or announcing themselves to execute a search warrant based upon bogus informant information. The attorney said Mr. David Hooks had been a respected businessman who had never used or sold drugs. The police, according to Mr. Shook, had no business raiding this house and killing this decent man.

     Attorney Shook on December 11, 2014 made a startling announcement: When the police shot Mr. Hooks in the back and in the back of the head he was lying face-down on the floor. The attorney said he had asked the FBI to launch an investigation into the case.

     In July 2015 a Laurens County grand jury declined to indict any officers in the David Hooks killing. According to a crime lab toxicology report David Hooks at the time of his death had methamphetamine in his system.

     The FBI decided not to launch an investigation into this SWAT related shooting death.  

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Mayor Bill deBlasio And The Politics of Murder

     A successful politician must do three things well: Raise a lot of money for himself and his family; lie convincingly to constituents; and avoid responsibility or blame for anything that could make him or her look like a political hack. High rates of crime make politicians look bad because to get elected, or re-elected, they promised to reduce it. The politician also hates the commission of a high-profile murder in his or her backyard. When that happens the politician seeks to find someone else to blame. This is the dirty politics of murder.

The Public Housing Elevator Murder Case

     At six in the evening on Sunday, June 1, 2014, 6-year-old Prince Joshua Avitto and his 7-year-old friend Mikayla Capers, residents of a Brooklyn, New York housing project complex called Boulevard Houses, were riding the building's elevator on their way to get some ice cream.

     When the elevator stopped at the lobby and the door opened a heavy-set black man wearing a gray shirt entered the elevator and stabbed the two children, dropped the bloody knife and fled the building. The Avitto boy, stabbed in the torso, lay unconscious and unresponsive. The girl, Mikayla, was stabbed in the chest and had cuts on her hands.

     At the Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center doctors pronounced Prince Avitto dead. His friend, in critical condition, was transferred to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for specialized surgery.

     Unfortunately for homicide detectives the elevator compartment was not equipped with a surveillance camera. Investigators were working off the theory that the man who stabbed the housing project children might be the same person who, on Friday May 30, 2014, had stabbed 18-year-old Tanaya Copeland to death. That homicide had been committed just a few blocks from the housing project. The unidentified perpetrator in the Tanaya Copeland case had left the murder knife at that crime scene as well.

     On Tuesday, June 3, 2014 New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio, appearing before reporters gathered at a press conference blamed the housing authority bureaucracy for failing to install surveillance cameras in the housing project elevators. The mayor specifically pointed his finger at his predecessor, Mayor Bloomberg.

     Since politicians create bureaucracy this criticism was rather ironic. Moreover, while surveillance video is an excellent investigative tool, the presence of a camera in the elevator would not have prevented the stabbings.

     On Wednesday, June 4, 2014, at eight o'clock in the evening, New York City detectives arrested 27-year-old Daniel St. Hubert as a suspect in the elevator stabbing case. According to a police spokesperson Mr. Hubert had a criminal history. He was on parole in connection with a domestic dispute assault conviction.

     Because Mayor deBlasio couldn't blame guns in this case he blamed the housing authority and the former mayor. Maybe he should have blamed himself as a big government politician who reveled in bureaucracy. Or better yet, he could have blamed the man with the knife.

     In the end the mayor did not blame the Avitto boy's death on failed mental health care or a dysfunctional criminal justice system. He and his supporters blamed his murder on "society." It was our fault.  

     In April 2018 a jury sitting in Brooklyn found St. Hubert guilty of murder and attempted murder. The judge sentenced him to 50 years to life. 
     Bill deBlasio is no longer mayor of New York and crime there is even worse. The politician who replaced Mr. deBlasio also promised to reduce crime in the city. As it turned out the new guy isn't any better than the hack he replaced. 

Monday, November 13, 2023

The Historic Rick Jackson Fingerprint Misidentification Case

     In 1997 detectives in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, a community outside of Philadelphia, arrested Rick Jackson shortly after Jackson's friend, Alvin Davis, was stabbed to death in Davis' apartment. In the interrogation room detectives showed Jackson a crime scene photograph of a bloody latent print found near the body. According to a pair of fingerprint examiners with the Upper Darby Police Department one of whom was also a police superintendent, that latent had been left at the scene by Mr. Jackson.

     Rick Jackson didn't deny that he had been in Davis' apartment but he denied killing him and said he was certain the bloody print wasn't his. Jackson was actually relieved when he realized that the police were basing their case on a misidentified print. He figured that once the police realized their mistake they would look elsewhere for a suspect.

     With Jackson so insistent that the bloody print wasn't his, Michael Malloy, his attorney, took the unique step of having it examined by outside experts Vernon McCloud and George Wynn. The retired FBI fingerprint examiners had 75 years of experience between them. Both men had been certified by the International Association of Identification (IAI). (Only a handful of the nation's fingerprint examiners have gone through the rigorous IAI certification process.) Wynn and McCloud, to their amazement, found that the bloody crime scene latent was not Rick Jackson's.

     The district attorney, confronted with a defense bolstered by a pair of prominent fingerprint experts who disagreed with the local examiners (who were not IAI certified) pushed forward with the trial anyway. In anticipation of the then unheard-of-situation of fingerprint examiners squaring off against each other in court, the district attorney brought in a fingerprint expert from another state to add quantity if not quality to the prosecution's case.

     In 1998 the Jackson case went to trial and the jury, despite the conflicting fingerprint testimony, found Jackson guilty of first-degree murder. The judge sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

     Vernon McCloud and George Wynn were so concerned about the fingerprint misidentification in the Jackson case they asked the IAI to gather a group of experts to review the evidence. When the IAI panel agreed that the crime scene latent was not the convicted man's, the district attorney began to doubt his own experts and sent a photograph of the bloody print to the FBI Lab for analysis. The examiners in Quantico, Virginia agreed with McCloud and Wynn and the IAI panel. Rick Jackson had been sent to prison on the strength of a misidentified crime scene latent.

     In December 1999, after Rick Jackson had spent two years behind bars, his conviction was set aside and he was set free. The out-of-state fingerprint examiner who testified at the trial was fired, but the Upper Darby examiners were not disciplined or prohibited from future fingerprint work. Moreover, they would continue to insist that they had been right and all the experts were wrong. In 200l Rick Jackson filed a civil suit against the examiners and the Upper Darby Police Department. He lost the case.

     The Jackson case is historic because it is one of the first cases in which the identification of a crime scene latent was successfully challenged by the defense. This and later misidentification cases raised serious questions about the scientific backgrounds and qualifications of police department fingerprint examiners. 

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Score One For The Devil: The Arkansas Church Murder Case

     Every once in awhile you hear of a homicide that reminds you that regardless of who you are, where you are or what you are doing, you can be murdered. It's a sobering thought, but it's true. There are people among us, ordinary looking people, folks pushing carts at Walmart, driving around in SUVs, watching their kids play soccer, sitting in movie theaters and eating in restaurants, that for little or no reason, will take your life. As Charles Lindbergh said after the kidnapping and murder of his son in 1932, life is like war.

     On Sunday morning June 6, 2010, Patrick Bourassa, a 34-year-old drifter with a shaved head, an ordinary face and a tattoo on his chest featuring three skulls and a flaming dragon, was driving in eastern Arkansas on Highway 64. Average height, thin and clean-cut, Mr. Bourassa, if placed in a group of men his age wouldn't stand out. Originally from Danielson, Connecticut, he had recently worked in a Dotham, Alabama barbecue restaurant and had tended bar in Phoenix, Arizona and Wichita, Kansas.

     At eight-thirty that Sunday morning as Patrick Bourassa drove west toward the small town of Hamlin, Arkansas, 80-year-old Lillian Wilson was alone inside the Central Methodist Church. She had gone there to pick-up donation baskets that had been used to collect money for victims of a recent storm. As Bourassa approached the town his car broke down. Leaving the vehicle along the highway he walked to the church and forced his way into the building.

     About an  hour after Bourassa broke into the Methodist Church he pulled into a nearby Citgo station driving Lillian Wilson's car. A few miles down the highway from the gas station he used Wilson's credit card to buy food at a Sonic convenience store.

     As Patrick Bourassa drove west through Arkansas, the pastor of the Central Methodist Church discovered Lillian Wilson's body lying on the floor between two pews. She had been bludgeoned to death with a heavy brass cross.

     On Thursday of that week police officers arrested Bourassa in Bremerton, Washington on Kitsap Peninsula west of Seattle. He still possessed Lillian Wilson's car and admitted to the arresting officers that he had murdered the old woman in an Arkansas church.

     On June 16, 2010, after waiving extradition, Bourassa and his attorney stood before a judge in Wynne, Arkansas. Advised that he had been charged with capital murder and several lesser charges, he pleaded not guilty. The murder suspect awaited trial without bail in the Cross County Jail.

     On Monday, April 2, 2012 in Wynne, Arkansas, the jury selection phase of Bourassa's capital murder trial got underway. A week later the prosecutor showed the jury a video-tape of the defendant re-enacting how he had picked the brass cross off the communion table and used it to beat Lillian Wilson to death. In response to why he had killed an old woman he didn't know, Bourassa said it was because he became enraged when she told him that God loved him and would forgive him.

     Bourassa's attorneys did not dispute the fact their client had killed Lillian Wilson. It was their mission to convince the jury to find Bourassa guilty of a lesser homicide charge in order to save him from execution. To get that result the defense put two expert witnesses on the stand. A psychologist and a forensic psychiatrist testified that Bourassa was genetically predisposed to violence. These mental health practitioners told the jury that the defendant had suffered childhood abuse and was bipolar. Moreover, he had a personality disorder. Because these experts were not saying that Bourassa was not guilty by virtue of legal insanity, the relevance of this testimony was not clear. Surely they were not trying to make the jurors feel sorry for this man.

     On April 13, 2012, after four hours of deliberation, the jury found Patrick Bourassa guilty of capital murder. The defendant, at the reading of the verdict showed no emotion. Having found Patrick Bourassa guilty the jury had to either sentence him to life in prison or death. The next day, after deliberating two hours, the jury sentenced Bourassa to life without parole. The jurors had spared this killer's life because they didn't think Lillian Wilson, the woman he had murdered, approved of the death sentence.