FindLaw Blotter: May 2015 Archives

FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

May 2015 Archives

Community policing is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques, to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.

That's according to the Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

But how does community policing work in practice? Since this is a term you have probably heard so many times in the past year, you may be wondering how does it really affect the relationship between a police force and the community?

Nebraska became the 18th state to ban capital punishment, overcoming a veto by Governor Pete Ricketts. Known as a conservative state with a Republican governor who lobbied against the ban, the legislature voted 30-to-19 to repeal the state's death penalty law.

Nebraska hadn't executed a prisoner since 1997, and was one of many states having trouble procuring lethal injection drugs. It's the first time in 40 years that a Republican-controlled state has abolished the death penalty.

DNA on Pizza Crust Nails Killer

No matter how smart criminals think they are, someone else is smarter.

Daron Dylon Wint, suspected murderer, thought he was careful when wore gloves as he ate a pizza at his victims' home. Little did he know, he was leaving behind a much more powerful identifier than fingerprints.

He left his DNA.

First Target, then Home Depot, now, everybody's favorite government agency, the IRS has been attacked by data thieves.

The IRS has admitted this week that 100,000 taxpayer files have been accessed by hackers in the last couple months. While 100,000 people is a small amount compared to the millions affected by Target's data breach, this theft is more worrisome because of how the thieves got the information.

The city of Cleveland and the Department of Justice (DOJ) reached an agreement Tuesday that will implement broad policing reforms focused on reducing the use of force and racial bias. The agreement follows a DOJ investigation in December that found the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) "engages in a pattern or practice of the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution."

Cleveland has been one of the focal points of recent discussions and protests regarding police violence following the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice and the acquittal of Officer Michael Brelo, who fired 49 shots at an unarmed couple following a police chase in 2012, killing them both.

Five years ago, a jury convicted Ingmar Guandique for the murder of Chandra Levy. It now appears that a new jury will re-hear the case.

Federal prosecutors have dropped their opposition to Gaundique's defense attorneys' requests for a new trial, paving the way for the case to return to court. Now the judge who presided over the first trial will decide if there will be a second.

Somebody smashed your car windows. Somebody stole your bike. Somebody mugged you in a dark alley after a night at the bar. Somebody assaulted you while you were drunk.

When you go to the police, they refuse to investigate your case. There are lots of reasons police won't pursue a case. Maybe the value of your loss is too little. Maybe after an initial look, there is just no evidence to warrant further work. Or bottom line, maybe the police think an investigation just isn't worth their very limited time and money.

Regardless of the reason given, what can you do if the police refuse to investigate your case?

A Baltimore grand jury indicted all six Baltimore police officers charged in the homicide of Freddie Gray. Gray died in April from injuries sustained while in police custody.

The officers allegedly gave Gray a "rough ride" in the back of a police van, resulting in fatal injuries to his spine. Gray's death had already sparked massive protests and riots in Baltimore, most of which were quieted with news of the criminal charges and arrests of the officers.

In April, Freddie Gray was arrested in West Baltimore for possessing a switchblade knife.

While most of the discourse surrounding this case has focused on police brutality, another important issue has arisen from the case: Knife laws. Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby claims that, under Maryland law, Gray's knife was not illegal. Alternatively, the arresting officers argue that the knife was illegal under Baltimore's ordinance.

With the different knife laws among cities and states, could they both be right?

Even though Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death last week, it could be another decade before he is executed. Tsarnaev was convicted in federal court, and the last federal execution took place in 2003.

There are a number of factors that contribute to the average time spent on death row, without taking into account the 152 exonerations of prisoners on death row since 1973. So how long will Tsarnaev's wait be?

Three years ago, Amanda Todd killed herself.

She was relentlessly harassed and bullied online. A man she met on Facebook charmed her into flashing her topless body to him. He took a picture and put it on the Internet where it went viral. Since then, Todd endured endless bullying and teasing. On October 10, 2012, she couldn't put up with the bullying and harassment any more and committed suicide.

Three years later, many people like Amanda are still victims of online harassment and bullying every day. Even celebrities are fair game. So what can you do to fight back against online harassment?

Pregnancy can be joyous, expectant, stressful, happy, or scary, or all of the above. Being pregnant in prison can be downright terrifying.

Statistics show that 4 to 7 percent of women entering prison are pregnant and a full 85 percent of incarcerated women are mothers. So what happens if you give birth in jail?

At the beginning of this year, 3,019 people are sitting in death row facing the death penalty. Last year 73 people were sentenced to death, and 35 were executed.

This month, Boston Bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death. However, he, and many other death row inmates, will spend years in prison awaiting several rounds of appeals before they are actually executed.

The Boston Marathon bomber was sentenced to death last week, and much was made of his reaction (or lack thereof) to the verdict:

That was one of many reactions to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's demeanor during and after the verdict. Which makes you wonder what people were expecting to see. Did they want to see him show remorse? And when does showing remorse matter, legally speaking?

A mother callously left a healthy but unwanted baby to die. Sadly, this isn't a rare occurrence.

Indiana mother Alicia Keir was 20-years-old when she boarded a Carnival cruise to the Caribbean. Unbeknownst to her friends. Keir was pregnant and gave birth in her cabin. Instead of getting medical help and care for the child, Keir wrapped the baby in a towel and left the baby under her bed to die, reports the New York Daily News. Cleaners found the dead baby the next day. A doctor examined the child and declared that she was born healthy and died from "exposure and lack of care."

Because her crime occurred at sea, Keir was prosecuted in federal court. She has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

It took jurors just 14 hours to determine Dzhokhar Tsarnaev deserved the death penalty for his role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The same jury convicted Tsarnaev last month on all 30 counts relating to the fatal bombing, 17 of which carried the death penalty.

A couple now face spending multiple lifetimes in jail for the kidnapping and assault of two young girls.

In August of last year, two Amish girls disappeared from a farm stand where they were selling vegetables. After a frantic Amber alert and search effort, the two girls were found 40 miles away knocking on the door of a strangers home.

Where were they?

An Oklahoma man will now face prison time after killing his stepfather ... with an atomic wedgie.

It isn't even close to being a joke, even though it sounds like one. Brad Lee Davis was charged with murder of his stepfather, Denver St. Clair, after a drunken family brawl left the older man dead from asphyxiation.

Davis has pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter and now awaits sentencing.

A third jury convicted a father of murdering his 4-year-old daughter by throwing her from an ocean-side cliff just outside Los Angeles. The crime occurred in November 2000, but two previous trials resulted in mistrials after juries deadlocked on the issue of guilt.

Prosecutors presented evidence indicating Cameron Brown never wanted his daughter, Lauren Sarene Key, and threw her from the 120-foot cliff as revenge on the girl's mother and to avoid paying child support.

Are police-civilian shootings happening more often, or do we just hear about them more now because of news and social media?

On March 6, 2015, police responded to several 911 calls reporting that a man was acting erratic and hurting people. Once they arrived on the scene, they found 19 year old Tony Terrell Robinson Jr., a biracial man, reportedly acting violently. Officer Matt Kenny, who is white, engaged in an altercation with Robinson, and in the melee, Kenny fatally shot him.

Yesterday, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne decided not to file charges, calling the shooting a lawful use of deadly police force.

Facetime, Skype, Google Hangout. These services help long distance lovers gaze into each other's eyes. They allow grandmothers to see their grandbabies in other countries. They allow parents to have virtual visitations with their children.

Now, video calls, also known as video visitation, allow family members to visit with inmates from the comfort of their own home. Since last year, over 500 jails and prisons in 43 states and the District of Columbia have implemented a video visitation system. Proponents of the system hail its low cost for prisons, while opponents fear that video visitation may become a substitute for in person visits.

So, is video visitation the future of prison visits?

It almost seems silly to ask whether racial profiling is allowed in policing. Obviously there are laws against racial discrimination in law enforcement, right?

As it turns out, there are still 20 states that haven't specifically outlawed racial profiling by police. And statutes can differ even in the states that have. Here's a quick look at how some states deal with racial profiling.

Noted Florida resident, serial domestic abuser, firearm enthusiast, and neighborhood watcher George Zimmerman was apparently shot in the face during a road rage incident in Lake Mary. According to authorities, Zimmerman's injuries were minor.

Zimmerman is (in)famous as the man who shot and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012. A jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges, and the Department of Justice recently declined to pursue criminal civil rights charges against him.

You've been served ... with a subpoena.

The prosecutor is calling you to testify against your boyfriend, father, boss, close friend. But, you're no snitch. You don't want to be the one to put them in jail. Or, you just don't want to bother with the hassle of testifying.

What can happen if you refuse to testify?

Have you heard of bath salts?

No. not the ones you put in your tub and relax in. I'm talking about Bliss, Blue Light, Cosmic Blast, Raving Dragon, Purple Tranquility. These are synthetic drugs. Bath salts and synthetic marijuana, also known as synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones, have properties and effects similar to known hallucinogens and narcotics. The drugs are frequently modified to attempt to evade current illegal substance restrictions.

However, regardless of the names, these drugs are dangerous and illegal.

There's an intruder in your house. Your ex-husband just told you he's coming to kill you. You've been beaten repeatedly by your father. Who can you call to protect you?

The police! Well, not really. You can try calling the police. Whether they'll come to help you or not is another matter. The National Emergency Number Association estimates that an estimated 657,000 calls are made to 911 everyday. If you've ever called for the police after a car accident, you probably know it can take forever for police to arrive. Sometimes, they don't even show up.

If police don't show up to a minor car crash, that's fine and dandy. But, what if the police didn't show up, and your ex-boyfriend shot you in the head?

Can your loved ones sue the police for not showing up to protect you?

Hopefully you know by now that police need a search warrant to conduct most searches. There are however several exceptions to the warrant requirement, and some police activity that doesn't constitute a search.

Most warrantless searches fall under one of a few main exceptions: if contraband is in plain view, searching a person after he or she has been lawfully arrested, if there is an emergency or an officer is in hot pursuit, and at some checkpoints like airports or international borders.

Here's a roundup of other scenarios where officers don't need a search warrant:

One of the most persistent myths regarding criminal law is that if an officer makes a mistake on your police report, your charges get dropped. Not only is it highly unlikely an error on a report will result in dropped charges, police report mistakes, whether substantive or merely spelling, can work against you.

So what can you do if there's a mistake on your police report? Generally, it will depend on the kind of mistake.

Everybody probably has a story or two about a horrible teacher, a mean teacher, a strict teacher.

We know bad teachers are only a small minority among the thousands of wonderfully dedicated teachers doing a hard, underpaid job every day.

But, bad teachers are still pretty fun to talk about -- and we can even learn something from them and their bad behavior. So, here's a round-up of just a few of our best bad teacher stories:

"Driving drunk woo ... I'll be dead thanks to you," is what a Florida woman texted her former boyfriend, moments before she drove through a red light and into an oncoming pickup truck. Mila Dago escaped the crash with bruises, but her friend and passenger Irina Reinoso was killed.

According to reports, Dago had been out in Miami drinking to deal with the end of her relationship, and texted her ex some 60 times before the fatal accident. She now faces DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide charges as well as two counts of DUI with damage to a person.

Guess what day it is! It's Cinco De Mayo!

Here at FindLaw, we'll celebrate with a round-up of all our best Cinco de Mayo posts. As with so many public holidays in this country, the celebration starts out serious with a remembrance of Mexican heritage and independence and deteriorates to drinking, partying, and more drinking.

So, this round-up will do the same:

Today is Star Wars Day, so while we say May the Force (and the Fourth) Be With You, we also thought it would be fun to take a look at Darth Vader's rap sheet.

In the interested of space (pun mostly intended) and taste, we're confining our window to Episodes IV, V and VI, the unquestioned core of Star Wars canon: "Star Wars," "The Empire Strikes Back," and "Return of the Jedi."

Here are five of Darth Vader's most infamous crimes:

Officer, anything you do will be recorded and can be used against you in the court of public opinion.

It all started with the video of Rodney King being beaten by police. In the years since then, almost every man, woman, and even child has come to have a camera on their phone with which to record the police's actions on the street. While police may not be happy about being recorded, it's your right to do so. Unsurprisingly, some people have reported police trying to delete videos from their phones or destroying the phones altogether.

But there might be a new way to protect your videos from police interference; use the ACLU's new apps.

The Baltimore medical examiner ruled the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody a homicide. And an investigation by the state's attorney's office has led to charges against six Baltimore police officers.

Baltimore's lead prosecutor Marilyn J. Mosby announced the charges this morning, ranging from second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter to assault and official misconduct. The investigation also ruled Gray's arrest was illegal in the first place, and warrants have been issued for all six officers.

Here are the charges: