Crime in the News - FindLaw Blotter

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Dylann Roof, against the advice of the judge in his own hate crime murder case, has elected to represent himself. The motion surprised many on Monday morning as jury selection was set to begin. The experienced attorneys that were representing Roof on the multiple hate crime murder charges are now required to serve in an advisory/standby capacity.

While the statistics are grim for defendants that represent themselves, most that choose to do so are exploiting the process either to have a forum to justify their crime or expound on some other delusional agenda. Critics are concerned that Roof will use the opportunity to harass his victims' families and survivors. While the judge cautioned Roof about representing himself, he had previously determined that Roof was competent to stand trial, over his attorneys' objections.

It hasn't been a great couple years for crime labs and their technicians. Last year, Harris County Texas overturned 42 drug possession convictions after initial lab tests were revealed to be false positives. At the same time, lab techs in the Massachusetts state drug analysis unit were convicted of falsifying results and stealing from the lab, affecting some 40,000 criminal cases. Even the FBI was forced to admit that forensic testimony in at least 250 cases was faulty.

And just yesterday, a Baltimore crime scene technician and her boyfriend were arrested in a raid that netted guns, drugs, and more than $100,000 in cash. Now the department is reviewing all of the criminal cases on which she was the technician.

In July of this year, a Minnesota police officer shot and killed Philando Castile, despite Mr. Castile presenting no threat to the safety of the officer. Although Mr. Castile did have a gun, the weapon was permitted, and Mr. Castile advised the officer of the weapon. Tragically, his last words were about how he was not reaching for his gun, but rather for the documents the officer was requesting.

The Ramsey County Attorney's Office announced this week that the officer would indeed be facing a second degree manslaughter charge, as well as two additional felony charges for dangerous discharge of a firearm. The prosecutor is quoted, saying that "In order to achieve justice, we must be willing to do the right thing, no matter how hard it will seem." At the time of the shooting, Mr. Castile had his girlfriend and her young daughter in the car with him. Thankfully, neither child nor mother were not physically injured.

Pretty much everyone knows by now that you can't threaten to kill the president. It would also seem that pretty much everyone thinks they're anonymous on Twitter, or that Twitter isn't real life. How else to explain the dozens of assassination threats that popped up on Twitter following Donald Trump's victory?

Either they think that Twitter threats don't count, which is wrong, or that the Secret Service and FBI have better things to do, which is also wrong.

This past August, a federal judge ordered the release of Brendan Dassey, who is best known as the subject of the 2015 documentary ‘Making a Murderer’ for his alleged role in the rape and murder of a 25 year old woman in 2005. The overturned conviction was big news back in August of this year, but now, after a few weeks of fighting over whether he should remain in custody pending a retrial, Dassey is actually set to be released.

The documentary exposed the plight of Brendan Dassey, who was 16 years old at the time of his arrest. Dassey was shown being coerced into confessing, as well as being abandoned and railroaded by his court appointed attorney. Ultimately he was sentenced on nothing but the coerced confession. While some may still be nervous about his release, there are still many conditions that he will need to satisfy, and he will be registered as a sex offender.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a local surgeon, Christopher Owens, was arrested last week on suspicion of 99 felony crimes related to prescription opioids. Owens was jailed, but later released and the San Francisco's District Attorney announced on Monday they won't be filing criminal charges yet.

So what put Owens behind bars in the first place, and why is he out?

For decades, illicit drug makers have been attempting to skirt drug laws by altering the chemical composition of illegal drugs in order to change the chemicals that make the drugs illegal. While the new compounds usually do not remain legal for very long after their discovery, the makers just alter the chemical until it is legal again. Over the past few years, two synthetic drugs, spice and bath salts, have wreaked havoc on their users.

Illicit drugs are generally categorized as synthetic, derivative, or natural. Marijuana, in its plant form, is a natural drug; cocaine, as it is synthesized from a plant is a derivative; and drugs like bath salts, are typically completely synthetic, having been made from mixing synthetic chemical compounds. While synthesized drugs like cocaine, LSD, and ecstasy, are known to be illegal, synthetic drugs, even the unknown and “legal” ones, can still get you arrested.

Arrested for Vaping?

There aren't many places left for the cigarette smokers of the world. Pushed out of offices, airplanes, bars, and even some sidewalks, the choice is either to quit or to smoke at home. Or, find something that isn't "smoking." Many new and long-time smokers are turning to vaping instead, in the hopes of circumventing anti-cigarette ordinances.

The question then becomes, what's the difference between smoking and vaping, and can you get in trouble for vaping the same way you can get in trouble for smoking cigarettes?

Last week, a juvenile carjacker in New Jersey made headlines for being arrested twice within 48 hours for two separate carjacking incidents. Police released the minor into the custody of a relative after his arrest on a Friday for carjacking, and on Sunday, the teen was rearrested for another carjacking.

The juvenile carjacker, surprisingly, is only 13 years old. Fortunately, there were no injuries as a result of his actions, however, police have linked an additional two to three car thefts from surrounding communities to the young suspect.

George Zimmerman, the garbage human infamously acquitted in the homicide of Trayvon Martin, became the victim of a shooting himself last year, in an apparent road rage incident. The man who shot at Zimmerman, Matthew Apperson, was convicted of attempted second-degree murder last month, and last week was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The irony is that Zimmerman himself was charged with second-degree murder in Martin's death, and was perhaps fortunate his victim wasn't around to testify at his trial.