Sunday, March 7, 2010

TX - New Report Shows that Cameron Todd Willingham, Executed in Texas in 2004, Was Innocent

Original Article

As long as you have lawyers and DA's who base their careers on how many convictions they get, then this will always occur. They want convictions and could care less about real evidence. If the evidence is not there, then you must acquit, well, that's how it used to be!

Contact: Eric Ferrero; eferrero@innocenceproject.org; 212-364-5346

There can no longer be any doubt that an innocent person has been executed. The question now turns to how we can stop it from happening again,’ Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck says

An exhaustive new investigative report shows that Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in Texas in 2004, was innocent. The report comes three years after the Innocence Project released analysis from some of the nation’s leading forensic experts who found that the central evidence against Willingham was not valid. The Innocence Project also obtained public records showing that Texas officials ignored this evidence in the days leading up to Willingham’s execution.

Willingham was convicted of arson murder in 1992 and was executed in February 2004. His three young children died at a fire in the family’s Corsicana, Texas, home. At Willingham’s trial, forensic experts testified that evidence showed the fire was intentionally set. A jailhouse informant also testified against Willingham, and other circumstantial evidence was used against him.

A 16,000-word report in the September 7 issue of the New Yorker deconstructs every facet of the case, finding that none of the evidence against Willingham was valid. Prior to the New Yorker’s investigative report, by David Grann, the forensic science had been debunked as completely erroneous (including in a 2004 investigative report in the Chicago Tribune), but the other evidence was never examined closely.

The New Yorker’s investigation lays out this case in its totality and leads to the inescapable conclusion that Willingham was innocent. There can no longer be any doubt that an innocent person has been executed,” said Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck. “The question now turns to how we can stop it from happening again.”

As long as our system of justice makes mistakes – including the ultimate mistake – we cannot continue executing people,” Scheck said. “This case also highlights serious problems with forensic science in this country. The vast majority of forensic scientists are honest, capable, hard-working professionals, but we aren’t giving them the tools they need to do the job. Congress needs to create a National Institute of Forensic Science that can spark research to determine the accuracy of forensic disciplines and set standards for how our system of justice uses science.”

In May 2006, the Innocence Project (which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law) formally submitted the Willingham case to the Texas Forensic Science Commission, along with information about another arson case and a request that the panel order a review of arson convictions across the state. In the other arson case, Ernest Willis was convicted of an unrelated arson murder and sentenced to death in 1987, and he served 17 years in prison before he was exonerated. The May 2006 filing included a 48-page report from an independent five-member panel of some of the nation’s leading arson investigators, who reviewed more than 1,000 pages of evidence, testimony and official documents in the two cases.

In the report, the arson experts – with a combined 138 years of experience in the field – say that neither of the fires which Willingham and Willis were convicted of setting were arson. The expert report notes that the evidence and forensic analysis in the Willingham and Willis cases “were the same,” and that “each and every one” of the forensic interpretations that state experts made in both men’s trials have been proven scientifically invalid.

In 2007, the Texas Forensic Science Commission announced that it had accepted the Innocence Project’s complaint and would launch an investigation. The commission contracted with Craig Beyler, a widely respected arson expert, to conduct an independent review of the evidence. Last week, Beyler filed his report with the commission, finding that the forensic analysis in Willingham’s case was wrong. The commission announced that it is reviewing Beyler’s report and will review other evidence before issuing its conclusion next year.

The Forensic Science Commission is still looking at this case and the broader issue of arson convictions statewide. Members of the commission are clearly taking this very seriously, carefully and thoughtfully, and they should have the space to do their work,” Scheck said. “The Forensic Science Commission is not going to determine whether an innocent man was executed. The New Yorker has already done that. The commission will determine what went wrong with the forensic analysis, how widespread the problem is and how we can be sure similar analysis is more reliable in the future.”

Read the full article in the September 7 issue of the New Yorker.

Download the report commissioned by the Innocence Project and submitted to the Texas Forensic Science Commission. (PDF)

Read background on people sentenced to death but exonerated through DNA testing before they were executed.

Visit the Just Science Coalition website for more on efforts to improve the reliability of forensic science.


"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln
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TN - Children committing sex crimes against children

Original Article

03/06/2010

By Mary Jo Denton

PUTNAM COUNTY -- They are children who have committed serious crimes, and their victims are other children. And it's an epidemic, Juvenile Court officials say. They are talking about child sex offenders, children raping other children.

"We currently have three child rape cases on the Juvenile Court docket, and there have been so many of these cases in the past couple of years," said Greg Bowman, administrator of the Juvenile Court here. In the current three cases, which are unrelated, a 16-year-old boy is charged with two counts of rape of a child under 13, a 14-year-old boy is charged with rape of a child under 13, and a 17-year-old is charged with rape of a child under 13.

"Unfortunately, this type of case is becoming an epidemic, and the offenders seem to be getting younger all the time," said Juvenile Court Judge John Hudson. Asked for his opinion on the cause of this increasing problem, the judge said, "It's Internet access -- and the fact that the traditional family structure of the previous generations doesn't seem to exist any more."

Administrator Bowman said he finds Internet access and cable TV channel access play a big role in the problem, exposing children to sights and activities from which children used to be sheltered.

What about the parents of these children who are charged with sex offenses?

"Many seem to be in denial or unaware of what's going on with the children," Judge Hudson said. He said the problem of children committing these type offenses is much more widespread than it once was and said, "They come from all types of homes and socio-economic levels -- it's across the board."

What happens to these children in court? "They get evaluated for psychological and mental health issues, and we develop a treatment plan in each case," Bowman said. Some offenders are sent away to inpatient sex offender treatment programs which can last for months or years, depending on "the level of their issues," he said.

Some offenders react to being caught and brought to court in a "remorseful way," while others seem indifferent, he said. The cases come to the Juvenile Court usually through the investigative work of Child Protective Services and law officers assigned to work "all types of child abuse cases," Bowman said.

The purpose of the Juvenile Court is to rehabilitate children, but this court also has a duty to "protect public safety," he said. Children in court for any reason make a sad spectacle, but cases in which the victims are also children are doubly painful for those who work in this system.

And to see these cases continue to increase is a problem that Juvenile Court officials worry deeply about. "I don't know what the solution is," Judge Hudson said.


"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln
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ID - Ex-officer (Stephen R. Young) accused of infant sex crimes

Original Article

03/07/2010

EAGLE — A former Boise police school resource officer who retired from the force a week ago is accused of multiple counts of sexual contact with infants.

Stephen R. Young, 58, of Eagle, was arrested Friday and booked into the Ada County jail on five counts of lewd conduct with a child under the age of 16. He was a Boise Police Department officer at the time of the alleged abuse but investigators said information gathered so far does not indicate any of the incidents happened while Young was on duty.

The felony charges represent five different victims in the last five years.

The victims were all infants at the time Young had sexual contact with them. The victims are known to Young but but did not live in his home,” Ada County sheriff’s spokeswoman Andrea Dearden said.

The alleged sexual contact happened in various homes in Ada County.

The investigation continues as detectives work to determine if there are any additional victims. Additional charges are possible. Young is set to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. Monday.

Young was an officer with Boise police from 1978 until he retired Feb. 28 this year. He served as a patrol officer from 1978 to 1994, a motorcycle officer from 1994 to December 1995, a school resource officer from December 1995 to February 2005, and a patrol officer from February 2005 to February 2010.


"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln
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Marc Klass on the Mike Huckabee Show (03-06-2010) - Spewing the usual fear-mongering BS!

Video Link



"The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly." - Abraham Lincoln | More Quotes


John Walsh speaks with President Obama (03-06-2010) about funding the Adam Walsh Act

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TRANSCRIPT

President Obama: John, how are you?

John Walsh: Mr. President!

Obama: Great to see you!

Walsh: Great to see you again.

Obama: Thank you so much for being here. Not your first visit to the White House, and I'm sure not your last.

Walsh: And thank you for taking the time today to be with us.

Obama: It's my honor.

Walsh: Much appreciated!

Obama: Appreciate you!

Walsh: Mr. President, thank you for taking the time today and congratulation s on all the work you've been doing since you were president, and it's nice to see you again.

Obama: Well, John, it's great to see you and I just want to say congratulations, uh, to, the show, to what you've done. When you think about it, not just a thousand shows, but more importantly over a thousand lives who've been positively affected because of what you've done and probably even more because of the people who've been apprehended, taken them off the streets, it's a remarkable record and I think all of America greatly appreciates what you guys have done.

Walsh: Thank you so much for the kind words, and uh, I don't know if people are very familiar with the work you've done with the Recovery Act, but I know first hand from the rank and file cops on the street what you've done for law enforcement on the local and state level.
- So John, what has he done for cops?  Or is this more words you are making up as you go along just to boost his ego and help him help you?

Obama: Well, I appreciate this, I think this has been sort of an untold story, of, last year when we came in, obviously you (I think you mean WE) had a huge economic crisis, one of the things we were most worried about was, how would this affect law enforcement? Because you started seeing state and local budgets hemoraging, and there were the prospects of tens of thousands of cops on the streets being layed off, uh, and so, what we did was working with state and local governments, got 4 billion dollars, uh, in, uh, additional funding so that we kept those law enforcement officials doing the great work that they do each and every day.
- This is the first I've heard of this.  So where is the proof of this "4 billion dollars" for police?

Walsh: Well I know first hand the law enforcement community respects you and is appreciative of you getting that bill through in these tough economic times. I wanted to talk to you about the Adam Walsh Act. I had the great honor on the 25th anniversary of our six year old son Adam's abduction, turning a horrible day into a positive day, my family was in the rose garden, and um, Elizabeth Smart was there, many parents of murdered children when president Bush signed the bill, but, the problem of course I know you're so well aware of, and the problem that we face, is focusing congress on funding this act.
- Butter him up, then go in for the kill!  Let's get the "savior" to bail us all out!

Obama: Right!

Walsh: The problem is, that the states are not becoming compliant! Because they are afraid that the federal money won't come down.
- I don't think that is the reason!  I think the reason is, that many are finding out that it will cost more to implement the laws than they would receive in grant money, so they are not implementing the laws.  Well, some are, but in their own draconian (unconstitutional) ways.

Obama: Right!

Walsh: I know you want to try to help, get that money!

Obama: Right! As a father, I can't thank you enough, for what you did in memory of Adam. We have increased funding for the Adam Walsh act, uh, by 23%.

The second thing we've done is we've, added an additional hundred US Marshalls to focus on this issue. We went from 300 to 400. The problem as you well know is you've got 150,000 sex offenders out there that these US Marshalls have to chase down, and so it's very important for us to continue to build up the US Marshalls capacity, that's something we want to do, uh, in our federal budget.
- 150,000?  Really?  What proof do you have of this?  Or is this some number you pulled out of your a__?  And it also says below that 100,000 are level 3 (the worst of the worse) offenders.  I don't buy any of it.  And it's also said that 50,000 predators are online at one time, another load of BS, IMO.  These are called "goldilock" numbers, because they are "not too high" and "not too low!"

We also want to provide some support for things like DNA testing at the state level. A lot of these local law enforcement officials are just strapped for some of the basic resources, getting the databases set up.

Those are all areas where we think we can provide a lot of help, and my expectation is that we're going to get support, bipartisen support from congress on this issue, because it's so important to every family across America and there are just too many horror stories that, uh, remind us that we are not doing enough.
- So, when will enough be enough?

Walsh: The Marshalls have done an outstanding job, the FBI has done an outstanding job, with the Internet crimes portion of it, with over 100,000 non-compliant level 3 sex offenders.
- See here for more info on this magical number people pulled out of thin air, and continue to use simply because it sounds good.

Obama: Here's my commitment John! We are going to do everything in our power, as long as I'm in the White House, and as long as I'm the father of two girls, to make sure that we are providing the states the support that they need, to make this happen.

Walsh: The DNA portion of it is something that I hope to see in my lifetime, that every one of the states have a DNA compliance, and now we have 18 states who are taking DNA upon an arrest.

England has done it for years, um, it's no different than finger printing or a booking photo. Since those states have been doing it, it has cleared 200 people that are innocent from jail. I think that this is something this country has to deal with.

Obama: It's the right thing to do, and then, as you well know John, this is where the national registry becomes so important, making sure that not only are we getting these DNA tests done, state by state, but nationally, everybody is talking to each other, that's how we make sure that we continue to tighten the grip around folks who have perpatrated these crimes.

Walsh: Very difficult for me, in a country that has done so many great things, in so many things we look up to, the world looks up to, that we don't have a DNA database.

Obama: It's not acceptable, and I, as you said, this is something that should transend parties, uh, whatever your attitudes about, uh, politics here in congress, uh, congress should be able to do this. So now you have 23% increase in funding for the Adam Walsh act, let's see if we can start building on that, uh, 5 years down the road we can look back and say, you know, we got a lot of stuff done, we probably saved a lot of lives of innocent people and, and innocent children from these predators.
- And you can also say you destroyed a lot of lives, including innocent people, by making and passing laws based on emotion and not facts!

Walsh: And I know you are a very loud voice for victims, which is much appreciated from the victim community.

Obama: Well, ya know, the a, if you think 30 years ago when these terrible crimes happened, the victims were left to just deal with this on their own, and we've done justice.

That's what people need more than anything, uh, is, so that they can stop feeling like victims, and they feel like they've got some power, and you know I think your show helps people to do that, uh, and, so we want to build on that.

But we also want to make sure that, uh, that some of the crimes that have been taking place of late financial crimes, uh, in the area of mortgage fraud for example, I just talked to the Attorney Generals there, that we've already seen a trippling of mortgage fraud cases over the last several years.
- And what about the large bank scandals?  Instead of letting them die, because of their own greed and corruption, you have just bailed them out by giving them more money, and how many have been held on criminal charges?

We want to make sure that we are cracking down on those folks who are abusing, victimizing and taking advantage of people in the financial sector as well.
- And what about those who took oaths to defend the Constitution, defend and speak for the people, who are not doing that, but are ignoring the people?

Walsh: I thank you for your time, I thank you for helping focus this congress on the Adam Walsh act, I know your daughters are proud of you, but ah, you send a loud message and I feel the same way, America's Most Wanted is the court of last resort. It's not about Americans being vigilantes, or any of that, it's about saying we need justice, we need these people caught, we need them off the streets, and we need the highest level of politicians to focus in on our needs.
- So why even bring it up?

Obama: Well John, we couldn't be prouder of what you have done, uh, and I know Adam's looking down on us and saying, you know, my dad's really done something incredible, so congratulations to you.
- I doubt that, I think he may be wishing that his father would let him rest in peace and quit using his name to further punish others.

Walsh: Thank You! Thank you so much Mr. President!

Obama: Thank you!

Walsh: Thank you for your time!


GA - How well do you know your neighbors?

Original Article

03/07/2010

By Stephen Gurr

Statistics say sex offenders not more likely to commit more crimes

How dangerous is the registered sex offender living in your neighborhood?

Local anecdotal evidence and national studies indicate that the risk may not be as great as some believe.

In Hall County, there are 223 registered sex offenders living and working throughout the county, convicted of everything from aggravated child molestation and rape to statutory rape and sexual battery. In recent years, they have been restricted from residing near schools, playgrounds, churches, swimming pools and other places where children congregate.

Sheriff's officials and probation officers often drop in for unannounced visits with sex offenders and can search their homes without a warrant. A new law requires sex offenders to give the officers who supervise them their computer log-ins and passwords.
- They can do this for those on probation or parole, but those off paper, they cannot search without a warrant, and the password issue is still being dealt with in court.

Georgia's sex offender registry was created in 1996 as part of the nationwide "Megan's Law" campaign, prompted by the 1994 sexual assault and murder of a 7-year-old New Jersey girl. The parents of Megan Kanka said they were unaware that the convicted sex offender who killed their daughter lived across the street from them.

But Megan's case and other high-profile crimes are atypical among sex crimes against children, experts say. The majority of child molestations are committed by relatives or close family friends.

"It's uncles, cousins, brothers, stepfathers," said Gary Holstad, director of Family Recovery, a local office that provides court-ordered counseling for sex offenders. "It's quite a low percentage where it would be a stranger offense."

In Hall County, no registered sex offender has been arrested on a new sex offense since the registry started nearly 15 years ago, Hall County Sheriff's officials said.

And a recent study concluded that the recidivism, or re-offense, rate among sex offenders appears to be no greater than the rate for other convicted criminals.

"Sex offender registration and notification laws are based on the assumption that sex offenders are more likely to recidivate than other offenders," according to a recent report by Arkansas Crime Information Center. "The research on the validity of this assertion is very mixed."

The Center for Sex Offender Management said the idea that sex offenders are more likely to commit new offenses is "one of the biggest myths about sex offenders."

Dr. Jeffery Walker, a professor of criminology at the University of Arkansas and author of the recent report, said sex offender registry laws are based on "really good political rationales, but if you start looking at the reality, it doesn't hold a lot of water."

"We typically do things on kind of knee-jerk reactions," Walker said. "Most of the sex offender laws have some poor child's name attached to them ... there's this emotional response. They don't look at the unintended consequences of the laws."

Those unintended consequences are the residency restrictions that may result in sex offenders "pooling" together in areas of a county where they can live, possibly preventing them from living with family who could provide support, or driving them underground out of frustration, Walker said.

Holstad said the registry's many restrictions can make life "unbearable" for sex offenders and severely hinder their efforts at rehabilitation.

"Sex offenders have always had this stigma that nothing could ever be fixed or changed about them," Holstad said. "It was almost guaranteed that they would re-offend as soon as they had their first chance. That is so far from accurate."
- And if all that was true, which it's not, then wouldn't they lock up all offenders forever?  Of course they would, but they know the facts, they just don't want you to know them.

Hall County District Attorney Lee Darragh points out that many crimes against children go unreported, and so getting an accurate accounting of recidivism among sex offenders is not possible.

"There are many more criminal offenses than those that come to the attention of law enforcement," Darragh said.

Darragh said sex offender registries have been most useful in informing the public.

"They've made a significant difference in being able to know where these sex offenders live and work so that we can as a society keep tabs on them and keep our children safe," Darragh said.
- But why do we not have a registry with all other criminals, who harm more people than sex offenders, so we can know who lives around us?  Are we really for "protecting" the public, or just exploiting the issues so we can get votes and "look tough" on crime?  If they really wanted to protect society, then they'd have all criminals on a registry.

The registry is a useful tool for law enforcement officials, who can look at the list first when investigating crimes against children, said Capt. Woodrow Tripp, commander of the Hall County Sheriff's Criminal Investigation Division.

"It's good to know where your bad guys are," Tripp said. "I wish we had registries for burglars and car thieves, too."
- Amen! So, like you do with sex offenders, why aren't you pushing legislature for an ALL CRIMINALS registry?

Registries may also deter sex offenders from committing new crimes, authorities said.

If a crime occurs in a sex offender's neighborhood, "they know the police are likely to come knocking on their door pretty fast," Darragh said.
- Tell me, what criminal is going to commit a crime in their own neighborhood?

Tripp believes the registry "absolutely" serves as a deterrent.
- No it doesn't!  It may for those who are trying to better themselves, but for the truly dangerous, it doesn't deter anything, that should be obvious!

"They're probably among the most scrutinized people," Tripp said. "There's always that threat of going back to jail hanging over their heads. This is a group of people who have very little room to slip into the shadows."

Holstad, the counselor, said he can't blame people for "worrying and not liking these offenses."

"You can't take away their right to be unhappy about what happened," Holstad said. "But I don't see them as being a specific danger. People are very careful about how they watch their children these days, anyway."

Said Walker, "there's that general hysteria that if it's a sex offender, they're going to come after our small children, and that's just not true most of the time."


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