Monday, June 27, 2011

North Carolina prosecutors get their wish: the permanent disappearance of exculpatory evidence

Four years ago, the State of North Carolina saw something more rare than a wild polar bear in Florida: the actual disbarment of a prosecutor for withholding exculpatory evidence and then lying to a judge about it. While it was morally satisfying to see a lawbreaker like Mike Nifong get at least a tiny bit of comeuppance for his crimes, apparently the other prosecutors in North Carolina got nervous.

Never fear. This week, the North Carolina legislature passed a bill ensuring that prosecutors, in violation of the U.S. Supreme Court's Brady decision, can withhold exculpatory evidence indefinitely. (Notice that the information is barely mentioned in the news article, but it definitely has major implications, as I see it. This article has a bit more information.)

Now, prosecutors no doubt will claim that it is not their fault if the police withhold information that is vital for the defense and do so without the knowledge of prosecutors, and if something is put into those terms, I can understand their point. However, my sense is that situations in which exculpatory evidence is withheld rarely, if ever, involve police mishandling of evidence or even police misconduct in absence of the knowledge of prosecutors.

Anyone familiar with how criminal law works knows that police and prosecutors work closely together. The notion that police are going to treat prosecutors the same way they treat defendants and defense lawyers truly is a howler, but that is what prosecutors want us to believe.

So, what is likely to happen as a result of this new law? I have no doubt that prosecutors simply are going to make sure that a lot of exculpatory information somehow remains in police files and doesn't make its way to the courthouse. The police will be able to claim that they "just forgot" and prosecutors will be able to claim that they had no clue this stuff existed.

As outrageous as this law is, I doubt it could have saved Mike Nifong's skin in the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case. First, Nifong took over the investigation from the police and was involved in a number of details, including overseeing the "lineup" from which Crystal Mangum picked her alleged assailants. In fact, this very point is why he is able to be sued, given he went outside the normal scope of his duties.

Second, while Nifong in his response to the North Carolina State Bar (after it filed charges against him), first claimed no recollection of being at a meeting with Brian Meehan, whose DNA lab had found the results which ultimately led to Nifong's downfall. His only hope would have been that the police had not turned over the relevant exculpatory information, but given that he and Meehan actually planned strategy at that meeting, his "I don't recall being there" defense was seen for the sham it was.

I have no doubt at all that this new law will lead to more wrongful convictions in North Carolina, a state that already is known for a bad criminal "justice" system. Furthermore, I suspect that most legislators voting for this abomination knew just that, but really didn't care. And prosecutors now have been handed yet another weapon to destroy innocent people.

As I further develop the case narrative and look into the conviction of Bradley Cooper, I can see this mentality at work. The police (as we shall see) destroyed a key piece of exculpatory evidence and then lied about what they did. Was this done with collusion with prosecutors? Who knows. All I know is that the legislature and Gov. Bev Perdue have handed police and prosecutors the opportunity to destroy and hide even more evidence -- and it all will be perfectly legal.

All in a day's work, I suppose.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The framing of Bradley Cooper

I have despised the "justice" (sic) system in North Carolina for a long time, beginning with the railroading of the Little Rascals defendants when prosecutors and police falsely accused a number of people of horrible acts of child molestation, although it was clear from the substance (or lack, thereof) of those charges that the Laws of Time and Space contradicted what the authorities were claiming. Unfortunately, many lives were ruined before the North Carolina Supreme Court overturned the convictions.

That was only the beginning. The Duke Lacrosse Case, with all of the lies told by government officials and others in authority, told me that once and for all, North Carolina is a dangerous place to live, as the authorities are not bound by the law or even common decency. The Durham Police, along with Durham County DA Mike Nifong, did everything possible to frame Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans, and while the case fell apart, it was only because some members of the North Carolina State Bar actually did their duties and ultimately disbarred Nifong.

I had no forum by which to protest the lies told by authorities in the Little Rascals case, but by the time Nifong went after the Duke students, there was Lew Rockwell's blog, and he generously let me fire away at the false charges, which I did on a regular basis for a year. When Tonya Craft was falsely charged with child molestation in my old stomping grounds of North Georgia, I had this blog, and utilized it to expose the lies being told under the direction of prosecutors Len "The Man-Racist" Gregor, Chris "Facebook-Cruisemaster" Arnt, and "judge" brian (out)house.

Craft was acquitted and one of the ringleaders of the farce, Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Buzz Franklin, blamed me in part for the state's failure to secure a wrongful conviction. I deeply appreciate the compliment that Buzz gave me, although something tells me he wasn't saying those things as praise.

Over the next several days, I will be spending a number of posts examining the trial and conviction of Bradley Cooper, who allegedly murdered his wife, Nancy, in Wake County, North Carolina. I have looked over a lot of the evidence and have become convinced that Cooper was framed.

Readers should understand that I don't come to this conclusion easily. When Cooper's wife was murdered three years ago, like the police, I immediately suspected that Bradley was the killer, as he seemed to be the obvious choice.

However, as the case went on, and especially during the trial, I came to believe that (1) the state had destroyed or hidden possible exculpatory evidence, and (2) their "smoking" gun, a Google search map of the area where her body was found that allegedly was found on his computer, was the work of the authorities themselves.

In other words, I am accusing North Carolina authorities of deliberately framing someone because they could do it. This is not a hard thing for me to believe, given what I have seen in past incidences in that state.

Yes, it is true that NC Attorney General Roy Cooper did declare the lacrosse players to be "innocent" after his appointees did their own investigation. What else could have he done, given that the "evidence" already had been made public and there was no way that the charges could have had an ounce of truth? Likewise, Cooper could have further investigated the whole mess and found criminal conduct on behalf of authorities, but neither he nor anyone else in government, state or federal, wanted to go there.

Would a North Carolina cop lie on the stand? Absolutely. "Testilying," a term made up by police officers themselves to describe what they do after taking an oath to tell the truth, is common all over the country and North Carolina is no exception. A middle class woman was murdered and the police and prosecutors had the pressure to find a killer.

Given the lawlessness and dishonesty that dominates the police and prosecutorial culture in North Carolina, I doubt that framing Cooper was a difficult decision. And, if there is a conspiracy to lie, destroy or alter evidence, and to railroad an innocent man into prison, what better people to do it than the men and women who wear the blue costume.

When people speak of the infamous "Blue Wall of Silence," they are speaking of the various police departments in the United States. No one lies better than a cop and no one covers up a lie better than a whole police department.

I make this point because one of the problems of holding conspiracies together is that someone spills the beans. Police departments tend to be the exception because cops tend to stick together, and if a cop were to tell the truth, he knows that his life afterward most likely will be very short.

Bradley Cooper was convicted by a jury that saw only weak and contrived circumstantial evidence. A judge who was in league with the prosecutors oversaw the trial, or whatever one calls one of those things in North Carolina. While it was true that the authorities from police to the judge in Craft's trial were trying to rig a conviction, jurors in Catoosa County saw through the lies.

Jurors in Cooper's case, however, did not. But their verdict will not stop me from presenting the case against guilt over the next several days.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Joe Collins is acquitted, one "hung" charge

The attempts by Isanti County authorities to throw Joe Collins into prison on fake charges seems to have run into a bit of a roadblock: a judge who actually knew the law, a good defense attorney, and 11 jurors who understood what was happening. As one juror later said, the charges never should have been brought in the first place.

The charges consisted of two gross misdemeanor charges of "witness tampering" and one felony bribery count. One of the misdemeanor charges was dismissed before the state presented its case. After the state rested, the judge ordered a directed verdict of "not guilty" on the felony charge, leaving only the misdemeanor "tampering with a witness to provide false information to police" accusation.

Jurors deadlocked 11-1 to acquit, and the judge declared a mistrial. As I see it, because the Isanti County prosecutors would not present the case themselves (claiming "conflict of interest"), they dumped the charges on prosecutors of a neighboring county, and I don't think that prosecutors are going to want to go through this nonsense again.

The question is this: Why were Isanti County prosecutors so anxious to go after Joe Collins? The answer is simple: He is a much better investigator than they are, and time after time, he uncovers lies and misconduct, and given that police in America today are little more than assortments of criminal or near-criminal gangs, an honest investigation is the last thing cops want.

As they did with Eric Echols and Ron DeLaby, prosecutors have brought criminal charges against Joe Collins not because these men created crimes, but rather because the police and prosecutors no longer want the truth as part of their investigations. That is a sad commentary on "law enforcement," but it also is the truth.

People in Minnesota may think of themselves as being more "civilized" and "honest" than folks in Georgia, but police "testilying" and prosecutorial misconduct are found all over this country. Even in Minnesota, ya betcha.

The evil Nancy Grace

On Lew Rockwell's blog today, I have a column about Nancy Grace, whom I consider to be the most evil television personality, and there is a long line of evil people in that genre.

Here is a person who as a prosecutor lied simply because she knew she could get away with it, and someone who actually believes that the Rights of the Accused are the product of totalitarianism, and the legal assumption of guilt is the product of freedom. Yes, Big Brother (or maybe Big Sister) lives.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Lawless Buzz Franklin

I have not made many forays into the LMJC recently, although the baseless trial of James Combs is scheduled to occur in September. (Once again, Tim "Dirty" Deal will be front-and-center, parading his utter dishonesty in front of a jury and hoping that this time jurors will overlook his outright perjured testimony and dishonest "investigations.")

But today, I want to take a few moments to look once again at the bogus RICO case against Joe Mohwish that Franklin concocted last January. Somewhere in the bowels of the laws of the State of Georgia, it states that prosecutors are not to knowingly bring false indictments into court. However, because the Georgia State Bar openly lets prosecutors know that the bar "has their backs," prosecutors feel free to engage in lawless behavior because they can do it.

Someone like Franklin who never felt bound by the law must be utterly grateful to the State Bar that he won't have to answer for the regular lawbreaking that goes on in his office. So it is with the Mohwish case.

As you recall, Franklin filed RICO charges against Mohwish for two alleged misdemeanors that he could bundle into RICO felony charges and the nonsense that goes with them. However, if what Mohwish was doing was legal, then there are no misdemeanors and, thus, no RICO.

The latest filing by Mohwish notes that his operation clearly did not operate under a raffle license (as claimed in the indictment) because he was not eligible for such a license, per an amendment enacted by Georgia voters in the 1994 general election. Thus, we now are in the area where Franklin does not only disrespect the law, but he ignores his own state constitution as well.

I have no idea what Franklin will do after he leaves office at the end of next year. I only can hope that whatever he pursues will have nothing to do with the law, since he doesn't know Georgia law and has no intention of obeying it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Victoria Sprouse's conviction is overturned!

Two years ago, a Charlotte federal jury convicted Victoria Sprouse of "mortgage fraud," and I had a strong comment on that verdict in this column on Lew Rockwell's page. I have not changed my mind in the interim.

This past Friday, U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger overturned her conviction and ordered a new trial, basing his decision upon the fact that the prosecution wove a highly-expansive view of "honest services fraud" into all of the charges, even though she was not actually charged with "honest services fraud." (I have this commentary on "honest services fraud" on the LRC page.)

The U.S. Supreme Court recently overturned most of that open-ended federal law and it was abundantly clear from Judge Reidinger's decision that the feds had no case at all without using the part of the statute that was overturned. I have my doubts as to whether or not the feds even can refile charges, and her counsel, Pete Anderson, will be a highly-effective force against anything that the U.S. attorney's office there throws against him.

Because the former assistant U.S. attorney, Matt Martens, now is the Chief Litigation Counsel of the Division of Enforcement of the Securities and Exchange Commission, he will no longer be leading the new prosecution team in that case. Let us just say that I have nothing good to say about Martens, and his appointment by the Obama administrations speaks volumes about the respect that administration has for the law. However, because Martens is extremely vindictive and unethical, I will not say much about him.

I will note, however, that in the Sprouse trial, he had her property seized so that she could not defend herself. The judge declared Sprouse indigent and then allocated $25,000 for her defense. Pete Anderson, at the time, was her attorney and he agreed to stay on as counsel.

Martens, however, told the court that it would take "4-6 weeks" to present the material to the jury, and Anderson had to back out, and Sprouse's court-appointed counsel turned out to be less-than-enthusiastic in defending her. During the trial, Martens presented his material in about three days.

That is correct; About three days. One can draw his or her own conclusion as to whether or not the government was skillfully able to consolidate its supposedly massive amounts of evidence and narrow its focus, or Martens did not tell the judge the truth about the evidence, especially given that Anderson is well-known as a criminal lawyer and had represented Rick Graves, who was acquitted of charges that Martens brought against him. The reader is left to decide what the truth might be in this situation.

There will be a hearing Tuesday to set the current terms of bond. Sprouse, since the conviction, has been under house arrest.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Joe Collins case: yet another prosecutor breaking the law (and getting away with it)

The Tonya Craft case was full of illegal and immoral actions by prosecutors Chris Arnt and Len Gregor, along with the predations of "judge" brian outhouse, and it is hard to pinpoint any one low point, given the whole thing was in the gutter from the start. However, besides illegally (and knowingly) bringing false charges against Craft, Arnt also had private investigator Eric Echols indicted on false charges of "intimidating a witness."

While the charges against Echols ultimately were dismissed, it was yet another attempt by a lawless prosecutor to demonstrate to others that he indicted Echols -- because he could do it. Unfortunately, lawbreaking is not limited to Arnt; in fact, prosecutors all over the country are finding that they can indict any private investigator who manages to shoot holes in their flimsy cases.

Joe Collins, a successful private investigator in Minnesota goes on trial in Isanti County next week in what clearly is a contrived charge of felony bribery. The scenario is all-too-familiar.

In this case, a woman claimed that a man kidnapped her and raped her. (They left a party together and she spent the night and most of the next day with him. After that, she realized that her boyfriend might not like her sleeping around, so she then claimed rape.) The details of the story (like so many others) don't match the prosecution's line, especially given that the woman was not exactly anxious to flee from the home of her "rapist."

Collins was hired by the defendant's law firm and it did not take him long to start blowing holes in the woman's story, and he also found that the Isanti County Sheriff's Office had conducted a slapstick investigation, led by Det. Lisa Lovering, who moonlights as a real estate agent.

Furthermore, he found out that "the victim" had stolen something from an antique store in another county. He spoke to her about it, and she admitted stealing the item. She asked him if he could make the charges (no one had charged her with anything at that point) go away, and he agreed that he would, provided that she would tell the truth about the alleged rape.

You see, whether in Minnesota or Georgia or Washington, D.C., getting someone to tell the truth is a crime, while prosecutors are permitted -- indeed, encouraged -- to suborn perjury. The one thing that seems not to be tolerated by judges and prosecutors these days is the truth.

So, Isanti County County Attorney Jeffrey Edblad filed felony charges against Collins and that is where we stand. (Edblad, however, has recused himself from the case, citing a "conflict of interest.")

I'll be reporting on the trial next week.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reason Magazine and Criminal "Justice"

In the everlasting "war on crime," the people with whom I have the most in common -- religious conservatives -- pretty much do not "get it." Most of the people at my church tolerate me, and even a few have said I have helped them change some of their thinking, but overall, it was the Right that ratcheted up the "crime wars" in the 1970s and 80s.

After first resisting, the Left joined in the race. During Bill Clinton's eight years in office, the nation's prison population doubled, and it was Clinton's own Department of "Justice" that carried out the biggest government-caused massacre of individuals since Wounded Knee in 1890. (And the biggest cheerleaders for Clinton's massacre were liberals and the Religious Right, which showed that at least on the shooting and burning of innocent children, Left and Right happily could co-exist.)

Not everyone has been silent. Radley Balko of Reason Magazine (and now the Huffington Post) has been a hero, and his work on behalf of those who have been falsely accused is featured in the recent Reason Magazine edition that covers this nation's system of "justice." Radley's article on wrongful convictions alone makes the issue outstanding.

Why are wrongful convictions endemic? Balko gives a number of reasons, but he singles out what he calls "he professional culture of the criminal justice system." He writes:
In addition to the more specific causes of wrongful convictions listed above, there is a problem with the institutional culture among prosecutors, police officers, forensic analysts, and other officials. Misplaced incentives value high conviction rates more than a fair and equal administration of justice.

Prosecutors in particular enjoy absolute immunity from civil liability, even in cases where they manufacture evidence that leads to a wrongful conviction. The only time prosecutors can be sued is when they commit misconduct while acting as investigators—that is, while doing something police normally do. At that point they’re subject to qualified immunity, which provides less protection than absolute immunity but still makes it difficult to recover damages.
For all of the points prosecutors make of criminal liability and state bar sanctions against prosecutors guilty of misconduct, Balko sets the record straight:
...criminal charges are few and far between, and prosecutors can make egregious mistakes that still don’t rise to the level of criminal misconduct. Professional sanctions are also rare. A 2010 study by the Northern California Innocence Project found more than 700 examples between 1997 and 2009 in which a court had found misconduct on the part of a prosecutor in the state. Only six of those cases resulted in any disciplinary action by the state bar. A 2010 investigation of federal prosecutorial misconduct by USA Today produced similar results: Of 201 cases in which federal judges found that prosecutors had committed misconduct, just one resulted in discipline by a state bar association. Prosecutorial misconduct was a factor in about one-quarter of the first 225 DNA exonerations, but none of the prosecutors in those cases faced any significant discipline from the courts or the bar.

There is also a common misconception that appeals courts serve as a check on criminal justice abuse. It is actually rare for an appeals court to review the evidence in a criminal case. Appeals courts make sure trials abide by the state and federal constitutions and by state or federal rules of criminal procedure, but they almost never second-guess the conclusions of juries.
In fact, NO prosecutor in this country EVER has been convicted of prosecutorial misconduct, and it is not because the prosecutors in the dock were innocent. Instead, juries tend to treat prosecutors like they do police officers, often engaging in nullification decisions because Americans are taught to hold people of these professions in absolute deference.

Then there is lying. This comes from one prosecutor who apparently believes lies are just fine with him:
If you were to take every jailhouse informant at his word, you’d find that a remarkably high percentage of the people accused of felonies boast about their crimes to the complete strangers they meet in jail and prison cells. Informants are particularly valuable in federal drug cases, where helping a prosecutor obtain more convictions is often the only way to get time cut from a mandatory minimum sentence. That gives them a pretty good incentive to lie.

There is some disagreement over a prosecutor’s duty to verify the testimony he solicits from jailhouse informants. In the 2006, Church Point, Louisiana, case of Ann Colomb, for example, Brett Grayson, an assistant U.S. attorney in Louisiana, put on a parade of jailhouse informants whose claims about buying drugs from Colomb and her sons were rather improbable, especially when the sum of their testimony was considered as a whole. According to defense attorneys I spoke with, when one attorney asked him if he actually believed what his informants were telling the jury, Grayson replied that it doesn’t matter if he believes his witnesses; it only matters if the jury does. He expressed a similar sentiment in his closing argument. (Emphasis mine)
No, Grayson won't have to worry about being charged with suborning perjury, nor will he face discipline from his state bar. And it is my sense that Grayson is typical of prosecutors, both state and federal. We saw enough of that during the Tonya Craft trial, and a representative of the Georgia State Bar told me that she was just fine with that conduct, and that the State Bar pretty much condoned it. "They were just doing their jobs," she told me.

I wish the state of things was different, but it is not. Lying is accepted in our political and "justice" culture, and nothing ever will change. Those of us who believe that lying has no place in either sphere are a tiny minority, but at least we still can raise our voices, just as the people at Reason have done so.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sorry for the absence

I am in the midst of a number of projects, along with a summer school class. Furthermore, my laptop is being fixed, which really limits my mobility with Blogger.

I will have some stuff on the upcoming Joe Collins case in a day or so. Please be patient.