This month our nation exceeded 25,000 years lost to wrongful convictions. The human suffering associated with the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of 2,795 innocent people is incalculable. Without the research and reporting of the National Registry of Exonerations (NRE), we likely would not know of or comprehend the truth or implications of this horrific milestone.
The report, “25,000 Years Lost to Wrongful Convictions” released today quantifies the reality of a justice system making its most egregious error: convicting an innocent person. The NRE defines an exoneree as a “person who was convicted of a crime and later officially declared innocent of that crime, or relieved of all legal consequences of the conviction because evidence of innocence that was not presented at trial required reconsideration of the case.”
The NRE has focused on exonerations since 1989. Here are a few highlights from the report:
• On average, each exoneree spent more than 8 years and 11 months in prison before release. Black exonerees spent 10.4 years in prison on average, whereas white exonerees spent an average of 7.5 years. Averages alone do not immediately reveal, for example, that 183 people spent 25 years or more in prison before they were exonerated of crimes they did not commit.
• Innocent Black defendants served a majority of the prison time, 14,525 of the 25,004 years at the writing of the report.
Minneapolis ex-cop Derek Chauvin was convicted of 2nd degree murder, 3rd degree murder, and 2nd degree manslaughter for killing George Floyd. On April 30, 2021, state prosecutors and Chauvin’s defense attorney argued in separate filings whether certain conditions should be considered in Chauvin’s sentencing. The prosecution’s filing argues 5 aggravated factors for consideration. Chauvin is scheduled to be sentenced on June 16 or 25, 2021, depending on what source you read. Chavin’s opposition for aggravating sentencing factors is linked here.
On May 4, 2021, Chauvin’s defense attorney filed a motion for a new trial. The motion is linked here.
“A motion for new trial must be based on the record. Pertinent facts that are not in the record may be submitted by affidavit, or statements signed under penalty of perjury pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, …”
To get the court to consider the juror, Chauvin must produce affidavits, or statements signed under penalty of perjury. If I remember my teachings correctly, it cannot be hearsay. In other words, the statement must come from the juror or someone with direct knowledge that the juror was biased against Chavin and dishonest in his juror questionnaire. It must be signed under penalty of perjury. I do not think that a video of the juror and a photo taken from social media will substitute for sworn testimony. Of course, this is too long to put in a tweet. Anyway, we shall see what the court decides.
Stay safe. Wear a mask when out in public. Get vaccinated for Covid-19. Be blessed.
Although this blog was launched in August 2012, it was not until 2014 when I first blogged about a case involving an unarmed person killed by police. It was Jonathan Ferrell. Previously, I blogged about unarmed people killed by private citizens. Trayvon Martin was the first followed by Jordan Davis.
As I understand it, if you access this blog via cellphone, you have to click another button to see the top menu. The top menu includes “Cases/Victims”. A pull-down menu appears when hovering over it. Recently as I started to include three other names on that menu, I was struck with sadness. There are already 127 names.
Most were killed by members of law enforcement. At least one was a member of law enforcement. Some survived the beating or shooting. Most are Black, who are disproportionately killed by law enforcement. Believing in equality and justice for all, the list on the pull-down menu includes Whites, Latinx, Asians, men and women. The cases involve Black and White officers. What is interesting in documenting cases involving Black officers is the number of times they are charged and found guilty, compared to their White counterparts.
Offhand, I only remember one case where a Black officer was acquitted. The victim in that case was 95-year old John Wrana, a WWII veteran. Park Forest, IL officer Craig Taylor shot John in the abdomen with 5 beanbags in rapid succession. John Wrana was in his room in a retirement home when he was killed. He died from internal bleeding. Officer Taylor had a bench trial and was found not guilty.
In September 2018, after I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, I lacked the energy and time to write blog posts that required research. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t victims, or trials, or recent news about investigations. Then 2019 arrived and I heard about Javier Ambler II in Texas. I thought that I felt complacent, thinking, “nothing will be done.” It’s now been 15 months and the investigation is still opened. The two deputies involved in Ambler’s death have not provided written statements. LivePD that filmed the incident destroyed the video tape.
After seeing the video of the killing of George Floyd, I was reminded of Javier Ambler II. An officer placed his knee on Ambler who said several times that he could not breathe.
Ethan Saylor also came to mind. Like Floyd, Saylor was not killed by gunshot, but by chocking. His esophagus was broken. Also like George Floyd, Ethan called out for his mother. Ethan Saylor was not Black, but he was different. Ethan was Down Syndrome. None of the 3 deputy sheriffs involved in killing Ethan were charged.
Originally when I began writing this post, my intention was to name the cases where the officers involved were not charged. They are names that others may have forgotten or not known about. Along with Ethan Saylor is Darrien Hunt; Saif Nasser Mubarak Alameri; John Crawford III; Mark Anthony Barmore. I wanted to not only inform, but to also honor the victims; to let their families know they are not forgotten. But, that all changed because there — are — just — too — many. (sigh)
On Sept. 6, 2018, Botham Jean was 26 years old when he was shot dead in his apartment by then Dallas police officer Amber Guyger. Amber claimed that she thought she had gone to her own apartment and finding the door opened, that someone was inside.
Botham Jean was an accountant for Price Waterhouse, Coopers, an international auditing firm. Testimony at trial included that he was eating ice cream in his apartment when Guyger opened the door.
On September 9, 2019, an arrest warrant for manslaughter was issued for Guyer. According to the arrest warrant affidavit, Guyger told investigators that she parked on 4th floor of the garage instead of the 3rd floor. When she put her key in the door of what she believed was her apartment, the door was ajar. She yelled at the purported burglar to show his hands, and then she fired twice.
A Dallas County grand jury indicted Guyger on November 30, 2018 on one count of murder. Guyger plead not guilty.
The 31-year-old Guyger was fired from the Dallas Police Department days after the shooting. Her trial began on September 23, 2019. Read the rest of this entry →
Speaking in court before the sentence was read, Noor said that he had felt “fear” as he pulled the trigger. But when he saw Ruszczyk Damond on the ground, “I knew in an instant that I was wrong.”
“I caused this tragedy and it is my burden,” he said. “I wish though that I could relieve that burden others feel from the loss that I caused. I cannot and that is a troubling reality for me. I will think about Ms. Ruszczyk and her family forever. The only thing I can do is try to live my life in a good way going forward.”
Justine had called 911 after hearing screams in the back of the building where she lived. She waited for the police and approached the police car when it arrived. She was unarmed. Noor shot Justine through the open driver’s side window, although he was sitting in the passenger’s seat and his partner did not see any threat. Justine was in her pajamas.
“The defendant fired his gun over the body of his partner,” Lofton told the court at sentencing. “He did that in a residential neighborhood. He did that without saying a word. He did that despite Ms. Rusczyzk not saying a word. He did that despite the fact that she had nothing in her hands but a cell phone.”
Mohamed Noor (1985- ) in 2015 became the first Somali American police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 2019 he became the first police officer in Minnesota, of any race or ethnicity, found guilty of a crime for an on-duty police shooting.
Like Ilhan Omar, Noor came to Minneapolis in the 1990s as a child when his family fled the war in Somalia.
On the night of July 15th 2017, Justine Damond (nee Ruszczyk), a 40-year-old White woman, called police to report what sounded like a rape behind her house. As Noor tells it, when he and Officer Matthew Harrity arrived in a police car in the alley behind her house, there was a loud bang and then Damond suddenly appeared at Harrity’s open window. Her right arm was raised. Harrity said “Oh Jesus!” as he tried to draw his gun.
The incident happened on October 18, 2015. It appeared to be another case of a Black man on the side of the road being shot down by a cop who claimed that the “suspect” had a gun and he feared for his life. The family of Corey Jones waited more than 3 years for the trial of Nouman Raja, 41. The trial lasted 8 days, and the jury deliberated for 4 hours. The all White jury of 4 men and 2 women convicted Raja of manslaughter by culpable negligence while armed, and attempted first-degree murder with a firearm.
The manslaughter count is punishable by up to 30 years. The attempted murder count, for the bullets that missed Corey, is punishable by 25 years to life. On April 25, 2019, Raja was sentenced to 25 years in prison for both counts, to be served concurrently.
The most interesting evidence in this case was the audio tape of Corey Jones calling for a tow truck. Raja gave a false report that he immediately identified himself as a police officer. Sun-Sentinel reports:
The main reason ex-cop Nouman Raja was found guilty Thursday — let alone even charged in the fatal shooting of stranded motorist Corey Jones — was an extraordinary audio recording.
This case, joining a series of police killings of young black men across the country, turned on the discovery of Jones’ recorded call for a tow truck that early morning of Oct. 18, 2015, on a highway off-ramp.
Played repeatedly in Raja’s eight-day trial, it allowed the jury to hear the tragic 3:15 a.m. encounter between the Palm Beach Gardens police officer and the beloved musician and family man, ending in six gunshots.
Prosecutors said Raja never identified himself as an officer and acted so aggressively that Jones must have thought he was about to be carjacked or killed. Raja said he first thought the SUV was empty, but then saw Jones inside. Raja’s supervisor testified the officer had been told to don a police vest if he approached a civilian. He didn’t. Prosecutors also questioned why Raja didn’t pull his badge from his pocket. Read the rest of this entry →
At least nine people who were arrested by a Dallas police officer who was eventually accused of murdering a man in his own home have had their cases dismissed, according to a new report. The development could be damning for Amber Guyger, the now-former cop who was indicted for breaking into the home of Botham Shem Jean before shooting him to death.
All of the dismissed cases originated before Guyger killed Botham Jean, a 26-year-old native of St. Lucia who was simply home watching TV when the off-duty officer illegally entered and killed him under the implausible excuse that she thought he was burglarizing her own apartment. Citing court documents, the Dallas News reported that “Dallas County prosecutors in one case wrote that they were seeking the dismissal because the fired officer was ‘indicted for murdering an innocent man in his own home.’”
On Friday Chicago Police Department (CPD) officer Jason Van Dyke was sentenced to less than seven years (81 months) in prison, plus two years’ probation for the 2014 murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The sentence was handed down by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Vincent Gaughan one day after three CPD officers were found not guilty of conspiracy charges stemming from their role in covering up the murder of the African-American teen. Van Dyke is the first Chicago police officer to be convicted of murder during an on-duty assault in more than half a century.
Van Dyke was convicted in October 2018 by a jury of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm, one for every bullet Van Dyke unloaded into McDonald’s body over a 15-second period. Van Dyke could have received up to 20 years for second degree murder and between six and 30 years for each count of aggravated battery. If he was given the full sentence, he could have been in prison for the rest of his life. The minimal sentence can only be understood as the action of a ruling class that needed to sentence Van Dyke to avoid an eruption of social anger but did not want to set a precedent that might limit the ability of the police to act with the utmost violence.
The special prosecutor, Joseph McMahon, requested in his closing argument that Van Dyke receive 18 to 20 years. The defense argued that the case “screamed out for probation” due to the officer’s “clean” past and unlikeliness to reoffend. Including the time already served, and an early release he would not have received under aggravated battery, Van Dyke will likely spend less time in prison than it would have taken McDonald to go through high school.
Judge Gaughan overrode the jury’s conviction of murder and battery by electing to only sentence on the second-degree murder, reasoning that murder charge was the most serious conviction since the death was the result of the battery. Further, he stated that if he were to sentence on the aggravated battery charges, he would have combined the 16 convictions into one because they were all part of one act. Even if one accepts the reasoning that Van Dyke should only have been sentenced on murder, the 6.75-year sentence stands in contrast to the will of the jury.
Hello good people. I’ve been unable to follow trials and news daily to write blog posts about them. As it stands now, I’m unsure if and when I’ll return to writing blog posts on a regular basis. My last chemo treatment is scheduled for February, and then I’ll be on targeted immunotherapy for a year, so we’ll see how I’ll feel come March of next year.
There is much happeningand I wanted to bullet point some things. As and if time allows, I’ll post updates in the comment section below. Feel free to do the same.
Terry Thompson and his wife Chauna were charged with murder for the May 28, 2017, choke-hold death of John Hernandez in Crosby, Texas. Terry was put on trial in July 2018 and the jury hung. His retrial began in October 2018. The jury found Terry guilty and sentenced him to 25 years. Chauna’s trial is scheduled to begin on March 26, 2019. For background on this case, see this link.
Jeffrey Zeigler, who fired a shotgun at 14-year old Brennan Walker, has been sentenced to 4 to 10 years in prison. A jury found Zeigler guilty of assault with intent to do great bodily harm and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. For background info on this case, click here.
George Zimmerman entered a no contest plea to resolve a misdemeanor charge of stalking a private investigator in the latest run-in with the law for the neighborhood watch leader who killed Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman will be placed on 12-month probation, during which time he is not allowed to possess a firearm.
Zimmerman entered the no contest plea in absentia, meaning he did not have to be present at the courthouse. Under such a plea, a defendant doesn’t admit guilt, and a conviction is withheld if the conditions of the plea are met.
Hello. chuquestaquenumber1 here, sharing some thoughts about how authorities pick and choose who should be charged with committing acts of terrorism.
When people witness acts of violence like the Manchester concert attack, Pulse night club shooting, Charlie Hebdo attacks, etc, or attempted acts of violence such as the would be Times Square bomber, would be JFK fuel container bombers, etc., it’s called and classified terrorism. The perpetrators of these crimes received terrorist charges.
There is unfortunately, as all things in a system motivated by racism/white supremacy, not to call acts of political violence committed and said to be committed by white males, “terrorism”. Here are some recent and not so recent examples of what I speak of: Read the rest of this entry →
Three incidents in 72 hours shared one thing: hate.
Consider the past week in America.
Wednesday, a white man with a history of violence shot and killed two African-Americans, seemingly at random, at a Kentucky Kroger store following a failed attempt to barge into a black church.
After mail bombs were being sent to people who’d been criticized by the President, a suspect was arrested Friday — a man who had railed against Democrats and minorities with hate-filled messages online.
And Saturday morning, a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 people attending Jewish services.
It is nearly a year since I have felt I could write again about terrorist attacks. The Squirrel Hill Massacre is an event that I cannot ignore in this blog. For any who for some reason do not know about this terror attack on US soil, know this: An American terrorist stormed a Jewish synagogue and executed 11 worshiping Jews in the midst of a naming ceremony. Police arrested the perpetrator who shouted words to the effect that all Jews must die. His crime has been termed Hate Crime by authorities. That is appropriate designation but I believe there is much more than hate crime in this event. More of my opinion about that comes below.
Before I continue with my comments about the Squirrel Hill murders, let me put some of my cards face up on the table. I am a former journalist and retired Associate Professor of Broadcasting…
Thousands of people jammed an intersection amid light rain for a vigil Saturday evening for the victims of a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue earlier in the day. The gathering included prayers and singing in memory of those killed and wounded.(Oct. 27) AP
The Jewish congregants were there to celebrate life, but were met by death. Most never had a chance.
In April 2018, in the Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills, Brennan Walker missed his school bus. His mom had taken his cell phone from him the night before, so he could not call or get a map to school. He attempted to follow the path of the school bus but became lost. He went to a house, rung the bell, and Jeffrey Ziegler grabbed a loaded shotgun. Brennan ran, and Jeffrey took a shot at Brennan’s back. Fortunately, he missed.
For more background on the case, see the post at this link.
Ziegler was charged with assault with intent to murder and felony firearms. The jury was given instructions on a lesser charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder. It took the jury three hours of deliberation to find Ziegler guilty of the lesser charge. It carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Ziegler was also found guilty of possessing a firearm in the commission of a felony. which has a mandatory sentence of two years in prison. Read the rest of this entry →
Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke has been found guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery using a firearm in the 2014 death of Laquan McDonald. However, Van Dyke still faces Administrative Disciplinary actions and other officers on the night that Laquan was murdered also face criminal charges or disciplinary actions.
When it is said that the verdict in the murder trial of Jason Van Dyke was a victory, it not only pertains to that verdict, but the pending criminal cases and disciplinary allegations against others who were present that night, or in charge of investigating.
Three others are facing criminal charges.
Five are facing disciplinary actions pending the completion of Van Dyke’s trial.
Three with pending administrative actions have retired.
Fred Hopkins, killed one officer and wounded 6 others
On October 3, 2018 in South Carolina around 5pm, several police officers attempting to serve a search warrant showed up to the home of 74 yr old white male Frederick Hopkins. At this point Hopkins began to fire upon the officers and barricaded himself inside the house, using his children as hostages. During the chaotic shootout, 7 police officers were shot. One police officer, Terrence Carraway, an African American man who just celebrated 30 years as a Florence County police officer, was killed during the shootout.
After 2 hours which armored vehicles were called and ESU/SWAT officers were called, Fred Hopkins surrendered . Fred Hopkins is facing several charges.
“Officers went there unknowing the firepower the suspect had,” Florence County Sheriff Kenney Boone said. “Fire was being shot all over. The way this suspect was positioned, his view of fire was several hundred yards. So he had an advantage. The officers couldn’t get to the ones who were down.
Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke was found guilty Friday of second-degree murder in the 2014 fatal shooting of Black, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. You can click here to read more background on this case.
Van Dyke was also found guilty of 16 counts of aggravated battery; one for each bullet he sent into the 17-year old’s body. He was found not guilty of official misconduct. Second-degree murder usually carries a sentence of less than 20 years. In Illinois, aggravated battery with a firearm carries a minimum sentence of 6 years, and a maximum penalty of 30 to 60 years.
While probation is allowed for second-degree murder, it is not allowed for the Class X felony of aggravated battery using a firearm.
Van Dyke took the witness stand on Tuesday, and on cross-examination was asked about a statement he made to his partner as they approached the shooting scene: “Oh my God, we’re going to have to shoot the guy.”
“I thought the officers were under attack,” Van Dyke said.
After the verdict, a woman juror said a changing point for many of the jurors was when it was revealed that Van Dyke said to his partner that they might have to shoot McDonald, even before they got out of their police vehicle. Read the rest of this entry →