Saturday, February 27, 2010

Million dollar bail… a case comparison – Part 2

Raleigh police found a five month old girl who had been beaten by her parents so badly that she sustained the following injuries: (1) a skull fracture, (2) internal bleeding in the brain, (3) three fractured ribs, (4) a cut between the nose and the lip, and (5) bleeding from the right eye. In addition, police found inside the motel room in which they were staying marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and two other children belonging to the mother.

The parents were charged with three counts of misdemeanor child abuse, three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, and one count of possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The baby’s mother, who kicked the father in the back and slammed a door on him was additionally charged with simple assault.

No attempted murder charges levied at anyone!

Crystal Mangum allegedly throws punches and objects at her boyfriend and scratches him, according to police.

Ms. Mangum is charged with attempted first degree murder and placed under a million dollar bond.

Bail set for the parents of beating the child was set at $780,000 and $515,000.

Yet another example of the all too prevalent comparative cases of selective justice based on Class and Color that so predominates the North Carolina criminal justice system. Charges are not leveled with any consistency, bail is arbitrarily set, and the media controls the spin in accordance with the powers that be. The carpetbagger jihad against Mike Nifong (a vindictive call to arms as initiated by Rae Evans in her “60 Minutes” interview) has definitely had a heavy hand in the heavy-handed treatment of Ms. Mangum in this unfortunate and private altercation she had with her boyfriend.

The media, of course, is quick to give prominent negative coverage to Ms. Mangum with a link on the front page of the News & Observer referring to the front page of the local (Triangle & Co.) section. On the front page of that section, the headlines address her as the “Lacrosse accuser.” Then there is a large photo showing Ms. Mangum in prison garb, extending low enough to depict the handcuffs on her wrists. Media coverage of the five month old baby girl who was beaten does not even merit coverage on the front page of the local section.

The cogs of the police, prosecutors, courts, and media are all in sync and spinning to the drumbeat of the carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse defendants and their attorneys in carrying out their vindictive jihad against anything Nifong. Any staunch and vociferous supporter of Mike Nifong who happens to be ensnared in some criminal event, trumped up or not, can expect the same uneven treatment by the police, prosecutors, courts, and media that Ms. Mangum received.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Million dollar bail… a case comparison

On Wednesday, February 24, 2010, in Littleton, Colorado, a thirty two year old man went to the parking lot of a middle school, took out a bolt action hunting rifle, and began shooting at students. He wounded two children under the age of ten before he was tackled and subdued by a math teacher.

He was jailed on $1 million bail on “suspicion” of attempted murder.

A week prior to that, in the cash-strapped city of Durham, North Carolina, Crystal Mangum was involved in a domestic dispute with her boyfriend, when her daughter became concerned for her safety and dialed 9-1-1. According to police, Ms. Mangum threw punches and objects at her friend, in addition to scratching him. The boyfriend was not taken to the hospital for medical treatment.

She was jailed on $1 million bail on a “first degree” attempted murder charge.

In the Colorado case, investigators are trying to figure out why the gunman was exhibiting “bizarre behavior.”

In the North Carolina case, meantime, the bail was reduced to a mere $250,000.00, however, the judge informed Ms. Mangum that if she did manage to make bail, that she would be placed under house arrest.

Why the disparity in the two cases with the same initial $1 million bail? Bail and the criminal charge levied in Colorado case seems to be appropriate and tied to reality. The North Carolina case, on the other hand, is draconian in comparison to its charge and bail and has no link to reason or logic.

The reasons behind the despicable treatment of the North Carolina justice system against Ms. Mangum have their core roots in the Duke Lacrosse case. Judges, police, and prosecutors in Durham, either conscientiously or sub-conscientiously are following the carpetbagger jihad call to action. This is the equivalent of an order to destroy anything or anybody sympathetic or supportive of Mike Nifong… or anyone who dared cross the privileged Duke Lacrosse defendant sons of the carpetbagger families. When I expressed this in a recent blog, one commenter asked me what proof I had that the harsh treatment of Ms. Mangum was somehow related to the Duke Lacrosse case. I cannot offer the questioner any physical forensic proof to backup my beliefs about this issue… instead I turn to logic, reason, and common sense. As I stated in rebuttal, why else would the system lower the boom on someone involved in a domestic dispute… coincidence?

I then challenged my commenter to explain to me why he/she thought Ms. Mangum should be singled out for such excessive treatment. If someone can give me an explanation that is more convincing than my “carpetbagger jihad” premise, then I will gladly accept it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Durham needs to stop kowtowing to the carpetbaggers

In recent days, many in the cash-strapped city of Durham have unabashedly embarrassed themselves by kowtowing to the malicious vendetta-style jihad called upon by the carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse defendants. Sparked by Rae Evans’s call to arms during an interview on CBS – TV’s “60 Minutes,” she directed the focus of their ire on former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, when she stated that because he picked on the “wrong families” (wealthy, privileged, and not people of color), he was “going to pay every day for the rest of his life.” However the scope of this desire for revenge goes far beyond Mr. Nifong, and encompasses anyone who is supportive or gives sanctuary to the Nifongs. Also in their crosshairs are individuals who in any way, shape, or form contributed to the prosecution of their precious sons. And prime among this latter group is the Duke Lacrosse accuser, Crystal Mangum.

Late in the evening of Wednesday, February 17, 2010, a 9-1-1 call was placed by Crystal Mangum’s 9 year old daughter, fearing for the safety of her mother who was in an alleged altercation with a man with whom she had been in a relationship. Durham police, under the spell of the carpetbagger jihad, naturally focused on Ms. Mangum and with their mouths watering started ringing up the tab. Ms. Mangum was accused of scratching, punching, and throwing things at her boyfriend, which obviously warrants a charge of attempted first degree murder… right? Then she allegedly said to her boyfriend, “I’m going to stab you”… definitely communicating a threat. Resisting arrest is a good catch-all vague charge that is indiscriminately used, overused, and is useful to automatically put a suspect in a bad light with the media and public. Now the Durham police probably knew the identity of Ms. Mangum before arriving at the scene of the 9-1-1 call, and when Ms. Mangum allegedly gave the name “Marella Mangum,” they tacked on a charge of identity theft… very creative on the part of Durham’s finest. There are other ridiculous charges leveled at Ms. Mangum that are so absurd they defy comprehension.

Upset with her boyfriend she takes some of his clothes, places them in the bath tub, and sets them on fire. Now the Durham officers, who are to my understanding present during this event, stand around and call the fire department instead of turning on water in the bath tub to put out the fire. The delay in time waiting for the fire department to arrive provides plenty of time for smoke to really inflict smoke-related damage throughout the house. And, of course, she is charged with five counts of arson, for each article of clothing burned. (To my understanding, if a house is set on fire, the arsonist is charged with one count of arson, not a count for each item consumed by the fire. Therefore, Ms. Mangum’s charge is similar to that of an arsonist setting five houses ablaze?)

Undoubtedly there have been thousands upon thousands of domestic dispute calls in which couples have attacked one another and made threatening remarks, but to my knowledge they have not been charged with “attempted first degree murder.” Only the selective justice system of North Carolina has chosen to singularly charge Ms. Mangum thusly. In addition, I am unaware of a party in a domestic dispute being held under a million dollar bond… other than Crystal Mangum. The disparity of her treatment compared with others in domestic situations is uncannily similar to the disparity of the treatment Mike Nifong suffered… the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception in 1933 (the latter a fact that the media goes to extreme measures to keep hidden from the public).

The lunacy of events in the cash-strapped city proceeds as a judge reduces Ms. Mangum’s bond from a million dollars to merely $250,000.00. But then he goes another step further by ruling that if she is able to meet bond, she is to be under house arrest. I’ve never heard of such.

And while the Durham police, court, media, and Durhamites who are under the spell of the biased media gleefully celebrate the misfortune that has befallen Ms. Mangum, the carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse defendants continue their avaricious quest to appropriate thirty million dollars from the cash-strapped city… a city which has already wasted millions of taxpayer dollars in attorney fees to defend the city against the greedy ones. It is truly an irony… the position in which the city of Durham finds itself. It is a position in which the city does the bidding of the carpetbaggers with gusto, while at the same time it is trying to defend itself from them. It reminds me of the scene in the movie “Animal House” in which the Kevin Bacon fraternity pledge goes through a formal initiation in which he receives a swat on the rear and then remarks, “Thank you, Sir. May I have another?” When is the cash-strapped city finally going to stop kowtowing to the carpetbaggers and tell them that enough is enough? For them to do so, all they need to do is allow intellect and logic to rule over hype and emotion.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Greg Taylor’s wrongful murder conviction is no isolated incident in North Carolina

The well publicized events in recent months which culminated in the exoneration of Gregory Flint Taylor, wrongly incarcerated for 17 years of a life sentence, fails to express the true magnitude of the problem of wrongful murder convictions in the state of North Carolina. Fortunately the death penalty was not imposed for Mr. Taylor, however, the number of people wrongly incarcerated in capital murder cases is staggering. That is one reason that the former director of the Durham based nonprofit Center for Death Penalty Litigation (CDPL), attorney Ken Rose, is one of the state’s leading advocates for doing away with the death penalty.

Ken Rose’s heroic actions in leading the appellate defense of Levon “Bo” Jones is chronicled in the book “The Last Lawyer,” by John Temple. Jones was sentenced to death for a 1987 murder despite no confession, no informant testimony, no physical evidence, no fingerprints, and no DNA evidence. Through the efforts of Ken Rose and others on the CDPL team, Levon “Bo” Jones was eventually found to be innocent of the murder which nearly cost him is life. Jones is one of but close to a dozen North Carolina inmates who have been on death row, but were later exonerated. Alan Gell, who was successfully prosecuted by prosecutor David Hoke (in large measure due to withholding exculpatory evidence from Gell’s defense attorneys), is another. In fact, the Tar Heel State is third, trailing only Illinois and Louisiana in the number of death row inmates ultimately found to be innocent.

Statistics over a six year period, beginning in July 1, 2001, show that there were 2,612 potential capital first degree murder charges filed. Of these individuals, 396 were later exonerated, a breakdown of this group is as follows: 272 charges were dismissed without leave to reinstate the charges; 9 no true bill was found; 40 no probable cause was found; and 75 were found to be not guilty. (Information from a report by NC Indigent Defense Services entitled: “FY07 Capitol Trial Case Study: PAC and Expert Spending in Potentially Capitol Cases at the Trial Level – December 2008,” and contained in the NC Indigent Defense Services website.)

This averages out to more than sixty innocent people arrested and charged in potential capital cases every year, and accounts for more than 15% of the potential capital cases. And, as you can imagine, they all served time in jail. Unfortunately the media does a poor job in educating the masses about this issue, and the public outrage is thereby minimized.

The death penalty should be removed as a sentencing option if this state and this country is be considered one of civility and compassion. It’s one thing to wrongfully take 17 years of a man’s life, but quite another to wrongfully take a man’s life.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

State Bar joined Carpetbagger Jihad against Nifong with gusto

When the carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse defendants declared jihad against former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong because he had the nerve to charge their boys with a crime, the media, judges, state officials all made full commitments to assist in their vindictive cause. As stated in her call to arms which aired on CBS – TV’s “60 Minutes,” defendant mom Rhea Evans made clear their mandate… to see that Mike Nifong and his family “pays” every day for the rest of his life.

The North Carolina State Bar went above and beyond the call of duty, and are deserving of special carpetbagging recognition. First, it trumped up a flimsy ethics complaint that was so weak, that even they had to amend it a second time and re-file. The State Bar’s action was necessary in order to get the dedicated D.A. Nifong off the Duke Lacrosse case, and into friendly hands. Unbeknownst to Mr. Nifong at the time, the Attorney General’s Office was in bed with the carpetbagger crew, following its every directive to the tee… such as later carrying out the dismissal of the Duke Lacrosse case and innocent promulgation of April 11, 2007.

The State Bar’s F. Lane Williamson, who headed up the grievance panel, at the risk of sounding ridiculous, went so far as to claim that Mike Nifong pursued the Duke Lacrosse case for the political purpose of being elected to the district attorney position to which he had been appointed. What makes this widely held motive so laughable is the fact that simple math would point out that the way to assure victory in the May 2006 primary was to dismiss the Duke Lacrosse case, not pursue it. Williamson and Duke Lacrosse defense attorney Kirk Osborn, among others seemed to believe that by wooing the black vote, Mr. Nifong would win the primary. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the voting results confirmed that. Of the African Americans who made up 38.2% of the total registered voters, they accounted for only 34% of those who voted in the primary. Fewer blacks turned out percentage-wise. Of the white voters who comprised 56.3% of the total registered voters, they accounted for a whopping 63% of the voters for the May 2, 2006 primary. A higher turnout of white voters percentage-wise. Yet, Mike Nifong won, proving wrong the WTVD ABC 11 Eyewitness News poll that proclaimed the primary race was a dead heat with Nifong requiring a huge black turnout in order to beat chief rival Freda Black. ABC 11 News deserves a lot of credit for this Jedi Mind-trick, for its poll and coverage convinced many that Nifong would benefit by pursuing the Duke Lacrosse case. The fact is, that pursuing the Duke Lacrosse case presented a tremendous impediment for him to overcome on his way to victory.

Besides disbarring Mr. Nifong, the North Carolina State Bar decided to turn the knife in his back while simultaneously pouring salt in his wounds. They decided to send Mr. Nifong an invoice to cover the costs of holding the five day hearing to disbar him. The bill amounted to eight thousand, eight hundred ninety-seven dollars and 91 cents ($8,897.91), with payment due within ninety days. According to the Bar’s counsel, Katherine E. Jean, the Bar is given this authority under regulation: 27 NCAC 1B .0109(8). She informed me that this regulation was used when it fined David Hoke and Deborah Graves for their disciplinary hearing held years earlier… however they were billed a total of $702.10… an amount which they shared, each paying half. Even though David Hoke’s actions against Alan Gell were far more egregious than anything Mr. Nifong was accused of doing in the Duke Lacrosse case, Hoke got off paying $350.05, whereas Mr. Nifong faced a tab that approached nine thousand dollars. The disparity in the amounts of the fines can be attributed to but one thing…the carpetbagger jihad against Mike Nifong. How many other attorneys have been sent an invoice by the State Bar to pay for the costs to discipline them? Not many, I bet. I was only given the one example other than Mike Nifong.

All I can say is, “How shameful.” Selective persecution against Mike Nifong has sadly been widespread among state agencies, especially the unregulated State Bar.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Prosecutors behaving badly: Wolfe and Ford

“Taylor gets his shot at release: 17-year convict could be freed,” is the headline of an outstanding article in today’s February 7, 2010 News & Observer newspaper written by Mandy Locke. More details are furnished in this news story that tells about early investigative actions to solve the Raleigh murder of Jacquetta Thomas in September 1991. Gregory Taylor, whose truck had gotten stuck in the mud near the murder site, and his passenger Johnny Beck, hitched hiked home late that evening with plans to retrieve the truck the following morning. Taylor and Beck became suspects solely because Taylor’s truck had been found about a football field’s length away from the body. Police attempted to have Gregory Taylor implicate Johnny Beck (an African American) by telling him the falsehood that Beck had fingered him (Taylor) for committing the murder. Mr. Taylor refused to lie and state that Beck was involved. The police suggested to Mr. Taylor that he could face the death penalty; still Mr. Taylor refused to lie on Mr. Beck. The police lied again, stating that the victim’s blood had been found in his truck. Mr. Taylor still refused to implicate Mr. Beck, and he requested to speak to an attorney. Greg Taylor asked four times for an attorney, but the police refused to acquiesce. Within twelve hours of finding the slain body of Jacquetta Thomas, police had charged Taylor and Beck with first-degree murder… despite lack of physical evidence or eyewitness testimony. Talk about a rush to judgment!!!

When the possibility of two or more suspects are considered as perpetrators of a crime, a commonly used tactic by the police, prosecutors, and investigators is to have one of the individuals implicate the others. For the murder of Jacquetta Thomas, the attempt was made by Prosecutor Tom Ford to get Taylor, who is white, to implicate Beck who is black. In another recent case, the murder of Wilson teen Brittany Willis, the police were successful in getting teen murderer Kenneth Meeks to finger an innocent friend, James Arthur Johnson. The investigators told Meeks that Johnson had “snitched” on him, which unlike the case against Greg Taylor, was the truth. Meeks had confided in Johnson that he had committed the murder of Ms. Willis, and days later, when Johnson told his father what Meeks had told him, his father took him to Wilson police to provide authorities with the information. Although James Arthur Johnson provided information that solved the murder of Ms. Willis, and that should have earned him the gratitude of the Willis family, as well as the $20,000.00 reward offered by the family and friends of Brittany Willis, what he received was a murder charge and 39 months wrongfully incarcerated. The charge against Johnson was based solely on the testimony of Meeks, who fingered Johnson in retaliation for “snitching.” Years later, after the misplaced anger had subsided, Meeks recanted his statements about Johnson, leaving the prosecution without probable cause. That is when two eyewitnesses suddenly appeared, both with connections to the Wilson Police Department, to help provide a basis for taking the case to trial. However, increased media scrutiny and public outrage caused the prosecutor to re-think that approach… the eyewitnesses quietly disappeared.

In the case against Taylor, a good faith effort was not conducted into investigating the death of Jacquetta Thomas. Bringing charges against Taylor and Beck was a rush to judgment by Tom Ford in an attempt to close the murder case. In the Johnson case, police had in custody the killer (Kenneth Meeks, an African American) of Brittany Willis, but their outrage at the senseless crime against the white teenager spurred them to seek to punish as many young African American males as possible… their guilt or innocence being irrelevant.

Here are two cases where justice has been denied for James Arthur Johnson and Gregory Flint Taylor. Johnson was wrongfully incarcerated for 39 months, but eventually freed after charges of murder, rape, kidnapping, and armed robbery were dropped by a special prosecutor, and he ultimately made an Alford plea on a “misprision of felony” charge (a rarely used charge for citizens who do not report their knowledge of a crime). The case against Gregory Taylor should have an acceptable resolution after a three panel judge hears arguments seeking his release… the hearing beginning on Tuesday, February 9th. His freedom is the most important judgment that could be handed out by the judges, but it is certainly just a fraction of the restorative justice to which this innocent man, with an abundance of integrity, deserves.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Debbie Crane and Mike Nifong share honor

In today’s News & Observer article titled “E-mail claim hit Easley in 2008,” former Governor Mike Easley’s press secretary Renee Hoffman is noted to have testified under oath last week that she had instructed public information officers to delete e-mail messages. She did so under orders from then Governor Easley. The e-mails, which were public records, were not to be destroyed, and doing so would be in violation of the law.

The same accusation (Governor Easley ordered e-mail destroyed) was made nearly two years earlier in March 2008 by Debbie Crane, a former public information officer for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. In response to Crane’s statement, Easley, through his spokesman Seth Effron, called Ms. Crane “dishonest, untruthful, and insubordinate.” Ms. Crane said that she felt vindicated by Hoffman’s deposition last week in which Ms. Hoffman stated that she, too, had been instructed to have public information officers delete e-mails. The N & O article quoted Debbie Crane as saying: “Being called a liar by Mike Easley is a badge of honor.”

Debbie Crane shares that honor with former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, because he was also called a “liar” by Governor Easley a year earlier, in 2007. However, in Mike Nifong’s case, the governor made the statement personally (not through a spokesman), publicly, and proactively. The statement, made months before Mr. Nifong was scheduled to appear before the North Carolina State Bar’s disciplinary panel because of his handling of the Duke Lacrosse case, accused Mr. Nifong of making a promise to him (Easley) that he would not run for re-election, and then doing just that. In addition, he stated that Mr. Nifong was “the worst appointment I have ever made.” The governor was not the only high level official to make pre-hearing statements against Mr. Nifong that were prejudicial and inflammatory… Attorney General Roy Cooper called Mr. Nifong a rogue prosecutor and proclaimed the three Duke Lacrosse defendants “innocent.” However, I do not believe these statements had any bearing on Mr. Nifong’s disciplinary hearing, as its outcome was predetermined long before the State Bar even became involved.

As early as May 1, 2006, defense for the Duke Lacrosse defendants had been calling for the Court to remove Mr. Nifong as prosecutor. It alleged that Mr. Nifong was motivated in pursuing the prosecution of the Duke Lacrosse defendants purely for political gain (to help him get elected for the position of Durham District Attorney… which he held). Defense attorneys never did provide any facts to back up that statement. The Duke Lacrosse defense team, which did not want to face Mr. Nifong in court, came up with the following solution: have the North Carolina State Bar charge Mr. Nifong with an ethical complaint; that would force Mr. Nifong to step down as prosecutor for the case due to a conflict of interest. Their diabolical scheme worked to perfection… worthy of the admiration of Bush architect Karl Rove, himself.

I admire Debbie Crane, like Mike Nifong, for doing the right thing in 2008, even though, like Mr. Nifong, she suffered proximately as a result. I believe that Debbie Crane and Mike Nifong exhibited extraordinary courage and are deserving of the gratitude of all North Carolinians. Others who merit honor for their courageous acts are Judge Melissa Owens Lassiter (who defied Governor Easley by using the principle of “equal justice for all” in her order to re-instate a NC trooper who had been selectively fired), and L. F. Eason, who quit his job with the state rather than pay homage to the unrepentant racist bigot Senator Jesse Helms at his death.

Honorees, wear your badges proudly. We are not worthy.