Monday, August 30, 2010

Prosecutors lie and work with defense team to pressure man who’s maintained his innocence to accept guilty murder plea

Exposure of typical widespread prosecutorial misconduct was once again made apparent in an article in August 29, 2010’s The News & Observer, titled “‘Bloody’ evidence misused to elicit plea deal in death.” The article by J. Andrew Curliss actually eschewed the paper’s PAPEN (Protect All Prosecutors Except Nifong) Policy by actually mentioning the name of the prosecutor responsible for the prosecutorial misconduct, Durham Prosecutor Freda Black… even though buried deep in the article, it was nonetheless mentioned. Mr. Curliss deserves kudos for this, but it is not surprising (as he has taken on former Governor Mike Easley and other heavyweights with his investigative reporting). The article about the injustice against Derrick Allen, who was recently granted a new trial, only reinforces the contention that North Carolina follows a tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color.”

In the summer of 1999, Durham prosecutors, led by Freda Black, were pursuing the death penalty against Derrick Allen for allegedly killing and sexually assaulting the two-year old daughter of his girlfriend. When Black received confirmatory lab results stating that what was presumed to be blood stains on the victim’s clothing was in fact not blood, the prosecution changed course and sought a plea deal. In offering the deal, prosecutors lied to defendant Allen, who had always maintained his innocence, telling him that their was blood on the child’s garments. They offered a deal which would remove the death penalty from consideration in exchange for a lengthy prison sentence.

Although he knew of his innocence, Allen agreed to pleading guilty to committing a murder which he knew that he did not commit because of what he believed to be honest and accurate lab results, and because his own defense attorneys expended their efforts in advising him to accept the offered plea deal rather than preparing for his defense against the charges in court. Unfortunately, and all too often, defense attorneys pressure their clients to accept deals even when they know it is not in their clients' best interests. The reasons may be due to shear laziness or in the form of incentives, but let there be no doubt that defense attorneys often purposely work with prosecutors to get their clients to plead guilty… even in a case that is weak and has no credible evidence.

A “Minister of Justice” would not lie about such important evidence in order to wring out a knowingly false admission of guilt. To make it more palatable for the defendant to enter into a plea deal despite insisting upon his innocence, the Alford Plea was introduced. It is the same tool that was successfully used by the prosecutors in the James Arthur Johnson case. Unfortunately, although it facilitates the prosecution’s ability to obtain a plea deal, it has no legal bearing or benefit to the defendant. In other words, the Alford Plea is nothing more than a “legal Jedi Mind-trick”… just another sinister weapon in the prosecutor’s arsenal to gain an unfair advantage over the defendant.

Wake prosecutor Tom Ford tried unsuccessfully to force Gregory Taylor to enter into a plea deal which included fingering another innocent man (an African American) for a murder that neither of them committed. Taylor stood on his principles and refused to implicate a man he knew to be innocent, and therefore he was subjected to the wrath of Ford who convicted him with phony and misleading blood testimony… not unlike that used by Prosecutor Black to sway Derrick Allen to admit guilt. Sadly, Taylor served 17 years of a life sentence before he was cleared by a three judge panel in February 2010. During this hearing, Ford, the original prosecutor in 1992, fought to keep Taylor behind bars for the rest of his life based solely on the testimony of two witnesses who offered statements in exchange for a reduction of their time of incarceration. Tom Ford, and his district attorney, Colon Willoughby, are definitely not “Ministers of Justice.”

In another article by Mr. Curliss, titled “Defense sees evidence 12 years after plea deal,” he explains that the defendant, Derrick Allen and his current attorneys are seeing for the first time important evidence about the murder and sex charges brought against him 12 years ago. Evidence of particular importance that prosecutors held back from the defendant was a statement by the state’s main witness against Allen in which she stated that she and Allen had an intimate relationship that had turned sour and that she considered him her enemy. Since his incarceration more than a decade ago, Mr. Allen has been trying to obtain all evidence prosecutors had in their file, but prosecutors have been reluctant to release it to him.

So with regards to his case 12 years ago, Prosecutor Black withheld from defendant Allen crucial lab evidence regarding alleged “bloody” stains, withheld from Allen crucial information about a witness statement that was favorable to the him, and she lied to the Allen about results of a lab test in order to coerce him into accepting a plea deal instead of a possible death penalty conviction.

Former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong has never purposely withheld evidence from defendants, including the Duke Lacrosse defense teams (although the media has grossly misled the public into believing that he did just that). Furthermore, he has never lied to the defense to give the impression that he had incriminating evidence for the purpose of forcing a defendant to accept a plea deal. Mr. Nifong has always maintained an open file policy which granted the defense counsel complete access to the prosecution’s evidence… he did this for more than two decades before it was mandated into law. He has prosecuted in good faith to uphold equal justice for all, not unlike principles that guided Wyatt Earp and Eliot Ness. And Mr. Nifong acted independent of pressures brought by his superiors and public sentiment… actions were guided by his overriding desire to see that justice prevailed. In the Duke Lacrosse case, he proceeded with his prosecution of the defendants despite its unpopularity with the Attorney General’s Office, Duke University, the media, and the general public. He prosecuted despite the fact that by doing so it markedly damaged his chances for being elected to the post of Durham district attorney. And, like another courageous man in history, Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Beckett, Mr. Nifong suffered the consequences.

Yet, it is Mr. Nifong that the state persecutes and the media crucifies. Prosecutors like Freda Black, Tom Ford, Bill Wolfe, and others of their ilk are protected by the Attorney General’s Office and the media, in general. The articles in The News & Observer by Mr. Curliss are an unexpected and pleasant change from the PAPEN Policy. Without doubt, had Joseph Neff authored the story, the identity of the prosecutor responsible for the misdeeds and malfeasance against Derrick Allen would not have been mentioned.

Because of problems with the SBI lab, as exposed during the Greg Taylor hearings and which are really reflections on the prosecutors, Derrick Allen now has an opportunity to get justice. However, even if he is found “not guilty” on re-trial, if the prosecution chooses that route, do not expect for Governor Bev Perdue to issue a pardon. Do not expect to see him compensated for a dozen years wrongfully spent behind bars. The North Carolina justice system does not work that way… it is not fair. In North Carolina, justice tends to benefit those who are well-heeled, privileged, and not people of color.

Likewise, do not expect an upsurge in demands for sanctions or disciplinary actions against Prosecutor Black by the media, the governor, the Attorney General’s Office, or the public. After all, Allen does not come from a family of wealth, power, and privilege, so injustice meted out to him is readily tolerated by the Tar Heel masses. To paraphrase Rae Evans (mother of Duke Lacrosse defendant Dave Evans) and put things in perspective, Prosecutor Freda Black, in pursuing and prosecuting Derrick Allen, picked on a person from the “right” family to indict… namely one that is poor, disenfranchised, and of color. Because Mr. Nifong picked on people to indict who came from the “wrong” families, the avenging agenda of the Carpetbagger Jihad that calls for his total destruction in appropriate in the eyes of many.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Beckett, Wyatt Earp, Eliot Ness, and Mike Nifong

Recently, The Independent Weekly, a Triangle area arts and entertainment publication, which has an aversion to me, featured an article by a “Casual Observer.” The title of the July 14, 2010 article, “Razing questions: The last day of the Duke lacrosse house” by Adam Sobsey, included the following paragraph:
“The next morning, I was sitting in Parker & Otis with a cup of coffee when two men sat down at an adjacent table. One of them turned on a voice recorder and interviewed the other – about the lacrosse scandal, astonishingly. The interviewee vigorously and lengthily attacked the media coverage of the case and defended Nifong. It was even more astonishing to hear him compare Nifong to a cross between Wyatt Earp and Eliot Ness. The building may have been demolished, but apparently we are still picking through its controversial remains.”

Yep, I was the interviewee. A gentleman was working on a project for his doctorial thesis and we met that day in Durham for the interview about how African Americans responded and reacted to the Duke Lacrosse case. As the casual observer accurately observed, I did place well-deserved criticism about biased and unfair coverage on the mainstream media… which is in lockstep with the Carpetbagger Jihad agenda to destroy former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong and anyone considered to be on the wrong end of the Duke Lacrosse case.

A most conspicuous example of slanted media coverage is the utilization of the PAPEN (Protect All Prosecutors Except Nifong) Policy as evidenced in the recent series in The News & Observer which lays prosecutorial misdeeds on SBI agents and its lab. No where in the entire four part series, spread out over a week, did any of the articles, or related articles mention a prosecutor’s name with a case of injustice. For example, Wake Prosecutor Tom Ford’s name was never mentioned, although he was responsible for putting an innocent man prison for 17 years of a life sentence (Greg Taylor). The name of Prosecutor David Hoke’s name was put in print, even though he convinced a jury to place an innocent man (Alan Gell) on death row. Anson County District Attorney Michael D. Parker wasn’t named in the paper’s series even though he was responsible for an innocent man (Floyd Brown) being incarcerated for fourteen years without a trial. Instead, the newspaper placed blame for these and other flagrant injustices on SBI agents and workers in its forensic lab.

Contrast that coverage to what happened when police investigator Linwood Wilson was charged with “obscenity stalking” as a result of marital discord… the headlines blared, “Nifong’s investigator arrested,” “Nifong’s investigator charged with stalking,” etc. You get the picture. The media, unfortunately, is integrally involved in shaping public opinion, and every chance it gets to link Mr. Nifong to a negative story, it will jump at the chance.

Now, I was pleased with the reference in The Independent Weekly by Mr. Sobsey. And, as I have said for some time, Mr. Nifong has the important and positive characteristics of Wyatt Earp, Eliot Ness, and Thomas Beckett. As a prosecutor, Mr. Nifong believed in law, and he set his career to seeing justice carried out, as devoted to law enforcement as Marshal Wyatt Earp. Like the “Untouchables’” Eliot Ness, Mr. Nifong would not be swayed by coercion, peer pressure, public sentiment, or “suggestions” from higher-ups. Finally, Mr. Nifong exhibited the courage and independence of Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Beckett in seeking justice… not bending under the force of the Carpetbagger Cabal. And contrary to the lies put forth in the media from the unregulated North Carolina State Bar adjudicator F. Lane Williamson, and others, Mike Nifong prosecuted the Duke Lacrosse defendants when doing so presented a definite disadvantage to his being elected to his appointed position of Durham district attorney.

What is truly sad is that the people of Durham have been snookered out of having one of North Carolina’s truly great prosecutors serve their county. Mike Nifong exemplified a “Minister of Justice” who put getting it right ahead of winning no matter what the costs. It is the people of Durham who share in this blame because they remained silent and idle, allowing the travesty against Mr. Nifong to take root and flourish. Unfortunately, as is often the case, a man possessing the admirable qualities of Beckett, Earp, and Ness, was considered too much of a risk for the Powers-That-Be who wanted to have free rein to co-opt their version of justice as opposed to enforcing the sacrosanct principle of “equal justice for all.”

Monday, August 23, 2010

When in the wrong… lie and scapegoat

During a robust Wake County school board meeting on July 20, 2010, Keith Sutton, an African American board member, waded into an unruly crowd attending the meeting in an attempt to calm emotions. One of the officers from the Raleigh Police Department, which presented a strong show of force, grabbed the arms of the business-suited Sutton and brought them behind his back in the process of handcuffing him. The officer involved was halted when school staff members came to Sutton's defense, explaining to the officer that he was a member of the school board.

Although unharmed, this humiliating and unwarranted near-arrest experience was deserving of an apology from the Raleigh police chief Harry Dolan and/or the officer responsible for the laying on of hands, according to Mr. Sutton. Needless to say, that apology was not forthcoming. Instead, Chief Dolan blamed Sutton for getting between police and demonstrators… never mind Sutton's intent or actions as they were evidently irrelevant. It all has to do with positioning. Now I am not aware of there being a crime on the books for being placed between alleged demonstrators and police, but in the North Carolina justice system, anything goes. To save face, Sutton said that Captain Stacy Deans apologized to him on July 20th, which goes to show that Sutton should have left well enough alone and not sought an official apology from the chief. Also, it shows that there are some decent and responsible people among Raleigh’s Finest.

Some people, such as myself, may believe that race played a role in the actions of the near-arrest officer and the resulting situation. Just ask yourself this, if school board Chairman Ron Margiotta or member John Tedesco had positioned themselves between demonstrators and police would they have had their arms yanked behind their backs? I don’t think so.

This unfortunate incident brings to mind my near-arrest experience on the campus of Duke University on April 14, 2010. I was at the Duke University Law School to hear Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, at an event which was open to the public and advertised to be on a "first come, first served" basis. So I arrived a couple of hours early wearing my Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong tee shirt, and being a gregarious person by nature, I struck up conversations with a few individuals, and gave some of them my Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong business card. After the hour presentation, I was leaving the room en masse with other attendees, with the intent of catching the bus and heading back to Raleigh. I was intercepted by a uniformed guard (whether security or campus police I do not know). He informed me that I had to leave the campus, which I was in the process of doing before his interference. He accused me of trespassing, and when I asked him why, he told me that he did not know… that Duke was a private institution and had the right to trespass anyone it wanted. As he explained it, he was only doing his job. He told me that the building manager had asked me to leave, but would not take me to see her, so I expressed my displeasure to him. Fortuitously for me, law professor James Coleman happened by and after I flagged him down, he interceded on my behalf. Had it not been for his input, I believe that I would have been arrested that day. I explained to the guard that I was leaving the campus and that he did not need to follow me, but he responded that he was going to see to it that I left the campus because I was causing a “disturbance.” (When questioned he couldn’t tell me what disturbance I had allegedly caused. I explained to him that he was the one causing the disturbance by interrupting me as I was leaving the campus.) Even though I was walking from the building to the bus stop, the guard took it upon himself to call in reinforcements. Within seconds, a patrol car pulled up and an officer joined him. There were now two men in uniform shadowing me. Before boarding the bus, the guard told me that I was nearly arrested on three occasions during our brief period of contact which could not have been more than fifteen to twenty minutes.

What this goes to show is that, like in the Sutton situation, one does not need to do anything illegal or wrong in order to wind up in jail… especially if you are disenfranchised or a person of color. Surely, my behavior did not warrant the harassing and humiliating treatment of Duke University’s security. The guard did not even know why he was asking me to leave the campus… he was only following orders, as he explained. At least Mr. Sutton and I did not get arrested, unlike Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. As you may remember, Gates was arrested for becoming upset about the humiliating and harassing treatment he received when police investigated him for a possible “forced entry” onto his own property.

Unlike Sutton, however, I did not seek an apology from Duke University, I sought an explanation about my abusive treatment from Pamela Bernard, the general counsel for the school. Instead of an admission to me of wrong-doing by Duke, she did the next best thing for herself… delegate the problem to someone else. Michael J. Schoenfeld, the Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations, replied with a letter dated May 10, 2010, in which he conjured up a cockamamie excuse and laid blame for the triggering of actions against me on the Duke police. He stated that I was asked to leave the campus for repeatedly violating the Duke policy against solicitation, which, according to Mr. Schoenfeld, constituted passing out my business cards and asking people to visit the website. It was unclear from Schoenfeld's letter whether it was okay to pass out business cards as long as I did not ask people to visit my website, or whether it was okay to ask people to visit my website as long as I did not give them my business card. Mr. Schoenfeld then expects me to believe that a person who accepted a business card would then take the time to report it to the Durham police. Surely, the Durham Police have more important issues with which to contend than the handing out of business cards.

I don’t know who ordered me kicked off campus that day in April (although I seriously doubt that Durham Police had anything to do with it) and that is not something upon which I dwell. What I find disheartening and alarming is that when guilty of wrongdoing, Duke elected to lie and scapegoat. Instead Duke chose the low road of blaming me and laying the decision to have me ousted from campus on its police. The appropriate steps to take would have been to admit its missteps and take steps to see that it doesn’t occur in the future (… also, an apology would have been appreciated).

In Keith Sutton’s case, as in that of Professor Gates, I believe skin color played a major role. Although I believe that skin color may have been a contributing factor in my situation, my allegiance to the principles of seeking justice for selectively and unjustly disbarred prosecutor Mike Nifong was the overriding issue. As the media has made perfectly clear, and is in large measure responsible for forging it, there has been for some time a new class against which to discriminate… Nifong supporters. Duke University has no problem with doing just that.

It is important for people (especially the poor, disenfranchised, and those of color) to realize that they can be arrested without reason or provocation. Know too, that when it happens, you are less likely to get an apology and more likely to be given a serving of lies and a scapegoat.

NOTICE: Update on “The MisAdventures of Super-Duper Cooper – Episode V: Clash of the Super-Hero Titans – Initial Encounter.” This ambitious project is more than halfway completed. It contains 17 parts and is larger than the previous four episodes put together. There are a plethora of local celebs and dignitaries in this episode, including a cameo appearance by Durham Mayor Bill Bell… and even a blog commenter has a major role. I am hopeful to have it completed and posted by year’s end. (Unlike the previous three episodes, Roy Cooper dons his cape, cowl, and buccaneer boots and returns to super-hero action.)

Also, the website is being revamped to give better exposure of our members, as the original opening page is getting cramped as membership grows. Also, the navigation will be much easier with the new format. Expect to see the change in the next week or two.

Finally, you may be aware of the subscription option for the blog that was recently installed for your convenience. You can, of course, continue to access the blog through the website, or blogsite directly.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

An ultimate betrayal by the SBI agents and its lab?

The News & Observer, with a big boost from its recent four-part series on “Agents’ Secrets,” in which it actually shares blame with someone other than Mike Nifong for the abysmal state of the North Carolina justice system, is now the front-runner for my annual “Jedi Mind-trick Award”… barely squeaking ahead of NBC-17 News. The series by staff writers Mandy Locke and Joseph Neff predictably places blame for all the state’s criminal justice woes on a few bad apples in the State Bureau of Investigation and the forensic lab that it runs. The four-part series recounts numerous horrific tales of injustice and wrongful incarcerations that have occurred in the state in the not so distant past, but what is truly remarkable is that the writers did it while mentioning the name of a prosecutor (linked to a case) only once! And even when mentioned, it was not in a derogatory context. Ms. Locke and Mr. Neff surely deserve accolades for adhering to the PAPEN (Protect All Prosecutors Except Nifong) Policy when presented with such a challenging topic. And they did well to shift all responsibility from North Carolina State prosecutors to SBI agents and SBI lab personnel.

When it comes down to it, a few individuals in the SBI and its lab were sacrificed as scapegoats to take the downfall and accept blame for all of the malicious and baseless prosecutions and lengthy incarcerations of the innocents that have occurred. The prosecutors, the newspaper would like you to believe, were nothing much more than bystanders and onlookers when the prosecutorial treads of injustice squashed designated individuals (mostly the disenfranchised, poor, and people of color) along with their civil and constitutional rights. From reading the four-part series, one would swear that the investigative agents and lab technicians were single-handedly in charge of determining the fate of the state’s defendants.

The Gregory Taylor case was, of course, mentioned. Revelations from his hearing before a three judge bench in February 2010 was responsible for media focus being directed at the SBI and its forensic practices. But Prosecutor Tom Ford’s name was never mentioned in the series, and his actions in that case were some of the most despicable in the annals of North Carolina juris prudence. Ford was responsible for the vindictive and malicious incarceration of Mr. Taylor because he (Taylor) would not bow to Ford’s urgings for him to implicate an innocent African American man in a murder. Without any credible evidence, Mr. Taylor was sentenced to life, and served 17 years before he was freed by a three judge panel. Ford was even a pivotal figure in attempts to persuade the recently seated panel to deny Taylor’s bid for freedom by arguing against Taylor’s release.

In the Taylor case, The News & Observer left the SBI lab workers and its lab protocol, which in general heavily trended in favor of the prosecution, holding the bag when it came to the fact that the prosecution identified blood on the bumper of Taylor’s car… crucial in winning a conviction against an innocent man. It was the only so-called “evidence” used by Ford against Taylor besides the trumped up testimony of two so-called “witnesses” seeking shorter sentences in exchange for their statements. Prosecutor Tom Ford is neither dumb nor na├»ve… to the contrary, he is smart, cunning, and calculating. Make no mistake about it, Ford knew in 1991, as well as in February of 2010, exactly what the SBI lab’s complete results were with respect to the red substance on the bumper of Greg Taylor’s vehicle. He was aware that the confirmatory tests did not support the specimen being human blood.

But with the murder of African American prostitute Jacquetta Thomas, Ford was not interested in solving a crime… because he cared not about the victim, his priority was in closing the case. Despite Tom Ford knowing that Taylor was innocent, Taylor’s refusal to falsely implicate Johnny Beck, a black “suspect,” was all it took for Ford to seek a life sentence conviction. Prosecutor Ford could care less whether results forthcoming from the lab were bogus or legit, as long as they supported his case against Taylor.

In another case cited by the newspaper, unnamed prosecutors referred to only as “Davie County prosecutors” supposedly relied on lab work and forensic testimony in prosecuting a Kernersville dentist for the murder of his wife. It seems that the SBI agent involved in the case did not make the appropriate notes and documentation, predated a document, and made false statements about evidence. According to the newspaper, the misdeeds by the agents and bloodstain pattern expert were done to fit the investigator’s theory. The reader is to believe that the unidentified prosecutors were totally out of the loop? Such a scenario is not to be believed as it is the prosecutors who drive the prosecution of defendants, not the other way around. The investigators and agents try to conjure up results backing up the prosecutor’s story about how the crime(s) unfolded and the defendant’s role.

Perhaps the most blatant example of the PAPEN Policy in The News & Observer series is a redacted quote by Barry Scheck who is questioning Alan Gell investigator Dwight Ransome: “When you were talking with [the district attorney], didn’t you…” Mr. Scheck probably said, “When you were talking with David Hoke, didn’t you…” So in order to protect the identity of the Gell prosecutor (Hoke) who put an innocent man (Gell) on death row despite exculpatory evidence that proved Gell could not possibly have committed a murder, the newspaper substituted a generic [the district attorney].

There are many more examples which I could point out, but doing so would only be redundant. The fact is that whether it’s DNA, bloodstain patterns, confirmatory testing for human blood, missing notations and documentation, false testimony, purposely not conducting tests on evidence, etc., the investigators and lab analysts who are acting unethically and inappropriately are doing so at the behest of the prosecutors to help win a conviction. By and large, prosecutors are anything but “ministers of justice” whom they are portrayed to be… prosecuting a case but seeking the truth and assuring that the defendant receives justice. In North Carolina with its system of “selective justice based on Class and Color,” prosecutors have absolutely no qualms about putting away individuals in society who are disenfranchised, poor, and people of color. Likewise, as exemplified by the murder of Jacquetta Thomas, prosecutors lack the resolve to solve to crimes against the disenfranchised, poor, and people of color. They just want to close their case by sticking any body fitting the desirable profile (disenfranchise, poor, and of color) behind bars.

There once was a district attorney who did not fit the mold of the typical North Carolina prosecutor. Nearly a quarter of a decade before it became mandated, he had an open file policy wherein he shared all of his evidence with defense attorneys. He was a district attorney of the highest integrity, who believed in the principle of “equal justice for all.” He had the same respect for the law, sense of fair play, and obligation to duty as famed lawmen Wyatt Earp and Elliot Ness. And he had the independence and courage of Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Beckett to forge ahead and do what was right… and not do what was expedient or expected. As a result, Mike Nifong, former Durham district attorney was persecuted by the state and crucified in the media. The best district attorney the state of North Carolina will probably ever see was figuratively speaking thrown under the bus because he would not adhere to the Carpetbagger agenda in the Duke Lacrosse case. Unfortunately, the crimes by the state against Mr. Nifong are an abomination that has placed a scar on the justice system from which the state will never recover.

Although prompted by testimony at Greg Taylor’s hearing just months ago, the problems with the state’s criminal justice system have festered for many decades. What I find thoroughly disingenuous is the reaction to The News & Observer four-part series, with politicians and prosecutors feigning shock and indignation at problems which they have known to exist and have tolerated. Durham Representative Mickey Michaux, according to the newspaper, “was disturbed to read about false reports filed by SBI agents and the innocent people harmed, and said that agents who violate law and policy need to be punished.” But Michaux knows that the rights and liberty of innocent people (especially the poor and of color) are violated routinely by police and prosecutors. What has Representative Michaux done about it? Nothing, at least that I am aware of. And punishing agents who violate law and policy seems to be misplaced when they do so in response to the persuasion and pressure applied by prosecutors. Punishing wayward prosecutors, who are the driving force behind many innocents being locked away and mistreated, is not an unreasonable step. In my mind, it is also unlikely to be undertaken.

After reading the newspaper series, North Carolina Prosecutor Ann Kirby was quoted as saying: “It’s an absolute betrayal to us as prosecutors and to the agents who are doing their job fairly. To find out that people we relied on so heavily in so many cases were slanting results – by their own accord or by the instruction of supervisors – is the ultimate betrayal. We are not playing a game here. These are people’s lives.” To me, the betrayal seems to be on the other foot. The prosecutors entice, cajole, plead, demand, threaten and do whatever is necessary to extract results, regardless of how bogus, from willing or vulnerable agents and lab technicians in order to prevail in court. Then, when the unsavory practices for which these prosecutors are responsible are exposed by the media spotlight, they attack the agents and lab techs who did their bidding. Now that’s what I call the ultimate betrayal.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Before going to police, consider the consequences

Recently investigators in Henry County, VA, announced an increase of a reward to $100,000 for information leading to the resolution of a heinous crime that was committed there eight years ago… the murder of the Short family. Parents Michael and Mary Short were found fatally shot in the head in their home, while their nine year-old daughter Jennifer’s remains were found six weeks later in Rockingham, NC; cause of her death was also due to a single gunshot to the head.

Before approaching police with information about a crime, whether or not a reward is offered, one should consider the case of James Arthur Johnson, of Wilson, NC. Around June 2004, Wilson teenager Brittany Willis was senselessly and brutally kidnapped, raped, and killed by 16 year-old Kenneth Meeks. He confided with his new friend of several months, James Arthur Johnson, about his dastardly deeds, and even drove Johnson to the crime scene to see the body. After the discovery of the victim’s body, the family and friends of Brittany Willis offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest of the culprit responsible. Johnson finally went to his father with his knowledge of the crime, whereupon his father immediately took James to the police station, without an attorney in tow and without first contacting an attorney. James Arthur Johnson gave police the identity of the killer, thus solving the crimes against Brittany Willis.

Kenneth Meeks, who later confessed to the crimes, is an African American, as is James Arthur Johnson. The police investigator, during an interrogation of Meeks, told him that his friend (James Arthur Johnson) had “snitched” on him. This resulted in a predictably enraged response by the young Meeks of implicating Johnson as payback. James Arthur Johnson was then arrested on charges of murder, rape, kidnapping, and armed robbery, although there was no credible evidence to connect him to any crime… only the word of the confessed killer. After a couple of years, Meeks, who was serving a life sentence, recanted his accusations against Johnson, stating that he made the initial false statements in anger. Despite that, Johnson remained in jail for more than three years awaiting trial. Prosecutor Bill Wolfe, who manufactured two eyewitnesses linking Johnson to victim Willis (both with connections to the Wilson Police Department), jettisoned them when the NAACP’s Rev. William Barber got involved. Wolfe knew that his false witnesses would not be able to stand up to the intense media scrutiny which the trial would undoubtedly bring. To the very end, Wolfe tried his best to get Johnson to accept a plea deal in exchange for time served, but none was forthcoming as the time for the trial arrived. Prosecutors Bill Wolfe and Wilson District Attorney Howard Boney Jr., who had no case against Johnson, folded like accordions, and on day trial was set to begin, announced that they would turn the case over to a special prosecutor.

After spending 39 months in jail, Johnson was able to bond out, to await the decision of the special prosecutor. The events which transpired subsequently were all foreordained, with Special Prosecutor Belinda Foster dropping the murder, rape, kidnapping, and robbery charges, but instituting an “accessory after the fact” charge instead. This was based solely on statements that Johnson made when he was first interviewed by police when he told them that he wiped fingerprints off of the victim’s vehicle at Meeks’s command… actions which had no bearing on the case against the killer.

Special Prosecutor W. David McFadyen, after pretending to conduct a thorough investigation, announced that he would proceed to prosecute James Arthur Johnson. As his predecessors before him, McFadyen tried to obtain a plea deal, and James, who had tasted freedom and abhorred the prospect, regardless of how remote, of returning to jail, finally gave in. He pleaded guilty to “misprision of felony,” in exchange for time served.

Misprision of felony is most often described as a common law in which the misdemeanor of observing a felony and failing to prevent it, or of knowing about a felony and failing to disclose the fact of its occurrence. A case that is cited in the legal annals is one occurring in South Carolina in which a witness to a crime refused to testify out of fear of retribution from the criminals. The judge found him guilty of “misprision of felony” and he was sentenced to three years.

As opposed to the aforementioned case, Johnson did disclose his knowledge of the crime to police, but prosecutors argued that he waited three whole days to do it! (Without Johnson’s assistance, I doubt that the Willis case would be solved today.) Not only that, but Johnson served three months more than the man sentenced in South Carolina. Yet Prosecutor McFadyen went forward with his prosecution of Johnson.

James Arthur Johnson was a hero who had the courage to go against the “no-snitch”laws of the street and tell authorities everything he knew about the Willis case. Yet, he was vilified by the police, prosecution, and Wilson media, which effectively resulted in the town being divided along racial lines. Not only that, but he did not receive the $20,000 reward which he had earned. There is no explanation as to why it was not awarded.

Because North Carolina has a system of “selective justice based on Class and Color” anyone with knowledge about a crime needs to seriously consider whether or not to approach authorities with it. With the James Arthur Johnson case as a precedent, police and prosecutors may decide to charge one with “misprision of felony” for not coming forward in a timely manner. As is commonly the case, charges are likely to be arbitrary depending on one’s financial status, class, and skin color.

Unlike the murder of Jacquetta Thomas, the African American destitute prostitute whose body was discovered on a deserted cul-de-sac in 1991, in which Prosecutor Tom Ford didn’t care about the victim and was more interested in closing the case than solving the crime, the same cannot be said in the Short murders… the authorities are committed to finding the true perpetrators of those crimes. In this instance, the disenfranchised, poor, and people of color are more likely able to provide information about a crime without fear of being tied to it.

The media’s publication of the sources of the reward gives it some credibility, but then again, the family and friends of Brittany Willis offered a reward, which they then refused to honor. So it is important to keep in mind that in the state of North Carolina, whether or not one receives a reward after solving said requirements is basically a crapshoot.

James Arthur Johnson did the right thing by going to police with his knowledge of the crimes against Willis. It is the police, prosecutors, and media who did the wrong thing by unjustly depriving the young man of 39 months of the best years of his life and putting in its place confinement in hell. The city of Wilson should have been grateful to Johnson for solving a senseless and despicable crime and putting a dangerous young man off the streets. However, the media has taught the good people of Wilson to despise him.

The treatment of James Arthur Johnson by Wilson police, prosecutors, and media does not bode well for a system of justice in North Carolina which relies on citizens coming forward to assist in solving crimes using reward money as an incentive. Instead of being celebrated for doing the right thing, one might be crucified.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

NC Justice System: Cruelty without Christianity

To his credit as a columnist, The News & Observer’s Barry Saunders in a recent commentary brought up an issue that is rarely touched upon by the media… the cruelty that seems embedded in our state’s criminal justice system. In his article, Mr. Saunders alluded to Anson County Prosecutor Michael Parker’s treatment of a mentally retarded defendant when he wrote, “Parker spitefully refused Dix workers’ request to take him to the State Fair.” However, Parker carried spite much further by directly interfering with Brown's placement by sabotaging the arrangements at an assisted living facility that had been painstakingly arranged by social workers after his 14 years of wrongful incarceration. Thereafter state employees involved in helping Brown find appropriate housing had to work in secret to prevent District Attorney Parker from intervening.

Is the cruelty exhibited by Michael Parker typical? Yes, and it can be found among police officers serving on the front lines of the urban battlefield to judges sitting behind the benches, and even among ancillary workers in the social/criminal justice field. Is the cruelty exhibit by Parker to be construed as Christ-like behavior? No. People who call themselves Christians and act like heathens are as phony as the currently trumped up charges against Crystal Mangum and those leveled against Mike Nifong by the State Bar. It takes more than attending church to embody the true spirit of Christianity.

The vendetta justice treatment of Crystal Mangum is an example of the cruel and malign attitudes of many in the justice system. The vindictive/retribution motive empowering the backlash by all state officials and staff against Ms. Mangum has its roots in her role in the Duke Lacrosse case. Even though she was the victim in that incident, the state, Carpetbagger families, and the media defined her as the villain. Cruelty in the present problems engulfing Ms. Mangum began on the night of February 17, 2010. Police were summoned to her apartment in response to a 9-1-1 call placed by Ms. Mangum’s daughter who feared her mother might be killed after Mangum’s ex-boyfriend began punching her in the face. When Crystal’s true identity became apparent to police, she was designated as the instigator, aggressor, and offender, and her ex-boyfriend, with a past history of physical violence against women, became the vulnerable victim of the altercation. Then the Durham Police Department got creative and manufactured a crime (which they called “arson”) and laid the blame on Ms. Mangum. A specific incident of police cruelty manifested itself by their commands given to Ms. Mangum to “stand up” while she was lying facedown on the floor with her hands cuffed behind her back. Police reports referred to this as Ms. Mangum refusing to follow commands. (Ask yourself, would a true Christian, in emulating Jesus Christ, taunt a helpless woman lying facedown with her hands cuffed in back, by ordering her to stand up? Is that what Christianity is about?)

What is so tragic about this entire incident is that Durham Police harbored unjustified animosity towards Ms. Mangum based solely on her role in the Duke Lacrosse case, and they abused their power by exacting revenge based on fraudulent and trumped up charges. Most serious was the attempted first degree murder charge. No where in the Durham Police reports is there anything to substantiate such a charge. Likewise, the charge of identity theft was a stretch, to say the least. Ms. Mangum was concerned with how the authorities would respond if they knew her true identity and realized her link to the Duke Lacrosse case. The events that transpired that night validated her concerns, as she was hauled off to jail and placed under a $1 million bail, despite being the victim of domestic violence.

Magistrate B. Wakil acted cruelly towards Ms. Mangum by imposing a $1 million dollar bail on someone who was definitely not a flight risk or a threat to society. By issuing that unreachable bail Ms. Mangum languished in jail, unable to report to work at her full-time job. Because of the bail set by Wakil, Ms. Mangum lost her source of income (with its health benefits), which meant she was unable to pay rent for her apartment (which she lost). Behind bars, she was unable to attend classes at NCCU where she was enrolled in the graduate program working towards a Master’s degree; she was dropped from the courses after she obtained a loan to pay for tuition, books, and supplies. In jail, she was unable to take care of her three children, and she lost custody of them.

Wakil was merely a cog in the wheel of the injustice visited upon Ms. Mangum, but her role in unnecessarily and brutally disrupting Mangum’s life was instrumental and cruel beyond measure. Nothing in the police report could support such draconian treatment. While Ms. Mangum struggles, trying to keep her head above water, Magistrate Wakil goes on with her life, without accounting for the wanton damage to that of another.

Of course, Durham Assistant District Attorney Angela Garcia-Lamarca holds the lion’s share of cruelty and inhumanity towards Ms. Mangum because she is the prosecuting attorney. Ms. Garcia-Lamarca, as a prosecutor, is charged not only with representing the state, but also with seeking the truth… acting as a “Minister of Justice,” if you will. But she has become the hub in this conspiracy of evil by proceeding with a prosecution which is suspect, lacks merit, and trumped up. Her initial plea offer to Ms. Mangum shortly after her arrest was for Mangum to plead guilty to the false charges (eight in total, including attempted first degree murder, arson, assault and battery, and child abuse) against her and serve a two year prison sentence. What a deal. Her public defender thought she should give it serious consideration stating that if she went to trial and was convicted she could possibly be sentenced to six years behind bars. It was only after the miraculous satisfaction of her $100,000 bail by generous and benevolent bail bondsmen several months later that the prosecution’s plea offer was modified as follows: plead guilty to arson, three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, injury to personal property, and resisting a public officer in exchange for time served (three months). This is quite a drastic departure from the prosecutor’s previous offer, which goes to emphasize the non-existence of the prosecution’s case.

Ms. Garcia-Lamarca’s cruelty is also responsible for totally destroying Crystal Mangum’s life. Not being a flight risk or threat to society, Ms. Mangum should have been released without bail, so that she could continue to work, pay the bills, attend classes, support her three children, and help take care of her parents. Instead, Ms. Garcia-Lamarca took the toughest position possible to assure that Ms. Mangum would be locked up for a lengthy period of time. Now ask yourself, if Jesus of Nazareth was prosecuting the case against Ms. Mangum, would he proceed as Ms. Garcia-Lamarca? Undoubtedly not… and if he was given the identical case by police, after looking at it, he would dismiss all charges and rebuke police officers for trumping up such garbage.

District Court Judge Claude Allen’s cruelty and animus against Ms. Mangum is evident by his ruling to subject Ms. Mangum to electronic house arrest in the event that she bonded out. Ms. Mangum (who is neither a flight risk nor threat to society) should not have even been placed under bail, much less considered for monitoring and house arrest after making bond. Judge Allen gave no explanation for this cruel, bizarre and unjust ruling. But, he is not held accountable by any person or body. The Honorable Judge Jennifer Knox when confronting a suspected rape defendant who had been placed under similar conditions (requiring house arrest and monitoring if bonded out), reduced the amount of his bail to $300,000, but dropped the condition of house arrest if he bonded out. Surely, one would consider a suspected male rape defendant more of a threat to society than a female victim of domestic violence. But Judge Knox acted honorably and righteously by dismissing the house arrest condition. There is no doubt that in considering the two aforementioned judges that Judge Knox acted in the true spirit of Christianity. The same cannot be said for Judge Allen.

Crystal Mangum, a victim in the Duke Lacrosse case, has been caught up in the vindictive vortex spun in response to the call of the Carpetbagger Jihad. And this malicious fervor against Mangum and surrogates of Mike Nifong has permeated through all walks of life and levels of government… including the Jail Diversion Program. This county agency provides defendants with an alternative to incarceration while awaiting trial. Since her May 18, 2010 transfer from the Durham County Detention Center to house arrest, Ms. Mangum has been under its auspices. Although she achieved limited relief from the courts (unrestricted mobility weekdays from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm), she is still required to be at home in the evenings and on weekends.

Recently, Ms. Mangum requested to have a weekend free in order to go to the beach. Her immediate supervisor authorized her to have the freedom to enjoy this activity. Days later, she learned that the supervisor had been overruled by someone higher up in the pre-trial program’s chain. The excuse given for denying Ms. Mangum’s request is that “it wouldn’t look good.” This mean-spirited denial by the Jail Diversion Program is yet another troubling example of the cruelty that is so prevalent in the state’s criminal justice system that it has been accepted as the norm. But inhumanity was not the only driving force here… the state does not want to do anything that would make Ms. Mangum look vulnerable, innocent, or non-threatening. Keeping her tied to house monitoring on a short leash, solidifies the media created perception that Ms. Mangum is an imminent threat and danger to society… just like the affable and severely retarded Floyd Brown (as determined by Prosecutor Michael Parker). Therefore, because Ms. Mangum and Mr. Brown do not come from families of wealth, power, and prestige, the North Carolina system of “selective justice based on Class and Color” has no qualms with their being subjected to cruel treatment and punishment.

The state does have a mandate to protect its citizens from criminals and the crimes they commit. That said, in a civilized society, defendants, whether charged or convicted, deserve to be treated with basic dignity and compassion. To act in a malevolent manner against those disadvantaged by being in the throes of the correctional system is contrary to the very principles upon which Christianity is based. Ask yourself this question: “If Jesus of Nazareth was managing the Durham County Jail Diversion program, and Crystal Mangum (wrongfully charged, wrongfully placed on electronic house arrest, not a flight risk, and not a threat to society) requested to have a weekend free to go to the beach, what would he say?”

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

N&O columnist joins in scapegoating the SBI

This week, The News & Observer newspaper has been presenting a four-part series about misconduct and malfeasance at the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and its lab. It is nothing more than a blatant attempt to shift all of the blame for exposed prosecutorial misdeeds upon a few “rogue elements” within the SBI. As in keeping within its adherence of following the PAPEN (Protect All Prosecutors Except Nifong) Policy, I believe that the name of a prosecutor has been mentioned possibly once in the two parts that have been published to date in the newspaper. Recently, Barry Saunders, the paper’s columnist with the acerbic keyboard, jumped into the fray by dumping on two SBI agents in particular in his column titled “Meet he SBI’s bad guys.”

Following the same tenor as articles in the four-part series, Mr. Saunders lambastes the investigators, while not laying a single kid-gloved hand on the prosecutors. This is yet another example of the strict compliance which the media has when it comes to the PAPEN Policy. To his credit, Mr. Saunders does mention the name of a prosecutor in his article once, but he fails to tie him to the real injustice visited upon defendant Floyd Brown.

Barry wrote the following about the Brown prosecutor: “…Anson County District Attorney Michael Parker spitefully refused Dix workers’ request to take him to the State Fair. Brown would have loved that.” However, nowhere in the article does he attribute Brown’s fourteen years of incarceration without a trial to D.A. Parker. Readers of the Saunders column are supposed to believe that SBI investigator Mark Isley is responsible for that. As a matter of fact, the column doesn’t begin to touch upon the depth of Parker’s malevolence and misconduct. Michael Parker not only denied Dix workers’ request for Mr. Brown to have an occasional lunch with his sister, but he willfully and maliciously interfered with Brown’s disposition after being released from 14 years in custody. This was achieved by Parker surreptitiously finding out the assisted living facility where social workers had arranged for Brown to be sent, then talking with the owners of said facility. Shortly thereafter, there was an abrupt 180 by the owners of the house, and Floyd Brown was denied admittance.

What is terribly misleading about these articles is that they put the onus of the injustice in these criminal cases on the investigators, and not on the prosecutors where it squarely belongs. Surely, District Attorney Parker knew that the lucid confession by a severely retarded defendant was flawed to the point of being fraudulent. And don’t think for a minute that investigators work in a vacuum. They are frequently in contact with the prosecutors. As the articles in the four-part series allude, investigators often work to please the prosecutors on the case. So even if the evidence that is brought by investigators before the prosecutor is not credible, it is accepted by the prosecutor if it supports his/her version of events. These articles printed thus far point to the SBI agents and investigators as being the driving force behind the prosecution of defendants. The prosecutors’ roles have almost been relegated to that of bystanders. “Protect those prosecutors… except Nifong” should be the media’s motto.

What I find to be most disingenuous about castigating remarks about SBI agent Dwight Ransome, is that the media maintains that the investigator zeroed in on a particular defendant and skewed his findings to support his belief. But what about the prosecutor? It begs the question, who is running the prosecution? You would believe the investigator and not the prosecutor after reading this week’s articles in The News & Observer. And what I find curious in Barry’s column is the total omission of the highly publicized case to which Ransome was related… that of Alan Gell. Of course, the identity of the prosecutor of Mr. Gell, David Hoke, would not be expected to be mentioned (in accordance with PAPEN).

As you may remember, in the Gell case, the prosecution withheld from defense attorneys the existence of 17 eyewitness statements wherein the alleged murder victim of Gell was seen alive, after Alan Gell had been locked up on an unrelated charge… clearly and definitively exculpatory evidence. Although these documents were within David Hoke’s folder (and I believe that Hoke maintains that he overlooked them), SBI agent Ransome is the one the media holds responsible for defendants not having access to the evidence. What is even further outrageous is that the media contends that had Prosecutor Hoke and defense attorneys been aware of these witness statements that the charges would have probably been dropped. What the media fails to mention however, is that even with knowledge of the 17 witness statements, the Attorney General’s Office chose to re-try Alan Gell (which resulted in an immediate verdict of not guilty). Now if SBI investigator Ransome’s work was so tarnished at Gell’s initial trial, why would state prosecutors take it upon themselves to take Mr. Gell to court a second time? This is not addressed by the media.

What the media needs to focus on is the vendetta case against Crystal Mangum, the former Duke Lacrosse victim who is currently facing trumped up charges of arson and injury to personal property. The News & Observer needs to sic its top investigative reporters on the Durham Police Department and prosecutors. It needs to delve into the basic question of who started the fire. It needs to ask what credible evidence is in possession of the prosecution to support its claim that Crystal Mangum vandalized a car the night of February 17, 2010. It needs to question the specific basis for the initial charges of attempted first degree murder and identity theft lodged against Mangum. It needs to look into the inactivity of police to clothes ablaze in a bathtub. It needs to try and make sense of a timeline vaguely proffered by police and prosecution regarding events that took place the night of February 17th.

There is plenty for a couple of good investigative reporters to sink their teeth into regarding this case. Not only that, but such an exploration would provide fodder for another highly sarcastic and entertaining column by The News & Observer’s own Barry Saunders. I can’t wait.

Now, it is important to pay attention to these blogs, as you might be tested about them in the future. To get an indication of your apprehension of the topic of Duke Lacrosse’s big connection to the media, click on the following link to access the latest quiz on the topic. Click Quiz 10 on the directory page.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Prosecutor Garcia-Lamarca leads DPD down wrong path at taxpayer expense

In her bid to do the bidding of the Carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse defendants by prosecuting Duke Lacrosse victim Crystal Mangum, Durham Assistant D.A. Angela Garcia-Lamarca is leading the Durham Police Department down the slippery, slimy path of disgrace, mayhem, and degradation. She is doing this while Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez Sr. watches, his mouth closed and hands in his pockets. She is doing this while The Herald-Sun, The News & Observer, and the local news outlets, which have a duty to use their investigative powers and op-ed forums to protect the masses from corruption and waste, ignore the full scale malfeasance that envelops Ms. Mangum with the trumped up criminal charges which emanated from events the night of February 17, 2010. She is doing this while hardworking taxpayers are unaware that their hard earned tax dollars are being wasted to fulfill the malicious and vindictive agenda called for by the Carpetbagger Jihad.

The taxpayers’ tab is only going to grow as long as Ms. Garcia-Lamarca allows the so-called “criminal case” against Ms. Mangum to proceed. The Durham Police Department will continue to be dragged deeper into a quagmire of deception, which, if the case should miraculously go to trial, will end in the inevitable perjured testimony of many of Durham’s Finest. There is only one way out of this self-inflicted criminal justice cesspool, and that road to recovery, redemption, and restoration lies clearly in the hands of Prosecutor Angela Garcia-Lamarca. The way is clear... no GPS is required. All Ms. Garcia-Lamarca need do is to unilaterally and unconditionally drop all charges against Crystal Mangum. It is the morally right thing to do. It is the legally just thing to do.

There is no hope for a “Hail Mary” salvation in the form of a plea deal akin to what happened in the tragic fiasco known as the James Arthur Johnson case. Ms. Garcia-Lamarca cannot rely on Ms. Mangum’s legal counselor to do her in by pressuring her to accept a plea deal and admit to a crime which she did not commit. Although James Arthur Johnson, with the NAACP in his corner, caved in to Special Prosecutor W. David McFadyen’s last desperate plea deal, Crystal Mangum has the full support of the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong behind her. What the courts shamefully did to James Arthur Johnson will not be visited upon Crystal Mangum. The sooner Ms. Garcia-Lamarca comes to the reality that a last-minute plea deal will not materialize, the better. She can then proceed to drop charges, implement the principles of restorative justice, and begin the healing process… one which will lead to public confidence and credibility in the Durham Police Department.

For Ms. Garcia-Lamarca to proceed against a headwind of logic, reason, and common sense by taking the case to trial will result in the same disastrous consequences suffered by the state when it decided to contest the innocence of Gregory F. Taylor in court before a three judge panel. Not only was Mr. Taylor (who wrongfully served 17 years in prison) vindicated in the murder ascribed to him by Wake County Prosecutor Tom Ford, but to the state’s dismay, the State Bureau of Investigation was shaken to its core and has come under media scrutiny and criticism for its handling of the case. Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby was ill-advised to proceed against Mr. Taylor. The upside for trying to keep a clearly innocent man behind bars the rest of his life were nil, and the downside was potentially huge and unpredictable… as Mr.Willoughby and Ford learned in time. Ms. Angela Garcia-Lamarca needs to weigh her options with the Mangum case very carefully, and understand that in going forward to trial that the risks are potentially great, whereas the benefits, if any exist, are miniscule.

Elected politicians (such as U.S. Congressman David Price, State Senator Floyd McKissick, Representative Mickey Michaux, and others of whom Ms. Mangum is a constituent) can distance themselves from Ms. Mangum (who is being blatantly mistreated by the state because of her role in the Duke Lacrosse case) and say that their hands are tied due to protocol. The NAACP, the Durham Committee On the Affairs of Black People, and other civil rights organizations can remain silent as dormice when it comes to the injustices against Ms. Mangum (like they were during the persecution of former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong). But the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong will be ever present to see that justice prevails with regards to the trumped up charges against Crystal Mangum. There will be no plea deal. The tragedy of James Arthur Johnson will not be visited upon her.

Prosecutor Garcia-Lamarca needs to clearly understand that regarding Ms. Mangum, there is no plea deal in the cards… it is not even on the table.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Million dollar bail… a case comparison – Part 11

On June 4, 2010, sixteen year old Ashley Moore of Dunn, NC, died when the SUV in which she was a passenger crashed into the side of a Wal-Mart building. Police believe the driver, Dillon Tart, 18, purposely rammed the vehicle into the structure following an argument between the two teenagers. Tart, who sustained non-life threatening injuries, was charged by police with second degree murder. However, while awaiting trial on the murder charge, he has been placed under house arrest. No bond. Just house arrest.

Now, compare that to what happened on the night of February 17, 2010, to Crystal Mangum, the Duke Lacrosse victim, who was punched in the face by her ex-boyfriend. She was charged with attempted first degree murder by Durham Police officers, although the basis for this charge was never explained, and it was not sought during a grand jury indictment. The attempted murder charge was used by Magistrate B. Wakil to help justify the outrageous $1 million bail set against Ms. Mangum. Durham Police then staged a fire in the bathtub of Ms. Mangum’s apartment and accused her of arson. They also alleged Ms. Mangum caused damage to the car of her ex-boyfriend, without, of course, any credible evidence to substantiate the claim. Ms. Mangum was arrested and spent the next three months in jail. District Court Judge Claude Allen, without explanation, instated the condition that if Ms. Mangum bonded out of the bail which he reduced to $250,000, then she would need to be placed under electronic house arrest. Subsequent judges who sat on the bench regarding hearings on this matter (Judges Paul Ridgeway, Michael Morgan, and Kenneth Titus) left the condition of house arrest in place. Although Ms. Mangum has been given release on weekdays from 8 am until 5 pm, the house arrest is still in effect.

Ms. Mangum is not a flight risk, and there is a $100,000 bond in place to assure that she shows up to court to face charges against her. She is not a threat to society. Her ability to try and get a job and move on with her life during the pre-trial period has been hampered greatly by the house arrest order put in place by Judge Allen. Why is this house arrest order in place?

Is it fair that a young man charged with second degree murder should be placed under house arrest, while an African American woman who has been battered by her ex-boyfriend and charges trumped up against her by Durham police should be sent to jail and placed under a $1 million bail? Does this make sense? Ms. Mangum did not kill anyone. She had no murder weapon. The attempted first degree murder charge was nothing more than a trumped up charge, like all of the others against her.

Let me make this clear. The man who killed a woman does not have to satisfy bail while awaiting trial. He can just go straight to house arrest. Now James Arthur Johnson waited 39 months for his trial, again in which he did not kill anyone, but in fact solved a crime. And, just like Prosecutor Angela Garcia-Lamarca, Wilson Prosecutor Bill Wolfe had no intention of going to trial and folded like an accordion when time for stalling ran out. Then there’s Floyd Brown, who was held fourteen years (14) without a trial, by Anson County Prosecutor Michael D. Parker. Brown did not kill anyone, and the prosecution knew it as the confession they put together for him was far too demanding and sophisticated for Brown to make due to his significant mental retardation.

There is no doubt that North Carolina has a selective justice system that is based on Class and Color, and the media does its best to conceal this fact. Class and color definitely figure into the selective treatment that Crystal Mangum is being subjected to by the state.

Now, if anyone can give a reasonable explanation as to why Mr. Tart (who killed a 16 year old girl and is charged with second degree murder) is released to house arrest without any bail being set, and Ms. Mangum (who is a victim of domestic violence) is charged with attempted first degree murder, arson, injury to personal property and other trumped up charges) and is placed under a $1 million bail, which is ultimately lowered to $100,000 with the condition that if she bonds out she will be placed under house arrest, then he/she will be entitled to receive a $1,000 reward. The explanation must be reasonable and logical to me, in order to collect, and, of course, the award will be made available only after James Arthur Johnson receives the $20,000 reward he earned by solving the Brittany Willis murder.

This is the third logic challenge for $1,000 that I have issued. Because no one has come close to winning on the two previous contests, I have considered offering a guaranteed consolation prize for the best answer. The prize would probably be some type of autographed artwork, possibly connected with the “Super-Duper Cooper” comic strip. More details about the challenge will be forthcoming. (However to receive an award, a name and address must accompany the answer. Be sure to make it clear that it is in reference to Challenge #3. Also send to e-mail: This challenge begins today, and I’m not yet sure when it will end… maybe in a month or two.

Finally, the media’s best kept secret from the public. Find out the real link between the Carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse defendants and the media. Visit the following link. I welcome your response. (Click the button Posted August 15, 2010... mistaken date... should read August 5. Will make correction later.)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Prosecutor Garcia-Lamarca is desperate for plea deal with Crystal Mangum

Like many cases in which a prosecutor has absolutely no case against the defendant (the James Arthur Johnson case comes to mind), the prosecutor, instead of doing the right thing and dismissing all charges against the defendant, will more likely than not try to entice, cajole, force, or use any means necessary to make the defendant accept a plea deal. This strategy is most effective when the wrongfully accused defendant is tucked away safely behind bars, and a plea deal in exchange for imminent freedom looks mighty appetizing to the defendant, especially after spending many months or years behind bars. The prosecution finds the plea deal appealing because it means that he/she will not have to go to trial and risk facing embarrassment and ridicule for bringing a garbage case before the courts. More likely than not, in the majority of these cases, the prosecution is relying on a plea deal to close the case and doesn’t even bother to prepare to go to trial. This is what happened in the James Arthur Johnson case, and this is what the prosecution under Durham Assistant District Attorney Angela Garcia-Lamarca is attempting to do to Crystal Mangum, the victim in the Duke Lacrosse case.

In the fiasco that was the James Arthur Johnson case, Wilson Prosecutor Bill Wolfe charged James Arthur Johnson, the young African American teen who turned over to police the name of the true killer of Wilson teen Brittany Willis, Kenneth Meeks (also an African American male). Clever Wilson investigators managed to get young Meeks to falsely implicate James Arthur Johnson in the crime by telling Meeks that his friend “snitched” on him. Prosecutors charged Johnson with crimes against Brittany Willis, which included murder, rape, kidnapping, and armed robbery, based solely on the statements of the confessed killer who had earlier confided in Johnson about the murder only to later learn from police that it was Johnson who fingered him. There was no forensic evidence and no witness to link Johnson to the victim or the crime scene. The Wilson police theory was that Johnson robbed, kidnapped, raped, and killed Brittany Willis with Meeks as his accomplice, and then when he heard the offer of a $20,000.00 reward for information leading to an arrest in the crime, he went to police to turn in his partner in crime in order to collect the reward. Johnson was held in jail for a couple of years before Meeks, the killer, retracted his statement about Johnson’s involvement, explaining that he made the false accusation out of anger. With its sole witness recanting, did Prosecutor Wolfe dismiss charges against Johnson…? No! Instead, he conjured up two eyewitnesses, who both happened to have connections to the Wilson Police Department (one of whom was a retired Wilson police officer). Before Wolfe could use these false witnesses to convict Johnson, Dr. Rev. William Barber, president of the NAACP made his appearance, and with the media scrutiny he brought, Wolfe and Wilson District Attorney Howard S. Boney, Jr. decided to quickly and silently jettison their two latest eyewitnesses. It was then, without evidence, without witnesses, and without a case that the Wilson prosecution launched its efforts to obtain a plea deal with Johnson. As is typical in this situation, the prosecution proceeded at a snail’s pace and tried to reach a plea deal right up to the time the court date could no longer be delayed. Wolfe and Boney’s bluff failed, and when it came time for the trial to begin, the prosecution folded like an accordion. On the day of court, they announced that they would turn the case over to a special prosecutor.

Special Prosecutor Belinda Foster, an assistant district attorney from Forsyth County, was forced to take over prosecution of the Johnson case by her superior, District Attorney Tom Keith. She agreed to do so only on the condition that she not be required to try the case in court. D.A. Keith agreed, and it was made clear early on that her involvement would be limited. After a couple of months passed, to give people the impression that an investigation was being conducted by the special prosecutor and her diligent crew, Ms. Foster dropped the charges of murder, rape, kidnapping, and armed robbery against Johnson, and, as foreordained, she charged Johnson with “accessory after the fact” for wiping some fingerprints off the victim’s car long after the crime had taken place. Despite having served 39 months in jail on serious charges that were dismissed and now facing only an “accessory” charge, a high, but attainable, bail of $60,000.00 for Johnson was set by the judge. Shortly thereafter, he bonded out.

State prosecutors refused to touch the Johnson case with a twenty foot pole, so the Administrative Office of the Courts ultimately found a special prosecutor from the ranks of the lawyers in private practice. At additional cost to taxpayers, the new Special Prosecutor W. David McFadyen, who used to work as a prosecutor, pretended to conduct a lengthy and complete investigation into the Willis/Johnson case. Special Prosecutor McFadyen threatened Johnson with additional hard time in jail if he was to be convicted for wiping fingerprints off the car (an act which had absolutely no bearing or relevance on what justice transpired with respect to confessed murderer Meeks). With the judge refusing (without explanation) a defense motion for a change of venue from the town of Wilson (which had been racially divided by the prosecution and press), Johnson finally succumbed (not wanting to risk the possibility, however remote, of returning to jail) and pled guilty to “misprision of felony.” Misprision of felony is a rarely invoked charge used against someone who has knowledge of a crime but does not share it with authorities. Although Johnson pleaded guilty to the charge, he was actually not guilty of it because he did, in fact, voluntarily and without legal counsel in tow, tell police everything he knew about the crime. In getting this plea deal in exchange for time served, the prosecution proudly puffed out its chest because it had prevailed in legally justifying locking up James Arthur Johnson for 39 months for the crime he committed of waiting three days before coming to the police to tell them of his knowledge of the crimes against Brittany Willis. For solving the homicidal case, Johnson never received the $20,000 reward that was offered by the family and friends of Brittany Willis… the only thing he received was 39 months.

The way in which Prosecutors Wolfe and Boney kept an innocent James Arthur Johnson in jail for 39 months without a shred of credible evidence, is a text-book way of making a person serve a long sentence without being convicted of a crime. This is what Prosecutor Garcia-Lamarca had planned to do with Crystal Mangum, and she got off to a successful start. First serious charges were trumped up against Ms. Mangum, such as attempted first degree murder and arson. These were used to justify the hefty $1 million bail set by Magistrate B. Wakil. When Judge Claude Allen lowered the bail to $250,000.00, he set up a safety net by establishing the condition that if Ms. Mangum did bond out, she would be placed under electronic house arrest. This was a safeguard which the judge and prosecution team felt would not be needed. But when bail was unexpectedly made for Ms. Mangum by a benevolent and generous bail bondsman, her jail sentence was prematurely terminated after serving only several months behind bars. From initial plea offers made shortly after Ms. Mangum’s arrest, it is apparent that the prosecution would have settled for Ms. Mangum spending at least two years behind bars. It was undoubtedly a great disappointment when Mangum bonded out after only three months in the Durham County Detention Center. Once Ms. Mangum was released from strict custody and placed under electronic house arrest, prosecutors lost their main bargaining tool for acquiring a plea deal… incarceration behind bars. The prosecution’s focus turned immediately to trying to arrange a plea deal with Ms. Mangum, so shortly after her release from the detention center to house arrest, Garcia-Lamarca offered through the Public Defender the following plea deal: Admission of guilt to the following charges 1) first degree arson, 2) three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, 3) injury to personal property, and 4) resisting a public official, in exchange for a sentence of time served. Wisely, Ms. Mangum refused.

Now, I would not be surprised if the prosecution made the following offer on August 4, 2010, at Ms. Mangum’s hearing: Prosecution will dismiss the first degree arson charge with Ms. Mangum pleading guilty to the following charges 1) three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, 2) injury to personal property, and 3) resisting a public official, in exchange for time served. (Note, the charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor is based upon the arson count, so prosecutors may offer to dismiss that charge as well.)

Bottom line is that the prosecution is desperately fishing around for a plea deal. It is not preparing to take the case to trial, because like Prosecutor Bill Wolfe and Wilson D.A. Howard S. Boney, Assistant D.A. Angela Garcia-Lamarca has no case against Crystal Mangum. Furthermore, to proceed to trial would involve many members of the Durham Police Department committing perjury. And, if the police are willing to lie in their reports about Ms. Mangum putting clothes in a bathtub, it is not much of a stretch that they would, in fact, have the wherewithal to set the clothes on fire themselves… which is most likely what happened. How else would one explain the police closing the bathroom door on a bathtub with some clothes on fire and calling the fire department? No effort was made by police to even turn on the water in the bathtub. Police allowed smoke damage to accumulate in the apartment to which they most likely set on fire. By placing the midnight call, Durham police brought 25 members of the Durham Fire Department to Ms. Mangum’s apartment in order to put out a few clothes on fire in a bathtub. This just does not make sense. The sparse and vague timelines in the police and fire reports are contradictory, do not make sense and throw a lot of water on the prosecution’s purported story of what took place the night of February 17th.

What Prosecutor Garcia-Lamarca needs to do is stop the madness masquerading as a criminal case against Ms. Mangum… she can accomplish this by dismissing all charges against Ms. Mangum immediately. The prosecutor needs to stop wasting taxpayer money for unwarranted electronic monitoring, and monies being paid to a defense attorney on a case against Mangum that is totally trumped up.

You can bet that if Ms. Garcia-Lamarca had a valid and just case against Ms. Mangum, she would proceed posthaste to trial, and seek the maximum penalties possible. Instead, with only trumped up garbage against Ms. Mangum, Garcia-Lamarca dillydallies desperately trying to eek out a plea deal to any charge with Ms. Mangum. This is a pathetic demonstration of jurisprudence practiced in North Carolina, and is what makes the Tar Heel State the laughing stock of the country.

If the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong has anything to say about it, the unjust tragedy that befell James Arthur Johnson will not be revisited upon Crystal Mangum. Assistant D.A. Garcia-Lamarca needs to forget about trying to reach a plea deal with Ms. Mangum (any plea deal requires Ms. Mangum to admit to a crime that she did not commit), and either prepare her garbage case to go to trial (wasting taxpayer money in the process) or dismiss all charges against Ms. Mangum immediately. A plea deal in this case is not in the cards... it's not even on the table.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Judge Claude Allen owes an explanation in Crystal Mangum case

If the trumped up charges were not enough, Magistrate B. Wakil compounded problems by placing a $1 million bail against Crystal Mangum. What could justify such a high bail, you ask? It must undoubtedly be the charge of attempted first degree murder that was lodged against Ms. Mangum by the arresting police. The best I can tell, as the police reports are really vague, sketchy, and non-existent when it comes to details, Ms. Mangum, after seeing her ex-boyfriend re-enter her apartment following their earlier encounter, allegedly lunged forward towards him and shouted something to the effect that, “I’m going to stab you.” Although she may have uttered those words, police did not record her as having any implement with which to carry out her threat. In fact, she was never recorded as having anything in her hands, except clothes which she allegedly placed in the bathtub. This, of course, is a total fabrication, as she never carried clothes in the officers’ presence, and the bathroom door was closed until Durham Police Officer Tyler kicked it in (long after Ms. Mangum was handcuffed). Anyway, the alleged forward movement by Ms. Mangum coupled with the words “I’m going to stab you,” constituted grounds for attempted first degree murder.

Compare this with the case of Labrian Lynch who had a domestic dispute with his girlfriend. During the dispute, Mr. Lynch stabbed his girlfriend in the leg with a knife. To escape from him, she jumped out of the car which they occupied, and ran into the street where she was struck by another car. She was taken to the emergency room, then hospitalized for treatment. Mr. Lynch was arrested on the charge of “assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious injury.” Now, he was not charged with “attempted first degree murder” even though he did, in fact, stab his girlfriend. In other words, you won’t be charged with attempted first degree murder if you stab someone, but you will be charged with attempted first degree murder if you lunge, unarmed, towards someone and say, “I’m going to stab you.” This is the sort of thing that makes North Carolina’s justice system the laughing stock of the country.

Mr. Lynch’s bail was set at $60,000, a fraction of the initial $1million bail for Ms. Mangum on trumped up charges. And when Mr. Lynch’s bail was satisfied, he was told not to have contact with his girlfriend. He was not put under electronic house arrest with an anklet. Yet, Crystal Mangum, a victim of domestic violence who posed no flight risk or threat to society was placed under house arrest after satisfying a $100,000 bail. Why? I don’t know, but it is my understanding that the condition requiring Ms. Mangum to be place under house arrest in the event that she bonded out came from District Court Judge Claude Allen. He was the first judge to sit in on a hearing for Ms. Mangum after her arrest, and he reduced her bail from $1million to $250,000. When he did so, he put in place the condition that if she bonded out, she would be required to be placed under electronic house arrest.

To my knowledge, Judge Allen never explained why he felt that it was necessary to impose this punitive and burdensome condition on Ms. Mangum in a case that a cursory look would tell anyone that the charges were bogus. Judge Allen, furthermore had no reason to believe that Ms. Mangum would be a flight risk, as she was born in Durham, had spent most of her life in Durham (with the exception of a couple of years while serving in the U.S. Navy), had three children in Durham, had no car or means of transportation, and had not the financial wherewithal to pick up and move elsewhere. Was Judge Allen’s action in requiring house arrest on a defendant who had bonded out arbitrary? To determine whether or not it was the rule or the exception to the rule would necessitate an investigation of how Judge Allen handled other similar cases. If I knew Judge Allen’s past history, I could more accurately determine the motives for his peculiar house arrest ruling. However, until I have more data, I am inclined to believe that his action in requiring monitoring of Ms. Mangum was directly due to his desire to adhere to the Carpetbagger Jihad agenda, which calls for the malicious and vindictive treatment of those determined by the Powers-That-Be to be on the wrong-end of the Duke Lacrosse case. Whether or not it was a conscious or subconscious decision is another matter that might be considered for debate. The mainstream media’s success in playing Jedi mind-tricks on the public is a powerful force which should not be underestimated.

Only Judge Claude Allen has an idea as to the reasons why he made the condition that Ms. Mangum be placed under house arrest in the event she was able to bond out. I think that it is important for him to explain the reasoning behind that determination. My opinion is that he set forth that condition as a last-ditch measure to assure that in the unlikely event Ms. Mangum was able to bond out, that she would still be under the control of the prosecutor… that the prosecutor would still have a bargaining chip with which to try and secure a plea deal with Ms. Mangum.

I am aware of only one other case in which the condition was in place that if a defendant bonded out he/she would be placed under house arrest. This is the case of a suspected rape defendant named Gregory Boykin, and it took place a couple of month after Judge Allen’s ruling in the Mangum case. Someone, I believe a magistrate, set bail at $500,000 (half the initial bail of Ms. Mangum) and set a condition that if he bonded out, he would be required to be under electronic house arrest (the same conditions that Ms. Mangum faced). Two days later, however, Mr. Boykin’s case was brought before the Honorable Judge Jennifer Knox, who reduced his bail to $300,000, and dismissed the condition that he would have to be placed under house arrest if he satisfied bail. In other words, he would be treated like everyone else who satisfied bail… he would be free until his case came to trial. The reasons Judge Knox struck down the house arrest condition for Mr. Boykin I do not know, but I believe that she did it because it was the fair, ethical and moral thing to do.

I applaud the Honorable Judge Knox for doing the right thing in Gregory Boykin’s case. Judges Paul Ridgeway and Michael Morgan, who have sat on hearings before Crystal Mangum, both failed to fully address the house arrest and monitoring issue, and let it stand. It is Judge Allen, however, who owes all an explanation for imposing the electronic monitoring issue in the first place. An explanation is due in order to satisfy questions of fairness and impartiality in our state’s justice system. Until a logical reason for implementing the house arrest condition is forthcoming from Judge Allen, faith in the state’s system of justice will be lacking.

To test your comprehension on a recent topic about MSNBC Senior Legal Analyst Susan Filan, visit the link below and click on Quiz 9. You will be graded.