Thursday, October 28, 2010

The mystery of Isley’s promotion is elementary

In the Sunday, October 17, 2010 edition of The News & Observer, was a front page, below the fold, article titled, “Isley’s climb at SBI followed his claim of racism.” Evidently Mark Isley’s claim had teeth, and in accordance with terms of a 2005 settlement which was reached after he filed a discrimination complaint against the SBI, he was promoted with a wage increase.

Mark Isley is an African American SBI agent who played an integral part in the successful incarceration of mentally impaired Floyd Brown, who was held in limbo for years awaiting a trial that never materialized. The article, by staff writers Mandy Locke and Joseph Neff, was in strict compliance with the paper’s PAPEN (Protect All Prosecutors Except Nifong) Policy, as it never once mentioned the name of the prosecutor responsible for the handling of Mr. Brown’s case, Anson County prosecutor Michael D. Parker.

Now the question posed by the N & O writers concerns the mysteries of how SBI agent Mark Isley’s career "soared" while evidence mounted that he fabricated a confession that forced a disabled man to be locked away at a mental hospital for 14 years. After putting on my “Sherlock Holmes cap,” and making a few deductions, the answer is, well, elementary. The key to this puzzle has to do with the timeline.

The investigative reporting in this article is a little sloppy and vague, with attempts to mislead the reader. In early 2004, Mr. Isley had been employed by the SBI for approximately 15 years… the length of time spent as a supervisor of field agents is unclear. At some point during his employment he began to complain about discriminatory practices in the SBI which had prevented him and other African Americans from advancing in the ranks. Now the N & O, without giving dates, stated that Isley began complaining months after attorneys for Floyd Brown began registering complaints about Isley’s work. The importance of this statement is to dispel any “cause and effect” relationship. However, I believe that Mr. Isley’s complaints about racial discrimination preceded those against him by Brown’s attorneys. The timing is a critical issue here. Why in spring of 2004 would one look into Isley’s handling of Brown’s case?

The facts concerning Floyd Brown had not changed since he was first charged and held in a mental hospital in 1993. He was severely retarded and, according to mental health experts, could not have dictated a confession which Isley allegedly wrote word for word. This so-called confession was the only thing tying Brown to the crime, as no forensic or physical evidence linking Brown to the murder could be established. The defense attorneys were aware of this, as was Anson prosecutor Michael D. Parker. But everyone, including the media, was content to allow Brown to languish in the mental hospital because he was disenfranchised, poor, and an African American… in accordance with the state’s tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color.”

So, evidently there seemed to be no movement in Brown’s situation until nearly a decade later… around the time Mark Isley began complaining about being discriminated against by being passed over for promotion by other less qualified white SBI applicants. Then, all of a sudden and out of the clear blue Floyd Brown’s attorneys request Isley’s personnel records from the SBI and began making allegations of misconduct against him. There was no indication that any complaints were made against the prosecutor who was actually responsible for Brown being held in custody without a trial, Michael D. Parker.

It can also be deduced from the newspaper article that the SBI and Mr. Isley did not see eye to eye regarding his complaints, as he was forced to eventually file a racial discrimination claim against the SBI.

It can also be deduced, from the settlement which included a promotion and pay raise for Isley, that his claim of racial discrimination had substance, a matter that the media has chosen to gloss over. In addition to settling with Isley, the agency was forced to pay Isley’s attorney fees, and the SBI later issued a revised policy regarding the promotion process and incorporated increased minority hiring and recruitment.

After being dealt a significant blow by Mr. Isley’s complaint, it is not a stretch to come to the realization that Mr. Isley did not hold a favored agent status within the state agency. This is a situation which usually engenders retribution… and what better way to knock Mr. Isley down a peg or two than to bring to the fore earlier acts of possible serious misconduct, of which the agency had been aware since the beginning.

Now, David Rudolf, a Charlotte criminal defense attorney who filed a civil suit on behalf of Floyd Brown and is smacking his lips at the thought of his percentage of a potential humongous award in court, was quick to criticize SBI agent Mark Isley. He was quick to blame Isley for Brown being held for fourteen years in a mental hospital without a trial. I have not heard a disparaging word coming from the mouth of Mr. Rudolf about the prosecutor, Michael D. Parker. Parker was the person in charge of the Brown case, and he knew, or should have known, about the legitimacy, or lack thereof, of Brown’s so-called written confession. Parker was also the person who refused mental health staff requests to allow Mr. Brown to have lunch with his sister and to leave for several hours to attend the fair. Parker was also the person who maliciously interfered with living arrangements which had been painstakingly made by state social workers for Brown in an assisted living facility. But, again, there apparently are no complaints from Attorney Rudolf about Mr. Parker’s conduct.

I only used the newspaper article as a source for analyzing its topic of Isley’s complaint, his promotion, and the Brown case, so my conclusions, which follow, are mostly based on educated supposition. They are as follows:
(1) Attorneys on both sides of the murder charge against Brown knew that the so-called confession allegedly obtained by Isley was bogus, but it was the only thing that the prosecution had with which to hold Brown;
(2) Floyd Brown definitely had ineffective counsel at his original trial;
(3) the North Carolina SBI agency practiced racial discrimination with regards to promotions at the time that Isley first complained about it;
(4) the sudden emergence of complaints by Brown’s attorneys about Isley, including the request to see his personnel records, was directly related to Isley’s complaints of discrimination;
(5) as pointed out in The News & Observer, Isley’s promotion was related to his settlement regarding complaints of racial discrimination in the SBI;
(6) the media reporting on the Floyd Brown case adhere to the PAPEN Policy, and are scapegoating Mark Isley; and
(7) the problems Mark Isley now face are a result of his complaints against the SBI.

Keep in mind that Prosecutor Michael D. Parker is in good standing with the North Carolina State Bar... as are Tom Ford (Gregory Taylor), Bill Wolfe (James Arthur Johnson), and David Hoke (Alan Gell). And Mike Nifong is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception in 1933 - a travesty of justice... something that defies logic and is definitely not elementary.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Protection against the consequences of free speech and opinion are not guaranteed

One of the tenets upon which our country was founded, and upon which we most highly cherish, is the freedom of speech… the right to express one’s opinion. We, Americans, may surely speak our minds on any number of issues without fear of incarceration or persecution by the government, but we must deal with the consequences of our expression. Neither the Bill of Rights nor the Constitution protects citizens from any retaliation that may be lodged against someone for speaking their mind, expressing their beliefs, or, unfortunately, even having an opinion. Because potential retribution looms for whoever possesses or subscribes to an unpopular position on a controversial topic, it tends to mute contrary expression and/or public dialog on that particular subject. Bottom line is that the potential for suffering consequences for certain thoughts and opinions are routinely kept in check out of fear of being subjected to backlash.

This matter came to the nation’s awareness recently when NPR (National Public Radio) commentator Juan Williams stated during an interview with Fox News that he was uncomfortable whenever he saw Muslims dressed in their traditional garb on airplanes. NPR executives viewed this comment as being unethical and undermining his credibility. Personally, I do not share the same phobia as Mr. Williams regarding Muslims traveling by air, and I did not find his remarks to be offensive. He was merely stating an opinion of his, which I felt had no relevance to his credibility. NPR should not have focused on this benign, but candid expression of Mr. Williams. Certainly, he should not have been fired… at least in my opinion.

Fear of retaliation for taking a position is very real in this country and can be best exemplified by the Nifong-phobia. There is no doubt in my mind that the majority of intelligent and sensible people in North Carolina are of the opinion that Mike Nifong was selectively and unjustly disbarred (especially in consideration that he is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception in 1933). However, the play given to the topic by the mainstream media and the punitive, draconian, and irrational treatment of former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong by the Attorney General’s Office and other state agencies, makes it clear to the well-informed that to take a side with Mr. Nifong is to possibly invite serious and catastrophic results… the most feared being loss of employment. There are many attorneys who are of the opinion that Mr. Nifong was unjustly disbarred, but they are not going to publicly say so because they realize to do so would put their license to practice law in serious jeopardy by the unregulated and out of control State Bar. Civil rights leaders and religious leaders in their pulpits avoid taking on the injustice to Mr. Nifong out of fear of losing financing and donations, support, and/or tithe.

What sets aside the Mike Nifong issue from many others in the arena of public discourse is the fact that the media has defined the debate by taking a position and pushing it on the public. This drive to destroy Mr. Nifong was spearheaded by Rae Evans, mother of Duke Lacrosse defendant Dave Evans. She held an executive position with CBS News for more than a decade, but this has never been disclosed during her appearances on CBS’s “60 Minutes” program, and the media has been hush-hush on the topic, as well. The PR and media blitz by the Carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse families have produced a jihad against Mr. Nifong that is complete and without comparison. So successful has the media been in defining what opinions and expressions about Mr. Nifong and the Duke Lacrosse case are acceptable, and what positions carry untold risks, that the state’s director of the American Civil Liberties Union is afraid to express her opinion on the topic. A couple of years ago at a public debate on freedom of speech at NCSU, I asked the ACLU’s Katy Parker, to opine in writing about Mr. Nifong’s disbarment, specifically asking if his actions were as egregious as other prosecutors who had not been disbarred. She was aware that I was a supporter of Mr. Nifong, and when I handed her the questionnaire, I asked her if she was going to fill it out. She responded, “It depends on the questions.” Evidently, she did not like the questions as she did not respond (I even enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope). But neither did the three other law school professors at event to whom I personally gave the questionnaire.

This is very telling, because an agency like the ACLU which is willing to protect the civil and constitutional rights of Nazis and Ku Klux Klanners is afraid to go up against the powerful Carpetbaggers by expressing its opinions about Mr. Nifong’s disbarment. Mr. Nifong’s unjust disbarment is a topic that is even off-limits at law schools. Law professors, even with tenure, are unwilling to breach the topic in a public forum. It is evident why the subject of Mr. Nifong is institutionally and universally taboo… because Mike Nifong’s disbarment was selective and unjust. This is a conclusion that anyone using a modicum of rational thought and knowledge of the issue would reach.

Elected public officials, who are compromised by their lust for public approval, display absolutely no courage when it comes to taking a public stand on the issue of Mike Nifong’s disbarment. Although the First Amendment protects their right to express an opinion on the subject, they undoubtedly act like politicians by cloaking their unwillingness to discuss the issue by pleading that the protocol in place restricts their ability to comment.

The heat surrounding the topic of Mike Nifong’s disbarment is so high that even having a view that is supportive of Mr. Nifong can lead to mistreatment. It happened to me at Duke University School of Law in April 14, 2010, when I attended an event which was open to the public. I was kicked off the campus, for no reason other than being a supporter of justice for Mr. Nifong. The attack against me by Duke was premeditated, malicious, and unwarranted, and illustrates the depth of contempt that has been generated by the media and the state against Mr. Nifong and his supporters. A university, especially one of Duke’s stature - not to mention that it is law school, should be a beacon for independent thought, opinion, and ideas. Debate on differing views should be welcome in such an academic environment. I’m sure that, generally speaking, it is on the Duke campus. But, again, when it comes to the topic of Mr. Nifong, open expression or even privately held opinion supportive of Mr. Nifong is squelched. Because I believe that Mr. Nifong was selectively and unjustly disbarred I was nearly arrested.

Tar Heelians, especially in Durham, know the score and are timid when it comes to speaking out on behalf of Mike Nifong. They realize that doing so could cost them a promotion, opportunity, or even their jobs and livelihood. The vindictive reach of the Carpetbagger Jihad is long, strong, and venomous. That is what makes members of the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong special. Each individual member has the conviction, and courage to back it up, to lend his/her name and face to the cause of obtaining justice for Mr. Nifong. Justice for Mike Nifong can be defined by action on part of the North Carolina State Bar to unilaterally and unconditionally reinstate Mike Nifong’s license to practice law in the state without restrictions. And that is the goal of our committee, which has been in existence since June 2008.

Like Juan Williams, I have experienced backlash because of my position in support of Mr. Nifong… discrimination against me and my near-arrest on the Duke University campus in April 2010, being one of the more recent. Because of the fear of retaliation, the Powers-That-Be, especially with the assistance of the media, will continue to determine what opinions the citizens of this state are considered acceptable to harbor and/or express. For those who elect to give an opinion that is not held in the mainstream, brace yourself and prepare to suffer retribution. Keep in mind that expression of opinion is free, but you oft times will end up paying the consequences for doing so.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

“Ineffective counsel” enabled prosecution to win capital conviction in Goode case

Today’s edition of The News & Observer contains an article by Anne Blythe titled, “New trial sought in murder case that used SBI blood tests.” It briefly covers a motion that was filed in federal court yesterday that is seeking a new trial for George Goode. Initially sentenced to death for the double murder of a Johnston County couple nearly two decades ago, a judge recently threw out the death sentence because of “ineffective counsel.” Now Goode is under a sentence of two life sentences. His defense is that he was present and witnessed the murder of the couple, but was paralyzed with fear at the homicidal actions of two others.

N & O staff writer Anne Blythe, in her article, is in full compliance with the media’s PAPEN (Protect All Prosecutors Except Nifong) Policy, as she never mentions the name of the prosecutor who sought the most extreme penalty for a man who was linked to the murder solely on a little prosecutorial hocus-pocus provided by SBI agent Duane Deaver. Mr. Deaver has since been admonished for misleading the jury that convicted Mr. Goode, but as has been recently divulged, he was only following the standard protocol of the slanted playing field used by the prosecution. In allowing the jurors to believe that Goode was linked to the crime by blood, Mr. Deaver used the same tactic (expressing the presumptive test for blood and withholding the negative confirmatory test) that he employed in helping to falsely convict Gregory Taylor for the 1991 murder of Jacquetta Thomas.

Ms. Blythe would have readers believe that SBI agent Deaver acted alone in this obvious conspiracy with prosecution… she expects us to believe that Goode’s prosecutor was oblivious to the misleading statements of its star witness, Deaver. In order to win the conviction against Goode, Goode’s prosecutor needed every trick in his bag of magic, including the misleading hocus-pocus lab analysis in which the jurors had reason to believe Deaver’s testimony to be truthful, objective, and unbiased.

The fact that the case against George Goode was also tainted by “ineffective counsel” is not surprising, and was probably an essential building block in reaching the capital conviction. Was the defense counsel for Mr. Goode back in the day merely inept, or was it purposely hanging its client out to dry for the prosecution’s benefit? I have not followed that case enough to know for sure, but I would not be surprised if the defense was in cahoots with the prosecution.

Speaking from personal experience with both civil and criminal trials, attorneys were not at all shy about taking large sums of money to represent me and then selling me down the drain. More often than not, that would be the case. There are many cases in the North Carolina criminal arena in which I believe that defense attorneys, especially from the Public Defenders office which represent the poorest of the poor and those most greatly disenfranchised, throttle back in the defense of their clients in order to enable the prosecution to come away with a win.

When it comes to public defenders, they really have a conflict of interest, especially when it comes to misconduct on the prosecutor’s side of the table. By definition, public defenders are agents of the state who are tasked to represent the indigent or those without legal representation who are faced with criminal charges. The prosecutors, who are also agents of the state, are pressing for convictions of the defendants represented by the state’s public defenders. In highly publicize cases, it is definitely not to the public defender’s best interests to win an acquittal for a defendant who is unpopular with the press and the people.

The cases against some defendants are so weak that prosecutors are unable to prevail without the ineffective contributions by the defendants’ counsel. In one particular incident, a defendant who was charged with “assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflicting serious injury” for stabbing a woman, waived his right to assigned legal counsel. Subsequently, with the defendant left to represent himself, the prosecution filed to dismiss the case. Reasons for the dismissal were that the victim refused to cooperate with prosecution, and that there was lack of evidence to corroborate the victim’s story that she was stabbed. Had this man been represented by assigned counsel, it is possible that the prosecution would have moved forward. This, however, is merely speculation.

Ineffective counsel can on occasion be due to the ineptitude of the defense attorney, such as in the case in which Erick Daniels, a 15 year-old, who was convicted of an armed robbery conviction based largely on the shape of his eyebrows in a middle school year book. With no credible case against him, Erick’s lawyer nevertheless put him on the stand to testify. He was pummeled by Prosecutor Freda Black cross-exam which contained highly prejudicial and inflammatory questions. Daniels served seven years unjustly behind bars. And despite being dragged out of a middle school classroom by police without the existence of a shred of credible evidence to implicate him, the media did not raise a ruckus because the teenage defendant was poor, disenfranchised, and an African American.

In a legal environment in which most prosecutors seek unfair advantage on a skewed playing field, former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong long ago sought to level the field and give defendants fair advantage and justice. More than two decades before it became mandated by law, Mike Nifong was sharing his evidentiary files with defense attorneys. He has maintained an open file policy throughout his 27 year career as a prosecutor. (This is something that the media and the State Bar's F. Lane Williamson never mention and don't want the public to know.) When defense in the Duke Lacrosse case filed a motion seeking discovery, three sets (one for each defendant) of thousands of pages of documents, and copies of CDs and DVDs were provided within 24 hours. When Mr. Nifong sought copies of evidence held by defense attorneys, they gave him nothing (even though some so-called defense evidence was shared with the extremely friendly media). To accuse Mr. Nifong of withholding evidence is ludicrous, especially in light of past history. Such accusations should be reserved for prosecutors such as David Hoke (Alan Gell case), Bill Wolfe (James Arthur Johnson case), Michael Parker (Floyd Brown case), and Tom Ford (Gregory Taylor case).

Prosecutorial hocus-pocus and ineffective defense counsel may have put George Goode on death row, but hopefully now that the unfair practice of the SBI lab have been exposed, he will at least get another trial… and this time on a more level playing field.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

SBI’s rule not just bad, but unfair!

As SBI Agent Duane Deaver testified at Gregory Taylor’s February 2010 hearing before the three judge panel, he was merely following established protocol by withholding from the 1993 jury, blood test results that would have been favorable to murder defendant Gregory Taylor. This revelation spewed forth from the front page of October 13, 2010 edition of The News & Observer in an article titled “SBI vet wrote bad rule for tests.” Whoever wrote that headline was generous towards the SBI director by merely stating that the rule written for the lab test was "bad." The truth of the matter is that it was downright unfair. The rule, which had been in practice for decades, and put in writing in 1997, embraced the practice of reporting positive lab results and withholding negative results… a practice which placed defendants at a definite disadvantage.

Prosecutors were aware of this policy and the general mindset in the lab, and in all likelihood, pushed for it. The SBI lab, instead of being an honest broker when it came to analyzing evidence, was instead a biased arm of the prosecution engaging in approved hocus-pocus with evidence in order to help the prosecution win a conviction. The 25 year veteran SBI agent who wrote the policy, Mark Nelson, retired from the SBI in 2002, and is currently a senior program manager at the National Institute of Justice in Washington, DC. The written policy put in place by Mr. Nelson was approved by officials in the Attorney General’s Office.

To suggest that prosecutors were unaware of the prejudicial and misleading policy and practices of the SBI lab, is not within the realm of belief, especially in light of the existence of 1997 policy. It was the prosecutor’s drive to win convictions at all costs that resulted in such a policy being implemented in the first place… especially the more inept prosecutors like Tom Ford who heavily relied on winning a conviction by using perjured testimony in exchange for promises of leaner sentences.

For a specific example of the gross injustice of the practice, consider the following. If a presumptive test for blood was positive (indicating that blood, along with other substances might be present), but the confirmatory test was negative (meaning that no blood was present and that the positive presumptive test was due to a non-blood agent), then the lab report was to read that the tests “revealed chemical indications of blood.” This would lead a reasonable person to believe that the substance tested contained blood. The scenario just mentioned is exactly what transpired in the Gregory Taylor case. And the so-called “blood on the bumper” evidence was a significant piece of the pie that resulted in Gregory Taylor’s conviction.

What is truly disheartening is the observation by Bob Gaesslin, a professor of serology at the University of Illinois in Chicago. He acknowledged that such incomplete and misleading reporting of test results is “not completely forthcoming, but people have always done it.” Mr. Gaesslin, who has written authoritative serology books used by law enforcement, I believe, is accurate in his assessment of prevailing practices in courts nationwide.

My eyebrow is raised with his comment about why juries are not told about negative confirmatory tests when presumptive tests for blood are positive. He states: “I don’t know whether we think that people aren’t going to understand the report if we put them in, or if it’s an effort to not give the cross examiner a lot of cannon fodder…” The answer is negative with regards to the first part of the statement. A person of average intellect should have no difficulty understanding the difference between a presumptive and confirmatory test and their implications. Laboratory techs should be able to satisfactorily explain this to the people seated in the jury box. Regarding the second part of his statement, he is absolutely right on… the person testifying about lab results unfavorable to the prosecution try to hide the truth from the defense attorney. By misleading the defense attorney, there is no doubt going to be very little in the way of cross examination. That is the sole reason why the court does not hear about negative confirmatory test results, when presumptive ones are positive… to mislead the defense, the judge, and the jury.

Regarding the misleading practice, Mr. Gaesslin concludes, “but everyone does that and they still do it.” This statement is sad but true. And the reason for this has to do with the "win-at-all-costs" attitude of many prosecutors, which has supplanted and made a complete and total mockery of its supposed “minister of justice” role.

As a proximate result of the uneven playing field, many innocent people are languishing behind bars at taxpayer expense, while funneling hard earned taxpayer dollars into corporations with financial interests in the correctional system and maintaining full occupancy. The politicians and media, alike, have no qualms about the unjust incarceration of innocents because they are in very large measure the poor, disenfranchised, and people of color… those within a capitalistic society who are expendable… a society with a tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color” which pampers the well-heeled and crushes the downtrodden who are caught up in the criminal system.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Duke could learn a thing or two from York Properties

The blog that was posted on October 16, 2010, has been removed because it has caused grief to someone who I love very much. She asked me not to post the blog on the subject, but I thought that I could successfully navigate through the topic without causing distress for her, but that was not the case. I took much caution in writing the article not to cause offense, but I did, and for that I am truly sorry, and I offer her my deepest apology.

Finally, I would like to mention that I believe that the discrimination against the lesbian couple at Cameron Village was despicable, and in no way did I intend to minimize its egregious nature when writing the blog.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Captain Ahab has nothing on Prosecutor Tom Ford

Many consider Captain Ahab’s obsession to kill Moby Dick, the great White whale that took his leg, to be the height of obsessive behavior. Well, you’ll need to push that aside and make room for Wake Prosecutor Tom Ford’s obsession to convict Johnny Beck, the African American drug partner of Gregory Taylor the night that Jacquetta Thomas was murdered in 1991. As has been stated previously, Tom Ford did not care a whit about the black prostitute who was murdered, and therefore had no desire to solve the crime. He was only interested in convicting someone for it, and if he could sentence a black male to spend the rest of his life in jail, so much the better. He pinned his hopes on charging and convicting Beck on perjured testimony of Gregory Taylor. However, things did not work out as planned for the wily prosecutor who had the art of perjury-based convictions down to a science. Mr. Taylor, to the dismay of Ford, was a man of principles and integrity, and he refused to commit perjury and implicate a man who he knew to be innocent of committing homicide. So, Ford, using his trademark m.o. of perjured testimony in exchange for lesser sentences, along with fantasy forensics, convicted an obviously innocent man for the murder of Jacquetta Thomas… and it carried a life sentence.

While serving this life sentence, Ford approached Taylor in prison, and offered the promise of a lighter sentence if only he would lie under oath in order to enable him to charge Beck with the murder of Jacquetta Thomas. Even under these conditions, Greg Taylor held firm to his convictions… prepared to spend the rest of his life in jail rather than falsely finger an innocent man. And Taylor languished in jail for seventeen years until his case was finally heard by the Innocence Inquiry Commission, which led to his freedom and exoneration by Governor Bev Perdue in 2010.

According to an article in The News & Observer, dated October 6, 2010, Wake County prosecutors, led by District Attorney Colon Willoughby are focusing on Johnny Beck as the primary suspect in the 1991 Thomas homicide. The Mandy Locke article, titled “Taylor’s companion still investigated,” did break with tradition by mentioning Tom Ford’s name (in violation of the PAPEN Policy). And it was a powerful paragraph at the end of the article which bears repeating: “Charges against Beck were dismissed in August 1993. A month earlier, Wake County Assistant District Attorney Tom Ford wrote to Taylor and told him that he could persuade the governor to adjust Taylor's sentence if he would testify against Beck. Taylor refused.”

Charges were dismissed against Beck in 1993. So, what has changed in the subsequent seventeen years to make Wake County prosecutors focus their investigation on Beck now? I can think of only two things: (1) Gregory Taylor has been completely exonerated; and (2) Prosecutor Tom Ford, his prosecution against Taylor, and the SBI lab has been totally discredited. It was not only obvious to the three judge panel and the media that Gregory Taylor was innocent, but it is also obvious to the public. If Taylor is innocent of the murder of Jacquetta Thomas, then by all rationale, Johnny Beck, his companion of that fateful night, is innocent as well.

By pursuing Beck as a suspect, D.A. Willoughby and his team are essentially saying that the public is stupid. The N&O reported as follows: “Willoughby said in the motion that any evidence showing contact between Thomas and a white vehicle may be relevant to prosecutors or defense attorneys should anyone be prosecuted for Thomas' death in the future.” I fail to comprehend the logic therein. Personally, I am insulted by Willoughby’s reasoning for wanting to hold on to property of Taylor and Beck. It is almost as insulting to my intelligence as was the statement by Duke University’s Michael Schoenfeld that defined “solicitation” as handing out business cards.

The obsessive targeting of Johnny Beck for a murder he could not have committed not only insults the intelligence of Tar Heelians and wastes taxpayer money, but goes contrary to the supposed role of prosecutors acting as “Ministers of Justice.” A true minister of justice would have dismissed Gregory Taylor and Johnny Beck as suspects in the Thomas murder back in 1991 or early 1992 (at the latest). Alas, Tom Ford, and Colon Willoughby are no ministers of justice by their actions in this case. Neither was the Attorney General’s Office acting as a minister of justice when it re-tried Alan Gell after it became apparent that Prosecutor David Hoke withheld from defense attorneys 17 eyewitness statements that proved beyond doubt that Gell could not have possibly committed the murder for which he was sentenced to die.

A shining example of a true Minister of Justice can be found in the way former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong handled the Duke Lacrosse case. After initially charging the three Duke Lacrosse defendants with multiple offenses, Mr. Nifong dismissed the charge of rape when he felt that statements by the alleged victim no longer supported it. He, however, continued to pursue other charges against the defendants, including sexual assault. This is the action of a prosecutor with an open mind who is determined to aggressively seek a conviction, but with the priority of first and foremost attaining justice. Mr. Nifong never tried to solicit perjured testimony or false statements as did Wake County Prosecutor Tom Ford in the Gregory Taylor case. Mr. Nifong never harbored personal ill-will or a vendetta against the defendants… he just merely executed his job to the best of his abilities and within acceptable standards.

Hopefully the judge hearing the motion filed by Willoughby, to hang on to evidentiary property that is no longer of value, will deny his request. Enough is enough. Johnny Beck is innocent… just like Gregory Taylor. It is past time to put an end to this Tom Ford foolery.

NOTE: Link provided below tells of interesting event featuring Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Eugene Robinson. (Click the botton featuring that headline)

Monday, October 11, 2010

SBI agent Duane Deaver to be sacrificial lamb

The abominable legal proceeding in 1993 that resulted in an innocent man, Gregory Taylor, being locked away for seventeen years on a murder charge can be credited to Wake County prosecutor Tom Ford. When confronted with the 1991 murder of Jacquetta Thomas, an African American prostitute whose body was discovered in a desolate Raleigh cul-de-sac, Mr. Ford’s primary goal was to close the case quickly by convicting a “perpetrator.” Ford didn’t care whether or not the designated “perpetrator” was guilty or not, because he did not care about the victim or her family. So he set his sights on two unfortunate individuals who happened to come upon the body in the early morning hours after they were forced to walk from their vehicle which had gotten stuck in the mud.

Because the disabled vehicle belonged to Taylor, Ford felt obligated to charge him… but only as an accomplice. What Ford really wanted was to pressure Taylor to implicate Johnny Beck, the black man with whom Taylor had been doing drugs just hours prior to the discovery of the body. Other than walking by the body earlier in the morning, there was no physical evidence connecting Taylor or his African American friend to the crime. Furthermore, no plausible motive existed for Taylor or Beck to attack Ms. Thomas. To win a conviction, Ford would resort to the tactic which he has honed to an art… obtain perjured testimony in exchange for the promise of leniency or a reduced sentence.

No “Minister of Justice” Prosecutor Tom Ford believed that this cut and dried case would be shut and closed easily, by threatening Taylor with life in prison unless he cooperated with his demands that he implicate the black man (who Ford had no reason to believe was guilty of the homicide). After all, Ford believed, Greg Taylor did not come from the upper echelon of society, he was not of a privileged class, and he was a drug user. And, all he had to do was implicate a black man… how hard could that be? An easy choice, right? It would have been an easy choice for Ford, and probably 99 per cent of people in the state. But this would not be a slam dunk for Ford, because he had not counted on Taylor possessing the integrity and moral compass to withstand his despicable offer.

Gregory Taylor never wavered in the accounting of his innocence and that of Johnny Beck, but that didn’t deter Prosecutor Ford. Tom Ford was obsessed with putting the African American man behind bars for life, and Taylor’s refusal to join his conspiracy did nothing but fuel Ford’s animus towards Taylor. Because Taylor would not comply with Ford’s game plan, Ford utilized the same “perjured testimony” tactic (that he tried unsuccessfully to employ using Taylor to implicate Beck) to obtain a guilty verdict against Taylor. Ford approached two disreputable individuals and promised them a reduction in their sentences in exchange for testimony that would implicate Greg Taylor in the murder of Ms. Thomas. They both jumped at the opportunity, lied before the court, and handed Prosecutor Ford his tainted courtroom victory. As a result, Taylor was sentenced to serve the remainder of his life in prison. He served seventeen long years in prison before the truth of his indisputable innocence would surface.

It was during the hearing which freed Taylor that it became apparent that Ford not only employed false witnesses in obtaining Taylor’s conviction, but that he also used false science. SBI agent Duane Deaver, it seems, had given misleading and false testimony about the presence of blood on the bumper of Taylor’s SUV, which became mired in the mud the night of the Thomas murder. Although he knew that presumptive tests for blood were not supported by a confirmative lab test, Deaver did not give such testimony in court. The jury was misled into believing that blood from Taylor’s vehicle was linked to the body. Taylor’s 2010 hearing before the three judge panel that exonerated him also exposed how Ford used a little hocus pocus on the 1992 jury in winning a conviction by getting tracking dog handlers to imply that a trail could be traced from the victim to Taylor’s vehicle.

Tom Ford orchestrated the cruel and vindictive prosecution against Gregory Taylor, skillfully bringing in false witnesses and false testimony resulting in a conviction. However, the media has given Ford a pass on this debacle, and instead has zeroed in on Duane Deaver. The News & Observer led the charge against Deaver and the SBI with its four part series on the misdeeds of the SBI in the Taylor case. However, in compliance with its PAPEN (Protect All Prosecutors Except Nifong) Policy, Ford’s name was mentioned only once or twice (and then, in passing). So, the criminal justice system, in following the media’s lead, has ordered a contempt hearing for Mr. Deaver on the charge that he made false and misleading testimony before the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission in 2009. According to a recent News & Observer article, a date for the hearing has not been set. Deaver has become the sacrificial lamb for the miscues, mistakes, and malfeasance that resulted in an innocent man spending seventeen of his most productive years of life behind bars.

Focusing attention on SBI Agent Deaver, not only provides a scapegoat for the injustice that befell Greg Taylor, but it is to divert attention from the true culprit, Tom Ford. To believe that Ford did not know the substance on the bumper was not blood defies logic. Ford’s stock and trade in prosecuting comes from eliciting perjured courtroom testimony in exchange for promises of a reduced sentence. Deaver was nothing more than Ford’s accomplice. That’s not to say that Deaver should not face a hearing on his conduct, but I believe that his position is more defensible because he worked in a culture where it was acceptable to stretch the truth in order to obtain the desired outcome of a conviction. And it appears that Deaver was more than willing to work with vigilante prosecutors in their pursuit of rogue justice.

Despite the suffering experienced by Gregory Taylor and his family, the unresolved murder of Jacquetta Thomas and its impact on her family and friends, Tom Ford seems to have weathered the storm unscathed. The media has handled him with Teflon gloves and even powerhouse defense attorney Joseph B. Cheshire V complimented Ford on how well he handled the prosecution’s interests in Taylor’s February 2010 hearing. In fact, Cheshire, who represented Taylor in his hearing before the three judge panel, never uttered a disparaging word about Ford… a prosecutor who needlessly left many shattered lives in his wake. Now, Cheshire has no problem with castigating former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong who was prosecuting the Duke Lacrosse case. That is because the Duke Lacrosse prosecution by Nifong was a North Carolina legal aberration in that it did not comply with the state’s tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color.” Cheshire was vociferous and upfront in his criticism of Nifong, pleading for the severest of sanctions against him, despite the fact that Mr. Nifong was doing nothing more than pursuing a prosecution which was well within acceptable standards. However, on the subject of Prosecutor Tom Ford (whose malicious, vindictive and vile prosecution of Cheshire’s own client Greg Taylor), Cheshire is as silent as a dormouse.

In North Carolina it is acceptable to sacrifice a prosecutor, such as Mr. Nifong, in order to set an example of what will happen if a prosecutor steps beyond the bounds of the state’s tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color.” It is also acceptable to sacrifice a designated scapegoat from another sector, such as SBI agent Duane Deaver, in order to protect a prosecutor who zealously clings to the state’s selective justice tenet.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

New and exciting changes to j4n website

Beginning with this blog, you will notice the continuation of new and exciting changes to the official website and blogsite of the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong. Not long ago, the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong acquired its own Facebook page. Now, the “Justice4Nifong” video page can be found on You Tube. This is another forum under which our group can better serve the public by informing it about relevant news and features.

One of the most exciting is news about the upcoming educational comic strip, “The MisAdventures of Super-Duper Cooper. An animated video, which can be accessed through You Tube, or directly from this blog (see below) gives a preview of the upcoming comic strip’s “Episode V: Super Heroes Smackdown – Initial Encounter.” More trailers about the comic strip will be forthcoming. This episode, which is larger than the previous four combined, has been in production for more than a year, and although not completely finished at the time of this posting, it should be completed by its due date. As with other episodes, one part will be posted each Sunday.

Visitors to the website will notice many improvements and changes for the better. As our opening page had become cluttered due to the large and growing membership, the menu page has been significantly rearranged to better accommodate the display. Navigation through the site will continue to be as easy, if not easier than before.

Uploading and transferring pages into the new format will take time, and all links may not be functionally complete right away. I ask your patience as the transition to the new website is undertaken. The site will not be offline as work progresses, just be aware that all pages may not be accessible for up to a week from today.

Another recent feature that is now available is a subscription to the blog which is free of charge. And for convenience, individuals with a Kindle account on Amazon can subscribe as well, but there will be a nominal fee for this service.

Although we are focused on the state’s criminal justice system, its cases, and in particular the injustice towards Mike Nifong, and the Duke Lacrosse case, we will keep abreast of technology and strive to give viewers information conducive to today’s fast-paced lifestyle. As always we invite suggestions on ways we can better serve you.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

NC Justice System’s reputation as nation’s laughing stock is well deserved

That former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the North Carolina State Bar since its inception in1933, is enough, in itself, to raise eyebrows… especially when prosecutors such as Tom Ford and Bill Wolfe’s deliberate miscues, misdeeds and malfeasance have landed innocent men behind bars for many months and years (Gregory Taylor and James Arthur Johnson respectively). The state’s widely embraced tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color” has generated an atmosphere wherein it is acceptable for those in position of power to discriminate and persecute supporters of Mike Nifong or those considered by the Powers-That-Be to be on the wrong end of the Duke Lacrosse case. For example, I nearly was arrested on the Duke University campus for no reason other than the fact that I am supportive of Mike Nifong, which was obvious from the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong tee shirt that I was wearing. (The official Duke response for my near-arrest was that campus police acted because I was handing out business cards and asking people to visit my [pro-Nifong] website.]) Really… how many people are nearly arrested for handing out business cards?

What makes our justice system the nation’s butt of jokes is the great disparity in which so-called justice is meted out and the lack of any logic or reason behind it. There are many examples for reference available, but let put forth recent examples in which the punishment definitely does not meet the crime.

To assure the reader that I am not making this stuff up, I direct your attention to the October 5, 2010 edition of The News & Observer, page 2B’s article titled “Man charged in brutal beating.” Early in the morning of September 30, 2010, while outside of a bar on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, Evan Lawrence, a 23 year-old skateboarder flicked a cigarette which accidentally struck the leg of Charles Poll, 25. This unintentional outcome so incensed Mr. Poll that he assaulted Mr. Lawrence, using Lawrence’s head as a jackhammer. Although Mr. Lawrence walked away from this horrific attack, his condition progressively deteriorated as an enlarging blood clot built up inside his brain. Later that night, when concerned friends brought him to the emergency room, he was immediately taken to the O.R. where he underwent surgery on his brain to remove the clot. He most certainly would have died had he not had surgery, but that has not been ruled out as a possibility as he remains in critical condition nearly a week after the beating. Survival is only one aspect for consideration in this incident. There is a strong likelihood that if he survives that he might wind up severely disabled with any number of neurological, cognitive, personality impairments… some of which might require long term or life time attention.

The aggressor, Mr. Poll, dispensing a most brutal beating in response to the most trivial provocation was arrested and charged with “assault inflicting serious injury.” There was no mention of “intent to kill” according the newspaper, although slamming someone’s head against a hard immoveable object like a concrete sidewalk is a sure-fire way to induce a fatal outcome. Now the bail that was set for Mr. Poll in this incident was a paltry $7,500. Yes, you read right… I didn’t leave off any zeroes… only seven thousand five hundred dollars… for a senseless attack that has resulted in a man’s life hanging in the balance.

Compare this to the $5 million dollar bail set for Heather Holley, a middle-aged first time offender who used identity theft to go on a $1,800 shopping spree at Best Buy. She also tried to steal the identity of a two year-old in order to obtain health insurance, and tried unsuccessfully to cash a $34,000 check. Although she was jailed on nearly 30 criminal charges, none of her actions resulted in any bodily harm… no one was maimed… no one was disabled… and no one died. No one required brain surgery.

When Ms. Holley, in open court, challenged the immense bail under which she was being held, the judge hearing the case unsympathetically and maliciously tacked on an addition $1 million, which made her bail amount a staggering $6 million. Now keep in mind that this is for identity theft. There are people charged with murder in North Carolina who have bail set at less than two million dollars.

This is not to suggest that Ms. Holley is an angel or model citizen, as very few of us are. However the $6 million bail under which she is being held, and the $7,500 bail for Mr. Poll, who savagely beat a young man to the brink of death (where he now totters), is what causes an independent outside observer to shutter in disbelief at the state of North Carolina justice. Our state’s legacy when it comes to justice is so tragic and painful that there is often nothing left to do in order to maintain sanity than to just laugh.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A criminal justice system well designed for the well-heeled

It should not be a surprise to anyone, but the criminal justice system, like so much else in our society, is designed to benefit the wealthy and privileged… not only by the way in which laws are put on the books, but by the way they are carried out. In short, criminals belonging to society’s upper crust, are mainly saddled with a fine. Real serious crimes by the aristocrats might also include probation (unsupervised, naturally) and possibly community service (arbitrary and vague). Now for the rest of the people, which is mostly comprised of those living in poverty and those on the verge of living in poverty, if they commit a crime you can bet he/she will serve time behind bars. And, of course the penalty for crimes committed by the poor, disenfranchised, and people of color is disproportionately more severe than it is for crimes committed by those in high places.

Wealthy people in positions of prominence, for example, are often not even charged when they go afoul of the law, much less prosecuted. Look no further than what happened when North Carolina senator R. C. Soles shot an unarmed man who was walking away from him and posed no immediate threat. The police report, if one was taken, was never released. Mr. Soles was not arrested. He was not charged. The whole incident was swept under the carpet and the media was muzzled. For the average citizen who carried out such action, you better believe that he/she would be charged with “assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury” at the minimum. Factors such as Class and Color of the victim would determine the amount of bail, and the way in which the prosecution moved forward.

Although Mr. Soles acted criminally and exhibited extremely poor judgment in the shooting incident, the North Carolina State Bar refused to act on a complaint filed against Mr. Soles. Again, not surprising since the Bar is an unregulated agency that is drunk with power… so much that it disbarred former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong on baseless trumped up “ethics” charges; charges which were initiated by some anonymous person in the Bar for the sole purpose of removing Mr. Nifong from the Duke Lacrosse case.

But businessmen are revered in our capitalistic society, and great pains are taken to look the other way when they commit crimes. Although most of the mainstream media has ignored the crimes of Somerhill Gallery President Joe Rowand, the weekly entertainment tabloid, The Independent Weekly, did expose his criminal activities. In short, Rowand defrauded artists out of at least $270,000 worth of commissions for artwork on consignment at the Durham gallery. And, according to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, he owed $200,000 in unpaid rent, and owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to other creditors. He managed to amass this debt for the business while paying himself a salary of $15,000 per month (roughly $180,000 annually). Now Mr. Rowand is not even charged with a crime. Why? Because he is a businessman.

Heather Holley was not a businesswoman. So when she went on her identity theft spree, during which she tried to obtain some health insurance, and spent $1,800 at Best Buy, police and prosecutors and the courts were ready to throw the book at her. After her arrest, bail was set at $5 million. What made Ms. Holley’s crime so unforgivable was that she victimized a wealthy respectable lady. Had she targeted riff-raff in her crimes, she might have been released without bond, especially considering it was her first run-in with the law. When Ms. Holley had the audacity to ask the judge about her bail being excessive considering the charges against her, he retaliated by raising it an additional million. Of course, there was no outrage at her treatment in court by the media. No editorials in newspapers… in other words, this selective and unjust treatment is as acceptable to the media as the unjust disbarment and persecution of Mike Nifong. The media is well aware of which side its bread is buttered on, and who’s doing the buttering. To champion "equal justice for all" would undoubtedly garner consternation amongst the bigwigs who help support the media by paying for advertising and other contributions.

Recently Rusty Carter, a businessman and owner of Atlantic Corporation, was fined $100,000 by the State Board of Elections because he illegally funneled money to the campaigns of Governor Bev Perdue and two state senators. His company gave $266,900 to state and federal candidates during the 2008 election cycle, according to a sworn affidavit. According to The News & Observer the three recipients of the businessman’s largess “agreed to forfeit the donations.” What does that mean? Are they going to return it to Atlantic? Give the money to charity? And, who’s going to see that these politicians follow up on their promises? Is there going to be a public accounting? (I doubt it.)

Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina asked the State Board of Elections to hand out a $200,000 fine to Carter, suggesting that a hefty fine “sends a signal that these kids of violations deserve to be punished.” Sure, these types of violations deserve punishment, but because he is a businessman, jail time is out of the question… not even a consideration. Regarding the amount of the fine, the Board, under Chairman Larry Leake couldn’t bear to issue a fine greater than $100,000. Hall considers the fine imposed, although half of what he sought, to be “some serious money.” Who does he think he is fooling? $100 grand is serious money to common folk (or “little people”), but to the owner and CEO of a large corporation, that amount probably is barely enough to cover his monthly bar tab. But the media, Mr. Hall, and the courts want the people to believe that Mr. Carter has been severely wounded fiscally. That amount is nothing more than pocket change to a businessman of Mr. Carter’s means.

The General Assembly, which is basically a reactionary body, responded to the Carter case by passing a law making it a felony if a donor gives more than $10,000 in illegal campaign donations, not a misdemeanor like Mr. Carter faced. From what I read from the newly passed law, a donor can make illegal donations up to the $10,000 limit and still be considered to have committed a misdemeanor crime. Why the big cushion? Keep in mind that laws are made by the wealthy and privileged, and they are going to have a definite slant towards benefiting the upper echelon.

Not long ago, I was nearly arrested on the Duke campus because I am a supporter of Mike Nifong. Duke, of course, denied this, with Michael Schoenfeld, a vice president, accusing me of repeatedly violating the school’s regulation against solicitation. What is their definition of solicitation? According to Mr. Schoenfeld it is passing out business cards (I passed out about a half dozen to people with whom I had had a conversation) and asking someone to visit your website. That is unbelievable, but it was the only excuse the university could come up with for kicking me off of its campus when I went to attend an event which was advertised as open to the public. Even if it was the reason behind my near-arrest… to arrest me for passing out business cards? This unjust and malicious behavior against me on Duke’s part is acceptable to the media, and subsequently, the masses because I do not matter when the issue is scrutinized through the lens of the state’s tenet of “selective justice based on Class and Color.” Laws, and the way they are applied are adjustable to the individuals involved, their standing in society, and the color of their skin.

With the media helping to direct public opinion, it will always be acceptable to the mindless masses for the well-heeled to pay for their crimes with their wallets, while the disenfranchised, poor, people of color, and the majority of common folk will be expected to pay for their crimes by languishing behind bars at taxpayer expense (and at the benefit of corporations in the correctional institution business).