Archive for March, 2016

31
Mar
16

last day of peace

20131115-005847.

The house is dust-free and my housekeeper has left until next week. I have just awakened from a nap, and as I rub my eyes and look around, I realize that nothing will be so perfect as it is right now.

Let me savor it for a moment until it disappears for god-knows-how-long.

Hold on… just a moment more.

Okay.

Alex called me and he is on the bus to Texas. He will be here sometime tomorrow or the next day.

At least I will never have to deal with the manager of the Day’s Inn Roanoke Civic Center ever again. She gives budget motels a bad name. The front desk refused to disclose the name of the company that owns the Day’s Inn Roanoke Civic Center. They said this was their policy. I’ll bet. It’s probably the only thing that saves the manager’s job unless her boss is a bigger horse’s ass than she is.

I never use this word, but I would have to say that she epitomizes the term “cunt.” (Sorry to have said it, but no other word will do.) Dealing with this motel manager just once on the phone sent my blood pressure soaring. I had to pop a nitro to get over the experience. Hell, she’s so bad she even gives cunts a bad name.

Anyway, Alex is coming alone for now.

When he is released from his mental facility, Derek is apparently planning to return to Donna. I just got off the phone with him; hell, I spoke with him twice today. How moving back with Donna will sit with the state of Virginia is anybody’s guess. In the absence of a crime, it seems to me that the state has no business dictating who can be married to whom or who is suitable to be a mother or father. I don’t trust the state’s bureaucrats to look into this young man’s heart and help him achieve his aspirations.

I’ll find out more about Derek’s plans over the next few days. Derek has been making Facebook posts that suggest he intends to build a house out here. We’ll see. It will be rough-going, but I am in his corner.

Lone Heron called me and said she will be leaving Atlanta sometime Saturday. She’s bringing Bruce, her dog. There’s no guarantee he’ll get along with Maggie and Max, but I’d be willing to bet that Lone Heron and I will get along fine.

Did I say it’s quiet? Stress-free? Only for a little while longer.

One piece of good news. I just received an email from Dave Thomas, the grandfather of C. Although everyone connected with this case has left Lawrence County PA (except the maternal grandparents, who still try to call the shots), Judge Motto and the Lawrence County CYS continue to punish C by keeping him in foster care, limiting his schooling to 4 days a week, and often deny C’s father his one hour of weekly visitation.

In a surprise move, though, Judge Motto (who has been holding onto C’s custody case and refusing motions for a change of venue) has made arrangement to move the legal wrangling and CYS oversight to Butler County PA, where the mother lives. The president judge in Butler County has accepted jurisdiction.

It remains to be seen whether Motto can constrain himself from remotely trying to steer the outcome. It is not likely that the Butler County judiciary will make any decision to reunite C with his father, but we can always hope.

At least there will be a new CYS organization involved. There is at least the chance that CYS in Butler County and the new court will be more about “the best interests of the child.”

One can always hope for miracles.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Robert Goulet performing “The Impossible Dream”

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30
Mar
16

it’s only fair

Wrongfully Convicted.

How the wrongfully convicted are compensated for years lost

by Stephanie Slifer, CBS News Crimesider

March 27, 2014

Imagine serving years, even decades in prison for a crime you didn’t commit and then—when you’re finally exonerated and released—you’re not guaranteed any form of compensation under the law.

In at least 21 states, that’s the case.

wrongful.conviction.chart_“It’s troubling—to say the least,” Bruce Barket, an attorney who represented Marty Tankleff, a New York teen who was convicted in his parents’ 1988 murder and spent 17 years in prison before being exonerated, told CBS News’ Crimesider.

“Individuals who were wrongly imprisoned should be compensated. It seems incredible to me that there could be an argument against it,” Barket said. “They can’t just pick up where they left off. They lost careers, jobs, families, the ability to build a career.

“Their lives were, in essence, destroyed.”

Tankleff, who was 17 at the time of his parents’ killings, was freed in 2007 at the age of 36 after an appeals court found key evidence in his trial was overlooked. It wasn’t until January 2014 that he won a settlement of nearly $3.4 million in a wrongful conviction lawsuit against New York State.

New York is one of 29 states—along with the Federal Government and the District of Columbia—that have compensation statues for the wrongfully convicted, according to the Innocence Project, a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system.

Rebecca Brown, Director on State Policy Reform for the Innocence Project, told Crimesider that of the states that do have compensation statues, each differs, and some impose restrictions that could prove problematic.

For example, several states require that the person did not “contribute to their own conviction” in order to reap the benefits of the state’s compensation statute. In other words, a person who falsely confessed or pleaded guilty to a crime they didn’t commit could be prohibited from receiving compensation.

According to Brown, nearly 30% of all DNA exonerations recorded in the United States involve a person that either pleaded guilty or falsely confessed. The National Registry of Exonerations, maintained by the law schools of the University of Michigan and Northwestern University, recorded 1,281 exonerations from January 1989 through December 2013, and says 11% of those occurred in cases in which the defendant had pleaded guilty – a trend the Registry says is on the increase.

The Innocence Project recommends that all states implement wrongful conviction compensation statutes, and says each should offer a minimum of $50,000 for each year a person spends in prison. People who plead guilty or were coerced into confessing should not be restricted under these statutes, Brown contends.

The organization also suggests that states should reimburse the defendant’s attorney fees, make subsistence funds available immediately and offer a range of social services, including mental health services, medical and dental care, and access to housing and education.

“Most people—when they leave prison—get probation services. Our clients do not because they’re innocent,” Brown said.

Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years behind bars—12 of which were on death row—in the 1994 killings of six people, before being exonerated and released in 2010, agrees that it’s important for a state to implement support services for those who are released from prison following a wrongful conviction.

Graves, who received $1.45 million under Texas’ wrongful conviction compensation statute 6 months after his release, says states should not only offer money to the wrongfully convicted, but also free healthcare and much-needed counseling.

“That’s the biggest disappointment. There was nothing in place to help me make a transition,” Graves told Crimesider. “I walked out from solitary confinement out onto the streets with nothing.”

Graves said he was charged over $500 per month for health insurance following his release.

“For all those years you’re denied real good medical treatment and then you come out and you’re charged to get all the things fixed that time in prison caused?,” he said.

Graves called the $1.45 million “an insult” and said that while no amount of money could make things right, a person who was wrongfully sentenced to death should be given no less than $1 million per each year spent on death row. Graves said it’s unfair for a person who served time in the general prison population to be awarded the same amount as someone who was on death row.

The federal wrongful conviction compensation statute is the only statute that offers higher compensation for those who spent time on death row. Under the federal statute, a person can be awarded up to $50,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment and up to $100,000 per year on death row.

Graves also says it’s important for a person’s record to be cleared of the wrongful conviction – something he says has not been done for him.

“It all came up on my record when I went to get an apartment. My application was denied because of things that came up on my record,” Graves told Crimesider.

Rebecca Brown, of the Innocence Project, says this is “a huge problem” and that often times, an exoneree resorts to carrying around a newspaper clipping documenting their exoneration to get things like housing and jobs.

The Innocence Project acknowledges that in states without compensation statues, exonerees do have other options: (1) Pursuing a civil rights lawsuit, which requires proof of official misconduct leading to a constitutional violation; (2) Pursuing a private compensation bill, in which a state legislature makes an exception for an individual. However, the group says both options require the wrongfully convicted person to endure yet another long legal and/or political battle.

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, 2013 was a record-breaking year for exonerations in the United States. The Registry recorded 87 known exonerations, forty of which were murder exonerations, including one in which a prisoner had been sentenced to death.

Of the 1,281 exonerations recorded by the Registry from 1989 through 2013, almost all the individuals had been in prison for years; half for at least 8 years; more than 75% for at least 3 years. As a group, the defendants had spent nearly 12,500 years in prison for crimes for which they should not have been convicted—an average of 10 years each.

Ultimately, can any amount of money or benefits make up for all that time lost?

“A billion dollars would not buy back those 18 years that I could see my kids growing up,” Graves told Crimesider.

Brown, of the Innocence Project, agrees. “But,” she says, “it is incumbent upon the state to ensure that we do all that we can to make a person as whole as we can after they have lived through that horrific experience.”

Editor’s note:

Since his release, Anthony Graves started the Anthony Graves Foundation aimed at helping at-risk youth whose parents are behind bars. He also founded an organization dedicated to investigating wrongful convictions.

Marty Tankleff is working as a paralegal and expects to graduate from law school in May. He is still waiting on the money from his settlement with New York State, and has a federal civil rights lawsuit pending against the Long Island NY detective who he alleges coerced a confession from him.

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Stephanie Slifer covers crime and justice for CBSNews.com.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Taylor Swift performing “Innocent”

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29
Mar
16

help our boys

Derek & Alex at Gators Game.

Derek and Alex King were on their way out to Estrella Vista when they got stuck in Roanoke VA.

I still don’t know exactly what is going on, but between Kathryn Medico and me, we have sent them hundreds of dollars (and it is questionable where the money has gone), the boys are separated, and each is friendless and on the verge of mental disintegration.

I am spending most of the day trying to untangle the spaghetti while accessing Roanoke’s social service infrastructure to provide a modicum of stability for the brothers and to help me in getting our boys home. I have no illusions that their problems will suddenly go away, but I do know that Derek and Alex will be safe here—if we can get them to Estrella Vista.

Here’s what I know. Derek’s and Alex’s bus tickets are dated for April 11th. Derek’s marriage to Donna and his fatherhood of the couple’s four children is being interfered with by the state of Virginia, whose agencies have taken away the children and demanded that Derek and Alex not live in Donna’s home. Derek is confined in a mental hospital somewhere near Roanoke, but the facility will release no meaningful information to me—yet they have said “if Derek is here, we will get him to sign a release.”

Alex is presently staying at a Day’s End motel in Roanoke at $61/night—too much—but I have learned from the manager that they do have a weekly rate (but won’t take my credit card information over the phone). He spent most of last night being observed in the mental ward of a hospital—a fact I have confirmed with the hospital—having been taken there by rescue after being contacted by police. Why he was taken into custody is being ascertained by a police Supervisor Harrison, despite a call I made yesterday afternoon to the Roanoke PD dispatcher, who told me that no officers were at Alex’s motel demanding that I transfer $2,000 to him immediately—I was being “scammed,” she said. Now it appears the police were in the lobby of the motel, but not at the door of his room as I was told. It appears that Alex’s problem was with the motel’s staff, not the police.

Anyway, I am thinking “carrot-and-stick.” I’m thinking we should have a nest-egg waiting for Derek and Alex when they get here (and just small amounts of money released to them in the meantime as their circumstances change). I shared this strategy with Kathryn Medico, Alex’s mother/mentor, and she has just sent me $250.

As long as the boys are on the road, such a rudimentary nest-egg will disappear very quickly. I won’t see an infusion of cash until the middle of next month, so I am turning to you for help.

Will you please help me get the King brothers out here? I haven’t asked you for money for a long time now. I have been preoccupied with my own situation, which I have been able to change materially through the sale of a painting I owned. I used the proceeds to pay off the mortgage on Estrella Vista, which will free up the pressure on future revenue. I know that you don’t want to support my lifestyle and choices, but supporting our kids is a different matter.

Will you please help me create a nest-egg for Derek and Alex today? A link for your generosity is below.

Any amount will help and be appreciated.

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donate hands

To make a contribution to the Redemption Project, please use the link at the top of this page or click here. Thank you!

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۞

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28
Mar
16

grave injustice

Matt sent me a link to this story, and I thought I’d pass it on.

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dollar sign on heeadstone.

A grave injustice? New Jersey’s ban on headstone sales takes effect.

by Eric Boehm, Watchdog.org

March 25, 2016

Religious institutions in New Jersey are no longer allowed to sell grave markers, thanks to a new state law that took effect this week.

Signed into law a year ago by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, the new regulations target the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, which in 2013 began selling grave markers for burial plots within the archdiocese’s cemeteries. The Monument Builders Association of New Jersey sued the archdiocese and then successfully lobbied for the passage of a law to protect their members from competition.

Christie signed the bill in March 2015 but delayed its implementation for one year.

“We have dreaded this day for a year,” said Andrew P. Schafer, executive director of the Newark Archdiocese Office of Catholic Cemeteries.

But the courts will likely get the final say in the matter.

The grave marker business is a lucrative one. The archdiocese made about $500,000 in the first year after it started marketing headstones directly to consumers, and the MBA argued that its members lost more than one-third of their business.

The archdiocese’s business model differed from that of the for-profit memorialists. While the businesses simply sell headstones to consumers, the archdiocese sells “inscription rights,” retaining ownership of the headstone while allowing the bereaved to engrave a message on it. This means maintenance of the headstones in the archdiocese’s 11 Catholic cemeteries will be at the Church’s expense in perpetuity.

With the threat of losing more business to the Catholics, the Monument Builders Association sued the archdiocese in 2013, but the lawsuit failed because it was not illegal for religious institutions to sell grave markers.

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Eric Boehm is the national regulatory reporter for Watchdog.org. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. His work has appeared in Reason Magazine, National Review Online, The Freeman Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Examiner and Fox News.

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Childs Grave Marker

A father designs a headstone for his wheelchair-bound son, depicting him “free of his earthly burdens.”

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Dusty Springfield performing J.S. Bach’s “Goodbye”

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Weather Report

83° and Clear

27
Mar
16

happy easter

Traditional Easter eggs.

This may seem a little weird for a pagan to be wishing you a Happy Easter, but it can be said that the Christians arguably stole the holiday from us traditionalists centuries ago.

Easter eggs originated in pagan tradition, celebrated with the coming of spring by the festival of Ishtar or Oester, the goddess of fertility and represented by eggs and rabbits. Easter egg hunts were traditional during the festival of Ostara.

Christianity was an evangelical religion originating in the Middle East. As Christians brought their religion to the West, they needed to find methods to convince the pagans to convert to Christianity, so they changed the festivals to celebrate Christ but kept up the traditions of the pagans.

Since the Christians took over the calendar of festivals, it is just a coincidence this year that Easter follows the Spring Equinox so closely. This seems to be proof to me that the church wants to obscure observance of the natural (solar) calendar.

I hope you will forgive me for rubbing your nose in it, but we got here first!

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Lisa Thiel performing “Ostara”

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Weather Report

70° and Clear

26
Mar
16

unforgiven

Two days ago, Colt Lundy had a hearing in Kosciusko County IN to have his sentence reduced. The request was denied.

Said one of our readers who corresponds with Colt: “I am, to say the least, disappointed but not entirely surprised by this rejection; perhaps there will be another opportunity down the road. Colt has served only half of half of his 25-year sentence and the victim’s family, save for his widow, do not support this modification (at least at this time). However, I think that the judge has missed an opportunity to reward Colt for all of the things mentioned in the article.

“Colt is strong and will stay focused on his future, regardless of when his chance comes. My concern is not so much Colt, but rather the negative influences and individuals with whom he is incarcerated.

“As with Paul, every day of incarceration is another day exposed to negative influences and the possible loss of hope.”

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Colt-Russel-Lundy-March-23-2016.

Lundy’s Sentence Modification Denied

by Deb Patterson, Ink Free News

March 24, 2016

For the first time since he was sentenced almost six years ago, at the age of 15, Colt Lundy, now 20, was back in Kosciusko County. This time to request a sentence modification. However, his request was denied. He will continue to serve the remaining term of his sentence.

It was on September 27, 2010, Lundy was sentenced to 30 years at the Indiana Department of Corrections with the final five years suspended, served on probation. He was sentenced for conspiracy to commit murder. Initial charges were murder and aiding or causing the murder of his stepfather Phillip Danner, on April 20, 2010. Lundy served most of his time at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, a minimum/maximum security prison. He was moved in December to the Correctional Industrial Facility, near Pendleton.

According to the DOC his earliest possible release date is May 30, 2022. Because he was sentenced prior to a change in the sentencing law, Lundy is receiving one day credit for each day served along with credit for any programs completed.

The sentence modification request was heard by Kosciusko Superior 1 Judge David Cates who was appointed special judge in the case.

Before denying the modification, Cates expressed his gratitude for the presentation by both sides and the respect of all family and friends in the courtroom during court proceedings. “Mr Lundy, since you were sentenced, from day one, you have appropriately taken advantages of opportunities, I give you credit for that … continue the path in education and programs available. I expect you to do that.”

David Kolbe, who represented Lundy in the original case, continued his representation. Taking the stand was Lundy’s mother, Robin Danner, and his father, Carlos Lundy and Lundy himself. Through testimony of his parents, the court heard he would have a place to live, a job, and support of family and friends. His parents, who visit him once a month, told of the change in their son.

“Colt is very disciplined, very motivated,” said Robin Danner. The widow of the murdered victim said, “Colt made an impulsive decision … was a child … he now fully understands and is remorseful. He is interested in mentoring other juveniles to keep them from making the decision he made.”

His father stated Colt, at 15, was a scared, short, little on the chubby-child side, compared to what he is today. “He resisted drugs and gangs in the maximum security prison. He’s proven himself through different programs. His record speaks for itself. He’s earned a chance to be here on his own merits.”

Colt-Russel-Lundy-Original-ArrestLundy, who has been behind bars since April 21, 2010, described his life between the ages of 14 and now. “I’ve learned about myself, having nothing but time … I’ve taken every class I could possibly take so when I get out … prepared as possible.” He stated he wanted to know why he did what he did and received help figuring out himself. “I learned that what I did, I didn’t have the capability or intelligence for other alternatives … so many different ways to approach that. I wish I would have (known). I can’t take it back. I can’t apologize enough.”

Lundy said, while he could have appealed his sentence, he felt it would be dishonest because of the agreement he signed. “I felt it was honestly a slap in the face to the judge. It wasn’t deserved.” He wants to help other kids not take the path he took. “I want to keep them from going. Prison is a bad, horrible place for you.”

He shared experiences at Wabash Correctional Facility—daily fights, hostility, violence, nothing to do unless you take it upon yourself. “It’s been an eye opening experience, a scare factor most kids don’t get … I experience it in full … I would like you and the public and family to know this will never be made up for, what I did …”

Kolbe shared his experiences with Lundy, the goals of justice, the fact that Wabash Correctional Facility is a hard place to do time and “Colt did hard time” spending under 30% of his life in prison.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Dan Hampton stated the state and Phillip Danner family objected to any sentence modification. He pointed out Judge Rex Reed considered factors when he issued the sentence, and the time reduction under the old statute instead of the new.

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Deb Patterson has been with The Papers Inc. full-time since 1978. Starting out rewriting general news releases, Patterson has expanded to covering all areas in the reporting field and won numerous awards. She is also the former editor of four northern Indiana Senior Life publications.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Iron Horse performing “Unforgiven”

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Weather Report

82° and Clear

25
Mar
16

jerks

NoJerkSlashSmall.

I don’t normally engage is name-calling, but I am particularly frustrated with two of my cases.

I have been working with one of our readers for over six months to get a simple cake of rosin—a substance applied to the bow-hairs of violins and other stringed instruments—forwarded to Dave Childress, who has a dream of learning to play the violin while in prison.

The gate-keeper at Dave’s prison facility (the Clemens Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice) of this instrument and the rosin is apparently the chaplain of the facility, a Mr. Davis. Chaplain Davis had previously said he would only receive a donation of rosin from a Christian church, so I asked the congregation of a local Terlingua church to facilitate the gift. Unfortunately, I have just learned yesterday that for reasons unknown Chaplain Davis has failed to forward the rosin to Childress. My contact wrote: “We don’t know if he didn’t get it, or if Chaplain Davis is just being a jerk.”

I would guess that this un-Christian obstructionism is a result of the latter.

Lest you have been paying too much attention to presidential politics, I will remind you that Texas is not the only home of jerks in America. For anyone who has been privy to Derek King’s recent posts on Facebook, you already know that the state of Virginia has been harassing Derek and his wife Donna, with two unwarranted imprisonments (and subsequent releases) of Derek to mental facilities. The latest outrage is that Virginia’s CPS has taken the couple’s four children into custody.

The best solution seems to be that Derek and Alex will visit Estrella Vista shortly after the beginning of April so Donna can get her children back. This is a time period that coincides with Lone Heron’s highly-anticipated visit. All the parties are looking forward to meeting one another.

I realize I haven’t written about Derek’s difficulties, and don’t intend to do so until Derek and Alex arrive. There are lots of moving parts to this story and I have been hampered by poor communications and knowing exactly what the facts are. Once the facts appear in this blog, you can count on them. In the meantime, please be patient.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to the New Boyz performing “You’re a Jerk”

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