Tuesday, September 20, 2016

JonBenet Television "Reinvestigations"

by Sheila Berry, Executive Director
Truth in Justice

In the span of two weeks, NBC, Investigation Discovery and CBS have given us heavily publicized "reinvestigations" of the murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey in Boulder, CO on December 26, 1996.  Of these, the first two were pedestrian rehashes, but the CBS 2-part special can only be accurately described in three words:  What a crock.

Lets review the "experts" involved in this article: The team consisted of a man accused by a judge of hiding and/or destroying evidence, a former FBI profiler, a chief investigator, a forensic pathologist, a former linguistic profiler, a criminal behavior analyst, and a former statement analyst. Aside from the investigator and pathologist, none of the disciplines these people represent are based in any hard science. We are in the day and age where fingerprints, firearms, shoeprints and DNA are all being challenged as being unreliable.

Funny, it wasn't too long ago that in the Phil Spector murder trial, Henry Lee was identified as part of a serious problem.  http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/law/12/11/court.archive.spector4/index.html?iref=nextin  The judge in that case concluded that Lee hid or destroyed evidence from the scene of an actress's death, evidence that the prosecution contends was potentially damaging to the music producer's case

Ghost Hunters shows greater objectivity trying to understand EVPs than these “experts” did in reviewing the 911 call. “Might be” becomes “definitely is” and then it “changes everything.” Their “analysis” of the ransom note is nothing more than hocus pocus in a lab coat.

They know that handwriting comparison cannot be done when the questioned writing is made with felt tip pen, because it is impossible to discern the pressure used and hesitation marks that are key to identifying authors. No matter. They forge ahead and declare a woman wrote it. I’ve seen their work before, finding innocent people guilty because their handwritten statements don’t fit the experts’ preconceived notions.

So brand new underpants could contain DNA from someone on the assembly line when they were made. Was JonBenet wearing new underpants? Who knows? Who cares? Score another one for the experts.

How about the male DNA under her fingernails? Doesn’t fit the theory so they have to leave it out. Same with the black duct tape over her mouth, never found in the Ramsey house, although evidence suggested "it came from a roll of tape that had been used before." Nothing in the Ramsey home matched dark animal hairs found on the duct tape and JonBenét's hands. Just leave that out, too. Leave out the pubic hair found on the blanket in which she was wrapped, unless the claim is that her 9-year-old brother was sexually precocious and fully developed. A baseball bat found outside the house with fibers consistent with fibers found on the carpet in the basement where JonBenét's body was found did not belong to the Ramseys. Brown cotton fibers found on JonBenét's body, the paintbrush used as a garrote, the duct tape and the ligature around her neck did not match anything in the Ramsey home. Forget all of that. It's all very interesting, but they have a suspect, and it just doesn't fit.

There was a lawsuit 16 years ago, filed by Robert Christian Wolf against John and Patsy Ramsey. Wolf was a Boulder, CO journalist who was questioned by police as a possible suspect in the case. He sued the Ramseys, claiming they defamed him by naming him as a suspect in their book, "The Death of Innocence: The Untold Story of JonBenet's Murder and How Exploitation Compromised the Pursuit of Truth." (Nothing has changed in that department.) U.S. District Judge Julie E. Carnes granted summary judgment in favor of the Ramseys and against Wolf, and in her 93-page dismissal order, reviewed all of the evidence pertaining to JonBenet's murder. A 2003 report from the Fulton County Reporter is at http://truthinjustice.org/ramsey.htm. and Judge Carnes' dismissal order can be downloaded via Pacer.

Salacious speculation and innuendo, the contemporary version of spectral evidence, are all it takes to point the finger at a 9-year-old kid. I used to wonder what the term “media whore” meant. Now I know.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

California's Prop. 66 will increase the risk of executing the innocent

The following opinion by Van Jones was published by The Orange County Register on September 18, 2016.

Philando Castile. Eric Garner. Alton Sterling. It goes on and on. Terrifying displays of violence against innocent black men and communities of color are fueling national attention on racial inequality across the country. The criminal justice system, in particular, demonstrates these inequalities.

While disparate treatment by police has garnered the most attention, racial inequalities exist at every stage of the criminal justice process — all the way to the ultimate punishment: the imposition of the death penalty. This fall in California, the repercussions of racial disparities in death penalty sentencing could become much worse if voters enact a reckless ballot measure: Proposition 66.

Proposition 66 is a misleading initiative that will change death penalty procedures in several ways that will increase the state’s risk of executing innocent people. Prop. 66 would remove important legal protections that currently exist in California law to prevent the ultimate injustice. As with most criminal justice policies, Prop. 66 would disproportionately affect people of color. Black and Latino men, in particular, will be at greater risk of being executed for crimes they didn’t commit. Of the 156 innocent people exonerated from death rows nationwide, 61 percent were people of color.

People of color account for more than half of those awaiting execution, while only representing one-third of the general population in the U.S. In California, these disparities are even more stark. Black people account for 57 percent of the folks on death row but only 7 percent of the general population. In 2015, 86 percent of new death sentences were given to people of color. One California study found that individuals who kill a white victim are three times more likely to get a death sentence than those who kill a Latino victim, and four times more likely to get a death sentence than those who kill an African American victim.

Systemic racial bias in the death penalty is also demonstrated by lack of diversity among prosecutors and juries. A 2015 study found that 95 percent of elected prosecutors in states that allow the death penalty are white. Even in a state as diverse as California, 83 percent of elected prosecutors are white. Research over the past several decades has demonstrated that people of color are excluded from serving on juries in capital cases at much higher rates.

If passed, Prop. 66 would make California’s death penalty laws more similar to Texas’ laws, which have resulted in the execution of at least two innocent people in recent memory. One of those people was Carlos De Luna. De Luna was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for murder, even though no blood, DNA or fingerprint evidence linked him to the crime. Due to Texas law, De Luna was unable to adequately present evidence of his innocence and was executed, despite the fact that another man who bared striking resemblance to De Luna admitted to the murder.

Prop. 66 would make it harder for defendants to introduce newly discovered evidence of their innocence. For all the reasons above, people of color would be most at risk of suffering adverse consequences. In this case, Prop. 66 literally could be the difference between life and death for innocent people.

As if increasing the risk of executing innocent people was not reason enough to vote no, Prop. 66 will vastly increase costs to Californians and strain scarce resources. The initiative is confusing, poorly written and lacks understanding of how the death penalty operates in California, which will lead to substantial burdens for taxpayers and government agencies. The state’s nonpartisan analysts estimate that Prop. 66 will increase costs to taxpayers by tens of millions of dollars plus even more “unknown” costs. The initiative will add more layers of government bureaucracy by requiring local county courts to adjudicate death penalty appeals (currently, the state Supreme Court handles these), creating the exact opposite of expediency and encumbering already overburdened agencies with life-and-death responsibilities they are not equipped to handle.

It is time to send a message that we will not tolerate racial bias in any aspect of the criminal justice system, including in the administration of the death penalty. We must oppose any and all measures that would increase the chance of executing innocent men and women. We have seen too many innocent people of color killed for no reason other than their skin color. People of color would be disproportionately affected by this reckless and ill-conceived measure. Californians must vote no on Prop. 66.

Van Jones is a CNN political contributor, attorney, and has founded and led numerous social enterprises engaged in social and environmental justice.