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August 16, 2013

Court clerk helps convicted rapist prove his innocence, judge fires her for "insubordination"

Jackson County Circuit judge fires 34-year court veteran for good deed - KansasCity.com
A Kansas City man freed from prison three decades after being wrongfully convicted of rape considers Sharon Snyder his “angel” for giving him a public document that showed him how to properly seek DNA tests. A Jackson County Circuit judge considers the 34-year court employee an insubordinate for offering legal advice and being too chatty about courthouse matters. Sharon Snyder, a 70-year-old great-grandmother who was fired nine months before she was scheduled to retire, sees herself somewhere in the middle and insists she would provide the same help if she had a chance to do it again. Robert Nelson, 49, was convicted in 1984 of a Kansas City rape that he insisted he didn’t commit and sentenced to 50 years for forcible rape, five years for forcible sodomy and 15 years for first-degree robbery. The judge ordered the sentence to start after he finished serving time for robbery convictions in two unrelated cases prior to the rape conviction. Those sentences ended in 2006. In August 2009, Nelson filed a motion seeking DNA testing that had not been available at his trial 25 years earlier, but Jackson County Circuit Judge David Byrn denied the request. Two years later Nelson asked the judge to reconsider, but again Byrn rejected the motion because it fell short of what was required under the statute Nelson had cited. After the second motion failed in late October 2011, Snyder gave Nelson’s sister, Sea Dunnell, a copy of a motion filed in a different case in which the judge sustained a DNA request. Nelson used that motion – a public document Dunnell could have gotten if she had known its significance and where to find it – as a guide for a motion he filed Feb. 22, 2012, again seeking DNA testing. That August, Byrn sustained the motion, found Nelson to be indigent and appointed Laura O'Sullivan, legal director of the Midwest Innocence Project, to represent him. . . .

August 13, 2013

This town's official policy was to assume all rape claims were lies. How many other towns have this policy?

Why? Because they are juking the stats. Until Last Week, The Official Policy Of One Virginia City Was To Assume All Rape Victims Were Lying | ThinkProgress
Until last week, Norfolk, Virginia police classified sexual assault claims to be “unfounded” — or not valid — by default. According to the Virginian-Pilot, a 22-year-old woman’s case prompted Norfolk police chief Mike Goldsmith to update the policy so that officers must now assume rape victims are telling the truth. The woman reported the attack immediately to police, only to be told, “If we find out that you’re lying, this will be a felony charge.” Before giving her a medical examination, officers subjected the woman to interrogations during which they said things like, “You’re telling us a different story than you told … the other detectives,” and “This only happened hours ago. Why can’t you remember?” Having had enough, the woman cut off the interview. The police eventually arrested and charged the attacker for multiple other sexual assaults and felonies, and Goldsmith apologized for mishandling the woman’s initial allegations. Now that Goldsmith has updated the policy for handling sexual assault cases, the department will also undergo training for post-traumatic stress disorder and rape trauma. Many other areas have this same problem. In light of a Baltimore investigation on the city’s high number of unfounded cases, the Police Executive Research Forum noted, “Unwarranted ‘unfounding’ of cases can result in offenders remaining free — and in victims losing trust in the justice system.” This classification also leads to lower reports of rape, because “unfounded” cases are not included in crime stats. . . .

August 12, 2013

Federal judge rules NYPD's "Stop and Frisk" plan is racist and a violation of the 4th amendment

Ending Michael Bloomberg's Racist Profiling Campaign - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
In a decision issued on Monday, the judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, ruled that police officers have for years been systematically stopping innocent people in the street without any objective reason to suspect them of wrongdoing. Officers often frisked these people, usually young minority men, for weapons or searched their pockets for contraband, like drugs, before letting them go, according to the 195-page decision. These stop-and-frisk episodes, which soared in number over the last decade as crime continued to decline, demonstrated a widespread disregard for the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, according to the ruling. It also found violations with the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause. Judge Scheindlin found that the city "adopted a policy of indirect racial profiling by targeting racially defined groups for stops based on local crime suspect data." She rejected the city's arguments that more stops happened in minority neighborhoods solely because those happened to have high-crime rates.