The Supreme Court Just Struck a Huge, Unanimous Blow Against Policing for Profit – Good Decison – kra
This case is monumental in that it clobbers the outrageous Civil Forfeiture laws, which I have written so much about. In 2014, police stole more than was stolen in ALL reported burglaries! This case will change that situation, though there will be mountains of litigation to determine which seizures are appropriate. So much that I expect that the Supreme Court will lay doen a rule … something like “no more in value than the highest fine allowed by law”.
Excerpts from the Article:
The Supreme Court struck an extraordinary blow for criminal justice reform on Wednesday, placing real limitations on policing for profit across the country. Its unanimous decision for the first time prohibits all 50 states from imposing excessive fines, including the seizure of property, on people accused or convicted of a crime. Rarely does the court hand down a ruling of such constitutional magnitude—and seldom do all nine justices agree to restrict the power that police and prosecutors exert over individuals. The landmark decision represents a broad agreement on the Supreme Court that law enforcement’s legalized theft has gone too far.
Wednesday’s ruling in Timbs v. Indiana, authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is sharp and concise. It revolves around a single question of extraordinary importance. The Eighth Amendment guarantees that no “excessive fines” may be “imposed,” an ancient right enshrined in the Magna Carta and enthusiastically adopted by the Framers. But the Bill of Rights originally applied only to the federal government, not the states. After the Civil War, the 14th Amendment was ratified to apply these rights to the states, which had engaged in grotesque civil rights violations to perpetuate slavery. The Supreme Court, however, slowly applied (or “incorporated”) these rights against the states one by one, not all at once. And before Timbs, it had never incorporated the Excessive Fines Clause—allowing states to exploit their residents for huge sums of cash and property.
They did so through civil asset forfeiture, a process that we would call theft in any other context. Here’s how it works: Prosecutors accuse an individual of a crime, then seize assets that have some tenuous connection to the alleged offense. The individual need not be convicted or even charged with an actual crime, and her assets are seized through a civil proceeding, which lacks the due process safeguards of a criminal trial. Law enforcement can seize money or property, including one’s home, business, or vehicle. It gets to keep the profits, creating a perverse incentive that encourages police abuses. Because the standards are so loose, people with little to no involvement in criminal activity often get caught up in civil asset forfeiture. For instance, South Carolina police tried to seize an elderly woman’s home because drug deals occurred on the property—even though she had no connection to the crimes and tried to stop them.
Tyson Timbs is not quite so sympathetic, but his story illustrates the injustice of limitless forfeiture. In 2015, Timbs was charged with selling heroin to undercover officers in Indiana. He pleaded guilty. A trial court sentenced him to a year of house arrest, five years’ probation, and an addiction-treatment program, which helped him overcome his opioid addiction. The court also ordered Timbs to pay $1,203 in fines and fees. So far, so fair.
But then Indiana hired a private law firm to seize Timbs’ Land Rover, which he used to transport heroin. The firm filed a civil suit to obtain the car, valued at $42,000—more than four times the maximum fine for his drug conviction. (Under Indiana law, the state and its chosen firm would get to split the profits.) Timbs fought back, alleging that the forfeiture constituted an “excessive fine” under the Eighth Amendment, applied to the states through the 14th Amendment. The Indiana Supreme Court disagreed, holding that SCOTUS had never incorporated that particular clause against the states.
In one sense, Ginsburg’s opinion is sweeping—it finally opens the federal courthouse door to victims of civil asset forfeiture, like Timbs, who believe they’ve been wronged. But Wednesday’s decision leaves some questions unanswered. The court has already ruled that when the federal government seizes money or property, the fine must not be “grossly disproportional to the gravity of [the] offense.” Presumably, this same standard now applies to the states. But when is a forfeiture grossly disproportionate? Does Indiana’s seizure of Timbs’ Land Rover meet this standard? Ginsburg didn’t say, instead directing the Indiana Supreme Court to evaluate the question. Prepare for a flood of litigation urging federal courts to determine when civil asset forfeiture crosses this constitutional line.
There is, regardless, a great deal to celebrate in Timbs v. Indiana. At long last, SCOTUS has put a federal check on states’ multimillion-dollar civil asset forfeiture schemes. People like Tyson Timbs will have a fighting chance of getting their stuff back when the states seize it for profit. The Supreme Court is unlikely to end policing for profit in one fell swoop. But on Wednesday, it sent a clear message to states like Indiana that the days of largely unregulated abusive forfeiture are over.
Unfortunately, this happens every day in America. See the article: What you can DO About Out of Control Police. Here. they “messed with the wrong Marine”!
Excerpts from the Article:
A former Marine has sued the LaSalle County Sheriff’s office, saying deputies “humiliated, degraded and dehumanized” her when they dragged her into a cell and forcibly stripped her naked after she was arrested on suspicion of DUI two years ago.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court, Zandrea Askew’s attorneys said she was sitting in her parked car when two LaSalle County sheriff’s deputies questioned her, and ordered her to undergo field sobriety tests, even though she had not committed any traffic violations, or been involved in an accident.
Askew’s lawsuit accuses LaSalle County Sheriff Thomas Templeton and several deputies of false arrest, unlawful detention, excessive force, malicious prosecution, and violation of due process.
The lawsuit claims Askew, 28, passed all of the field sobriety tests, and showed no signs of being drunk, or under the influence of drugs, but was still arrested for DUI.
Deputies reported finding Askew “very disoriented and confused” in her car. However, attorney Terry Ekl said Askew had pulled her car over because she was ill, and was on prescription medications.
According to the lawsuit, after her arrest, three female deputies dragged the former Marine sergeant, and forcibly removed all of her clothing. Askew’s attorneys said she cooperated with police the entire time, and was “thoroughly searched” on the side of the road, so there was no legitimate reason to strip her.
“Throughout her detention at the Jail, Plaintiff was not acting aggressively or engaging in any conduct that would cause an officer to be in reasonable apprehension of receiving bodily harm, or that justified the use of force against her,” they wrote. “The only objective of the officers was to punish, harass, humiliate, degrade, and inflict physical and psychological pain.”
Surveillance video from inside the cell shows deputies wrestling Askew to the ground during the strip search. Her attorney said video from moments earlier, during her interrogation, shows her calmly answering questions.
Five years ago, LaSalle County paid out $355,000 to settle lawsuits filed by five other women who were strip searched. The department also promised better training.
Ekl said he has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the sheriff’s office regarding strip-searches. “Why do you need to take someone’s clothes off if they’re not cooperating with you?” Ekl said. “This was not a strip-search where they were looking for contraband. This was a form of punishment.”
Practical Tip – Updated – Send out a PRESS RELEASE! – Call ATTENTION TO YOUR ISSUE OR CAUSE OR BUSINESS – FREE ADVERTISING
Updated 1/4/19 These are so effective that I remind you again. I am about to prepare a Press Release for the homeless shelter I work with, as they are in need of equipment and furnishings for their two new properties.
If your organization needs donations or help, tickle your calendar to send out a Press Release at least once every 5 or 6 months, to stay in the public’s eye!
The BEST way to get the word out about issues is a Letter to the Editor* – Click on Articles and then scroll to “Go in Depth” and click on “Letters to the Editor” for hundreds of examples and easy instructions.
*READ Practical Tip – Get Empowered! How YOU Can Create a Powerful, Effective Force for Reform of our Criminal Justice System -http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/practical-tip-how-you-can-create-a-powerful-effective-force-for-reform-of-our-criminal-justice-system/
But ANOTHER GREAT WAY to also attract eyeballs and the press, is a PRESS RELEASE. When I had my fast-growing businesses I sent one out every 3 months and got millions of dollars of “free advertising” … that’s what it amounts to! “We just hired so and so” or “We are now the exclusive Printer for X company” or “RecycleSaurous campaign Takes Off!”.
You get the email address for media outlets in your area … Newspapers, Radio, TV, and you email the PRESS RELEASE to yourself with bcc to all of the outlets!
YOU might do one like:
Joni Jumison has set up an organization to help free her wrongly convicted son. It is crystal clear he was wrongly convicted. To help or for further information, contact Joni Jumison at The Free Johnny Jumison Group at .. phone, email and mailing address.
YOUR signature block.
They may or may not use it, and they might contact you to do an article or report about it!
Here are two I sent out recently:
PRESS RELEASE – RALLY for JUSTICE – on 10/7/17
Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE (CCJ) is hosting a peaceful, quiet Rally for JUSTICE on The Green, Dover, DE on Saturday, 10/7/17, from 10 AM to 1 PM. All are welcomed. The Green is where our forefathers assembled to create this nation, a nation with a great criminal justice system. But that system has been severely damaged during the past 40 years. Join us, to improve your country and restore justice and fairness to the system. This is a NOT a political event. It is about justice and fairness. Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen will “kick it off” with his remarks at 9 AM. We have several other featured speakers, and you can make YOUR voice heard! Bring a hand held sign to promote your organization or cause!
Want to talk about kneeling, the flag, the anthem , protest? Come here to talk about it. After all, it is the failure of our criminal justice system which sparked the first such protest. Want to talk about DACA? Want to talk about Mandatory Minimum Sentences? Come Join us! We expect hundreds of people.
To learn more about this rally, contact Ken Abraham at firstname.lastname@example.org ; 302-423-4067
Come join us on The Green In Dover, from 9 A M to 1 P M to show your concern for the need for meaningful, positive, common sense criminal justice reform! https://www.facebook.com/images/emoji.php/v9/f4c/1/16/1f642.png:)
Any ????, give me a call.
PRESS RELEASE 10/7/17 – Executive Director of NARSOL To Speak in Delaware!
Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE has just received confirmation that the Executive Director of NARSOL To Speak in Delaware! Ms. Brenda Jones, the Executive Director of a relatively new national organization, NARSOL – National Advocates for Rational Sex Offender Laws- will be one of the Featured Speakers at our Rally for JUSTICE on Saturday, the 7th. She is travelling from Washington D C to be here and will speak at 10:30.
https://narsol.org/ See their website.
She is most welcomed indeed! I have long seen that many of our sex offender laws and restrictions make NO sense whatsoever!
Come join us on The Green In Dover, from 9 A M to 1 P M to show your concern for the need for meaningful, positive, common sense criminal justice reform!
For further information contact Ken Abraham at email@example.com or 302-423-4067.
It is not just Chicago, and it is not just 17 Million! The train wreck which we call our criminal justice system is costing YOU hundreds of millions of dollars annually, for wrongful convictions! THAT is how bad it is: depending what study you read, there are from 10,000 to 100,000 innocent people behind bars in America. Nobody knows the real number.
Excerpts from the Article:
On June 29, 2018, a federal jury awarded over $17 million to a Chicago man who spent 21 years in a maximum-security prison for a murder he did not commit.
Jacques Rivera, now 52, was convicted of the 1988 gangland killing of 16-year-old Felix Valentin. The only evidence tying him to the crime was an eyewitness – 12-year-old Oscar Lopez, who repeatedly failed to identify Rivera as the shooter. According to Rivera’s lawsuit, not only did Lopez fail to identify him, the boy identified the actual shooter. But Chicago cop Reynaldo Guevara manipulated Lopez’s memory and elicited the testimony that resulted in Rivera’s conviction.
Years later, Northwestern University’s Center for Wrongful Convictions took up Rivera’s case. Investigators interviewed Lopez, who admitted that he knew Rivera was not the shooter. Rivera moved for post-conviction relief, and based on Lopez’s testimony a court overturned his conviction. Cook County prosecutors dismissed all the charges and Rivera was released from prison in October 2011.
From my LEAP colleagues – I am a member of their Speakers Bureau :
Leading up to Election Day, LEAP speakers played a major role in criminal justice and drug policy reform efforts across the country, and yesterday, our hard work paid off!
Keep law enforcement speaking out for reform
Five key state campaigns successfully spoke out for more rational and effective policies with LEAP’s help:
• Florida: Amendment 4 passed, meaning more than one million people who have served their time for felony convictions will have their right to vote restored.
• Louisiana: Amendment 2 passed, ending non-unanimous juries in felony trials, a practice established under Jim Crow to maintain white supremacy in the state.
• Michigan: Prop 1 passed, legalizing and regulating adult use of marijuana.
• Oregon: Measure 105 was successfully defeated, blocking a repeal of laws protecting local police from being compelled to enforce federal immigration policies.
• Washington: Initiative 940 passed, requiring law enforcement to receive de-escalation, mental-health, and first-aid training; and to change standards for use of deadly force, adding “good faith” and independent investigation standards similar to those other states have successfully implemented.
Our speakers made more than 30 appearances in key states leading up to Election Day, giving interviews and live presentations, writing op-eds and letters to the editor, appearing in campaign ads, and serving as the law enforcement voice for reform. LEAP was instrumental in getting these measures across the finish line. We are so proud of our speakers’ tireless efforts and outstanding impact.
There’s still work to be done. Ohio’s Issue 1, which aimed to downgrade many nonviolent drug felonies to misdemeanors and bring a focus to rehabilitation and treatment, was defeated, as was North Dakota’s Prop 3, which aimed to legalize marijuana for adult use and expunge marijuana convictions. Though we’re disappointed in the outcomes in those states, we know that we’ve made significant progress. Our fight will continue, stronger than ever, and we will see real change, even in the places where we’ve struggled hardest. Especially in those places, because that’s where change is most needed. That’s where LEAP is most needed.
Thank you for being a part of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Ken. Supporters like you help get our speakers where they need to be, get our message to the masses, and – most importantly – drive our speakers and staff to keep working toward real, tangible change to our criminal justice and drug policies. Our collective public safety depends on it, so you can count on LEAP to keep things moving in the right direction.
Major Neill Franklin (Ret.)
This is pretty wild. In one case, it took 11 years for an officer to be disciplined! Thank God the system is getting tightened up, but we can only wonder what it is like in other cities. And guess who paid for the $642 million in police misconduct and brutality cases paid by Chicago from 2004 to 2015 … the taxpayers!
Excerpts from the Article:
The Chicago Police Department (“CPD”) has endured criticism for officer misconduct. An investigation by ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune found that the city’s archaic system for disciplining officers allows it to avoid or long delay discipline, allowing officers who should be off the streets to be on patrol.
In one case, it took 11 years for an officer to be disciplined. That case involved CPD officer William Levigne. He told investigators that on an October 2006 evening, as he was driving home, that Walter Whitehead, who was driving his 16-year-old son Brandon home from work, cut him off. The Whiteheads said Levigne overtook them in his Monte Carlo as he pointed his gun at them, then ordered them out of their car at a stop light, forced them out of the car, and handcuffed Walter. Levigne called 911, asking for help from “a brother in blue,” as he blocked traffic. “I’ve get two offenders in custody—tried to kill me here!” As Levigne was not in uniform, Brandon was terrified and called 911, too. “Can you hear him?” Brandon asked the operator. She could. “Off the (expletive) phone!” Levigne yelled.
The Whiteheads filed a complaint with CPD, doubting Levigne would face discipline. “I never expected him to,” said Walter Whitehead. “We know how the system works.” While CPD’s disciplinary system is faulty, a civil suit netted a $78,700 settlement for the Whiteheads from the City of Chicago.
Initially, the Independent Police Review Authority (“IPRA”) found that Levigne was wrong, and it recommended a 60-day suspension. Levigne filed a grievance through the police union, and eight years later, the city, in 2014, reduced the suspension to five days and removed the finding that Levigne lied about the incident. That same year, Levigne was promoted to detective, but his discipline for the 2006 incident was not placed in his record nor did he serve the suspension until 2017.
How could such an important matter languish for so long? CPD still uses a paper system for officer-discipline cases, so when paperwork gets moved on to another stage, such as an appeal, nothing occurs until the paperwork returns to officials responsible for closing the matter. Without a computer system to track disciplinary cases, they can languish for years.
After video of a police officer shooting teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times went public in 2015, Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and pushed for a new ordinance that revamped the IPRA. Actually, the IPRA was shuttered and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (“COPA”) replaced it on September 15, 2017. Yet, the COPA is just as hamstrung as the IPRA. “Even if COPA gets everything right, there is this process that happens after where things can go off the rails, and that is what people should focus on and be concerned about fixing,” said Sharon Fairley, COPA’s former chief administrator who resigned to run for Illinois attorney general.
Records are still kept on paper and shuffled between COPA and CPD. To assure cases are not lost in the shuffle, new rules are in place. “Since the beginning of this year, the department has started a review into older cases that have a final disciplinary determination to ensure that they have been processed, that officers have properly served their discipline if applicable, and that the cases are ultimately closed,” said CPD spokesman Frank Giancamilli.
The COPA was intended to create transparency, but it cannot release its report on any case until it is final. “The longer the delays, that diminishes trust and it diminishes transparency by not providing a prompt window into how the agency charged with investigating police misconduct is conducting its investigations,” said University of Chicago law professor Craig Futterman.
In early 2017, the U.S. Justice Department found that significant delays contributed to an ineffective disciplinary system. Without the fear of consequences for improper actions, some police officers feel they can act with impunity. That is costing the City of Chicago millions in settlements. According to an estimate from the Better Government Association, from 2004 to 2015, Chicago paid $642 million in police misconduct and brutality cases.
See related articles on jury nullification. YOU, as a juror, have the power to provide justice where the law is unjust! In today’s wildly dysfunctional criminal justice system everyone should be aware of this! Your DUTY is to do JUSTICE!
Excerpts from the Article:
There’s not a single person that has to go to prison in the USA for growing, selling, using, or possessing marijuana. But 21 states still prohibit marijuana use, cultivation, or sale in any form, even for medical use. Everything cannabis related is still illegal at the federal level. As a schedule 1, highly illegal drug, marijuana is considered just as dangerous and addictive as heroin. Yet PEW Research says 62% of Americans nationwide support marijuana legalization. So it is reasonable to think that about 7 or 8 people on any randomly selected 12 person jury disagree with laws criminalizing marijuana. And those people have the power to deliver a not guilty verdict, based on their belief that marijuana laws are unjust.This is one example of how jury nullification can be used to erase or nullify, bad laws.
In the United States, all accused criminals have the right to be tried by a jury of their peers.
Adults from the area where an alleged crime was committed are chosen to hear the court case. They have to weigh the evidence. And if they have any reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime, they are supposed to deliver a not guilty verdict. But not everyone knows that juries can also deliver a not guilty verdict when they disagree with the law. So say all the evidence clearly shows that, for example, a veteran was growing marijuana to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
As a juror, you do NOT have to deliver a guilty verdict, even if you are 100% sure he committed the “crime.” Instead, you can disagree that it should be criminal at all, and say not guilty. Unfortunately, defense attorneys are often not allowed to argue in court for jury nullification. The judge can force them to only argue the facts of the case. They usually cannot suggest that the jury find the defendant not guilty because the law is unjust.
Some states, like New Hampshire and Oregon, have tried to pass laws requiring courts to inform juries of their right to nullify. New Hampshire’s bill would require courts to inform juries that even if the facts point clearly to guilt, “you may still find that based upon the facts of this case a guilty verdict will yield an unjust result, and you may find the defendant not guilty.”
Of course, prosecutors will do everything possible to give the impression that the jury must decide the case based on the facts, and a strict reading of the law.
In the 1969 Court Case United States v. Moylan acknowledged that juries have an “undisputed power” to acquit, even if that verdict “is contrary to the law as given by the judge, and contrary to the evidence.”
Because of this “mistake” on the part of prosecutors, the man will get a new trial on federal drug charges. But that doesn’t mean the jury will necessarily know that they have the power to nullify the bad laws he is being prosecuted under. United States v. Moylan also said that the court can refuse to allow the jury to be instructed on jury nullification.
Thomas Jefferson gave another good reason to use jury nullification. He said juries should deliver a not guilty verdict if the defendant’s case “relates to any point of public liberty, or if it be one of those in which the judges may be suspected of bias.” In other words, if the defendant was simply exercising a basic freedom that didn’t hurt anyone, he should be found not guilty. It doesn’t matter if he broke the law, freedom is more important.
And then he adds, if you suspect a biased judge, you should also rule not guilty.
And consider the history of racism in the justice system dating back to when slavery was legal in the south.
Even then, northern juries used jury nullification for laws relating to slavery. For instance, the Fugitive Slave Act compelled northerners to help return runaway slaves to the south. Juries could use nullification to declare northerners who violated this act not guilty.
There are countless instances in today’s courts where jury nullification would be appropriate. It just depends on the specific facts and circumstances of each case.
Victimless crimes are violations of the law that don’t actually hurt anyone. If you can’t point to a victim, it means no one was actually hurt by the criminal actions. That is why possession of drugs is a victimless crime–having drugs in your pocket doesn’t actually victimize anyone. The same goes for laws criminalizing sex acts between consenting adults, code violations, or failing to get a business license.
It is better to let guilty people walk free than to send an innocent person to prison. If the evidence rests solely on inherently fallible witnesses, or if there is any reason to believe the witnesses, prosecution, or court is corrupt, you should consider jury nullification.
Jury nullification needs to go mainstream. Every juror walking into a courtroom should know that they have the power to deliver a not guilty verdict if they disagree with the law that was violated, or suspect corruption from the police, prosecutors, or judges. Tell everyone you know, especially when they get called for jury duty.
The Whole Story:
CALL ME – MY EXPERIENCE
FOLKS – this means YOU! If you know anyone with a criminal justice question, a legal question, tell them to CALL me!!! Not a bunch of type type type… CALL 302-423-4067. I work every day from about 3 or 4 a m until 8 or 10 pm. I hate to toot my own horn but the FACT is I am able to help most (over 95%) of those who call. Not because I am a friggin’ genius, but because there are few people on this planet (any??) with the experience I have*! Just tell them to CALL me!!
Jeez!! I get too many calls from people who have called several idiot lawyers or all the wrong people! The right people? Someone who can actually SOLVE THE PROBLEM!
*And what is my experience? Here are a few highlights Law Clerk to Supreme Court of Delaware, Deputy Attorney General, Defense Counsel and General Law Practitioner, student of the criminal justice system for the past twelve years (think about that- all of law school is 3 years; I have been immersed in learning all about the criminal justice system problems/solutions for twelve years now. and that is in addition to the ten years when I was practicing full-time!), Addict, Prisoner, Member of Rotary International, Entrepreneur (owned and built several very successful businesses), President of Legal Aid, Founder and President of Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE, Inc., Business Broker (Broker’s Real Estate license in Florida), Professor – teaching law courses at 4 different colleges, homeless person and counselor to thousands.
There is no charge to talk to me and pick my brain. CALL 302-423-4067.
I have won more than 700 trials (lost 2), have gotten many people out of prison early, prevented many, many more from ever going to prison … I HATE to “toot my own horn”, but what are you waiting for?? CALL ME! Everything I do is free, unless it is a ton of work!READ: Practical Tip – There is ONE way to win – Be Prepared!
All of law school is three years; where we are taught contracts, wills and estates, torts, evidence, and about a dozen other subjects. While in prison I spent four years doing nothing but studying criminal justice issues for 18 hours a day, every day, from B4 the sun rose until after it set [the lights are on 24/7 in those isolation cells!] , and I have been IMMERSED in all such issues for nearly thirteen years now! With the work I do now, I have been getting hundreds of articles every month concerning all sorts of criminal justice issues, some of which I put here on this website and in my Newsletter. ! Think about it!!
The most dramatic example of how totally fucked up out criminal justice system has become is that we are convicting hundreds of innocent people every year. See related articles for how it got this way, much more on this issue, and all the causes of wrongful convictions. Several states, thank God, now have CIUs , usually within the office of the prosecutor= Conviction Integrity Unit.
I was a prosecutor for 5 years, and from day one it was clear to me that my job was to produce justice…. any doubt about guilt, I dropped the charges. Today a prosecutor needs the approval of “higher up” idiots in the office in order to drop charges. There is ZERO chance that I convicted an innocent person. Too many idiot prosecutors today think their job is just to convict!
Newly appointed New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has directed his prosecutors to take over an investigation into the 1993 murder conviction of two men who might be innocent. He also formed a panel to consider whether New Jersey should establish a “conviction review unit” to look at claims of possible wrongful conviction.
Eric Kelley and Ralph Lee were originally convicted of the 1993 murder of a Patterson, New Jersey, video store clerk. Prosecutors alleged that the men beat and stabbed 22-year-old Tito Merino to death during a robbery of the video store. Kelley and Lee confessed to the crime but recanted shortly thereafter.
According to a report from NJ Advance Media, a key piece of evidence was a baseball cap found at the scene. Investigators initially believed that it belonged to the killer. DNA evidence tested in 2014 ruled out Kelley and Lee as the hat’s owner, and the DNA instead pointed to a local man who had just finished a prison sentence for knifepoint robbery that took place a few weeks before Merino’s murder.
The Innocence Project and Centurion Ministries raised questions about the case, and a judge ultimately tossed the convictions. But the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office still believed that Kelley and Lee committed the crime and fought to keep them locked up. Prosecutors finally dropped the case after losing an appeal in early 2018.
Grewal said that while he has confidence in Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes, a state-level formal inquiry was necessary. “We’re going to supersede the investigation … to ensure public confidence in light of the criticism that has been leveled and the coverage of the matter,” he said.
In addition to taking over the investigation, Grewal hired former New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice James Zazzali to look into how county prosecutors handled the case.
Vanessa Potkin, director of post-conviction litigation at The Innocence Project, said Grewal did the right thing. “This move kind of exemplifies exactly the job of the prosecutor: to ensure that justice is done, and not just to maintain convictions,” she said.
Grewal also convened a panel, headed by retired New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Virginia Long, to determine whether the state should establish a conviction integrity unit. He said the review “was something that we were working on since January , but it’s something that’s been hastened by this matter of Ralph Lee and Eric Kelley.”
It’s about time that there be a national registry of complaints against any law enforcement officer, including prison guards, so that they do not simply move from one job to the next. I remember all too well the story of the excruciating death of Darren Rainey at the hands of this cop! It was flat out murder.
READ: The ‘Office Shuffle’: Ohio Police Recycle Bad Apples Among Rural Departments – How many other states? kra
Excerpts from the Article:
Earlier this week, New Times reported that the Florida corrections officer who locked a mentally ill inmate in a scalding-hot shower until he died is now working as an officer for the Miami Gardens Police Department, where he has amassed a record of serious violations, including repeated investigations into allegations he was sleeping with women while on duty. The story reignited a national backlash over the fact that Officer Roland Clarke never faced any serious consequences for his role in the death of that prisoner, Darren Rainey.
Now Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert says the city is moving to fire Clarke.
“The [city] manager has informed me that the officer in question is in the process required by law and collective bargaining before an officer can be officially terminated,” Gilbert said in a statement sent to New Times. “The behavior of which [Clarke] is accused, and the poor judgement which he has allegedly shown, is not consistent with the high standards to which we hold all city employees.”
In June 2012, Clarke locked Rainey, a 50-year-old schizophrenic inmate who was serving a two-year sentence for cocaine possession, in a shower rigged with temperature controls only outside the cell. Inmates say the shower was used as a form of punishment, and video footage shows Clarke leading Rainey to the shower after the mentally ill man defecated in his cell. By the time Clarke returned two hours later, Rainey was dead and huge portions of his skin were peeling off, visceral photos obtained by the Miami Herald show.
But the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office never brought any criminal charges in connection with Rainey’s death — a decision State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle took five years to announce. In January 2014, Clarke was hired by the Miami Gardens Police Department as a patrol officer.
Clarke’s internal affairs file obtained by New Times shows he has been investigated and reprimanded for numerous failures in his four years as a patrol officer. He is being investigated by IA for pursuing a personal, romantic relationship with a woman while he was on duty. He was previously given a five-day suspension for doing the same thing in 2016. He also lost key evidence sought by homicide detectives in relation to a drowning victim’s death and crashed his patrol car into another driver after running a red light.
Despite all of this, Clarke was a finalist for the Dade County Police Benevolent Association’s Officer of the Year award in 2017.
Clarke also had a proclivity for sending out questionable tweets, including a rant this past April claiming Bill Cosby is innocent and a series in 2013, when he was still a corrections officer, claiming the cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants is used to push a gay agenda, which he referred to as “that fag shit.” Clarke has since deactivated his Twitter account.
Both the City of Miami Gardens and the police department faced backlash after news broke of Clarke’s employment with MGPD and his litany of failures.