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Sunday, February 13, 2011

14 Year Old Tylar Witt,Sentenced To 20 years In Prison

El Dorado judge to decide how girl will be tried in homicide case

Last Modified: Monday, Feb. 1, 2010 - 9:00 am
One day after her 15th birthday, Tylar Marie Witt took the witness stand Thursday, and her testimony behind closed doors left lawyers arguing vehemently over her complicity in her mother's brutal killing.

Following her account of the events culminating in the stabbing death of Joanne M. Witt, 47, in their El Dorado Hills home, El Dorado Superior Court Judge James Wagoner said he needed a break to contemplate whether Witt should be tried as an adult or in juvenile court – where a conviction could bring a far lighter sentence. He said he would issue his ruling Tuesday.

"I can think of no decision graver that I've ever had to make," the judge said.

Witt and her boyfriend, Steven Paul Colver, 19, are charged with murdering Witt's mother in June, after the mother filed a statutory rape report against Colver and gave sheriff's deputies what she said was her daughter's diary, which detailed the couple's sexual encounters.

At Thursday's hearing, Defense attorney Mark Ralphs argued Witt was a love-struck teen who was "sexually exploited" by Colver and led by him down a path that culminated in Joanne Witt's murder.

Prosecutor Lisette Suder portrayed Tylar Witt as vengeful and manipulative, the mastermind behind her mother's killing.

Suder argued the girl's role in the crime became clear when, according to detectives, she told a friend that on the day Joanne Witt was killed, she spiked her mother's drink with Vicodin so she would pass out, then called Colver to come over. Toxicology reports later revealed Valium – not Vicodin – in her mother's system.

The public was barred from watching Witt's testimony, but attorneys discussed her remarks in open court in making their dueling presentations to the judge about whether she should be tried as an adult.

"You heard her testimony," defense attorney Ralphs told the judge. "You heard how she was manipulated. You heard how she was exploited. You heard how she was used.

"I make no excuses for her conduct, only to say that it was the conduct of a 14-year-old child."

Ralphs said his client "did take the stand and did acknowledge her role" in events that led to her mother's death. But he argued that Colver played the lead role, contending he stole a butcher knife – the alleged murder weapon – from a restaurant where he worked.

Prosecutors allege Colver stabbed Joanne Witt multiple times and slashed her throat. He has pleaded not guilty.

Suder told the judge that Tylar Witt, in her testimony, acted "like she had no idea what was going to happen" until Colver arrived the night of the murder. But she noted that, on cross-examination, the girl conceded she was upset with her mother and wanted "to get rid of her."

Suder pointed to a short story investigators say Witt wrote shortly after the killing. Titled "The Killer and his Raven," the story recounts the tale of two young lovers inspired to kill after their dreams were "shattered" by a woman who handed over her teenage girl's romantic journal to police.

Authorities say the story parallels a real-life event in which Joanne Witt gave her daughter's diary to El Dorado County sheriff's investigators. According to court testimony, Joanne Witt did so as part of her statutory rape allegation against Colver, after her daughter refused to admit the two were having sex.

It goes on to detail a murder plot.

"Late one night, her mother was drunk as usual," the story reads in part. "She spiked her drink with herbs from the forest. Then she called her man, her 19-year-old man, and at 1 in the morning she snuck him into her bedroom, leading him to her, and he stabbed her in her sleep, killing her, freeing themselves."

Mary Witt, Tylar's aunt by marriage, also testified at the hearing, saying Tylar never knew her father. She said she took the girl in for a time when she was 4 at the behest of child welfare authorities because Tylar had been abused.

Suder said that was earlier this year, after the girl struck her mother and then called 911. She said Tylar Witt claimed to be her mother and said she was drunk and needed to be arrested.

Ralphs said the phone call underscored her lack of maturity.

Arguing for her to be tried as a adult, Suder said Witt "has many of the character traits of a sociopath." She said the girl is "not somebody who should be walking free at 25" – her age of release if convicted in juvenile court.

July 27,2009
Prosecutors filed a motion today to try 14-year-old Tylar Marie Witt as an adult in the homicide of her mother in El Dorado County.

We havefiled fitness petition for her to be deemed not fit for juvenile court," said El Dorado Chief Assistant District Attorney Bill Clark.

By Peter Hecht The Sacramento Bee
Friday, Nov. 20, 2009 Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Feb. 1, 2010 - One day after
her 15th Birthday,
Tylar Marie Witt took the witness stand Thursday, and her testimony behind closed doors left lawyers arguing vehemently over her complicity in her mother's brutal killing.

Following her account of the events culminating in the stabbing death of Joanne M. Witt, 47, in their El Dorado Hills home, El Dorado Superior Court Judge James Wagoner said he needed a break to contemplate whether Witt should be tried as an adult or in juvenile court – where a conviction could bring a far lighter sentence. He said he would issue his ruling Tuesday.

"I can think of no decision graver that I've ever had to make," the judge said.
(*Prosecutor Lisette Suder portrayed Tylar Witt as vengeful and manipulative, the mastermind behind her mother's killing.)

Suder argued the girl's role in the crime became clear when, according to detectives, she told a friend that on the day Joanne Witt was killed, she spiked her mother's drink with Vicodin so she would pass out, then called Colver to come over. Toxicology reports later revealed Valium – not Vicodin – in her mother's system.

The public was barred from watching Witt's testimony, but attorneys discussed her remarks in open court in making their dueling presentations to the judge about whether she should be tried as an adult.

"You heard her testimony," defense attorney Ralphs told the judge. "You heard how she was manipulated. You heard how she was exploited. You heard how she was used.

Ralphs said his client "did take the stand and did acknowledge her role" in events that led to her mother's death. But he argued that Colver played the lead role, contending he stole a butcher knife – the alleged murder weapon – from a restaurant where he worked.

Prosecutors allege Colver stabbed Joanne Witt multiple times and slashed her throat. He has pleaded not guilty.

Suder told the judge that Tylar Witt, in her testimony, acted "like she had no idea what was going to happen" until Colver arrived the night of the murder. But she noted that, on cross-examination, the girl conceded she was upset with her mother and wanted "to get rid of her."

It goes on to detail a murder plot.

"Late one night, her mother was drunk as usual," the story reads in part. "She spiked her drink with herbs from the forest. Then she called her man, her 19-year-old man, and at 1 in the morning she snuck him into her bedroom, leading him to her, and he stabbed her in her sleep, killing her, freeing themselves."

Mary Witt, Tylar's aunt by marriage, also testified at the hearing, saying Tylar never knew her father. She said she took the girl in for a time when she was 4 at the behest of child welfare authorities because Tylar had been abused.

Suder said that was earlier this year, after the girl struck her mother and then called 911. She said Tylar Witt claimed to be her mother and said she was drunk and needed to be arrested.

Ralphs said the phone call underscored her lack of maturity.

(Arguing for her to be tried as a adult, Suder said Witt "has many of the character traits of a sociopath." She said the girl is "not somebody who should be walking free at 25" – her age of release if convicted in juvenile court.
(The prosecutor said she was pleased that Witts – a smart, manipulative woman" – will stand trial as an adult)

Aug. 17Th 2010

Witt murder case: Plot thickens for suspects
Mother Lode News

The courtroom drama surrounding a short story written by 15-year-old accused murderer Tylar Marie Witt took yet another turn Monday afternoon.

The duo is suspected of killing Wit't's mother, Joanne, in her El Dorado Hills home in 2009. Authorities allege Joanne was stabbed to death because she had planned on reporting Colver for statutory rape after finding both defendants together, naked.

Prosecutors believe the short story is more than a simple fantasy tale penned by a lovestruck murder suspect

Later, the mother is sedated with herbs from the forest before being killed by the teems.

Earlier this year Colver's defense attorney, Dain Weiner, filed a motion to sever based on his client's Sixth Amendment rights. Weiner argued that statements made by Witt, if used as evidence, would unfairly incriminate Colver and said the defendants should be tried separately.

The story itself is speculative in nature, Weiner said. ÒThe prosecution argued at a prior hearing that this was a play-by-play of what happened…. It's not.

On June 14 Superior Court Judge Kenneth Melikian ruled that the only way the defendants would be tried separately or with different juries would be if the prosecution introduced ÒThe Killer and his RavenÓ in its case.

But a motion filed by Suder last month argued that new legal precedent would allow the story to be introduced as evidence

After the hearing the attorneys met with members of the media.
Sudert declined to comment on the potential difficulty of picking a jury.

Although Tylar was 14 when the alleged murder took place, she will be tried as an adult. She has pleaded (not guilty by reason of insanity.)
She received 20 years as a plea and testified againt the co-defendant.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Violations In Amber's Case

1}Petitioner's conviction was obtained as the result of ineffectiveness of counsel at trial:> Case Authority:(Strickland V. Washington 466 U.S. 688(1984))
Ground 1}Petitioner's conviction was obtained by the result of ineffectiveness of counsel at trial; As guaranteed by the Constriction and 5 Th and Fourteenth and Sixth Amendments thereto.

2} The prosecution suppressed evidence favorable to the petitioner.
Due process: (Case Authority) Brady V. Maryland 373 U.S. 83(1963)
The DA Did not tell jurors about the rape. Nor the assault by Harris against Riley;
The Prosecutor failed to tell the judge or jury that witness Elizabeth Jackson ( Harris's Mother) Changed her statements repeatedly:

15}The petitioner was denied the opportunity to effectively confront and cross examine witnesses against her: ( Case Authority) Pointer V. Texas 380 U.S.400(1965)
16}The Prosecution in bad faith failed to collect (preserve) evidence potentially favorable to the defense:
Due Process :( Case In Authority Arizona V. Youngblood 488 U.S. 51 (1988)

22}There was a total failure to give jury instructions on every element of the offense:
Due Process: Case Authority:(Sullivan V. Louisiana 508 U.S. 275(1993)
Note>( Amber has noted: DA Karen Khim stressed over & over that Amber was aiding & abeting: That that was the issue? That was not the charge>?)

23} The Prosecutor deliberately misled the defense about evidence it intended to introduce (theory on which the defendant was charged): DUE PROCESS:
Case Authority ( Grey V. Netherlands 516 U.S. 152(1991)

24}Petitioner's conviction was obtained on the basis of state court errors that denied petitioner a fair trial: DUE PROCESS:
Case Authority: (Estelle V. Mcguire 502 U.S. 62 (1991)

28}Petitioner was denied discovery of confidential records that were ,material and pertinent to the defense. : Defense Attorney told Amber she could not have the rape reports) DUE PROCESS:
Case Authority:( Pennsylvania V. Ritchie 480 U.S. 39 (1987)

29Petitioner was convicted of murder without the court having instructed the jury that it could not convict of murder if it is found that Petitioner had a Miligating mental state: DUE PROCESS:
Case Authority: Sawyer V. Smith 497 U.S. 227 (1990)

32}The Prosecution Suppressed evidence favorable to the petitioner:

37}petitioner was the victim of vindictive Prosecution(Da Karen khim ) Made her case and closing by stating her opinion over & over about Amber being evil and commits about her attitude: etc DUE PROCESS:
Case Authority: U.S. V, Armstrong 517 U.S. 456 (1966)

42}Petitioner's conviction was the result of cumulative errors of counsel, i.e,errors that although not prejudicial individually, are cumulatively prejudicial:
DUE PROCESS: Effective Assistance of Counsel:
Case Authority: Mak V. Blodgett 970 F.2d 614(9 th Cir.1992) applying Strickland V. Washington 466 (1987)

43}Petitioner was denied the right to testify by council: Defense told her not take the stand: Advised her to waive that right: DUE PROCESS:
Case Authority: Rock V. Arkansas 483 U.S. 44 (1987)

47}Petitioner's conviction was upheld despite constitutional error the prejudicial effect of which was not measured by the reasonable doubt standard:
Case authority: Chapman V. California 318 U.S. 18 (1967)

50}The court denied petitioner right to a speedy trial( advised by public defender to waive no defense given: DUE PROCESS:
Case Authority: Klopfer V, North Carolina 386 U.S. 213 91967)

52}Petitioner's confession obtained by psychological coercion:
Case Authority: Ashcraft V. Tennessee 322 U.S. 143 91944)

55} Petitoner was subjected to unreasonable and excessive security at trial-or forced to appear in jail clothes: She had to wear Leg Chains:
Case Authority: Holbrook V. Flynn 475 U.S. 560 (1986) --Estelle V. Williams 425 U.S,
501 (1976)

55}Petitioner is indigent was denied funds necessary to employ expert witness to counter the prosecution's expert. Or hire an investigator : DUE PROCESS:
Case Authority: Ake V. Oklahoma 470 U.S.. 68 (1968)

19}The court refused to ask sufficient questions of jurers on basis: A FAIR AND IMPARTIAL JURY
Case Authority: Turner V. Murray 476 U.S. 28 (1986)

60} Jurors gave false answers during voir dire or covered up false statements)
Note: Several Jurors admitted to reading about the case: Jurors admitted they could not be fair : FAIR AND IMPARTICAL JURY:
Case Authority: irwin V. Dowd 366 U.S. 717 (1961)

61} Prosecutor knowingly used perjured testimony or failed to correct known false testimony: To obtain petitioners conviction Elizabeth Jackson : A FAIR TRIAL:
Case Authority: U.S. V. Bagley 473 U.S. 667 91985)----NapueV. Illinois 360 U.S. 360 U.S. 264 91959)
Petitioner denied the right to challenge a judge's erroneous refusal to dismiss a juror for cause on the basis that petitioner had not used a preemptory challenge to do so: ( Again INEFFECTIVE COUNSIL) Petitioner's Defense did not take care of this:
A FAIR TRIAL: AND IMPARTIAL JURY: ( Case Authority: United States V. Martinez Salazar 528 U.S. 304 (2000)

64}Prosecutorial Misconduct: Deprived Petitioner Of her Constitutional rights:
A FAIR TRIAL: Case Authority: Darden V. Wainwright 477 U.S. 168 (1991)

63}The Court gave jury instructions that lightened the prosecution's burden of proof: Aiding And Abetting: A FAIR TRIAL: Case Authority: Yares V. Evatt 500 U.S. 391 (1991)

64} Petitioner's conviction was obtained on the basis of the untested confession of an accomplice: A FAIR TRIAL Case Authority: Lilly V. Virgina 527 U.S. 116 (1999)

69}Petitioner was convicted on less then proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every element of the charged crime: ( records show proof of duress, mental issues, PTSD and was in shock upon entering juvenile hall:
DUE PROCESS: Case Authority: In re Winship 397 U.S. 358 (1970)

73} Petitioner was convicted on basis of conduct committed under duress ( as well as grounded fear of immediate death or serious bodily injury with no reasonable course of action other then to violate the law: DUE PROCESS:
Case Authority: U.S. V. Baily 444 U.S. 394 (1980)

72}Petitioner was convicted on the basis of outrageous governmental misconduct( Coercion and lying about the statements) Case Authority: U.S. V. Russell 411 U.S. 423 (1973)

73} Petitioner was convicted on the basis of governmental entrapment : DUE PROCESS: Case Authority: Sorrells V. U.S. 287 U.S. 435 91932)

76.>Petitioner was denied the right to present a defense;
or the right to present defense witnesses ; or the defenses version of the facts.
(Attorney told petitioner that he was calling numerous witnesses for the defense, Did not call any at trial)
Fair trial right:
Case: Chambers V. Mississippi, 410 US 284 (1992)

81}petitioner was convicted for conduct which constitutionally-protected speech (She had told friend she wanted to see a dead body)
freedom Of Speech Right:
case; Near V. Minnesota, 283 US 697 (1931)

82}Petitioner was convicted on basis of conduct which constituted protected freedom of association: ( Co-defendant) "She says I did not share similar believes, styles, actions etc"
Freedom Of Association:
Case: NAACP V. Alabama 357 US 449 (1958)

86}Petitioner was convicted as the result of police interrogation conducted without counsel being present and following petitioners request for counsel in the context of a separate investigation.
(Due Process, Freedom vs. self-incrimination:).
Case: Butler V. McKellar 494 US 407 (1990)

90} Petitioner was sentenced to greater punishment then Legislature intended:
(Due Process at sentencing) New juvenile laws
Case; Rutledge V. united States 517 US 292 (1966)

93} Petitioners confession (or admission) was obtained during police interrogation in which petitioner was denied the right to have counsel, and or parent present.
(Protection against self-incrimination)
Case: Miranda V. Arizona 384 Us 436 (1966)

97} Trial court failed to instruct the jury on mitigating metal states regarding the offence in which petitioner was convicted.
(Due process, trial by jury) History of metal illness, duress, etc
Case: Gilmore V. Taylor 508 US 333 (1993)

99} Petitioner is actually innocent of the crime of which she was convicted, resulting in a miscarriage of justice which can be corrected on Habeas Corpus.
(Due Process)
Case Schlup V. Delo, 513 US 298 (1995)

The Situation Not Personality

A modern test of an ancient bible story demonstrates the power of situations to
trump personality in determining behavior.
A fundamental mistake we often make when judging other people is assuming that
their behavior mainly reflects their personality. Unfortunately this ignores
another major influence on how people behave staring us right in the face: the

Our personalities certainly have an influence on what situations we get into and
how we deal with them, but situational factors — even relatively subtle ones —
can completely obliterate the effects of personality.

Don't take my word for it, though, consider a modern take on an ancient bible
story. Prominent social psychologists Darley & Batson (1973) were interested in
what influences people's helping behaviors and decided to test the parable of
the Good Samaritan. The parable is about a Jewish man traveling to Jericho who
has been attacked by bandits and lies half dead at the side of the road. A
priest and temple assistant pass him by before finally a Samaritan (who
stereotypically hated Jews) stops to offer his assistance.

The moral of the story is clear enough but, wondered Darley and Batson, have we
judged the priest and the temple assistant too quickly, perhaps they were just
in a hurry?

A good Samaritan
In their classic social psychology study the experimenters recruited 67 students
from the Princeton Theological Seminary and told them it was a study about
religious education and vocations. They were asked to fill in some personality
questionnaires and told they were going to give a brief talk in a nearby room.
Some were asked to give a short talk about the types of jobs that seminary
graduates would be suited for, while the others were asked to talk about the
parable of the 'Good Samaritan'.

Unknown to the study's participants, they were to experience their very own
'Good Samaritan' test. For after filling out their questionnaires and while
making their way to the other office to give their talk, they would encounter an
experimental confederate lying in a doorway, doubled over, eyes closed and
coughing. Participants would have to pass the apparently highly distressed man,
but would they stop to help?

The experimenters thought it would depend on how much participants were hurried,
so they manipulated this by giving them a map and one of the following three

"Oh, you're late. They were expecting you a few minutes ago. We'd better get
"The assistant is ready for you, so please go right over."
"...It'll be a few minutes before they're ready for you, but you might as well
head on over..."
This created three conditions: high, medium and low hurry. So some students left
the office thinking they needed to go quickly, others less so, while some were
relaxed. Each of these conditions was also split into two: half about to deliver
a talk on the Good Samaritan, the other half on job prospects for seminary
graduates. This meant that the experimenters could assess both the effect of
hurry as well as the talk they were giving on the students' helping behaviors.
Would having a relevant parable uppermost in their minds nudge participants into

Before I give you the results try to predict them for yourself. How many future
priests do you think would stop to see if the man was OK? Would you stop? What
will be the effects of the situation compared with the individual personalities
of the seminarians?

In a hurry, can't stop
Here's what happened. On average just 40% of the seminary students offered help
(with a few stepping over the apparently injured man) but crucially the amount
of hurry they were in had a large influence on behaviour. Here is the percentage
of participants who offered help by condition:

Low hurry: 63%
Medium hurry: 45%
High hurry: 10%
The type of talk they were giving also had an effect on whether they offered
help. Of those asked to talk about careers for seminarians, just 29% offered
help, while of those asked to talk about the parable of the Good Samaritan,
fully 53% gave assistance.

What these figures show is the large effect that subtle aspects of the situation
have on the way people behave. Recall that the experimenters also measured
personality variables, specifically the 'religiosity' of the seminarians. When
the effect of personality was compared with situation, i.e. how much of a hurry
they happened to be in or whether they were thinking about a relevant parable,
the effect of religiosity was almost insignificant. In this context, then,
situation is easily trumping personality.

Judge on context
Before I asked you to imagine what the results might be, were you close? Perhaps
you were surprised by how little effect personality had on whether the
seminarians stopped? That is what catches most people out because of what
psychologists call the 'fundamental attribution error'. This is the
aforementioned tendency to assume that other people's behaviour reflects on
their personality rather than on the situation they are in. Contrary to our
instincts, however, studies such as this one demonstrate that it is frequently
the situation that controls our actions more strongly than personality.

If you saw the trainee priest stepping over the moaning man, what would you
think? Perhaps time for them to switch to a career in investment banking? Maybe,
but in the light of this experiment that's probably unfair on the priest (and
the investment bankers) because we all of us have situational pressures on us
that can easily drown out the influence of our personalities (see also the
bystander effect). 'Bad' actions don't necessarily mean 'bad' people just as
'good' actions don't issue forth solely from 'good' people.

The old adage that a person can be judged on their actions isn't the whole
truth. Often people's behavior, and our own, may say very little about our
personalities and much more about the complexities of the situation in which we
find ourselves.\

Friday, February 11, 2011

Teenagers in Prison

Teenagers in prison find safety in social invisibility by becoming disconnected and inconspicuous. Some retreat deeply into themselves,trust almost no one and adjust to prison stress by leading isolated lives of quiet desperation and loneliness.
Whether teenager or young adults, child offenders serving life with out parole must face the possibility that their loneliness will be with them throughout their entire lifetime.
It is not surprising that the psychological strain of a sentence that will only end in death causes youth offenders to contemplate suicide.
several factors associated with suicide in prison are the youth of the prisoner and the length of a sentence of life without parole, also the loss of outside relationships,conflicts with facility staff, victimization,further legal problems.
Rape and intimidation from other inmates and intimadation of male guards being present during undressing, strip searches and showering of female inmates. Young inmates can not effectively cope with these stresses, result often in self injury,and varying degrees of suicidal behavior.
The difference of youth offenders and adults serving life without parole is that youth are likely to be much more dependant on family relationships and will suffer these losses at a very young age, causing them to endure their loss longer then other inmates.
We have said little and done less while our nations penal system has been used in a terribly inhumane , excedingly expensive, and in the long run,a very dangerous political tug of war over who can lock up the most people, at no matter what age, for the longest amount of time.
The public has been kept ignorant of the harm that prisons can do and of long term sentencing of our youth,but they have been convinced that cruel treatment is a careful effective and perhaps even the only strategy to be followed in crime control.

The fruit of the poisonous confession

The fruit of the poisonous confession
Posted on January 01, 2010 by Gideon

False confessions are an underrated scourge in the world of wrongful convictions. Some 15-20% of all exonerations have seen the original convictions brought about by these false confessions. The causes of false confessions have been explored before: mental acuity, extremely long interrogations, psychological manipulation and outright lies.

A new paper soon to be published by Saul Kassin – one of the leading experts on false confessions – and others does a tremendous job of highlighting the history of the law on confessions, their admissibility and challenges to these confessions in US and UK courts. The paper is notable for three reasons: 1) It lays out this legal history, the current state of the research and the history of the development of this research in detail, 2) It offers some reform proposals and most interestingly 3) it posits that a false confession can have an adverse effect on how the jury perceives the remaining evidence in a case. For all of these reasons, it is an absolute must read for all criminal defense lawyers and even those prosecutors who are driven by the interests of justice.

What I want to do in this (extremely lengthy) post is to highlight some of the important and relevant points of the paper, but let me assure you: nothing I write here will be an adequate substitute for you actually reading the paper. It is that good and that important.

The problem with confessions using our current models starts at the beginning: with police interrogation. As opposed to the UK, which uses a “fact-finding” model of interviewing suspects, US police departments for the most part use the “confession” model. The goal of most interrogations in the US is to confirm the suspicion of the interrogator by obtaining a confession. These “trained” interviewers rely essentially on hunches, which are based on flawed beliefs of body language:

Often, however, it is based on a clinical hunch formed during a preinterrogation interview in which special ‘‘behavior-provoking’’ questions are asked (e.g., ‘‘What do you think should happen to the person who committed this crime?’’) and changes are observed in aspects of the suspect’s behavior that allegedly betray lying (e.g., gaze aversion, frozen posture, and fidgety movements). Yet in laboratories all over the world, research has consistently shown that most commonsense behavioral cues are not diagnostic of truth and deception (DePaulo et al., 2003). Hence, it is not surprising as an empirical matter that laypeople on average are only 54% accurate at distinguishing truth and deception; that training does not produce reliable improvement; and that police investigators, judges, customs inspectors, and other professionals perform only slightly better, if at all—albeit with high levels of confidence (for reviews, see Bond & DePaulo, 2006; Meissner & Kassin, 2002; Vrij, 2008).

The most famous of police interrogation techniques is the Reid Nine-step:

A nine-step process then ensues in which an interrogator employs both negative and positive incentives. On one hand, the interrogator confronts the suspect with accusations of guilt, assertions that may be bolstered by evidence, real or manufactured, and refuses to accept alibis and denials. On the other hand, the interrogator offers sympathy and moral justification, introducing ‘‘themes’’ that minimize the crime and lead suspects to see confession as an expedient means of escape.

Compounding the problem of these questionable police interrogation techniques is the apparent contradiction in US courts’ treatment of confessions in the criminal justice system: on one hand, courts recognize the awesome power of a confession and yet on the other seem indifferent to the voluminous research that tends to show that most techniques are coercive and unreliable. Originally governed by the corpus delicti rule, confessions are now viewed through the lens of the “trustworthiness” rule, after Opper v. United States (for a CT discussion see State v. Hafford). This rule is intended to permit the admission of only those confessions that can be independently corroborated. However, in practice, the rule doesn’t provide the benefits it seeks to:

In practice, however, the rule has not worked to screen out false confessions. Because investigators sometimes suggest and incorporate crime details into a suspect’s confession, whether deliberately or inadvertently, many false confessions appear highly credible to the secondhand observer. Without an electronic recording of the entire interrogation process, courts are thus left to decide a swearing contest between the suspect and the detective over the source of the details contained within the confession. Moreover, the quantum of corroboration in most jurisdictions that apply the trustworthiness doctrine is very low, allowing many unreliable confessions to go before the jury (Leo et al., 2006).

In addition, while courts have taken a hard line stance condemning physically abusive tactics during interrogations, their rulings in the area of psychologically abusive tactics can be best seen as condoning the methods. The psychologically abusive tactics can be briefly categorized as: maximization and minimization, false-evidence ploy and other forms of deception (most notably not objected to in Frazier v. Cupp).

When dealing with a case that involves confessions, it is important to know the different types of false confessions and how they are induced. voluntary, coerced-compliant, and coerced-internalized.

Voluntary false confessions

This is where the subject intentionally confesses to a crime he did not commit. The reasons are varied: notoriety, a breakdown in reality monitoring and most frequently to protect the real perpetrator.

Compliant false confessions

These are the types of false confessions one most frequently associates with this concept. Think of it as acquiescing to the color of authority. This is the kind of false confession that also poses the greatest problem for both defense attorneys and jurors. The prevalent thinking is that one would never confess to a crime they did not commit, no matter how persuasive the interrogator and thus if there is a confession, it must be true. Yet the psychology of the human mind stands at odds with this assumption.

Demonstrating the form of influence observed in classic studies of social influence (e.g., Asch, 1956; Milgram, 1974), this type of confession is an act of mere public compliance by a suspect who knows that he or she is innocent but bows to social pressure, often coming to believe that the short-term benefits of confession relative to denial outweigh the long-term costs. Based on a review of a number of cases, Gudjonsson (2003) identified some very specific incentives for this type of compliance—such as being allowed to sleep, eat, make a phone call, go home, or, in the case of drug addicts, feed a drug habit. The desire to bring the interview to an end and avoid additional confinement may be particularly pressing for people who are young, desperate, socially dependent, or phobic of being locked up in a police station. The pages of legal history are filled with stories of compliant false confessions.

Internalized false confessions

This is third type, where not only does the suspect confess, but also starts to believe that he or she has actually committed the crime in question.

So what causes people to falsely confess? As I mentioned above, it seems incongruous to you and me that a person who knows that he is innocent would nevertheless confess to a crime. The answer begins with basic human psychology: we are highly responsive to reinforcement and subject to the laws of conditioning and of course our behavior is influenced by our perceptions of short-term rather than long-term consequences.

A voluminous body of research has shown that people make choices that they think will maximize their well-being given the constraints they face, making the best of the situation they are in—what Herrnstein has called the ‘‘matching law’’ (Herrnstein, Rachlin, & Laibson, 1997). With respect to a suspect’s response to interrogation, studies on the discounting of rewards and costs show that people tend to be impulsive in their orientation, preferring outcomes that are immediate rather than delayed, with delayed outcomes depreciating over time in their subjective value (Rachlin, 2000).

In addition to the intrinsic factors of human psychology that lead to false confessions, one must also be on the lookout for the external circumstances that can result in these confessions. Kassin breaks them down into two parts, each with subparts: the situational risk factors and the dispositional risk factors.

Situational risk factors include interrogation time, false evidence and minimization. Interrogation time, obviously, is the length of time that a suspect is interrogated. Some fun facts: the average interrogation lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Interestingly in a 2004 study of 125 proven false confessions,

in cases in which interrogation time was recorded, that 34% lasted 6– 12 hours, that 39% lasted 12–24 hours, and that the mean was 16.3 hours.

When you get into those kinds of numbers, it’s easy to see why one should heed the red flags. Sleep deprivation can lead people to do – and say – almost anything.

False evidence

Once the interrogation has begun, the interrogator will try to convey to the suspect that resistance is futile. Basic psychology tells us that once people see an outcome as inevitable, cognitive and motivational forces conspire to lead people to accept, comply with and even endorse the outcome. Over the years, across a range of subdisciplines, basic research has revealed that misinformation renders people vulnerable to manipulation.

The forensic literature on confessions reinforces and extends this classic point, indicating that presentations of false evidence can lead people to confess to crimes they did not commit

That this tactic appears in proven false confession cases makes sense. In self-report studies, actual suspects state that the reason they confessed is that they perceived themselves to be trapped by the weight of evidence (Gudjonsson & Sigurdsson, 1999; Moston, Stephenson, & Williamson, 1992).


The most famous real-life example of such a confession is that of Marty Tankleff.


The final situational risk factor is one we’ve all seen during interrogations: the officer convinces the suspect that confessing is in his best interest. That he is the suspect’s friend and that he can help him if he just confesses; that the judge and prosecutor will understand why he committed the crime, etc. The ultimately exonerated defendants in the Central Park jogger rape case reported feeling that they would be allowed to go home if they just confessed to the crime. Two core psychological phenomena underlie this factor: us being susceptible to reinforcement and and our eschewing long-term consequences in favor of short-term benefit.

Dispositional risk factors are those that are defendant specific, such as the age and maturity level, the mental and cognitive abilities of a particular defendant and whether the defendant suffers from any psychological disorders. You can easily imagine how any of these (or all) would play a significant role in inducing false confessions.

Recent studies have shown that innocence is a factor that can lead people to falsely confess. This is the “I did nothing wrong, I have nothing to hide” problem which leads innocent people to waive the rights and speak with police, subjecting themselves to the coercive interrogation techniques

Michigan law allows children of any age to be charged as adults at the discretion of the prosecutor,

GENESEE COUNTY, Michigan — They aren’t old enough to vote, and some aren’t even old enough to drive a car.

Six people younger than 18 — including a 14-year-old boy — have been charged with murder this year.

And the Genesee Valley Regional Detention Center has hit its capacity limit of 70 juveniles four times this year.

“It ebbs and flows — right now, it’s obviously flowing,” said Patrice Stiehl, who supervises the Genesee County courts’ juvenile division. “I don’t know that there is any rhyme or reason. It just seems like in 2010 we’ve had more issues than in 2009. This fall just seems to be bad.”

Those who work in the juvenile system say more juveniles are committing violent crimes.

Genesee Circuit Judge David Newblatt said he sees more juveniles involved in crimes with guns or knives.

“What I’m seeing quite a bit of is a general breakdown in the family, and I think that’s causing a lot of what you are seeing. A lot of these kids don’t have the foundation.”

Last month, 14-year-old Mark A. Jones became the youngest person charged as an adult with felony murder during Genesee County Prosecutor’s David Leyton’s tenure as prosecutor after Jones allegedly killed an elderly woman during a robbery.

Days later, 15-year-old Deonte I. Gray was charged as an adult following accusations he shot at a Flint police officer during a home invasion. The officer returned fire and hit the boy in the leg.

Two other teens, 14 and 15, were charged as adults with home invasion in the case.

The county detention center currently has 20 youths who have been charged as adults because of the severity of the allegations, including felonious assault, home invasion and using weapons.

More often than not this year, the detention center has had to bring in extra staff because it had more than 60 juveniles being held, said center Director Fred Woelmer.

Flint Southwestern Academy senior Imani Horne, 17, said the actions of a few give teenagers as a whole a bad name.

“In a sense, it kind of makes me angry,” she said. “We are already looked down upon (by society). It’s just ridiculous, one thing after another.”

Flint already has exceeded last year’s 360 misdemeanor juvenile arrests, with 381 so far this year. The city’s 187 juvenile felony arrests are on pace to exceed the 194 made last year.

Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell believes the reason behind some of the crimes is the high dropout rate in the area.

Prosecutors Want 13 Yr. Old Charged As Adult

KENTWOOD -- Kent County prosecutors today expect to meet with Kentwood Police to decide if 13-year-old Keishawn Mann, accused of shooting his mother's longtime fiance, Jermelle Stokes, should be designated as an adult in court if he is charged in the killing.

Because of his age, Keishawn, if charged with first- or second-degree murder, cannot have his case sent to the adult system, Kent County Circuit Court, officials said. But prosecutors can file a "designated" waiver to allow a judge to sentence him as an adult if he is convicted of a specified serious crime, such as murder.

Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth on Wednesday confirmed his office will meet today with investigators, but he would not discuss the case, pending a decision on how to proceed. On Tuesday, when Keishawn was ordered held in the Kent County Juvenile Detention Center, prosecutors asked for and received a five-day adjournment to review the case.

Courtesy PhotoJermelle StokesProsecutors frequently file designated waivers in very serious cases with suspects under 14, the age threshold for trial in adult court on specified charges, said Doug Gaddy, intake supervisor for Kent County Family Court.
In 2008, Kent County prosecutors filed 22 designated waivers, up from nine in 2007, and 10 in 2006, records showed.

Defense attorney Kevin Floyd, who maintains Monday's shooting was accidental, said Wednesday he wants to review police reports to determine why investigators think Keishawn shot Stokes intentionally.

Stokes, 35, was shot in the back of the head around 6 p.m. while using his laptop computer on the counter at his Pine Vista SE home. Police said he was shot at "relatively close range," but would not disclose any possible motives.

Stokes had children with his fiancee and the boy's mother, Lakeisha Mann. The boy has a different father.

Floyd said he had no idea why his client would want to harm Stokes. It is hard, Floyd said, to see a child accused of killing.

He said the boy looks like any other his age.

"I have not noticed any character (problems). He's just quiet, just calm, just respectful. He's a 13-year-old," Floyd said.

His client has not been in trouble before, but appears to be doing OK locked up in the detention center. His mother can visit twice a week.

Floyd said he has tried to explain everything to his client.

"It's really about providing him with as much information as possible."

Floyd said it is a difficult situation for everyone in the family. Stokes left five children, including three who lived in his home.

Ottawa County Family Court Judge Jon Hulsing, a former prosecutor, said the decision to charge a juvenile with a crime such as murder "gets somewhat complicated."

Prosecutors work to decide if the public is best served by treating a young offender in the juvenile system, where services are available, or the adult system. They consider the severity of the crime, the suspect's culpability and prior record.

"There are a lot of tools that have been created by the Legislature," Hulsing said. "A lot of those are to address individuals who are 12, 13 and 14, who are charged with serious crimes."

Years ago, children so young did not face being convicted as adults. Now, a conviction can stay with them as adults, particularly if they have problems serving a juvenile sentence. There are ramifications, too, if they get in trouble later in life.

Hulsing said that a "few bad crimes" prompted lawmakers to take a second look at penalizing juveniles, rather than only try to rehabilitate them.


E-mail John Agar:

FLINT, Mich.Teens Charged As Adults For Non-Injury Crime

3 Teens Charged As Adults In Home Invasion
93-Year-Old Victim Slept Through Incident, Police Say

POSTED: 4:02 pm EST November 24, 2010

FLINT, Mich. -- Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton announced on Wednesday that he has charged three Flint teenagers as adults in connection with a break-in at a the home of a 93-year-old woman on Monday.

Leyton said the incident led to one of the teens being shot in the leg by a police officer.

Leyton said that around 8 p.m. on Monday, the woman’s neighbor called 911 to report three people who were seen removing a screen from the back of the woman’s home in the area of Begole and Seneca streets in Flint.

When officers arrived on the scene, Flint police said they found two suspects, later identified as Deonte Issac Gray, 15, of Flint, and D’Angelo Simmons, 14, of Flint, fleeing on foot and a chase ensued.

Police reports indicate that Gray had a gun and fired at the officers as he was fleeing, and the officers returned fire, shooting him in the leg.

Police said they also used a Taser gun on Gray before he was apprehended and arrested.

After a short chase, Simmons was also apprehended by police and arrested.

The third suspect in the case, Delontay Jamal McCraw, 15, of Flint, was found by police hiding in the woman’s basement and he also was arrested.

Police said they discovered the homeowner asleep in her bed. Her home had been ransacked and several doors were damaged.

Leyton has charged all three teenagers as adults. McCraw and Simmons have each been charged with one count of first-degree home invasion. Gray has been charged with assault with intent to murder, first-degree home invasion and a felony firearm charge.

Given the ages of the defendants, adult sentencing is not automatic and would have to go through a circuit court hearing process to take effect.

“The youth in our community need to know, if you do adult-type crimes, you will be prosecuted in adult fashion and you will pay the price,” said Leyton. “We’re not playing kids games here and teenagers will be charged as adults to the fullest extent of the law based on the evidence and the facts of each individual case."
These teens could face life

Michigan Judge Sentences 15 Year Old to Life Without Parole

Michigan Judge Sentences 15 Year Old to Life Without Parole
By Jeralyn, Section Juvenile Offenders
Posted on Tue Oct 26, 2010 at 08:15:00 AM EST
Tags: juvenile life sentences, life without parole
14 year old Dakota Eliason shot and killed his grandfather. He said he went back and forth for hours debating whether to kill him or commit suicide, and decided to on the former.

The DA charged him in adult court. Monday, a Michigan judge imposed a sentence of life without parole, finding it violated neither the Constitution nor international treaties. He rejected a sentence of life with parole saying the law didn't authorize it. His opinion is here. His lawyer disagrees:

“Anyone that's spent any time around that kid will tell you he's a loving kid, certainly at his point, people that don't know him are defining him by the one terrible thing he did but he does have remorse he does wish he could take it back,” said defense attorney Lanny Fisher.

Life Without Parole

According to a New York Times survey, the number of lifers has almost doubled in the last decade, to 132,000. Historical data on juvenile offenders is incomplete. But among the 18 states that can provide data from 1993, the juvenile lifer population rose 74 percent in the next decade.

Prosecutors and representatives of crime victims applaud the trend. The prisoners, they say, are paying the minimum fit punishment for their terrible crimes.

But even supporters of the death penalty wonder about this state of affairs.

"Life without parole is a very strange sentence when you think about it," said Robert Blecker, a professor at New York Law School. "The punishment seems either too much or too little. If a sadistic or extraordinarily cold, callous killer deserves to die, then why not kill him? But if we are going to keep the killer alive when we could otherwise execute him, why strip him of all hope?"

Burl Cain, the warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, which houses thousands of lifers, said older prisoners who have served many years should be able to make their cases to a parole or pardon board that has an open mind. Because all life sentences in Louisiana are without the possibility of parole, only a governor's pardon can bring about a release.

The prospect of a meaningful hearing would, Mr. Cain said, provide lifers with a taste of hope.

"Prison should be a place for predators and not dying old men," Mr. Cain said. "Some people should die in prison, but everyone should get a hearing."

Television and Boredom

In interviews, lifers said they tried to resign themselves to spending down their days entirely behind bars. But the prison programs that once kept them busy in an effort at training and rehabilitation have largely been dismantled, replaced by television and boredom.

The lot of the lifer may be said to be cruel or pampered, depending on one's perspective. "It's a bleak imprisonment," said W. Scott Thornsley, a former corrections official in Pennsylvania. "When you take away someone's hope, you take away a lot."

It was not always that way, said Steven Benjamin, a 56-year-old Michigan lifer.

"The whole perception of incarceration changed in the 1970's," said Mr. Benjamin, who is serving a sentence of life without parole for participating in a robbery in 1973 in which an accomplice killed a man. "They're dismantling all meaningful programs. We just write people off without a second thought."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Martin Is Now Serving 50 To Life

Police Lie Leads to False Confession
By TChris, Section Innocence Cases
Posted on Sun Apr 04, 2004 at 11:37:10 AM EST

by TChris

Telling a lie to a police officer investigating a crime will often result in a charge of obstructing justice. But if the officer lies to a suspect, that's just part of the job. And when an officer uses trickery and deceit to obtain a confession, he may be praised for a job well done.

Suffolk County homicide detective James McCready bragged about the way he tricked 17 year old Martin Tankleff into confessing to the murder of Tankleff's parents. McCready immediately focused on Martin's guilt, finding it suspicious that Martin slept undisturbed while his parents were attacked in a different part of the house. After hours of interrogation, McCready told Martin that his father had come out of a coma and had identified Martin as his assailant. McCready lied: Martin's father died without regaining consciousness. But the lie did its job:

Under duress, suggestive questioning and badgering, he says, he wondered aloud if he was deluded or had a dual personality and could have committed the killings and blocked the memory. Prodded, he said, he imagined how he might have done it.

Martin's description of the possible ways he committed the crime became the only significant evidence against him.

But Mr. Tankleff promptly disavowed the confession, refusing to sign it, and the physical evidence did not implicate him. Yet he was convicted in 1990, based on the statement extracted by Detective McCready and his testimony as the star prosecution witness at the trial.

Martin is serving a sentence of 50 to life after losing appeals in sharply divided courts. He insists he's innocent, and there is strong evidence that he's telling the truth.

The police ignored evidence that Martin's father had demanded repayment of a debt from a business partner, Jerard Steuerman, who was playing poker with him on the night of the murder. McCready didn't find it suspicious that Steuerman faked his death, changed his appearance and name, and fled to California after the murders. Instead, McCready tracked Steuerman down so he could testify for the prosecution in Martin's trial.

After the trial, witnesses came forward who make a convincing argument that Steuerman and an accomplice committed the murders. The accomplice admitted to a defense witness that he and Steuerman were involved in the murders. Now the defense has located a man who says he drove the accomplice and another man to and from the Tankleff house on the night of the murders, believing that they intended to commit a burglary.

Martin's case illustrates the need for rules that prohibit the police from lying to a suspect to induce a confession. (McCready's lies don't stop during interrogations; an inquiry concluded that McCready perjured himself in a different murder case.) When the police abandon objective investigation and do whatever it takes to prove that their theories of guilt are correct, innocent people get convicted. The police shouldn't need to -- and shouldn't be allowed to -- use deception as a tool to discover the truth.

The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

Over Zealous DA

This is the DA that was on Amber's case: Just posting to show how hateful & quick to get kids into prison she is* Gellybean

>>SAN BERNARDINO (AP) — A 16-year-old Southern California boy was charged Wednesday as an adult for allegedly starting two arson wildfires in San Bernardino County earlier this year.

Ricky Sean Lukacs will be arraigned in adult court on Dec. 28 and is being held in juvenile hall, said Deputy District Attorney Karen Khim.

He is charged with two counts of arson of an inhabited structure for fires on Aug. 30 and 31 in the Yucaipa area, 65 miles east of Los Angeles.

Lukacs was originally arrested and charged as a juvenile, but the charges were refiled in adult court, said Susan Mickey, district attorney spokeswoman.

The fires did not cause serious injury or death, but one burned about 1 1/2 square miles in the community of Oak Glen, and the other threatened about 400 homes in Yucaipa before it was contained.

At the time of his arrest in September, authorities said they were investigating the teen for 12 to 14 other arson wildfires going back to 2006 because of a “commonality” between the blazes.

Khim, the prosecutor, said she could not comment on the evidence and declined to say if more charges would be filed.

Arden Wiltshire, sheriff’s spokeswoman, said because structures burned in the two fires in question, authorities could file charges in adult court. She did not know if charges in the other blazes under investigation were filed or would be filed in juvenile court, where all proceedings are confidential

A proposal for change

A proposal for change
What we propose is that we begin by saying that all interrogations of children who are suspects should be videotaped. In no other way can their rights be protected. In no other way can jurors possibly know whether it was a real confession of a guilty party, or someone tricked by double-talk, or someone promised he could go home if he only says the right thing, or someone badgered until he gave in, or someone being lied about.

The same should be true for children being questioned about major crimes. How can jurors possibly know if the child is giving his own thoughts, or the thoughts pounded into him by zealous investigators having the power of carrot, stick, and endless repetition, if the real facts are forever kept secret?

If we really wanted to be fair, we would extend the same right to interrogations of adult suspects. But, it is questionable whether our system can stand that much fairness at once. Let it be introduced a little at a time.

Police can audiotape and videotape interrogations whenever they want. and they can refuse to do it whenever they want. Courts give them full authority to decide whether a jury will get the whole story, or a carefully edited tiny slice of the story. This must end. If police departments do not do it on their own, then courts or legislatures should provide that when police take a suspect down to the station for interrogation, a complete video or at least audio record of that interrogation shall be made.

Of course, if such a rule were to be made, some police would stop questioning most suspects at the police station to avoid the rule, because the last thing they would want is people seeing how they really handle the people who come into their possession. The same thing happened after the 1962 United States Supreme Court ruling in Mapp v. Ohio. The Supreme Court did not change the definition of which police searches were legal and which were illegal; they simply provided a penalty for an illegal search: suppression of the fruits of the search from evidence. Suddenly, around the country the air was filled with the complaints of police and prosecutors that they now had to "comply" with the Mapp decision, even though that decision did not make illegal any police practices. The practices were already illegal.

And, unfortunately, in the year following the Mapp decision there was a 600% jump in police reports saying that suspects had thrown down or abandoned property, which would prevent the Mapp rule from applying. Was this the suspects changing their behavior, or police inventing new tactics to fit new circumstances?

No matter how many good, honest, hardworking police there are, abuses are happening, and not always intentionally. Our whole governmental system is based on checks and balances, and it should be the same for our criminal justice system. To have reliable police work, we need a check on the police. The only effective check is videotaping of interrogations. Shame on every police department that has failed to make use of this tool of the truth, and shame on every court and legislature that has failed
Author unknown

Looking For Help

May 2003: My daughter witnessed a murder.
By the time police were done questioning her (without a parent or legal counsel,she was being charged as an adult for murder.
She was picked up by local police with older friend( now her co-defendant).
From the time she called home,before she had been picked up by police she called to ask for our help.
and I sent her dad to get her & take her to the police station for help. But he was ever allowed to to see her, speak to her, nor did she call home again. From that day forwarded we have written letters, called local goverment,every attorney in the phone book,and then started writting the people that are suppose to be there to protect juveniles & their rights. These are a few of the responces that came back.
June 2003 Received response to my letter to the Superior Court Juvenile Division.
>>Dear Mrs.----
Your letter of June 29th 2004 has been received in the Juvenile Court.
As your daughter is not under the jurisdiction of the Juvenule Court,this court
is unable to take any action in the current case.
We suggest you discuss your concerns with your daughter's lawyer or consult
a lawyer of your own choosing.
Juvenile Court Judge:
A letter came this morning from The U.S. Department Of Justice:
It is in responce to a letter I wrote them in complaint about our local Police Dept.
Dear Mrs.-----
This is in responce to your letter dated July--2004, in which you protested the manner in which your daughter was interrogated by
your local police department.
(The criminal section of the Civil Rights Division has the responsibilty of enforcing
federal criminal civil rights statutes. The enforcement activity primarily involes deprivation of civil
rights under color of law, generally police brutality(18 U.S.C. codes #241 and 242)
We have carefully reviewed the information which you furnished. However,we have
concluded that your complaint does not involve proscutable violation of federal criminal civil
rights statutes. This is not a judgement on the truth or merit of your complaint, it is simply
to inform you that this is not the type of case that ur office could prosecute.
Accordingly, are unable to assist you.
>>Sept.4Th 2003: Sending 2 nd letter to the ABA- American Bar Ass.To see if they will help.

>>Nov.2003:Department Of Childrens Services:
REG: I regret to inform you that since the alleged abuse mentally to your daughter,by local law officals
does not meet the requirements for intervention by the department, as the alleged abuse was and is not by a parent or
a household member.
We suggest you contact the staff at Juvenile hall or the local police department.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact our office.
>>Oct. 2003 The ACLU respondes by first telling me they get 10,000 requests for legal assistence each year.
and due to severe lack of resources they unable to take on the vast majority of cases that come to them for review.
Then they continue by thanking me for taking the time to contact them.
And it ends( We Regret we are unable to assist you with your legal issue.
>>>From the office of the Governor(January 8th 2004)
This office received your correspondence requesting assistance with your daughter's legal matter.
The Governor does not handle constitutional or statutory functions. Therefore
is can not assist you in the relief you request at this time.
Thank you for your letter.
Sincerly Paul H. Dobson Chief Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary:
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++The same response came from every legal
and Government office I contacted in search of help*!! These Are Just A few to show how they all do nothing, they contact the dept you are complaining about? < Maybe? Then that Department says "We did nothing wrong" Then it just gets swept under the rug!
Was refered to local people* The same resonce came from each one I called. " We have checked into this and we see she has confessed,we can not do any thing for you"


Kids In The Court Room

Let’s reminisce . . . go back to those youthful years of
ignorance and bliss. To the age of 14, 15, 16 - wherever you may
have been at that point in time and place. Imagine having to try to
understand what a life sentence inside an adult penal institution
would be like. What your basic Miranda Rights are; what they
truly mean. Did you know and understand at that young age
what rules of evidence and rights to discovery mean? What about
the true definitions of murder as defined in the law?
It takes lawyers, judges, and district attorneys years of study
just to practice law in a courtroom. That’s not counting the years
of experience it takes to truly understand how the intricate
criminal justice system works.
If an adult defendant cannot assist his counsel in preparing a
defense to the charges against him, he will be deemed
incompetent to stand trial. Yet day after day all across this Great
Nation, the youth who by law cannot purchase alcohol or
tobacco products; who cannot consent to sexual relations
because they lack the mental capacity, maturity or reasoning skills
to appreciate these responsibilities . . . Inside America's court
rooms, so many youth of America are expected to understand the
concept of “Law” and are often held accountable as an adult. All
the reasoning and logic behind concepts like mental maturity,
tender and inferior years go out the window.
Cast out, cold, hard and neglected expendables for a political
standard. Processed through assembly line court systems. We are
housed and left to fend and fight for mere survival. Then we're
punished and tortured for responding to the culturally distinct
hostile environment in which we are housed.
This environment that breeds racism, rage, and hate on a
daily basis destroys individuality and suppresses the beauty and
creativity of the human spirit.
The Criminal Justice System is largely defunct and unstable,
especially in how it deals with the youth of America by lumped
proportions and the majorities are youth of color. They are
primarily taken from the hoods, barrios, and low income poverty
stricken areas. Most all of these children fall under the common
denominator of being born into generations of dysfunctional
family cycles and broken homes. The majority are very ignorant
and uneducated, attending urban schools that are deemed
“unacceptable” in the completion rates of certain
Drop out factories that fuel the school to prison pipeline.
These youth are processed from one form of institutionalization
to another, taken into the conflicted hands of the state.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Brief History Of Juvenile Laws

A Brief History of Juvenile Court
Juvenile Courts were conceived at the turn of the century to end the long-standing practice of trying (and imprisoning) children side by side with adult criminals. There were two reasons for this. There was the commonsense legal theory that children ought not bear the same statutory responsibility as grown-ups because of their immaturity (psychological, emotional and developmental). And there was growing public sentiment that punishing children in the same way as adult criminals was immoral, an opinion fueled by media coverage of harsh and inhumane treatment of children in state penitentiaries — and occasionally on death row.

The original juvenile courts were informal civil tribunals. The accused were no longer called criminals or defendants facing trial and sentence — they were “delinquents” facing “adjudication” and “disposition,” giving rise to an entire system of euphemism that persists to this day. This supposed removal of stigmatizing labels (along with closing hearings to the public) was intended to protect children. But it also permitted the removal of any meaningful scrutiny of the works of the juvenile court, along with most of the constitutional and legal protections commonly enjoyed in adult criminal court. In the new system, children were not entitled to legal representation, nor were prosecutors on hand to represent the interests of the state and public safety. Usually, a juvenile court judge (many of whom had little or no legal training) would confer with the equivalent of a social worker, then decide how best to deal with a wayward child. In most jurisdictions, there were no transcripts, no formal presentations of evidence, no cross-examination of witnesses, and no right of appeal. The intent of all this was to remove procedural and legal obstacles, so that the court could quickly move in to protect a child in danger. The result juvenile justice system, however — as the U.S. Supreme Court noted in a landmark 1967 opinion, In Re Gault — was often little more than a kangaroo court with unlimited power over children and families. The lack of scrutiny left the system open to horrendous abuses and whims. Gerry Gault, for instance, was sentenced to up to seven years in a youth prison for a prank phone call. So the high court scrapped the informal nature of juvenile justice, one in a series of rulings that ultimately conferred all the same legal rights on juveniles as adults possess (except for the right to a trial by a jury of one’s peers, for obvious reasons).

Once again, a laudable intent — protecting childrens’ rights — did not produce the desired result. Today’s juvenile courts focus most of their energy on legal ritual — proving or disproving charges, litigating the constitutionality of searches and confessions, maintaining the papery machinery of justice with its appetite for subpoenas, warrants, motions and writs. In other words, the unanticipated result of the Supreme Court’s Gault decision was to shift the focus of Juvenile Court from the child to the facts of the crime the child committed. Only after the legal issues are dealt with, after many weeks, months, or sometimes years pass, does the court belatedly turn its attention toward what should be done to help a child — far too late in many cases. The child’s rights are protected, but the child is not. And given the fact that most accused juveniles remain free while their cases slowly pass through the system, society is not protected, either.

The problems inherent in this shift in focus are now coming to a head as youth violence has reached crisis proportions. In recent years, with juveniles increasingly responsible for major and violent crimes, public sentiment in support of a separate justice system for children has been waning, replaced by frustration at the system’s inability to quickly and resolutely deal with out-of-control delinquents. This frustration has led many jurisdictions to shift more resources into monitoring and incarcerating the most serious juvenile offenders for longer periods of time. This has had a paradoxical effect: Fewer resources are left to deal with minor, younger offenders — those youths most amenable to rehabilitation, and the ones juvenile court was originally designed to help. Instead, these kids on the cusp are largely ignored — until they commit more serious offenses. Only then, when they are hardened offenders unlikely to reform, do we throw time and money at them — too late for them, too late for their crime victims.

This self-defeating trend is now being carried to its logical extreme — the wholesale dismantling of major portions of the juvenile court system, as state after state has passed laws allowing many juveniles to be tried and sentenced as adults. Championed as a reform, this practice is actually a throwback to the Nineteenth Century, when a criminal was a criminal, no matter his or her age.

In 1980, every state kept its youth criminals in juvenile court.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

To Whom It May Concern

To Whom It May Concern

Amber Rose Riley
Valley State Prison for Women
Chowchilla, CA.

To Whom It May Concern;
My Name is Amber Rose Riley and I am 23 years old. At the age of 16 I was arrested and tried as an adult for something an adult male admitted to doing. I awaited trial for seven years and was still convicted even after he plead guilty. I was given 26 to Life; I have only been in prison for about eight months but have now been incarcerated almost eight years.

I am currently appealing my case do to the fact that numerous things were done wrong. Evidence on my behalf was not used, my trial lawyer did not put up a defense for me, knowing I had been physically and sexually assaulted by the codefendant prior to us both being charged for the murder of our mutual friend. I was totally distraught during my interrogation and since I was too afraid to tell on him, I lied and it cost me my life.

I have never been in trouble before and I have always lived at home with my parents. Due to being low income, we depended on the courts and on the Public Defenders office to and no matter how hard we looked, how much evidence we had in my behalf, no one wanted to get involved due to the specific District Attorneys that were involved. I also put in for a mistrial and fought for a year to get one, but the same Judge that did my trial denied my motions even though there were so many things done wrong with my whole case. From the interrogation through seven years of court hearings and my trial, public defenders didnt want to look into my 'touchy issues'.

I am desperate to prove my innocence and make it back to my family. If only someone would attempt to help uncover the corruption in this case I will be able to to return home. If you or anyone you know would be interested in assisting me with my appeal or any area of my case, please contact me asap though the Advocates for Abandonded Adolescents us.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Texas Locking Up Kids

It Takes A Village to Incarcerate A Child:

September 2010

Of course the Blind Justice
Project (BJP) focuses on felony
convictions of current and former
Taylor County, Texas residents. The
program’s local affiliate is the Texas
State Community Council – Abilene
Division (TSCCAD), formerly the
Texas State Client Council – Abilene
Division. George Stokes, Sr. remains
TSCCAD president.
TSCCAD and BJP are bonded in
substantial part by demographics.

Taylor County Activists Vow To Tackle Problems Landing Many Area Youth Behind Bars

Big Sins and
Little Sins:
In Texas
“It’s time for Taylor
County, Texas to start
avoiding the avoidable
circumstances that
have too many of our
young people
incarcerated during
what should be their
most productive years”
The federal appellate court for Texas noted in
2002 that most of its “First Amendment
retaliation cases . . . involve an employment
or other contractual relationship between the
plaintiffs and the governmental officials.”
That is why Keenan v. Tejeda, 290 F3d 252

Most BJP cases so far involve males who were teenagers or in their mid-
twenties when sentenced to one, two, or three decades in prison for various
crimes. Some of the sentences seem harsh given the underlying crime(s) and / or
related circumstances. Others seem inappropriate because underlying convictions
are questionable per public policy, criminal law, constitutional rights, and / or
professional ethics.
“It’s time for Taylor County to start avoiding the avoidable circumstances
that have too many of our young people incarcerated during what should be their
most productive years” says George Stokes, Sr.
Stokes and a core group of TSCCAD members recently met to begin asking
and answering as an organization: “Why are so many of our youth facing criminal
prosecution?” and “Why are so many of them being convicted for serious
Such questions plague many communities. But it is “amazingly difficult to
pursue criminal justice reform in Taylor County, Texas” says Zena Crenshaw-
Logal, a national good government advocate helping to implement the BJP. She
adds, “many dignified calls for justice go unanswered, or worse, prompt arguable
retaliation in Taylor County.”
Recent developments in two cases outside Texas suggest criminal justice
systems are what we make them. The cases are those of former Illinois Governor
Rodney Blagovich and Georgia death-row inmate Troy Davis.
Rod R. Blagojevich was arrested on federal corruption charges on December 9,
2008, while serving as the 40th Governor of Illinois. He was accused of multiple
“pay to play” schemes, including attempts to essentially sell the U.S. Senate seat
vacated when former Senator Barack Obama became U.S. President.
The courts have been far too comfortable leaving room for doubt, error and bias.
There is no physical or scientific evidence linking Troy to the crime. In fact,
Troy had to rely on witnesses whom the judge didn't find credible, even though
these are the same witnesses on which his conviction hangs!

AIUSA considers Troy’s case as more proof that America’s death penalty
should be eliminated. Perhaps the most appealing of the group’s contentions is that
Troy should not be executed as long as his actual guilt can be reasonably doubted.
We should not begrudge Blago’s relative good fortune because of Troy Davis’
latest legal setback. However the two cases provide an interesting contrast of what
justice looks like in America.
On the one hand Blago was largely unscathed by expletive riddled tapes,
arguably confirming the quid pro quo that characterized his way of governing according
to numerous witnesses. On the other hand Troy Davis’s case is confirming the adage
that “those convicted stay convicted – almost no matter what.”
It certainly helped that Blago had and has balanced media attention and trial
lawyers intent on getting him exonerated. It certainly helps that Troy Davis has a core
of people, including his sister, intent on drawing international attention to his
predicament and determined that he not be hastily executed.
When we consider how the media, lawyers, judges, communities (local,
national, and international), friends, and relatives impact liberty for Blago and Troy, it
becomes clearer that it takes a proverbial village to incarcerate a child – adult children
and juveniles. Obviously the notion derives from that proverb contending it “takes a
village to raise a child.” It also harkens to the quest of TSCCAD to engage Taylor
County residents (including parents, law enforcement officers, attorneys, judges, public
officials, educators, spiritual leaders, etc.) in minimizing the number of youths they

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

US child appeals against being tried for murder as an adult

US child appeals against being tried for murder as an adult

This is horrifying. The US is the only country where juveniles serve life without parole sentences.
US child appeals against being tried for murder as an adult
Jordan Brown, who was 11 when he allegedly killed his father's pregnant fiancee, could face life sentence with no parole

Ed Pilkington in New York, Tuesday 25 January 2011 19.00 GMT
Article history
Judges are to rule on whether Jordan Brown, who has been charged with homicide, should be tried as an adult.
The following clarification was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Thursday 27 January 2010
The report about a 13-year-old boy who shot and killed his father's fiancee in Pennsylvania described him as using "his own hunting rifle, a shotgun designed specifically for children". According to court documents the weapon used was a 20-gauge shotgun, which is not a rifle


Lawyers for a child in Pennsylvania who was 11 when he allegedly shot and killed his father's pregnant fiancee attempted today to persuade an appeals court not to try him as an adult under America's harsh system of juvenile justice.
Unless the lawyers for Jordan Brown who is now aged 13, can convince the judges to change tack, he will be tried in adult court and if convicted will serve an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole. He would become the youngest child in US history to be sentenced to be incarcerated forever.
The US is the only country where juveniles are serving life imprisonment without parole under the so-called "life means life" policy. Only the US and Somalia have refused to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which rules out life sentences with no chance of release for crimes committed before the age of 18.
Brown is accused of having killed Kenzie Houk, in February 2009 at her home in the countryside about 35 miles north-west of Pittsburgh. According to the prosecution, Brown shot her through the back of the head as she slept in her bedroom.
He is then alleged to have got on the school bus and gone to his elementary school as usual.
Houk, 26, was just two weeks away from her due date and her unborn child, who would have been called Christopher, died too. Brown has been charged with two counts of homicide.
Brown allegedly carried out the killing using his own hunting rifle, a shotgun designed specifically for children. The prosecution alleges that the killing was premeditated and they found residue from the gun on Brown's shoulder.
When he was first presented to court Brown was made to wear shackles around his wrists and ankles.
Human rights campaigners are protesting the treatment of Brown as an adult. Amnesty International said the move would be a violation of international law. "It is shocking that anyone this young could face life imprisonment without parole, let alone in a country which labels itself as a progressive force for human rights," said Susan Lee, head of the campaign's Americas operation.
The Sentencing Project, a Washington-based campaign, said no other country had juveniles serving life without parole. "That leads to only two conclusions: either kids in the US are far more violent than those in the rest of the world, or the US has developed uniquely harsh sentences."
At a federal level, the US penal system has been inching towards a more lenient approach to juvenile crime. In 2005 the US supreme court abolished the death penalty for under-18s.
Then last May it ruled that juveniles could not be subjected to life without parole for any crime other than homicide.
But that still leaves about 2,400 prisoners facing permanent imprisonment for homicides committed when they were children.
Pennsylvania, where all juveniles are automatically treated as adults unless a judge decides otherwise, heads the league table of 44 states that hand out the sentence, with about 450 cases.
Houk's death has divided the two families involved in their response to Brown's judicial treatment. The boy's father, Chris Brown, protests his son's innocence and says he has no idea what could await him.
"Try to explain to a 12-year-old what the rest of your life means. It's incomprehensible for him," he told ABC News last year.