Tuesday, April 12, 2011

SD City College’s Suspected Killer Remains A Fugitive Six Months Later

SD City College’s Suspected Killer Remains A Fugitive Six Months Later
By Amita Sharma
March 23, 2011

It has been more than six months since San Diego City College student Diana Gonzalez was found murdered inside a campus bathroom but investigators are no closer to catching her suspected killer.

Police believe Armando Gabriel Perez fled to Mexico shortly after he murdered Gonzalez. Despite help from Mexican authorities, Perez has remained elusive. There are published reports in Mexico that Perez is working as an assassin for the Sinaloa drug cartel. San Diego City College Professor Larissa Dorman, who has acted as an advocate for Gonzalez’s family, said the news – if true – is alarming.

“It makes it even more scary for the family, who are devastated not only for the loss of their daughter but for the loss of their lives and the likelihood of them having any kind of closure now seems like a farther-away possibility," Dorman said.

A spokesman for District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis says catching Perez is a high priority for the office. Gonzalez was killed days after the D.A.’s office declined to prosecute Perez for allegedly kidnapping and choking her.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Cop Nearly Doors Cyclist, Then Chases And Arrests Her

Cop Nearly Doors Cyclist, Then Chases And Arrests Her
By John Del Signore
April 6, 2011

On Monday, cyclist message boards lit up with outrage over the story of a woman who was arrested after supposedly running a red light on her bicycle on Amsterdam Avenue. But it turns out the truth is actually more outrageous: Christina Thede, the cyclist in question, tells us she didn't run a red light at all. Her crime? Criticizing a plainclothes cop who nearly doored her.

Thede, a 28-year-old theater technician on the Upper West Side, tells us she was biking home on Sunday around 6 p.m. when the driver's side door of a double parked black car popped open suddenly on Amsterdam between 76th and 77th Streets. "I had to brake so abruptly that a delivery biker behind me ran into me," says Thede. "I had a verbal exchange with the driver in which I told him to watch what he was doing." Then she rode on, but soon realized that the guy had gotten back into his car and was zooming up behind her. She still had no idea this man was an officer of the law, and the situation devolved from there:

He was driving after me and I was scared. He kept slowing down alongside me, so I cut all the way over to the left lane. But he angrily skidded to a stop in front of me, pulling his car perpendicular to traffic in the left lane. Then I got off my bike and tried to walk my bike onto the sidewalk because I wasn't going to run out into traffic. That's when he grabbed the back of my bike and started pulling it.

He didn't say he was a cop and I thought, 'This guy's crazy, he's attacking me!' I screamed for help and he started restraining my arms and holding me so I couldn't move. People on the street stopped and started asking him what he was doing. I did not hear him say he was a police officer or see any indication he was a police officer, so I was terrified. Then an NYPD squad car arrived and my initial thought was that they were going to save me from this guy; I figured the bystanders had called 911.

But instead of handcuffing her assailant, they slapped the cuffs on Thede, and that's when she realized that it was a policeman who had chased her. "I asked one of the police officers who was telling me to calm down if this guy and the passenger in his car were really cops," Thede recalls. "And she confirmed that they were from the Central Park precinct. I overheard a bystander say, 'I think she ran a red light.' But that's not true. He was hotheaded and couldn't take someone telling him what he did was wrong so he needed to come after me and teach me a lesson."

Thede was charged with reckless operation of a bicycle and disorderly conduct, and spent about an hour at the local precinct station house. During that time, the cop who arrested her, one "Sgt. Santiago" according to the summons, tried to justify the arrest. Thede says, "He told me that when I went around the door of his car to continue, that that was reckless because I was going into traffic. He maintained that I wasn't allowed to swerve around. But I came to a complete stop, exchanged words with him, then rode around his still-opened door. He said he arrested me because he was concerned for his safety."

We're waiting to hear back from the NYPD on this, but Thede's lawyer believes the tickets will be dismissed, and she tells us she's considering suing the city.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Willfully ignoring entire trial record, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas reduce constitutional question to a single misdeed by a single bad actor

Cruel but Not Unusual
Clarence Thomas writes one of the meanest Supreme Court decisions ever.
By Dahlia LithwickPosted
April 1, 2011

In 1985, John Thompson was convicted of murder in Louisiana. Having already been convicted in a separate armed robbery case, he opted not to testify on his own behalf in his murder trial. He was sentenced to death and spent 18 years in prison—14 of them isolated on death row—and watched as seven executions were planned for him. Several weeks before an execution scheduled for May 1999, Thompson's private investigators learned that prosecutors had failed to turn over evidence that would have cleared him at his robbery trial. This evidence included the fact that the main informant against him had received a reward from the victim's family, that the eyewitness identification done at the time described someone who looked nothing like him, and that a blood sample taken from the crime scene did not match Thompson's blood type.

In 1963, in Brady v. Maryland, the Supreme Court held that prosecutors must turn over to the defense any evidence that would tend to prove a defendant's innocence. Failure to do so is a violation of the defendant's constitutional rights. Yet the four prosecutors in Thompson's case managed to keep secret the fact that they had hidden exculpatory evidence for 20 years. Were it not for Thompson's investigators, he would have been executed for a murder he did not commit.

Both of Thompson's convictions were overturned. When he was retried on the murder charges, a jury acquitted him after 35 minutes. He sued the former Louisiana district attorney for Orleans Parish, Harry Connick Sr. (yes, his dad) for failing to train his prosecutors about their legal obligation to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense. A jury awarded Thompson $14 million for this civil rights violation, one for every year he spent wrongfully incarcerated. The district court judge added another $1 million in attorneys' fees. A panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the verdict. An equally divided 5th Circuit, sitting en banc, affirmed again.

But this week, writing on behalf of the five conservatives on the Supreme Court and in his first majority opinion of the term, Justice Clarence Thomas tossed out the verdict, finding that the district attorney can't be responsible for the single act of a lone prosecutor. The Thomas opinion is an extraordinary piece of workmanship, matched only by Justice Antonin Scalia's concurring opinion, in which he takes a few extra whacks at Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissent. (Ginsburg was so bothered by the majority decision that she read her dissent from the bench for the first time this term.) Both Thomas and Scalia have produced what can only be described as a master class in human apathy. Their disregard for the facts of Thompson's thrashed life and near-death emerges as a moral flat line. Scalia opens his concurrence with a swipe at Ginsburg's "lengthy excavation of the trial record" and states that "the question presented for our review is whether a municipality is liable for a single Brady violation by one of its prosecutors." But only by willfully ignoring that entire trial record can he and Thomas reduce the entire constitutional question to a single misdeed by a single bad actor.

Both parties to this case have long agreed that an injustice had been done. Connick himself conceded that there had been a Brady violation, yet Scalia finds none. Everyone else concedes that egregious mistakes were made. Scalia struggles to rehabilitate them all.

One of the reasons the truth came to light after 20 years is that Gerry Deegan, a junior assistant D.A. on the Thompson case, confessed as he lay dying of cancer that he had withheld the crime lab test results and removed a blood sample from the evidence room...