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Links to archived best of the blogs:
March 10, 2010
Withheld Evidence - Not Wrongful Imprisonment?
June 11, 2012
Child Protective Svc's & Controversial Medical Diagnoses
October 3, 2009
Problems with Justice: How Far is Too Far for a Conviction?
|Posted on March 9, 2010 at 3:40 PM||comments (113)|
Foregoing what are called probation violations, which are essentially just a sentencing hearing not a trial, and regardless of what outcome at trial I've composed a chart for the dates I was able to find the entire criminal docket for the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.
I had available three random dates in December 2009: namely, the 18th, 22nd and 31st. I didn't choose them for the purpose of this blog and actually hadn't intended to do this until I realized glancing over the docket that there were an awful lot of guilty pleas taken clear across the board, regardless of judge (although I did notice some judges apparently hold more trials, I didn't want to make any delineation based on merely 3 days in one month of the year; it could have been a fluke in other words).
The United States Constitution, namely Amendment VI sets out eight  specific rights guaranteed any individual accused of a criminal offense.
Leaving the debate about the Constitutionality of plea bargaining aside, why are so few citizens given their right to a trial? Knowing what I know about why my husband ended up taking a plea, and given a lawyer's comments recently, I have to wonder about the ability of a citizen to have their Constitutional Right.
Trials are costly we're told. I believe it. Essa's murder trial with only circumstantial evidence took over 3 weeks and ended last Friday, March 5, 2010. This was mostly the prosecution putting forth its case.
The court dockets in Cuyahoga County are overflowing with cases. I believe that too. It'll be a discussion for another blog shortly. Judges need to move their dockets along and with 81 cases on the daily docket in one day there's no possible way for all 81 to have a trial. I concede the efficiency to having pleas available.
What I don't concede is when an accused is arguing for four days that he wants to exercise his Constitutional right to go to trial and instead is emotionally blackmailed, outright threatened, and coerced into taking a plea (before the recent amendments to the laws governing Open Discovery - see a September 2009 blog http://www.theamandatruthproject.com/apps/blog/show/1795118-open-discovery-discussion - were developed).
Take a look at this chart I've created and judge for yourself.
|Posted on February 6, 2010 at 9:17 PM||comments (58)|
Following the blogs from the past of "How Far is Too Far for a Conviction" I list the final installment where a jury suddenly feels the witness is "not credible." It's always interesting to me how when a mother of three children is up on drug trafficking a jury found him quite credible, but now that it's about an authority figure the onus is suddenly much stricter.
Link to former blog: http://www.theamandatruthproject.com/apps/blog/show/2507614-how-far-is-too-far-update-from
It took 2 days after a 4-week long trial, but the "not guilty" verdict was handed down on all the counts of perjury and falsifying investigation reports.
While he has been acquitted on the criminal charges, civil charges are forthcoming. According to today's paper, "a number of civil lawsuits have been filed" and this includes the "Sheriff's office that worked with Lucas on the investigation" (Plain Dealer, 2010).
While his attorney is claiming this will help his civil cases, it doesn't entirely ensure a victory there (lest we've forgotten O.J. Simpson's criminal and civil cases). Civil cases have a lower burden of proof compared to criminal, which amounts to "preponderance of evidence" as opposed to "beyond a reasonable doubt" and both sides have the ability to appeal the verdict. The only difference, as the new civil plaintiffs' attorney is quoted as saying is that when Lucas testifies there won't be a guilty criminal verdict to question him about (to sway the jury).
The civil charges are not the same as the criminal and include conspiracy, failure to turn over evidence, manufacturing evidence among others.
Additionally, he is up for pending administrative violations, which his attorney is allegedly "amounts to paperwork issues" (Plain Dealer, 2010).
I will be following the civil cases and updating as needed.
(to be continued...)
Krouse, P. (2010). DEA agent Lucas acquitted of all charges in drug probe. The Plain Dealer. Saturday, 2010, February 6. A1.
Krouse, P. (2010). DEA may act on future of Lucas. The Plain Dealer. Tuesday, 2010, February 9. B1.
|Posted on January 5, 2010 at 1:10 PM||comments (10)|
Some of you might remember my previous blog: http://www.theamandatruthproject.com/apps/blog/show/1864087-problems-with-justice-how-far-is-too-far-for-a-conviction- about the potentially tumultuous end of the 19-year career of an Ohio DEA agent, Lee Lucas. There were actually quite a few more than only 15 people who were put into prison on account of his witness lying under oath. Most of the innocent took guilty pleas!
One thing I commonly am asked is why a guilty man would take a plea. Well, you’ve got at least 13 in this case alone. These accused watched how the first trial (that of Geneva France) unfolded and then rolled over, taking a plea to avoid the scrutiny of a trial, the ensuing media circus, and perhaps a stiffer sentence, among other things. Most likely they were also pressured by their own lawyers who knew that these men’s cases stemmed from France’s. The woman was found guilty and it would be used to convict the other men at their subsequent trials.
I promised an update and well, the DEA agent is finally headed to trial January 6, 2010, unless in an ironic twist of fate he takes a plea himself. To date, after being indicted on a diversity of charges of 18 counts including perjury, making false statements in the internal DEA reports, violating three people’s civil rights (shame the rest of these victims’ rights didn’t qualify, just a side-bar note here), obstruction of justice, etc. [1, 2].
Geneva France was convicted of dealing drugs and spent 16 months in prison. She had three young girls. And imagine how much family was involved in the 17 other cases wrongly convicted.
During his indictment, Lee Lucas appeared relaxed and thanked his supporters. “An uniformed Cleveland Police officer is quoted stating: ‘THAT’S WHAT REAL POLICEMEN DO; THEY STAND UP FOR EACH OTHER’” .
Meanwhile, prosecutors are calling him “a ‘loose cannon’ with sloppy investigative techniques”  Yet, these same prosecutors “(stress) that he was credible, and they believed what he told them” .
This is not the first time Lucas has had problems with his informants, however. In Florida, a Miami businessman spent $356,000 trying to defend himself 15 years ago and in September 2008 a judge was to decide how much he ought to be reimbursed ! Under federal rules, a person can seek damages if the government has “acted in bad faith”, such as recovering the cost of attorney fees . The Florida attorneys point out, “’The government, rather than heed (the judge’s) warnings regarding Agent Lucas, instead allowed him to go off to Ohio to imprison other innocents’” .
 Turner, K. (2009, May 13). DEA Agent Lee Lucas indicted on perjury, civil rights charges; pleads not guilty. Cleveland Plain Dealer. Metro Section
 Caniglia, J. (2009, December 27). DEA agent Lee Lucas going to trial on charges he lied in testimony. Cleveland Plain Dealer. Metro Section.
 Merritt, J. (2008, September 28). A DEA Agent and His Rogue Informant to Cost Taxpayers $356k. Message posted to: http://www.talkleft.com/story/2008/9/28/125522/819
|Posted on December 17, 2009 at 4:32 PM||comments (0)|
By now we've all heard a story (or two...or a dozen) of those who are being cleared by DNA evidence in cases over a decade since determined and closed, cases where innocent people have been stuck in prison and forgotten except by their loved ones.
13 years a Canadian man spent in prison before he was acquitted of murder back in October 2009. He'd been serving a life sentence for a sexual assault he never committed of a teenager. In this case, a hair was found on the victim's body and an expert testified that it was this man's. Kyle Unger is now a free man finally. 
In Ohio, a couple was finally acquitted of molesting children in 1994 and after serving 14 years in prison had their charges dropped. Nancy Smith "was sentenced to 30 to 90 years in prison for gross sexual imposition, rape and attempted rape. Allen was sentenced to life for rape, felonious sexual penetration and gross sexual imposition." The prosecutor is considering appealing. .
The reason I was thinking about this issue is because a man was released from prison in Florida today after serving 35 years for a crime he never committed. James Bain was convicted of rape at 19 years old. His entire youth was stolen from him because of this injustice. This man never used a cell phone before today if that puts things into perspective! "(Bain) said there are others in prison wrongly convicted and offered support for them. He said all those years of filing his own motions all of which were denied, paid off when the Innocence Project stepped in." 
I can't stress how important these Innocence Projects are, but thus far my contact with the Ohio director has yielded little help. There is no DNA exonerating evidence to be had in this case. There is no smoking gun or witness that turns this into an open and closed case of mistaken identity. This is a fight to the finish and the prosecution will be out for blood. We have to raise buckets of money we don't have and never did have to hire experts to testify about mechanics and injuries and bore a jury to tears and in the end they may just come back with a guilty charge anyway. After all, there's a baby who is dead and someone had to have done it, they'll think. If our experts don't convince all the members of a jury that they're right and the prosecution's doctors are wrong, if our experts can't explain every injury in a believable manner (truth after all is stranger than fiction) then the jury might come back with a guilty verdict. I realize this.
Additionally, the Ohio Innocence Project receives anywhere from 800 to 1,100 requests for help yearly . They're usually going to pick the easier cases to win I would imagine. Ours doesn't fit that bill -yet.
However, in a rare move the Ohio Innocence Project has decided to back a death row case in Ohio. Kevin Keith has maintained his innocence in the 1994 shootings that killed 3 people and wounded three others. "Keith's public defenders say there is another suspect and that a police detective lied about a witness' statement." It appears that the problem with the open discovery (or lack thereof) in criminal cases lead to being able to suppress the fact that there was another suspect, something not mentioned at Keith's trial. 
The idea I'm trying to generate with this blog today is that there are ever so many innocent people in prison. Some of them even took pleas when they knew they were innocent (see case outlined in blog: http://www.theamandatruthproject.com/apps/blog/show/1864087-problems-with-justice-how-far-is-too-far-for-a-conviction-). It is important to realize that the justice system is definitely not perfect as with my blogs I hope to demonstrate. It is seriously flawed, allowing innocent people to be condemned and guilty to be set free on technicalities or short sentences. Cops and prosecutors can do shady things when they believe they've got a guilty person. See the case where a man's daughter was killed and the wrong person was accused and sent to prison. This might have been in part because of evidence that was never tested. Someone killed that beautiful little girl in this case, but instead of investigating and properly ensuring they had the right suspect, the sheriff and prosecutor appear to have taken the easy way out (not unusual, as I said, when they believe they have the right person, it becomes a self-righteous effort to ensure that the guilty gets punished). 
 Associated Press. (2009). After 13 Years in Prison, Man Cleared of Murder. The Chronicle Telegram [Saturday, October 24, 2009] A6.
Caniglia, J. (2009). Nancy Smith, Joseph Allen acquitted by Lorain County judge in Head Start sex abuse case after serving 14 years in prison. The Cleveland Plain Dealer [Wednesday, June 24, 2009]. Retrieved December 17, 2009, from http://www.cleveland.com/crime/index.ssf/2009/06/charges_dismissed_in_lorain_he.html
 Morelli, K. (2009). Wrongly Convicted for 35 , Bain Gets Release from Prison. The Tampa Tribune [2009, December 17). Retrieved December 17, 2009, from http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/dec/17/171049/after-35-years-prison-inmate-released-prison/
 Associated Press. (2009). Police go to Ohio Innocence Project for Help. The Mansfield News Journal [Monday, December 7, 2009]. Retrieved December 17, 2009 from http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2009/12/07/z-apoh_innocenceproject_1205.ART_ART_12-07-09_B3_PHFTSQ1.html
 Welsh-Huggins, A. (2009). Condemned Ohio Killer of Three Says He's Innocent. Dayton Daily News [Tuesday, June 30, 2009]. Retrieved December 17, 2009, from http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/ohio-news/condemned-ohio-killer-of-3condemned-ohio-killer-of-3-says-he-s-innocent-184206.html
 Renner, J. (2009). The Coldest Cases: BOOYAH!!!!! Ohio Innocence Project Sends Wayne County “Preservation” Letter in Tina Harmon Cold Case [November 12, 2009]. Retrieved December 17, 2009, from http://jamesrenner.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/booyah-ohio-innocence-project-sends-wayne-county-preservation-letter-in-tina-harmon-cold-case/#comments
|Posted on December 14, 2009 at 7:45 PM||comments (0)|
Just in case anyone out there disbelieves that CPS is out of control, let's revisit a 2008 case...or cases as it was.
There was a fundamentalist Church where over 400 children were removed from the care of their parents and put into foster care until those families could prove their innocence (remember our right to a presumption of innocence...I guess that's only in cases where CPS isn't involved).
I'll be the last person to admit that I would or could ever condone the practice of polygamy; however, there are those in the world who make a good argument for it and that's their concern.
But does that make it acceptable to remove children? I thought this country was supposed to be one of religious tolerance among other rumors back in the 1770s of "certain unalienable rights" for all men or something along those lines in this weird document called...hmm...something or other Declaration of Independence.
The children were in foster care for a couple months from what I was to understand. Why were they punished and the families ripped apart over one unsubstantiated, alleged phone call from a pregnant girl claiming she was abused? On top of that, they treated the entire compound as a "single-family" and rounded up every child, half of which were under 5 and surely had no idea why they were being taken forcibly from their crying mothers. Am I being melodramatic? I think not given the images burned on my memory of some of those mothers in blue dresses crying for their babies.
Given one additional memory of a moment when I thought that the woman at Fairview Hospital might not allow me to see my daughter...I got to tell you I almost saw red and went ballistic. Luckily I don't have to know what I'd have done if they tried to prevent me from going to her and touching her and letting her know "Mommy's here." Knowing that one brief moment of panic and anxiety and fear doesn't compare to weeks or months of not even knowing where my daughter is, I can't imagine what those mothers went through. I honestly cannot imagine.
When the courts ruled CPS had no right to take those children, the spokesman for the organization mentioned appealing. They still were upholding that they were in the right! Now whether that was to save face or they honestly felt virtuous is neither here nor there. How much longer do we persecute these people?
Now consider what red tape you have to go through to just get a sticker for your car registration every year that we place on our license plates. What these families had to do - drive dozens of miles to courts, hire lawyers (with their own money - guilty until proven innocent and even then you don't get your money back when you win a case like this), listen to judges tell them what they had to do to get their children back, and wait for lawyers to sort out which children are yours, where they got placed, etc. - is surely appalling.
When's the last time a government agency misplaced an important document of yours? Can you imagine if it was up to you to find that piece of paper? Now imagine that it's your child.
CBS (2008). Court: Texas Had No Right Taking Sect Kids. Retrieved December 14, 2009, from http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/05/22/national/main4118720.shtml?source=RSSattr=HOME_4118720
|Posted on December 8, 2009 at 2:35 PM||comments (2)|
U.S. Constitutional Amendment 8 - Cruel and Unusual Punishment
"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
In Ohio, this morning, we executed a man using a 1-drug lethal injection as opposed to the usual 3-drug cocktail (one would allegedly cause the person to be paralyzed and be unable to notify if the drug didn't take effect yet, and/or wasn't enough, wasn't working and excruciating pain would follow). This man probably deserved to die after the way he killed a woman in 1991 and left pieces of that woman in two states (OH and PA); however, the question I pose is this: is it humane?
We have inalienable rights to not experience cruel and unusual punishment. I know the victim's family members would surely not care, but most of us are not that victim's relatives so we can pose ourselves this question.
There are 36 death penalty states that use lethal injection presently and it appears except for Ohio all the rest rely on that 3-drug cocktail method.
Consider this quote:
"Ohio overhauled its procedure after a failed attempt to execute Romell Broom, a procedure halted by Gov. Ted Strickland in September. Executioners tried for two hours to find a suitable vein for injection, hitting bone and muscle in as many as 18 needle sticks that Broom, 53, said were very painful."
How long are these inexperienced executioners allowed to keep trying for a vein?
"The execution team tried for several minutes to find usable veins, including inserting needles several times in both arms, before eventually completing the process on just his left arm after about 30 minutes."
If someone had to draw my blood, I think after the first 5 minutes I'd be ready to stick the phlebotomist with the needle myself!
How do we possibly know what pain or not is felt by this 1-drug injection?
Consider this quote:
"After the chemical started flowing at 11:37 a.m., Biros' chest heaved up and down several times, and he moved his head a couple of times over about two minutes before his body stopped moving."
Ohio spent about 5 years searching for a way to limit the doubts surrounding death by lethal injection, but apparently still lacks limits on how long an executioner is allowed to attempt venous injection. Essentially, as stated in the news source I'm using, this 1-drug method is "'impermissible human experimentation'" entirely.
So let me go back to the original question: what is cruel and unusual punishment? Do death-row inmates still have these inalienable rights? When is a human life not a human life? When does cruelty on our end not constitute cruelty against another? Are we accepting of this denigration to the level of a killer to execute one?
I've always had a bit of an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach about death penalties. When my husband was originally indicted, he was indicted on aggravated murder, which carries the death penalty in Ohio. He is innocent, as I would hope by this point you'd all have read the contents of this website and agree with me at least that there's absolutely reasonable doubt for a murder case surrounding my daughter's death. Given this thought in mind, Ohio's total executions in 2009 rank under AL and TX for 3rd most executions (DPIC, 2009).
One Public Defender says that Ohio is rushing through executions faster than our highest year in 2004 and worries "careless mistakes" may be made (Smith, 2009). He continues, "'There is an incredible amount of work that goes into one of these cases, and to ask people to do it faster than it is normally done is unacceptable...'" (Smith, 2009).
Additionally consider the 168 inmates sentenced in the 1980s - early '90s didn't have the option of life without parole as an option (Smith, 2009).
Finally consider the amount of exonerations with DNA evidence. I know "everyone" is going to tell you they're innocent, but the facts speak for themselves with how many are literally becoming freed by DNA evidence. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled death row inmates do not have a federal right to DNA testing to prove their innocence (Smith, 2009).
I'm not making this about whether or not we should have a death penalty, but there are some very valid issues on the table that appear to be outright ignored time and time again (see my blog about Wilingham from TX http://www.theamandatruthproject.com/apps/blog/show/1794975-innocence-means-little).
DPIC. (2009). Number of Executions by State and Region since 1976. Retrieved December 8, 2009, from http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/number-executions-state-and-region-1976
Welsh-Huggins, Andrew. (2009). Ohio executes inmate with 1-drug lethal injection. (Associated Press. 8Dec2009). Retrieved December 8, 2009 from http://apnews.myway.com//article/20091208/D9CF9KTO0.html
Smith, M. (2009). Executions are coming too fast, Ohio Public Defender Tim Young says. Plain Dealer. (10 Aug 2009). Retrieved December 8, 2009 from http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2009/08/executions_are_coming_too_fast.html
|Posted on November 14, 2009 at 8:47 PM||comments (597)|
So many people tell me how lucky Elwood is to have me. I mean after all I'm sticking by him and researching and doing all I can to prove his innocence of these accusations and charges. I visit him as often as permitted in every weather and despite our financial hardship (before the economy tanked). I write him, etc.
But at the same time, I have always maintained that it is I who is lucky. When I met Elwood, I had given up on men and he showed me that there really are men out there who aren't afraid to do romantic things and outwardly demonstrate their love. We hold hands and he would come with me most anywhere I did. We had common interests and the things we didn't have in common complimented each other.
When I was sick with emesis throughout the first 3 months of pregnancy or so, Elwood would ask around and read books looking for ways to help me (his idea to use ginger for instance, not that it worked any better than peppermint candies, water, saltine crackers, or anything else allegedly and purportedly to solve pregnant women this problem - ha ha). It didn't matter that they didn't help; what mattered is that he cared enough to want to help.
When I was bloated and tired and full with a baby, he would tell me how beautiful he thought I was. I didn't even ask - in fact, I didn't ask because I had assumed he'd tell me the version of truth I thought was right. Lol...
On Mother's Day in 2007 (and boy am I glad it comes before Father's Day now) he surprised me with what he knew was my favorite desert (at the time): cheesecake and my favorite delicacy: chocolate covered strawberries. He made them himself. It was partly the hormones, but when I came home with Punky from the Mother/Daughter banquet at my grandmother's church I smelled it and saw them. I burst into tears. I cannot think of a single guy I've ever known who would have gone to so much trouble. And he insisted that even though Punky was only a few months old that I have a card - from her naturally. I still have those cards.
When I visit him, he still finds ways to do romantic things. A few times now he'll use condiments like ketchup and mustard to draw a heart on his burger patty or write "I (heart) u", etc. A few times the guards have poked fun at him much to my annoyance and he just smiles at me.
And I could go on and on. So who is the lucky one - truly? Maybe we both are? My girlfriend, Amanda, believed strongly in soul mates and soul companions, etc. We were destined to meet, but what if we didn't connect and like two ships passing in the night we parted ways? There were moments before Punky was born that I didn't think we'd be together another moment; it's ironic that we've grown closer since he's been in prison.
I can't imagine anyone else I'd have this emotional connection during this physical separation. I'm guessing he'd tell you he's the lucky one, but I have many more reasons for telling you that I am and isn't luck simply believing one is lucky?
|Posted on November 3, 2009 at 7:10 PM||comments (28)|
Elwood reminded me of a funny night we shared with Punky. I had been feeling down lately and missing her so he told me to write about the time Punky wanted to eat our pizza! I laughed thinking about it and he began reminding me about all the details I'd forgotten...
She was barely 1 month old at the time and quite a long way from eating solid food yet. Elwood cooked for us so I wanted to give him the night off just to give him a break. We decided to order pizza. Punky was fed and I thought we'd timed it wonderfully because the pizza arrived afterward. Elwood got it and brought it into the room. As soon as Punky smelled it, she started licking her lips.
She looked so adorable whenever she did that. Imagine someone gumming and licking her lips and that's the look, but when a 1-month old does it somehow it looks absolutely adorable compared to a 90 year old. It's just the way of beauty and art and the proverbial beholder, I guess. But I digress!
So she was licking her lips and staring wide-eyed at the pizza when Elwood brought it in. I started laughing. I told Elwood, "I think she wants some pizza." I started considering how I could give her some when Elwood asked if it was time to feed her. "I just fed her!" I exclaim as Punky started to cry.
I started laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes as we realized she adamantly wanted some of that pizza. I set her down next to the pizza to take a picture. I knew we had to document this to tease her about it later. We had been told, "When they're ready to eat, they'll let you know." Uh...did that mean we were supposed to start feeding her at 1-month of age?
She was staring at the pizza and absolutely furious with us that we were not sharing!
As Elwood went to make a bottle and after the pizza had cooled a bit, I picked her up and dipped my little finger into the sauce, letting her lick it off. She made the funniest face and looked at me as if to ask, "You actually eat this -?" Elwood came in just as she kicked off another crying fit, this time she probably really was hungry from all that crying.
He went to take her back from me. "I'll feed her," he told me.
I argued; it was for him that we'd ordered pizza. He ought to be allowed to eat it warm and I told him so. Eventually, I got my way and he ate while I fed her. She innocently stared at me the whole time and I was still chuckling over the incident, which greatly improved my mood since I was getting hungry myself.
Elwood told me he'd felt bad that I couldn't eat, but pizza tastes better cold than does the raspberry vinaigrette sauce over the meat and green beans and potatoes he'd made once and I could only eat a couple pieces in peace before she'd woken from a nap.
I loved that he reminded me of that evening. I had been fearing that I'd "lost" all my memories. I'd been feeling like I was only remembering her in the abstract rather than in living color. But as soon as he said, "You should write about the time with the pizza" I started laughing and memories came flooding back.
God she cracked me up all the time, but I never laughed so hard as when she got incredibly mad at us for being "mean" and not sharing that pizza with her. What a little goofy girl! That, or I ate too much pizza when I was pregnant and when she smelled it she knew exactly what it was.
But the best was that squished up face she made at me after tasting the sauce. It reminded me of when my sister's cat ate some of my rabbit's food because my rabbit was drinking his milk. He scrunched up his face and looked at my rabbit as if to say, "You actually eat this~?" Ha ha! Babies have such flexible expressions - circa Jim Carrey. And she was no exception.
We had good times, the three of us and our rabbits, too. Elwood always called them "the girls" until we got Koi-san who was a little male dwarf rabbit. Punky wasn't too interested in them, but the two biggest ones always looked at me when she was crying as if to ask, "What's wrong?"
We were a family.
We gave away the biggest rabbit first to a friend, and then Koi-san left the week or so before Punky died. Then Punky got hurt, Elwood was arrested and it was just me and Khushi again. She lasted until February of this year and I had to put her down since I couldn't afford surgery for her.
Hey! We're only here for a little time; we're not promised forever - none of us.
I really wouldn't trade those 4.75 months - the months I got to spend, all of us together, for any amount of reduction of the pain from my loss. When I think of nights like this with the pizza I smile nostalgically and I know that I am still blessed and lucky that I got to know her, play with her and hold her. She smiled up at Elwood and me, talked and sang to my family members and Elwood (never actually spoke to me - ha ha - she didn't need to, I think) and let me teach her ASL, was so curious and funny and lovely and wonderful - and best of all...she was ours.
Nobody can ever take that away from us no matter how hard they try. Truth doesn't change just because the majority doesn't believe it. She was amazing and the world doesn't know - might never know - what it lost when she died.
|Posted on October 3, 2009 at 6:06 PM||comments (55)|
It made front page news in Ohio (2008) about how a prosecutor used tainted "eye-witness" testimony to get 15 men into prison - convicted of selling cocaine to the informant. This perjured testimony is what was used to convict the 1st defendant (Geneva France) to 10 years. The rest of the 14 fell into line afterward and took pleas. France protested her innocence and is "a mother of three with no record."
Combined, these defendants have now spent 30 years in prison based on testimony that was eventually recanted in 2007 by the informant. Some of these men had "no prior run-ins with the law" according to the article in the Plain Dealer on January 23, 2008.
Despite everything, prosecutors refuse to "characterize the men as innocent." Why? Their cases were largely based on the informant's testimony? This informant has admitted to lying.
Originally the grand jury indicted 26 people in this drug bust case. Now these defendants are going back in front of the judge to be set free; there is no evidence to convict them of selling cocaine to the informant if the informant says it was all a lie to begin with.
So how far is too far? We've all heard stories in recent years where a convicted rapist who protested his innocence the entire time spends 18+ years in prison for a crime he didn't commit - proven after DNA testing finally shows he was nowhere near the crime!
How bloodthirsty are we as a society that we need to have someone to blame for every crime? Are we so worried to have open cases that we're willing to convict the nearest scapegoat so that we can feel "safe" again? How much pressure do we put on prosecutors to win their cases? Is it so great that they're willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they win their case now-a-days? Or is it such a new thing after all? How long has this been going on - really?
Interesting to me is that this online version of the article is missing a few key sentences that were in the printed version, namely regarding how this particular prosecutor likes to win "big" cases and often has. What am I to take away from that? Why are those couple sentences missing now? What are we afraid of? The truth?
Our justice system has needed a rehaul since a long time. Otherwise, men on death row wouldn't be getting released based on the DNA evidence proving someone else committed the crime, of which they were tried and convicted. It's not escaping my notice that 14 out of 15 defendants too pleas and that's considered justice in this day and age either.
Does anyone get their right to a trial anymore? I understand our courts are jammed to the corners with paperwork filed and defendants to try. However, my question is if there was less corruption in the ranks maybe those defendants wouldn't be on trial in the first place. Why not do things right and get the conviction the old fashioned way? Why are so many people being denied their rights and bulllied and scared into taking pleas anymore?
I don't know if this is happening all over, but it's certainly a problem in Northeast Ohio the past decade or more. I saw it during jury duty when the defense attorney asked if they took fingerprints to prove the defendant was even at the man's home that night. The officer told him, "No. Usually when we have an eye witness..." I have to admit I was more than a little concerned at that point. So one white man points at a black man...and that's all that was needed to put this man in jail until his trial came up 1 year later? Unbelievable, but true.
Something needs to change. Our rights were quite clear in the Constitution: due process and all that.
Due process includes, but is not limited to things like:
* Right to a fair and public trial conducted in a competent manner
* Right to be present at the trial
* Right to an impartial jury
* Right to be heard in one's own defense
Now we all know that doesn't happen all the time. My question is when does it happen? I'm starting to see more and more of these articles where people are being released. The only surprising thing to me in this instance is that it was on the front page of the paper, not tucked away safely and quietly in the Metro section where all of the local news is usually printed.
Does this mean a new dawn for an age of honesty in court rooms? If we can't trust our police and district attorneys, who can we trust?
Link to the article is here: http://www.cleveland.com/plaindealer/stories/index.ssf?/base/iscri/120108062741840.xml&coll=2
"Americans should ask why the US locks up so many more of its citizens than do Canada, Britain, and other democratic countries. The US is even ahead of governments like China that use prisons as a political tool." ~ David Fathi, director, US Program of Human Rights Watch
|Posted on October 1, 2009 at 9:09 PM||comments (1)|
There was a church that had donated some wonderful presents that year such as the most adorable little bunny dress. I don't know if the guy knew I loved rabbits (I had 3 as pets by that time) or if it was just a happy coincidence, but I adored that pink and white dress on first sight! We had her in it a few times, and that's probably the only dress she got to wear more than once. Lol...
Well, we cheated and opened those early, so on Christmas he gave me my present. I was surprised because we really didn't have any money to spare. When I unwrapped the paper, I saw it was a "macy's" box.
I know I said something to him because I assumed this was a very expensive jewelry that he had no business wasting our money on. I opened it, fully expecting to tell him to return it and pulled up the cotton.
I don't remember which one I saw first, but there were two ornaments in the box. One was a heart shaped - I don't know what it is. Ha ha! It's got a ball shaped head on top of this star-shaped body and on the head is a stocking cap and hands at the ends of the two star "arms". The other was a little stained glass angel so tiny and cute. Both had the name "Amanda" emblazoned on them.
Of course being a pregnant woman I turned into a teary-eyed sappy pile of mush. We couldn't put up a tree that year because of the size of the matchbox masquerading as an apartment we were living in after I'd moved from the four-bedroom house I'd had when I met him. So I put them lovingly back in the box, gave him a big tear-stained kiss and we put them away.
Ironically, it was after he was incarcerated that he reminded me in 2007 about the ornaments. He told me he'd wanted to start a tradition of buying two ornaments each year with her name on it. He would have too; he's a romantic like that. So I have kept up the tradition. I figure maybe I'll stop when he gets out. In 2007, a woman I knew by chance sent me a gift of a little angel ornament. So I went and got an ornament with Amanda's name on it. Last year I got two others, one at Macy's ironically enough when I searched through so very many stores after Christmas confused as to why I couldn't find something!
I couldn't find the box where I packed them. What's worse! As horrible as this sounds, I couldn't even remember receiving the ornaments when Elwood first reminded me about them! One day after moving I found a Macy's box and after opening it the memories came flooding back; it was as if that Christmas morning came a second time.
Our Punky wasn't a mistake. We both wanted her - no one else but her. She was not the proverbial "mistake" or accident at all. Elwood and I had plans for our little family. I know two silly ornaments isn't going to change the minds of the prosecutor or probably the detectives, but these are not the actions of a man who was going to freak out after she was already alive for a few months and kill her - not for any reason.
|Posted on September 22, 2009 at 6:25 PM||comments (0)|
I was watching Headline News on CNN this morning and heard a disturbing, but all too familiar, story about children protective services. It was on the Morning Express segment.
By now you might have heard of Peoria, IL couple suing a local WalMart and the state over the incident involving naked photos of their three daughters in the bath tub. They were accused of sexual abuse and the children were forcibly taken from them when WalMart techs contacted the police and turned over the "evidence" of these naked photographs.
Without any question or investigation, CPS takes the children away, not allowing the parents and children to even see each other for several days. They didn't regain custody for an entire month while they tried to clear their reputations and prove they would never do this to their children.
Interestingly, the comments have been supportive for this family...now on news blogs such as: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2009/09/17/20090917gl-peowalmart0917-ON.html
I'm betting when the story first broke it wasn't so kind. I cannot imagine what this couple went through as they are citing "economic losses" as part of their complaint.
This is by far the only story. I could probably make a category solely to CPS filled with horrible stories like this. No questions asked, your children are taken away from you.
Know that if I'd had any other children they would have been taken from me on June 29, 2007. They probably would be held hostage, as in most cases, until I agreed to testify against Elwood.
|Posted on September 22, 2009 at 1:41 PM||comments (0)|
I was waiting for the bus on one cloudy gray morning in October. I'd just been officially divorced and like a magnet for them, met a lot of creeps, which decided for me that I was going to be just fine - me, Khushi and Princess (my rabbits at the time) - alone. I did not need a man in my life anyway. Most women seem more successful and happier without one, ironically. Lol...
As typical of Cleveland area weather, it appeared ready to rain at any given moment. I was late for work, which of course means that the public transportation had to additionally be late to ensure I was really late for work when I'd finally get there. So I'm loving life wearing my angora sweater (ssh! don't tell my pet rabbits), no raincoat, and late for work.
I noticed a man cross the road down a ways, but it wasn't noteworthy at the time and promptly put out of mind. I'm busy trying to formulate the world's best excuse for being late for work anyway. And remember, I told you already I'm not interested in men anymore. I meant it; I really did!
I look back down the street for the bus and my vision catches on this tall man walking this direction, dressed in a business suit (I swear it is green and I am not color blind, but Elwood showed me the suit he surely dyed taupe just to prove me wrong - lol...), cell phone pressed to one ear and thick well-styled GQ hair waving in the breeze. He glanced backwards so I assumed he was getting ready to cross the street. I sighed at the fact that - even though I'm done with men - it would have been nice to say hi. I mean that's just being pleasant anyway. It'd be the polite thing, greeting a person who walks past you. I was carefully taught by my grandmother to be polite, see.
Out of nowhere, as if the man who walked out of my dreams had conjured it, the bus pulled up to my stop. As the door opens I realized Dream Guy is getting on the bus because he did the universal 'after you' gesture (what a gentleman). My stomach filled with butterflies and I wondered at my possible good fortune. "He must be married." I greeted B~ the bus driver on duty that day (see, told you I was only trying to be socially polite).
The man gets on and concludes his conversation and greets the driver too. "He knows the driver?" The stranger stands up front and chats with B~. I took a seat decidedly where, had the stranger been interested in sitting down, he might have wanted to choose an empty seat nearby. Or maybe I can pretend that I was in a grouchy mood still and suggest that I wanted no company? Yeah, I didn't think I'd get away with that by now. Especially after I looked immediately for the left hand and third finger, which was naked and clear of telltale signs of any female ownership.
Every time the bus would make a stop I would hold my breath, "Don't get off, don't get off, don't get off..." People would get on and the bus would continue and he'd keep talking amicably to B~.
Inspired, I finally decide that, amongst all these people I don't have the courage to just go up and boldly profess my undying love for him (after all, how many times do I have to tell myself I'm done with men - I mean tell you...), I'd get a bus schedule as if I hadn't been taking this bus for years now and knew it better than my mother's birthday. So I get up and go down the aisle toward him. Just as I neared him, my shyness got the better of me and I ducked my head. I heard the stranger say "Good morning" and I couldn't even hear my "hi" in return (so much for my grandmother's lessons in politesse - sigh!). I grabbed the schedule and scurried back to my seat.
So now I'm sitting there kicking myself at such a wasted opportunity to talk to him and the bus stops to admit a cute bubbly blond. "Don't you dare look at her!" I said territorily to a man I could barely even say hi to a moment ago. Oddly enough, he barely gave her a glance! Here I thought my competition had just entered the ring and while I have to admit she noticed him, he spared her hardly a glance.
Inspired again, I decide to write my phone number on the bus schedule. There are more than one way to skin a cat, after all. This would not involve a lot of verbal communication since obviously I was miserably failing in that department this morning. So I plan my attack, as we near the downtown stops. I came up to get off the bus and leaned down to B~ to ask, "Do you know this guy?" "Yeah, I know him really well, why?" "Is he a good guy?" "Yeah, the best!" "Okay." I was relieved to have rediscovered my tongue; I guess so long as I didn't have to talk to the tall handsome stranger? Inspired one last time, I gave the schedule to B~ to give to this man. What a relief that was, let me tell you! But of course, nothing we delegate can ever go easy.
B~ told me not to get off at the first stop, which always struck me as odd. So we turned the corner and the bus arrived at the 2nd possible stop. I noticed that the stranger was preparing to get off at the same time. I stepped off and immediately got caught up in a crowd. I looked around for him, only to find him trucking down the sidewalk already! I looked back at B~ as he pulled the bus away and he shrugged, then signed that he'd phone me.
I sulked. I didn't want to talk to B~ for pity sake! I wanted to talk to the hot stranger halfway down the street, moving at a faster pace than the bus could.
Well, true to his word, B~ called me that night and by chance was telling the truth when he said he knew that stranger well. He had his phone number. Luckily he didn't hold those digits hostage because I don't know what I'd have done...yes, the same woman who'd given up on men. You going to hold that over me forever now? Lol...
Next came the unbelievably embarrassing phone call. What on earth was I supposed to say? Yeah, I'm that "girl" on the bus...or how about I'm that girl in the dress who couldn't even talk to you this morning, do you remember me? Better yet, I'm that girl on the bus...and then what?! I took a deep breath and hoped for some sort of divine intervention before he picked up.
Only he didn't pick up. It rang to voicemail. I thought about hanging up, but then I'd have to call again and that alone was fear enough to motivate me to leave a message. Aside from the whole "I'm that girl on the bus this morning..." I have no idea what I said. Needless to say, he didn't call me back.
I went to work the next day thinking I'd surely blown my chance. I'd felt on the bus that if I didn't act at that moment, I'd lose him forever. It might have been a melodramatic fatalistic hormonal thought...but given our subsequent conversations I've been led to believe it might have actually been quite true. We've been so close to meeting and might have even seen each other at various other points in our lives and just never actually "met"!
By mid-morning I was going nuts and went down for coffee at the cafe in our building. I talked to M~ working there in those days and groused about my luck. "T (he actually called me this, this isn't an attempt to protect my identity - ha ha), he's going to call you back." "Maybe I should call him again?" "No! He's going to call you." By now M~ is laughing at me, which at the time I wasn't too pleased with, let me tell you! "Give it until after lunch," he told me, "I guarantee you he's going to call." Finding my muse, I asked him, "If he doesn't call me by lunch, are you going to give me a free cup of coffee tomorrow?"
"Uh...no," he said suddenly disconcerted. Didn't think so, but it was worth a shot - besides he'd just said he was guaranteeing me success, didn't he?
Well, oddly enough, Elwood did call me - nearly right about the time M~ had said he would too, which was really odd. But I digress! I missed the call and poor Elwood had to leave a message - actually, what am i saying? Serves him right for having his phone shut off. After all, he ought to have known that I was interested and was going to call him, right? I mean the ignoring his greeting wasn't intentional...and I did try to say "hi" back. I had that secret conversation with B~ while he was standing there and gave him that bus schedule. Lol...
When we did connect, it was to make a lunch date for the next day. I didn't know how I'd last until tomorrow, but then I got a call from Elwood that evening. Turns out he was right at that bus stop we'd "met" at. I told him in a rare moment of unprotecting my privacy to come to my house because I lived near it! So he came over and we talked and talked and talked. I guess I was making up for lost time? Lol...
We went to lunch the next day, and that night he came over again and we went out for dinner. Then we had lunch the next day and he came over that evening. I don't think I need more than one hand to count how many times we missed eating lunch together or spending every waking moment together.
In a matter of months, he was moving in and we were planning our wedding. In January 2006, he officially proposed (mostly only because it took us that long to find a decent ring for our budget of near-nothing). We were both so happy.
I think about a woman I know whose husband is emotionally unavailable, but present physically. Then I consider how emotionally available my husband is to me even though physically we're only allowed to see each other on the weekends and holidays up to 7 times per month. I consider myself very lucky.