Friday, August 15, 2014

Did Office Darren Wilson Shoot 18-Year-old Michael Brown Over A $48.99 Box of Cigars or Were Shots Fired In Self Defense?

Police are to serve and protect.  Citizens deserve respect, but so do police officers. So, when is force by an officer become unreasonable?  It may be like pornography, the Court knows it when it sees it. However, hindsight is always 20/20.  Unfortunately the real world sometimes requires split second reactions and the line between a good decision and a bad one may become blurred in the heat of the moment. If nothing else comes out of the protests in Missouri, the message that officer education and training is critical to preserve the delicate balance of preserving freedom and keeping order.

Unfortunately, that is of little consolation to the family of 18-year-old Michael Brown who was shot by officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Wilson's suburban St. Louis police chief, Thomas Jackson, has now released documents alleging the teen was killed after an alleged robbery in which he was suspected of stealing a box of cigars. The cigars retailed for $48.99.
Officer Wilson may have been paroling when a 911 dispatch that allegedly reported a "strong-arm" robbery just before noon.The dispatcher supposedly gave a description that may match Brown.  Wilson, a six-year veteran of the police department, apparently confronted Brown before back up arrived. It is not clear at this point if Wilson suspected Brown of being involved in the store altercation. Early reports are that the store incident and the shooting may not be related. Attorney, Benjamin Crump, represents Brown's parents. He stated, "It's bad enough they assassinated him, and now they're trying to assassinate his character."   (Crump also represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager fatally shot by Zimmerman.)
 Supposedly the August 9, 2014 store video reveals a man wearing a ball cap, shorts and white T-shirt grabbing a much shorter man by his shirt near the store's door.(Video photo's above.) A police report alleges that Brown grabbed a man who had come from behind the store counter by his shirt and "forcefully pushed him back" into a display rack. Johnson, Brown's friend, acknowledged that he and Brown were in the store.  Little else is clear from comments released in the press. Furthermore, it is not been confirmed who is shown on the above photos. Some say the video photos are not of Brown.  Nevertheless, the officer is expected to claim that Brown was shot after he encountered Brown and another man on the street during his patrol. It is expected that the officer will claim that one of the men pushed him into his squad car and a struggled occurred over the officer's weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car before the struggle spilled onto the street,  Brown is believed to  have been shot more than once. Officer Wilson may not have suspected Brown to have been related to the store incident.
Dorian Johnson has told the media that a police officer ordered him and Brown onto the sidewalk, then grabbed his friend's neck and tried to pull him into the car before brandishing his weapon and firing. He said Brown started to run and the officer pursued him, firing multiple times.

Tiffany Mitchell allegedly witnessed the incident. She said on CNN Tonight that Brown was trying to pull away from the officers, and then the officer was pulling him into the car when a shot was fired from inside the car. Mitchell said that Brown broke free and started running and then "the kid's body jerked as if he was hit from behind and he turned around and he puts his hands up like this, and the cop continued to fire, until he just dropped down to the ground and his face smacked the concrete."  According to Mitchell, the officer fired five or six shots.

Some question whether Brown was even a legitimate suspect to be stopped, detained or questioned. Photos of Brown don't really match up with the store surveillance photos. Dorian Johnson, Brown's friend, has stated that the officer told him and Brown to get out of the street and that Brown had his hands up when he was shot. If Brown's hands were up, why was it necessary to shoot him in the face?  That appears to be the question protesters want answered. Legal Pub shares the desire for such answers but asks that the answers be obtained through peaceful lawful means.
The State Highway Patrol seems to have matters now under control as they walk side-by-side with thousands of peaceful protesters.  Police in riot gear and armored tanks the nights before had only added fury to the fire.Now it appears things are on track for calmer heads to prevail until all the facts are known.

Darren Wilson, who has been on administrative leave since he shot Michael Brown. All suspects are to be presumed innocent and all allegations are to be considered untrue unless otherwise proven in a court of law.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Marlene Pinnock Did Not Like Being A Punching Bag

Marlene Pinnock received multiple punches from a California Highway Patrol officer a few days before the Fourth of July. Not a pleasant experience on the side of a Los Angeles freeway. During an interview with The Associated Press, she discussed the video of the incident. Of course, her attorney, Caree Harper,  interrupted her and limited her responses when she felt it possibly detrimental to her client's case.  "He grabbed me, he threw me down, he started beating me, he beat me. I felt like he was trying to kill me, beat me to death." Powerful words after powerful blows.
Pinnock has had several weeks of treatment for head injuries.  She slurs her speech which may be part of the residual effects of her injuries. Pinnock is suing CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow and Officer Daniel L. Andrew.  Pinnock claims excessive force, assault, battery and a violation of Pinnock's due process rights. Pinnock has apparently been homeless for several years and was allegedly on her way to a safe place frequented by the homeless when the incident occurred. Pinnock allgedly suffers from post incident temple pain and nightmares.
She was placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold by Andrew after the incident. Andrew's report apparently alleges that Pinnock was a danger to herself and that "upon contacting the subject she was talking to herself. The subject began telling me 'I want to walk home' and called me 'the devil.' The subject then tried to walk into traffic lanes."
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters has publicly requested that the officer be fired. However, as always, all suspects, even the police are innocent unless otherwise proven in a court of law.

Monday, August 4, 2014

8 Year Old Dies and Only Dad Knew? ~by Legal Pub

An 8-year-old Pennsylvania boy died.  His decomposing body was found on the third floor of his home. His mom, Kimberly Tutko, said she didn't know he had died until she noticed the stench. Apparently, Kim's husband, Jarrod Tutko, 38, was the primary caretaker of their eight year  mentally disabled son.  Jarrod supposedly waited several days to tell Kimberly that their son had died,  Police found the boy's body Friday and subsequently, Jarrod Tutko, was charged with child endangerment, concealing the death of a child and abuse of a corpse. The cause of the child's death is unknown.  An autopsy has been scheduled.   The couple's five other children were placed in protective custody.
All suspects are presumed innocent unless otherwise proven in a court of law.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Where is Jennifer Huston ~by Legal Pub

Where is Jennifer Huston?  Thursday evening, she went to the ATM.  Then she bought trail mix and sleeping pills at a Newburg drug store.  She gassed up her car at the Circle K and then Jennifer disappeared.  Watch the video.  If you have seen this 38 year-old mom, please call the police.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Straight Dope ~by Legal Pub

Sitting on a plane from Denver to Nevada this author sat next to an expert on marijuana.  Now, in the course of practicing law it is not unusual to deal with "stoners" not unlike stereotypical characters portrayed by Cheech and Chong in the 70' and 80's.  But this was different.  This individual was a well educated, articulate medical doctor who commanded respect and more importantly, my attention. On a two hour plane ride, I was captivated about the potential medical benefits of marijuana as well as the economic implications to possible legalization.  The trip caused me to ponder over the next few days the history and future of this country's relationship with marijuana.

Marijuana  has been illegal in the U.S since it was criminalized in 1937 by the Marijuana Tax Act.  Many advocate federal legalization of the plant. Even the New York Times editorial board has apparently jumped on the pot band wagon.  The key argument in favor of legalization is that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.  While the debate rages on at the federal level, more and more states are beginning to reduce their restrictions on marijuana which is directly contrary to the federal prohibition.  Few educated people would deny that marijuana use by minors should remain prohibited. Advocates for reform of the marijuana laws generally agree with prohibiting sales of marijuana to those under the age of 21. While lobbyists readily admit that they do not know all of the potential health consequences, they believe the cost on society to continue to prohibit and prosecute marijuana users makes such prohibition impractical.
The FBI figures from 2012 suggest that there are almost three times as many arrests for marijuana possession than there are for cocaine, heroin and other hard drugs.  Is it worth turning so many people into criminals?  Colorado legalized marijuana use in January 2014.  The initial concern was impaired drivers.  Washington state adopted similar laws.    It remains to be seen if traffic accidents will increase as some fear.  In the mean time, the remaining question of whether the federal ban on marijuana will end like the 13 year prohibition of alcohol looms large upon the horizon.  
Scientific literature suggests some possible benefits from marijuana consumption:
1.  It may prevent HIV from spreading throughout the body;
2.  A 2006 study suggested that marijuana may block an enzyme that advances the progression of Alzheimer's. It may also prevent  "protein clumps that can inhibit cognition and memory;
3. It may retard the progression of certain cancers;
4. It is a pain reliever that may reduce the need for opiates.
5.  It may combat ADHD, anxiety and depression
6.  It may reduce the symptoms of epilepsy and Tourette's.
7.  It may reduce symptoms associated with concussions and some types of nerve damage,
8.  It can reduce the consequences of glaucoma; and
9.  It may reduce a diabetic's need for insulin.
Nevertheless, until both state and federal laws are changed, marijuana use remains a criminal  offense in most jurisdiction.  President Barack Obama said in 2012 that federal prosecutors have better things to do than prosecute pot users in states where it is legal. Nevertheless, it remains illegal in most states and most prosecutors will not hesitate to file charges. So if you are going to light up, munch laced brownies or otherwise consume cannabus, consider traveling to Colorado where the grass may be greener and the U.S. attorneys are likely to look the other way.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Eric Garner Choked Out or Just a Victim of Asthma? ~by Legal Pub

Every one knows that police, like any other humans, can make mistakes. Darrow filmed an officer making such a mistake a few years ago. Brent Darrow- Kuehnlein Link. Nevertheless, whenever video captures the incident, it somehow hits home a bit harder.   Eric Garner, an asthmatic New York City man, died after apparently being choked by an officer.  Medical examiners will ultimately determine if Garner's death was related to what appears on video to be a choke-hold. "The cause and manner of death are pending further studies, and no findings will be released until the investigation is complete," said the city's medical examiner's office. A spokeswoman for the office declined to comment further on Monday.

A video of the arrest appears to show an officer's arm near Eric Garner's neck as he is taken to the ground.  (Garner was allegedly being arrested for supposedly selling untaxed cigarettes so why was it so important to take him to the ground?)  Garner apparently shouted, "I can't breathe!"   (Of course, in the officer's defense, it is possible that this could be because he was smoking these darn cigarettes.) Several members of the fire department may also be under scrutiny because they may not have taken quick enough action to attempt to save Garner's life. The video above is troublesome because it appears several officers did not recognize the need for prompt life saving efforts. A spokeswoman for the Richmond County Medical Center, did not immediately respond to questions about possible inaction by medics.

Prosecutors and internal affairs detectives are looking into the appropriateness of the officer, Daniel Pantaleo's conduct. Choke-holds are apparently banned under NYPD department policy; however, sometimes such maneuvers are the only practical way to neutralize a suspect.  While the investigation continues, Officer Pantaleo, an eight-year veteran of the force, has been separated from his badge and gun. Past history may not help this officer.  In the recent past, apparently three men filed suit against Pantaleo in federal court over allegedly unlawful, racially motivated arrests. Yet each case must always be addressed on its own merits.  Look at the still shot below from a video.  The hands are not locked.  Any mixed martial artist knows that at least in the photo below, it is not technically a choke hold. Ultimately, medical personnel and investigators will have to reach some tough decisions.  In the mean time, the family of Eric Garner is understandably devastated.


All suspect are innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law!

Update 8-4-14:   The man who video taped the alleged choke was subsequently arrested on gun charges. 22-year-old Ramsey Orta was apparently friends of Eric Garner.  Orta allegedly had a previous weapon conviction that prohibited him from possessing a firearm. He also faces a court date on robbery charges stemming from a May arrest.  He also faces an assault charge.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

12 to 17% of Fatal Traffic Accidents May Be Attributable to Driving While Drowsy! ~by Legal Pub

Over the years there has been a great deal of focus in preventing drinking and driving accidents. The number of arrests for DUI have skyrocketed. However, the media has now turned its focus to driving while drowsy. Tracy Morgan's accident with a tired trucker put the issue into the nation's spotlight. In fact, Tracy Morgan has recently filed suit against Walmart arising out of an accident where his limo was rear ended by an allegedly sleepy trucker. Comedian James McNair lost his life in that same accident.

Some governmental research suggests that driving while fatigued is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. Driving in a sub-optimal state due to sleep deprivation has been shown to impair judgment, motor skills, cognitive ability and even vision.  The AAA has expressed its belief that drowsy driving may have contributed to almost 12% of all traffic fatalities.   Others suggest the statistic is as high as 17%.

Can this problem be reduced?  Caffeine, open windows, exercise/stretching, and loud music seem to provide only limited benefit.  The fact is, the safest remedy is to stop and sleep or let another rested person drive.  Truckers may soon face new legislation designed to decrease the number of hours that they are allowed to be on the nation's highways.  But how about the rest of us on the roadways? 

The first step is to recognize that you may be drowsy.  If you are hitting a rumble strip, yawning or forgetting the last couple of miles, pull over and take a nap. Drinking coffee or an energy drink may help, but the effects are only temporary. Consequently, the safest recourse is to get some sleep at the nearest safe spot. If you absolutely can't sleep long enough to regenerate your attention, consume an energy drink and take a short nap until to are alert enough to drive.  The life you save, may be your own.