Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Morgan Harrington Nightmare Will Not Conclude Until The "How, Why and By Whom" Are Resolved

Morgan Harrington's nightmare may have materialized. Police tentatively identified remains on a remote farm as the Virginia Tech student who disappeared during a Metallica concert.
Harrington, a 20-year-old education major, went to the concert at the University of Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia, on October 17. She separated from her friends and disappeared. Skeletal remains believed to be Morgan were found Tuesday by a farmer driving a tractor through a hay field on his 700-acre farm. The farm is about 10 miles from the concert. David Dass, the farm's owner, was out looking for wind damage when he discovered the body about a mile from the main road. Dass reported his findings to 911.
WTVR: State police

Dan and Gil Harrington were asked to identify the remains. Police are attempting to discover how Morgan Harrington ended up on the farm. Harrington had left her friends to use the restroom. When she failed to return, her friends called her cell phone at 8:48 p.m. She told them she was outside the arena and could not get back in. She told them not to worry about her and that she would find a ride home. When witnesses saw her outside the arena, she did not appear to be with anyone. About 9:30 p.m., witnesses reported seeing a person matching Harrington's description walking on a nearby bridge. No other sighting have been reported.

Harrington's purse, her identification and cell phone were all found the following day in an overflow parking lot near the arena. A friend had driven Harrington's car to the concert and was still in possession of the car keys when they got separated. Harrington was reported missing the next day when she failed to show up at her parents' home to study for a math exam with her father. A $150,000 reward had been offered for information leading to Harrington's whereabouts. Harrington was last seen wearing a black Pantera T-shirt, a black miniskirt, black tights and black boots. Assuming the remains are Harrington, may she rest in peace and her family find closure.

Update 12-30-11: The abduction and murder of the Morgan Harrington was tied to a 2005 sexual assault in Fairfax city by DNA. A police sketch of the person suspected of the sexual assault is available. The bearded man in the police sketch was never apprehended.

There's a $150,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Morgan's killer. Call Fairfax Police Detective Mike Boone at (703) 385-7959 or Jefferson Area Crime Stoppers at (434) 977-4000 or Virginia State Police at (434) 352-3467 or email State Police at

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Amanda Knox May Benefit On Appeal From Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini's Alleged Misconduct In Another Case

Can a convicted defendant ever catch a break? Well, maybe sometimes. Especially if she may be innocent. Amanda Knox has always claimed that she is innocent. She is the U.S. college student who was convicted last month of the murder of her British roommate in Perugia, Italy. Her appeal may have taken a turn for the better after the Prosecutor was convicted himself for abusing his office in an unrelated case. As a consequence, Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini faces a 16-month suspended jail sentence for allegedly abusing his position during a 1985 investigation into the death of a doctor alleged to be part of a satanic group. Smiles were visible on the face of Anne Bremner, a Seattle attorney who represents the family and friends of Knox. Since the prosecutor's interrogation techniques in the Knox case are in question, this is a positive development for the Knox defense team.

Philadelphia attorney Ted Simon, a high-profile expert on defending Americans convicted in foreign jurisdictions, is handling the Knox appeal. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., announced last month that she plans to call on the U.S. State Department and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to investigate possible violations of international law. Mignini maintains that the conviction should have no impact on Knox's conviction for killing Meredith Kercher. The Knox appeal may take two years. Mignini's conviction stems from his wiretapping of several journalists and a police official in the "Monster of Florence" case. That case involved a killer who stalked lovers in the Italian countryside between 1968 and 1985. Pietro Pacciani, Mario Vanni and Giancarlo Lotti were arrested and convicted in 1993 in connection with the case, but were later cleared of all charges by the Italian Supreme Court. Thomas Harris, the author of The Silence of the Lambs, allegedly studied the case for inspiration to create the character, Hannibal Lecter.

Knox and her former Italian boyfriend were convicted last month of Kercher's murder. Knox was sentenced to 26 years in jail, while her co-defendant, Raffaele Sollecito, received a 25-year sentence. Both maintain that they are innocent. A third man, Rudy Guede, was convicted separately in the case and sentenced to 30 years (reduced to 16 years on appeal.) Mignini's attorney, Marco Rocchi, will also seek an appeal.

Update 5-10-10: Harry Rag provides interesting commentary on the alleged evidence in the case. For his opinion, see Comments! For those further interested in the case, Barbie Latzu Nadeau has written a book titled: Angel Face the True Story of Student Killer Amanda Knox. Apparently Nadeau sat through the trial and was not surprised by the verdict.

Update 8-9-2010: Judge Massei's decision can be found here:

Update 8-17-10: TJ Holme presents another view of the alleged evidence here: No matter which side of the fence you are on, this case seems to scream for additional scrutiny by all involved. Equally clear, the family of the victim deserves to know the truth so that they may find closure. Perhaps it is best to wait for all of the appeals to conclude before anyone comes to any firm conclusions.

Update 11-9-10: Amanda Knox, convicted of murdering her British roommate in Italy, now faces a trial on slander charges. She will be represented by attorney Luciano Ghirga. Amanda and her parents are accused of defaming Italian police involved in her arrest for the killing of Meredith Kercher. A recent hearing determined that there is enough evidence for the prosecution to proceed. The slander arises out of alleged police mistreated during Amanda's custody. Amanda's parents are charged with repeating the allegations. Knox will attempt to have the proceedings moved to Florence.

Amanda's alleged statements were not recorded and thus it will come down to a battle of credibility. The defamation trial is set to begin May 17, 2011. Knox, 23, is still proceeding with her appeal of her murder conviction and 26 year sentence. Knox's former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, is serving a 25-year sentence. A third person, Rudy Guede, a is serving a 16-year prison sentence.

Update 5-8-11: The appeal is well on its way; however forensic experts want more time to review DNA evidence on the victim's bra clasp and on the alleged murder weapon. For more details, see comment of this same date.

Update 6-18-11: Mario Alesso. a convict, testifies in the Appellate Court that he knows Amanda Knox did not commit the murder. The convicted child murderer testified that a fellow inmate had told him the American student had nothing to do with her roommate's death.

Update 10-4-11: The murder conviction of Amanda Knox was vacated on oppeal. Apparently the defamation charge remains; however Amanda is now FREE!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Baptist Preacher, Matt Baker, Could Face Life In Prison For Murdering His Wife, Kari Baker

Justice can be swift in Texas. Especially for perceived hypocrites. Take the example of former minister, Matt Baker. Baker, 38, has been convicted of drugging and suffocating to death his wife. Jurors may now be allowed to hear even more damaging evidence during the sentencing phase of trail, including testimony about alleged sexual advances toward other women. Rev. Baker faces up to life in prison. After his wife Kari's death, Baker allegedly faked her suicide note. Jurors deliberated more than seven hours before finding him guilty late Wednesday.

Now during the sentencing faze of trial, Prosecutors will attempt to introduce evidence that Baker made sexual advances toward at least a dozen women, including some underage girls, over the past 18 years. Such testimony did not come into evidence during the trial except for some vague comments from Baker's ex-mistress. Kari Baker's death was originally ruled a suicide, but authorities reopened the case after her parents shared evidence obtained from their wrongful death lawsuit against Baker.

How ironic is it that the former Baptist preacher, Matt Baker, would in essence stand trial for violating the Ten Commandments? In this case, because of perceived adultery, coveting of other's wives, and lying, was the preacher wrongfully convicted of murder? One suspects that there will be an appeal. Baker did not testify during the trial and perhaps he is saving his words for a plea of remorse when he faces his almighty maker. An alternative explanation is that his out of court statements simply had too much potential to impeach any in court testimony. We don't know for sure because a gag order on attorneys remains in effect until after sentencing.

The conviction seemed to revolve around the testimony of Vanessa Bulls, Baker's alleged girlfriend, She was granted immunity for her testimony. She testified that Baker told her he slipped his wife the prescription sleep aid Ambien, handcuffed her to the bed under the guise of spicing up their marriage, and smothered her with a pillow after she fell asleep. Baker then typed a suicide note and rubbed his wife's lifeless hand over it in case authorities tested for fingerprints.

The medical examiner who did the autopsy testified that signs of smothering were hard to detect and that he did not see any trauma to Kari's body. But another medical examiner who reviewed the autopsy results said he saw an abrasion on Kari's nose consistent with being smothered.

Baker's contradictory statements in his civil lawsuit deposition and in his television interviews may have what caused him to be convicted. The state (Shafer) argued, "She was in the way of the life that he had envisioned for himself, and he was a Baptist preacher and he couldn't divorce; he'd lose his job, and he'd have trouble getting another one." Defense attorney Guy James Gray said Baker was on trial for murder only because he had lied about having an affair. Gray said an autopsy report listed the cause of death as undetermined, and the partial palm print on the suicide note could have been Kari's because an expert ruled out Baker. Her body was exhumed for the autopsy three months after her death. Defense attorney Harold Danford said many prosecution witnesses were brought in "to make you mad at Matt." While Danford urged jurors not to vote with their emotions, one suspects that the tactic of the prosecution worked. Prosecutor Crawford Long said Ms. Bulls eventually told the truth about her affair ...

Regardless of the sentence, expect an appeal.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

24,000 New Chryslers Recalled For Possible Brake Failure While Toyota Recalls 8 Models For Sticking Accelerator

Did the bail out of the auto manufacturers do the right thing? Could it be that the quality of American made automobiles needs to be raised in order for the market to make the necessary corrections based on supply and demand? Regardless of your position on financial bail outs, the latest quality scare has got to cause some concern. The Office of Defects Investigation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recalled 24,177 late-model Chrysler Group vehicles because of potentially faulty brakes. The potential brake problems exist in the 2010 Chrysler Sebring, Jeep Commander, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Liberty, Dodge Avenger, Dodge Nitro, and the 2009-2010 Dodge Ram. The potential problem involves a sudden inability to brake. The mechanical defect apparently involves a retaining clip for the brake booster input rod (part of the brake hydraulics.) The brake booster input rod may be deformed or missing all together. If such a defect is present, the brakes could fail entirely and cause an accident.

The government agency has suggested that all owners of these vehicles contact your local Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep dealer for servicing post-haste. See the following for more details: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration]
Update 1-22-10: Automaker troubles are not limited to American companies. Toyota has a major problem too. Toyota said that they would announce another recall today, spanning some 2.3 million vehicles for sticking accelerator pedals.The recall includes the 2009-2010 RAV4, the 2009-2010 Corolla, the 2009-2010 Matrix, the 2005-2010 Avalon, the 2007-2010 Camry, the 2010 Highlander, the 2007-2010 Tundra and the 2008-2010 Sequioia. More
Update 1-27-10: It just keeps getting worse! Toyota suspended U.S. sales of eight models in order to gain time to fix sticking gas pedals that could make the cars accelerate without warning.
Toyota Motor Corp. said it would halt production at six assembly plants beginning the week of Feb. 1 "to assess and coordinate activities." The company said it would stop selling: 2009-2010 RAV4
2009-2010 Corolla
2009-2010 Matrix
2005-2010 Avalon
2007-2010 Camry
2010 Highlander
2008-2010 Sequoia
2007-2010 Tundra
"This action is necessary until a remedy is finalized," said Bob Carter, Toyota's group vice president and general manager. Will this fend off a bombardment of lawsuits or will it generate a legal explosion?
Update 2-4-10: Toyota's problems are not limited to the sticking accelerator and floor mat recalls! Now they are recognizing a problem with the Prius braking system. Toyota has now admitted that there are indeed known problems with the car's anti-lock braking system. Prius models sold before the end of January have this brake system design problem. There is an investigation into around 180 claims of braking problems in the 2010 Prius.The Prius has both a regenerative and friction braking system. Apparently there can be a short, temporary loss of braking during the transition between the two on slick or bumpy surfaces. Toyota calls it a "slight unresponsiveness;" however, Legal Pub calls it a publicity nightmare.
Update 6-15-10: BMW and Volkswagen join the auto manufacturer recall party. Both BMW and VW issued recalls because of defects that could cause fires. The BMW 1 Series luxury cars, years 2008-2011, were recalled due to a flaw in the front seat belt. More than 15,000 VW minivans were recalled because of faulty rear-door latches.
Read Article: Kansas City Star
Update 7-6-10: Having a defective auto is no longer an exclusive club. Suzuki is recalling 5 107 Suzuki Kizashi sedans because of a faulty door on the center dashboard box. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported that the door may suddenly swing open during a crash thus injuring the passenger. The affected models were built between Oct. 13, 2009 and May 31, 2010. For more information see: Chicago Tribune
Update 2-11-11, According to the Washington Post, alleged software problems on the Toyota did not cause the alleged brake failure. LINK.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Elizabeth Johnson Charged In The Disappearance of Gabriel Johnson, 8 Months Old.

Twenty three year old Elizabeth Johnson has stolen the headlines from Mark McGuire who has admitted steroid use and ex-NBA star Jayson Williams who plead guilty to aggravated assault in New Jersey ending the tedious legal process that began in 2002 with the death of chauffeur Costas "Gus" Christofi at Williams' New Jersey home. If you are Tiger Woods, you may be grateful that all three have occupied the news media.

Johnson is the Arizona mother of a missing baby. She has subsequently been charged with kidnapping, child abuse and custodial interference. The Tempe Police are holding Johnson at the Maricopa County jail on the three felony charges after she was extradited from Florida. Back on December 30th, Johnson failed to show up for a custodial hearing in Phoenix. Now she is held on $1.1 million bond. 8-month-old son, Gabriel, was last seen with Johnson in San Antonio last month. A Scottsdale couple may be "persons of interest." The couple allegedly befriended Johnson at an airport when Johnson allegedly said that she wanted to give her son up for adoption. Missing Children.

Johnson apparently won't tell where the child is located. An Arizona couple who wanted to adopt Gabriel say they don't know the boy is either. In the mean time, while police search for the child, one thing is for certain. If adults truly have the interest of this little boy in mind, they will each tell what they know. Perhaps all have. However, one suspects there is more information that can be shared.

Keep in mind that all suspects and persons of interest are to be presumed innocent unless otherwise proven in a court of law.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Alimony Laws Need To Keep An Ex In The Life Style She Has Become Accustom To! ~by Helen

Ever wonder why the bride is smiling on her wedding day? I'll give you men a hint. It is not just because she doesn't have to fake like she likes sleeping with you anymore. The real reason is dollars and cents. Financial security, gentlemen. Admittedly, I questioned whether Legal Pub would publish my position on the forbidden topic of Alimony. After all, no matter how you phrase it, alimony, maintenance or spousal support, it is still seen as a dirty word to most men. However, it actually is an obligation established by divorce law or family law in many countries including several states in the U.S. Simply put, alimony is the extension of the obligation to support a spouse after separation or divorce. In other words, boys, if you are going to play, you are going to pay!

Historically, post-divorce or permanent alimony was based on the notion that the marriage continued because divorce a mensa et thora, was tantamount to a separation. Since divorce did not really end a marriage, the husband's duty to support his wife remained. The word "alimony" comes from the Latin word alimonia, and was a rule of sustenance to assure the estranged spouse's food, clothing, housing and other necessities. Early law originally assumed that spousal support was a right under the fault-based system. With the adoption of no fault divorce, alimony became conditional approach in most states. New York is the only state that has not adopted no-fault divorce law. Despite the arrival of no fault divorce, alimony (in some form or another) is still available in at least 25 states and the District of Columbia. In Massachusetts, permanent alimony awards continue. However, alimony has moved toward a need basis in order to allow a dependent spouse to enjoy the same standard of living she had during the marriage.

Alimony is not just for gals. In the 1970s the Supreme Court outlawed gender bias in alimony awards. As a result, the percentage of male alimony recipients grew to 3.6% in 2006. Massachusetts and Louisiana consider the salaries of new spouses in determining the amount of alimony paid to the previous partners. Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson and Victoria Principal illustrate a male's opportunity to receive a multi-million dollar settlement in lieu of alimony. (So guys, don't complain about paying alimony. It is only because you spend so much time working that you are ordered to continue to support your ex. You should have taken some time off to do some work around the house. Than maybe you wouldn't be in this situation.)

Alimony is not uniformly treated in the states. Texas, Montana, Kansas, Utah, Kentucky and Maine have specific guidelines on the amount and/or duration of alimony. In Texas, alimony is awarded only where the marriage was ten years or longer and the payments are limited to three years. Furthermore, alimony is limited to the lesser of $2,500 per month or 20% of the payee's gross income. In Delaware, spousal support is not generally awarded in marriages of less than 20 years. In Kansas, alimony awards are limited to ten years and one month. In Utah, the time a spouse receives alimony cannot exceed the number of years of the marriage. In Maine, alimony is awarded for a time period of half the length of the marriage barring extenuating circumstances. Massachusetts, California, Nevada and New York simply list the "factors" a judge should consider when determining alimony. (These states are real friendly to ladies!)

In my view, unanimity of alimony rules should be adopted in all 50 states. Alimony should be left to the discretion of the family court judges subject to a few guidelines. For example, if a man runs true to his colors and cheats on his spouse, alimony should be awarded for life. If the man controls his zipper and is just a jerk, than alimony should be capped at twenty years. Like the law in Massachusetts, Judges should be prohibited from ordering an earlier end date to any alimony award. Most alimony awards in Massachusetts are made for life. Given the promiscuity of men, this is unlikely to change. In the rare case of a faithful man, support should be limited to twenty years as a gal should be able to get back on her feet by then. Keep in mind, alimony is separate and distinct from child support. As a mother, I feel that child support should be used for the exclusive benefit of the kids. Alimony is different. It allows a woman to be kept in the lifestyle she was accustomed to during the marriage, less the cheating. Regardless of who ended the marriage, alimony is exclusively the ex-spouse's obligation. Alimony should not terminate upon remarriage. After all, if another man is stupid enough to marry a bitter divorced woman, he gets what he deserves. No reason why a gal can't collect alimony from more than one man. After all, the goal is to keep us in the lifestyle we are accustomed to living and the divorce lawyers happy.

Judges can be a gal's best friend in states that allow alimony. In the rest of the states that don't allow alimony, legislative reform needs to be broached. Otherwise, girls, move to a state that has alimony and file for divorce in that forum.
Update 1-11-10: Comedian Chris Rock's Rebuttal. Beware of Adult Language: LINK.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Paul Michael Merhige Arrest Demonstrates Why Each Individual Does Matter

Why does it matter? One would like to think that everyone and everything matters. In times of doubt, sometimes we need a reminder that each and everyone of us can make a difference. For example, by keeping a look out and reporting the location of suspects, justice can be served. For example, a television viewer led to the arrest of Paul Michael Merhige, a 35-year-old Florida man, accused of killing four of his family members on Thanksgiving Day. Paul M. Merhige is believed to have fatally shot his twin sisters, a 6-year-old cousin and a 79-year-old aunt in Jupiter, Florida. (One of his sisters was pregnant.)

Merhige apparently also wounded two other family members. He was featured on "America's Most Wanted." Subsequently, a tip came in describing Merhige and his car. Police responded by surrounding a small motel in the Middle Keys. Merhige had shaved his head and checked into the hotel under the name of John Baca. His 2007 blue Toyota Camary had been camouflaged with a car cover. He did not resist arrest. Merhige has now been charged with four counts of premeditated murder and attempted first-degree murder.
He is held without bond.

It is unclear whether the tipster will claim the $100,000 reward. What is clear is that the voice of one person may have removed a dangerous man from the streets.