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The Evidence of Fitbit

Sometimes I just like to start out with some positive, before I head into the law.

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That’s positive, right? Especially if you are a lion!

I guess this was bound to happen, but doesn’t this story from the NY Times sound like something out of a fiction novel? It’s a story about how Fitbit is now a silent witness in a murder case.

According to the article, “Richard Dabate was charged in his wife’s 2015 death after investigators say they found a contradiction between his story and her exercise tracker’s data.”

A woman was found shot dead in her Connecticut home. Her husband told the police that there had been a violent struggle with a masked intruder. The man then zip-tied Dabate to a chair, took his wallet and credit cards and then cut him with a knife. Then, fatally shot his wife in the basement.

That’s where the Fitbit evidence adds to the story. During the time that all these events were supposedly occurring in the basement, the wife’s Fitbit shows that she walked 1,217 feet around the house. By the exercise device records, she was not stationary or struggling with an attacker in the basement.

The timeline of Mr. Dabate’s story unraveled when presented with the records of his wife’s exercise. In their investigation, the police also reviewed records from Facebook, text messages, door movements and alarm settings. They also noted that the husband owned the gun that matched to the gun shot wounds.

It also didn’t help that Mr. Dabate had a pregnant girlfriend… and made a claim for the $475,000 insurance policy, just 5 days after his wife’s murder. Hmmm!

 

And for pic o’ day, these numbers just don’t add up.

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Pokemon Go Ruse

It’s the classic bait and switch. I remember seeing stories about US Marshals (Washington Post 1985) sending out letters to fugitives to let them know that they had won Washington Redskins tickets.

When the fugitives showed up for their winnings… they learned that they were not winners. Instead, their all-expense tickets that included Super Bowl activities, was an elaborate ruse to apprehend over 100 criminals with outstanding arrest warrants.

Now we learn of a new  law enforcement method. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)  The Smithfield police posted an image of the elusive Ditto character who is billed as the “rarest Pokémon of all”. Then, on their Facebook page, they invited a select group of citizens to help hunt the creature at their station.

That “select group” matched the police department’s online list of active warrants. The bait has been set. So far, they have had some success according to the article. The Pokémon Go ruse!

I guess some things are greater than advertised!

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More Legal Drama

If you missed the FX show The People v. O. J. Simpson, you can still catch the 8 episodes on demand. Because of its viewing success, it shouldn’t surprise you that Hollywood is now racing to copy this success.

NBC is currently planning a series that is based on the Menendez brothers. Erik and Lyle Menendez were tried and convicted in 1989 for murdering their parents. They are both currently serving life sentences.

CBS is working on a series about the unsolved killing of JonBenet Ramsay. She was the 6-year-old who was killed in her Colorado home in 1996. You may remember that her mom was considered a suspect and that both parents were greatly criticized for all that beauty pageant contestant footage.

The series is expected to feature investigators from the original investigation to discuss the possible suspects, as well as experts to comment on the original findings and discuss the evidence in the case. A Whodunit.

The common theme to this new genre of TV series is murder. I guess  a series on cupcake sales just doesn’t get the viewers.

And since the weekend is not just another day… here’s some music humor for our pic o’ weekend:

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Police Bodycam in the Hallway

A Miami Beach Police officer, who didn’t trust a public defender, decided to use technology for his personal surveillance protection. (Miami Herald)

The officer was worried that his words would be twisted at the misdemeanor trial. So, he used his new “body camera” to record a hallway interview by a defense attorney without telling her. Then, when the attorney asked him to sign her notes after she interviewed the officer, he then told her that he had been recording the interview. That set off a firestorm!

Currently, under Miami Beach’s camera program, the officer did not have to inform the defense attorney that he was recording her in the court hallway. As the fraternal order of police put it, “It’s a public area. Any member of the public, including the media, can tape in that area.”

The public defender’s office was outraged that their work product could be taped without knowledge, and that it hurt representation. It basically comes down to an expectation of privacy in their eyes.

I suppose this did nothing to create a working relationship between that office and the police department. Maybe both were already a bit at odds, and body camera discussion turned the lens on the problem. (yep… see what I did there!!!!)

 

And for our pic o’ day, I have two from the “technology department”.

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An Employment Lawsuit

I just read a news story at State.com  about a lawsuit that has been filed against a cafe in Conway, South Carolina. It’s a story that makes you think and hope that it cannot be true.

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According to the reported facts, a federal lawsuit was filed where the attorneys allege that a white manager treated a mentally handicapped black man like a slave, beating him in the head with a frying pan, and burning him with hot tongs. He was also forced to work unpaid hours, according to court records.

     Christopher Smith had worked at the Fourth Avenue Cafe for about 23 years. During his last four years of employment there, he lived in an apartment that was directly behind the restaurant.
     According to the lawsuit, Smith was forced to work 18-hour days Monday through Saturday, and then he worked an 11-hour Sunday shift. He received no breaks or days off and received no benefits, health insurance or vacation time.

The manager, Bobby Edwards, told Smith that a bank account was being kept for him. Smith did not have access to it.

The apartment behind the restaurant where he lived as part of his employment was roach-infested. It was owned by the manger Bobby Edwards, according to court records. Smith was also prevented from seeing his relatives.

The lawsuit specifically sets forth that Edwards is accused of hitting Smith with a frying pan, a spatula, belts and his fists. He would also dip tongs into hot grease and then press the burning utensil against Smith’s neck. Smith’s lawyers claim that he was too afraid to report the abuse.

Conway police responded to a call at the restaurant. That’s when they found scars on Smith’s back. At that time he was placed into adult protective services. The manager was then criminally charged with second-degree assault and battery.

     In the civil suit, Smith’s lawyers are asking for damages related to pain and suffering, loss of income, back pay, overtime pay, and future medical care. Smith remains in the care of protective services because he is unable to live by himself.
     Reading that makes me want to now attach a pic o’ day to distract me from that bad story of humanity.
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The Evidence Sniffer!

A Labrador Retriever named Bear  (which is more relaxing than a bear named Labrador) was enlisted to “sniff out” a computer thumb drive in the home of Jared Fogle. The thumb drive played a key role in  child pornography charges being filed against the former Subway spokesman. (NBC News) It was evidence that humans had failed to find during a  July search of Fogle’s house.

The “talent” that was in search of the Fogle evidence acquired this special skill because a chemist named Jack Hubball tested flash drives, circuit boards and other electronic components, and determined that there was a common chemical that was found in all of them. Then, Hubball trained three dogs to recognize that scent; Much the way that other dogs can pick up the scent of a fugitive, or cocaine stashed in a car compartment or piece of luggage.

“Digital Detective” Bear can smell the components of electronic media. It doesn’t matter if it’s stuck in a drawer, as small as a micro-card the size of a fingernail. The hope is that dogs will also be able to be trained in weapons of terror. The new war on crime with the assistance of man’s best friend.

And for our weekend pic…

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Law and Blue’s Clues

Blue’s Clues is a show that is credited with helping to build the popularity of Nickelodeon Television.  The show came out in the mid-nineties. It follows an animated blue-spotted dog named Blue, who gives clues to viewers as a learning tool. According to Wikipedia, a study of the show found that children between the ages of six and thirty six months benefited in vocabulary and communication. Even young children enjoyed solving puzzles!

I was reminded of that show when I read about police solving crimes in the Hampton Roads area. Two stories in Pilot Online tell these clue stories.

First was the story of the selfie that solved the crime.    A man called the police after two men robbed him of money… when he was trying to buy marijuana from them.  The two men handed him a  backpack. When he opened it, they pushed him to the ground and took his money.

The backpack didn’t contain marijuana, the man later told police – it contained socks. And insult to injury for him… he didn’t even get to keep the socks; the two men even grabbed the backpack and ran.

After he called the police, they searched the area and found a cellphone in a nearby yard. The phone contained a photo of a shirtless selfie. Police showed it to the man who was robbed… who identified the selfie as one of his robbers. The case of the careless selfie!

The second case  involves a Mercedes that was vandalized with eggs. However, police found a clue under the seat… a receipt for eggs.

The receipt had details of the  purchase of a dozen eggs and syrup from a nearby Wal-Mart. It also showed the credit card and transaction numbers. Store employees were able to pull up the video of the man who made the egg purchase. The case of the cracked egg clues!

And for pic o’ day… Is this a clue?

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Police Officer Lawsuits

On Sunday afternoon I received an alert from my Baltimore Sun subscription that advised that Freddie Gray, injured during arrest, has died.(story) I previously didn’t know anything about this story until I read about this young man who was arrested by Baltimore police last week. According to their report, he was arrested, placed into a van and was transported to the district station.

During the arrest, the police report indicates that he suffered trauma injuries that included a broken neck and that he lapsed into a coma. Seven days later he died. The family does not yet know what happened.

Unfortunately, It seems that we are regularly seeing news stories like this. Are police officers overracting? Are they doing their job correctly and just protecting themselves. Well, we know on a few occassions that there has been questionable conduct that erodes public confidence. That includes the recent police officer in South Carolina who shot and killed an unarmed man.

This leads me to the following two news stories about lawsuits that have been recently filed against law enforcement. When I see these, I think that it would probably be difficult to empanel a jury without bias or prejudice.

From The Cinninnati Enquirer,  a civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit has been filed by the family of a girl who was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy as she was leaving a party in Boone County, Ohio. The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in federal court in Covington by the girl’s parents. It names a deputy from Boone County and a Boone County sheriff as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, the 19-year-old girl was leaving a field party in her car when the deputy jumped on to the hood of her car.Without warning the Deputy jumped on her hood and demanded that she stop the car. “As she was stopping the car, the Defendant Brockman fired his weapon four times through the windshield”. He killed driver Samantha Ramsey and “terrorized her three passengers”. For this lawsuit, we now know that there are at least 3 witnesses that don’t sound favorable for the Deputy.

From the Indianapolis Star, a story of a lawsuit being brought against an Indiana police officer. This Indiana resident  claims he was harassed and threatened by police officers. The lawsuit describes events that occurred in January at a Buffalo Wild Wings.

Three officers have admitted to harrassing and threatening plaintiff  Timothy Vander Plaat after he texted the fiance of one of the officers and asked for her phone number. According to the lawsuit as well as information that has been received by the investigation of the officers’ internal affairs department, they wanted to send the message about what happens when you mess with an officer’s family.

The officer left the message for the plaintiff and on the recording , the officer states, “I’m going to (curse word) kill you. And it’s not going to be awesome. I mean, it’s going to be like little body parts in a fireplace kind of death”.

Yes…. probably not a good lawsuit ending for these officers.

We live in difficult days for law enforcement.

And for pic o’ day…. the line is testing this lady’s patience because it does not seem to be moving!

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Mystery of the Axman of New Orleans

It’s still considered unsolved.  From May 1918 until October 1919, New Orleans residents lived in fear as a serial killer brutally murdered at least 8 people and may have attacked more. The victims included women and children.

In most instances, the back door of a home was smashed, followed by an attack on the residents of the home who were either killed with an axe or a straight razor.

Nothing was stolen from the homes and the only possible motive was that many of the victims were Italian descent. Reporters of the day began referring to the killer as the Axman of New Orleans.

On March 13, 1919, a typed letter that was supposedly sent to the newspaper from  the Axman was published to advise that he would kill again at 15 minutes past midnight on March 19. However, he advised that he would spare the occupants of any household where a jazz band was playing.

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Once the letter was published in the newspaper, people rounded up every instrument in town, parties were planned and dance halls were filled to capacity. All professional and amateur bands were hired and played jazz at parties in hundreds of households throughout the city. Sure enough, the city awoke to learn that no murders had been committed that night.

The last attack occurred in August of that year. The Axman was never caught and brought to justice. Speculation was rampant that he had something to do with jazz and that he was a respectable citizen with an alter ego like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type.

Wikipedia lists the victims and also suggests why the killings may have stopped including the fact that perhaps the husband of the last victim exacted revenge by ultimately killing the serial killer.

One of the tunes that likely was performed on that fateful jazz night was The Mysterious Axman’s Jazz (Don’t Scare Me Papa) by local musician Joseph John Davilla.

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The sheet music for that song became a “best seller” and still remains on display in a New Orleans museum.

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The Axman’s letter stated that They have never caught me and they never will. His letter turned out to contain that truth.

 

 

The Massie Trial in Hawaii

This is the story of a historical trial that took place in Honolulu, Hawaii. According to Wikipedia, it was known as the Massie Trial or also the Massie Affair. It first began with a rape trial that then led to the Massie murder trial.

Thalia Fortescue, had come from a “well-to do” family and married a rising United States Navy officer named Thomas Massie. They attended a party in September 1931. There, Thalia Massey, apparently got drunk, got in a fight which resulted in her slapping an officer at the party. Then, she raced out the door and home alone.

Later that night, reportedly her officer/husband, Lieutenant Massie, found her at home where she made the claim that she had been raped by several Hawaiians. When she described the event later to police, she described her attackers simply as “locals”.

In short, several charges were brought based on some questionable evidence, including the fact that the police told her several pieces of critical evidence because she could not provide even basic identification of some of the defendants, and even a purported license plate number which she originally did not know. A fabrication of evidence was later suggested.

Eventually these defendants were brought to trial on the rape charges. This, despite her questionable testimony that did not hold well under cross examination.

The jury  included two Chinese and two Japanese jurors. Closing arguments in the trial were made on December 1, 1931.

Throughout the trial, the newspapers had been rife with rumors of Thalia having an affair with another officer before all these events. In addition, it was speculated that she originally had never in fact been raped. Instead, the claim was that it was her own husband who had come home and beaten her up and broken her jaw.

Compounding all this, her well-to-do mother arrived to support her daughter. Practically, she was really there to conduct a public relations campaign to salvage the family name.

After ninety seven hours of deliberations the jury announced that they could not reach a decision. They were deadlocked at six to six. The jury was dismissed without a conviction.

Racial tensions were high after the hung jury.  Across the island, there were fights between whites and non-whites.

Her officer/husband, Tommie Massie, was afraid that a second trial might also fail to bring a conviction. He conceived a plot  to obtain a confession.

He and three others kidnaped one of the defendants, a local well-known boxer named Joe Kahahawai. He was the darkest-skinned of all the original defendants who had been found not guilty in the original trial. These white men held him at gun point with the intent of forcing him to confess to the rape,.

When he would not confess to the rape, they beat him and then one of them shot him, in a fit of rage. They then wrapped his body in a sheet with the intent of dumping the body in a desolate place.

A police motorcyclist saw their car and thought that it looked suspicious. He pulled them over and discovered the body. All four were then arrested for murder.

Now, racial tensions were even worse because the killing was seen by the locals as a lynching. Conversely, the white community was in sympathy with Masssie and his friends.

A grand jury indicted all four. Famed defense lawyer, Clarence Darrow, who was seventy- five-years old and in retirement, decided to come out of retirement to defend the four.

He was promised a fee of $40,000; a very substantial amount of money in those days. He was assisted in the defense by attorney George Leisure, who arrived by ship on March 24, 1932. They were met by crowds of people, reporters and curious onlookers, at the Honolulu dock. This was a front-page case in Hawaii.

The trial began on April 4th in a packed courtroom. Throughout the trial, Thalia Massie attempted to portray herself as having no knowledge of the events or anything that her husband might have done.

However, the prosecution managed to prey on her feeling of superiority above the islanders; which led to her losing her temper, and ripping up a piece of evidence, and storming from the witness stand.  On that, the prosecution rested.

Defendant Thomas Massie was Darrow’s first witness. His defense was temporary insanity. Darrow called two psychiatrists to testify that the defendant had been temporarily insane at the time of the killing. He also called Thalia Massie who testified about the original alleged rape.

Darrow’s final argument was  carried live on local radio. He argued that the mental suffering of the rape and hung jury had driven the defendants to do what they had done. He occasionally wiped away tears while emphasizing the “black gates of prison” that they would face if convicted.

He argued all morning and into the afternoon. In his conclusion, he praised Hawaii as a “kindly and dispositioned people” and ended his closing with,  “I ask you to be kind, understanding, considerate – both to the living and the dead.”

The jury began deliberations on April 27th. After 47 hours,  their verdict for each defendant: “Guilty of manslaughter. Leniency recommended.”

Again, racial tensions were high. Martial Law was considered.

Hawaii Governor Lawrence Judd received a call from the President of the United States, Herbert Hoover, who urged that they be spared jail time. The governor agreed. He commuted their original 10-year sentence “to one hour, to be served in the custody of the sheriff.”

Wikipedia concludes with the following:

After a flurry of diplomatic maneuvering between Washington, D.C. and Honolulu, martial law was avoided. Instead, under pressure from the Navy, Territorial Governor Lawrence M. Judd commuted the 10-year sentences of the convicted killers to one hour, to be served in his office. Days later the entire group, including the Massies, the two other Navy men, Fortescue and Darrow, boarded a ship and left the island in turmoil. Thalia and Massie divorced in 1934; she committed suicide in 1963; he died in 1987.

Like an ending to a movie… In 1966, Albert O. Jones admitted that he was the one who had actually shot Joeseph Kahahawai.

Even though the blog is so long, I still include pic o’. This has its own curious bumper sticker evidence!

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