Articles Posted in Criminal

Earlier this week the United States Supreme Court upheld a ruling allowing the use of Midazolam, a drug that causes deep unconsciousness in those sentenced to death by lethal injection. Subsequent to Midazolam, a second and third injection are administered to cause paralysis and cardiac arrest respectively.

Midazolam was the common agent in at least three botched executions over the past several years.

Three death row inmates petitioned the court, claiming that executions in which this drug is administered violate the 8th Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment because it cannot reliably cause a deep, coma-like unconsciousness.

The ruling fell 5-4, with Justice Sotomayor penning the dissent. However, the most controversial dissent was led by Justice Breyer, in which he asks for further briefing on “whether the death penalty violates the constitution.” Justice Scalia sarcastically lashed back, welcoming readers to “Groundhog Day,” and reminding them that the justices, because of their high status, are unaware of the happenings in “Americans’ everyday lives.”

This is the first time that a Justice has openly questioned the constitutionality of the death penalty. Others, like late Justice Blackmun and Justice Stevens, made what seemed to be moral cases against the death penalty late in their careers.

In March, Utah governor Gary Herbert, signed back into law the firing squad as a method of execution. The last time a firing squad was used to execute a prisoner was in 2010 when Ronnie Lee Gardner chose to be put to death that way, consistent with his own weapon of choice. That execution consisted of five volunteer officers, each armed with a rifle. Of the five guns, only one is loaded with live ammunition, while the others with blanks.

Although three of the nine inmates now on Utah’s death row have elected to die by firing squad, the new law stipulates that the firing squad’s availability is contingent on the availability of the lethal injection drugs.

Dog walkers in Laguna Beach will have another duty to perform aside from walking the canines and picking their poop. Soon they could become the neighborhood’s eyes and ears when it comes to spotting suspicious people.

The Laguna Beach Police Department decided to launch the local version of the Dog Walker Watch program after it has proven quite useful in other U.S. cities.

The program should start in the summer. This is commonly the time of the year when burglaries are the most prevalent.

The police in this city already began training dog owners in how and when to alert authorities regarding fishy behavior in their neighborhood.

The program is somewhat similar to the better known “Neighborhood Watch,” except that it uses dog walkers to spot anything out of place in the neighborhood. The idea is that they already frequent their routes and neighborhoods and would immediately know if something seemed off.

Laguna Beach Police Department’s Community Service Officer Natasha Hernandez said this program is excellent for a city where 22 percent of households have a dog. In a town with a population numbering close to 23,000 people, there are 7,549 registered canines.

In addition to its residents, Laguna Beach is also visited by around 600,000 people every year, especially in the summer. Laguna Beach is known to be an artists’ community, and hosts several large art exhibits each year. In addition, Laguna boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the state and attracts a number of tourists from other parts of the country as well. Its isolation from the hustle and bustle of Orange County, and quaint downtown area full of boutique shops and fine dining restaurants are prime reasons people are attracted to the areas. Unfortunately, not all are there to soak in the atmosphere.

Burglars to Fear the Most from Dog Walker Watch Program

Although the program, in theory, should be useful in suppressing all kinds of crimes, it is the burglars that will have the most to fear from your friendly dog walker on patrol.

The town of Laguna Beach has seen its housebreaking rate drop to less than 100 cases per year. This year there have been 46 reported break-ins, while last year saw 98, and 89 the year before that.

Laguna Beach Police Captain Jason Kravetz contributed the drop in burglary crimes to residents being better educated about ‘how not to be a victim’. Kravetz said the decrease in such crimes is also due to people looking out for each other more and reporting suspicious people.

Hernandez has so far trained about 20 dog walkers in Laguna Beach. She could recently been seen in Laguna Beach Dog Park on Laguna Canyon Road, distributing brochures to park patrons about the program. What’s more, she has already contacted local pet shops and posted fliers in the area. The next step is to inform the city’s registered dog owners about the program and its benefits.

Positive Response from Local Dog Walkers

The idea has met with universal approval from local dog walkers. One of them, Diane Farrell, from South Laguna welcomed the fact the police sees her as someone could help instead of someone who they have to chase off the beach if she doesn’t have her golden retriever Max on a leash.

Another professional dog walker, Paige Strayer has already received training by Hernandez. Strayer runs Dog-Ma Companion Care which has between 75 and 100 clients at any time.

The Dog Walker Watch program is the brainchild of Matt Peskin and it started in Pennsylvania last year. Peskin came to the idea seeing hundreds of dog walkers walking around with their canines every day of the week, day and night, with most of them focused more on their cell phones than on anything happening around them.

He said there are 75 million dog watchers in the United States, and if only a small percentage of them are trained to become more aware of their surroundings, they could be the perfect eyes and ears for the community.

There are currently 1,300 cities where the program is active.

One local attorney now probably wishes he thought twice before he agreed to befriend a local drug kingpin. On Monday United States District Court Judge James V. Selna sentenced Richard Brizendine to spend 3 months in prison and serve 2 years probation for laundering money.

This was the result of a plea deal that Brizendine agreed to, which required him to admit that he was laundering money for John Melvin Walker, aka “Pops,” a convicted drug lord.

Walker was convicted in 2013 for drug trafficking and tax evasion in connection to running no less than 9 marijuana storefronts. He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amounts of $2.4 million to the Internal Revenue Service, and $1.8 million to the California State Board of Equalization.

At the time, Judge Selna (who also presided over Brizendine’s case) said he had to sentence the “whole John Walker” and that the sentence addresses both the “good John Walker” and the “bad John Walker”. This was in response to pleas from Walker’s friends, who pointed out that there were two of him – the man leading an organized drug empire, and the man supporting his family and friends.

In a media release, prosecutors explained Walker will, as a part of the plea agreement, forfeit $25 million in illegally obtained income to the government. This includes over half million dollars in cash, a mansion in San Clemente, several mobile homes located in Mammoth Lakes, interest in two strip clubs and various rentals in Long Beach.

Walker, the prosecution proved at the time, owned and operated at least nine marijuana storefronts in Orange County and Los Angeles. Among them were: Costa Mesa, Dana Pint, Garden Grove, San Juan Capistrano and Santa Ana.

Before conviction Walker lived in a mansion in San Clemente, which, according to documents, had six bedrooms, four bathrooms, Jacuzzi, large pool and casita in the backyard.

Walker also had two previous drug trafficking convictions and he pleaded guilty in April, 2013 for conspiring to distribute over a ton of weed and maintaining drug-involved premises, as well as tax evasion.

He was among 14 individuals indicted in fall 2012 by the federal grand jury. Most of them pleaded guilty.

Brizendine Admitted Laundering Money for Walker

Brizendine admitted to depositing money for Walker into several bank and business accounts for companies connected with him. In order to avoid federal filing requirements, the lawyer would limit individual deposits to $10,000.

He admitted to depositing almost $390,000 of Walker’s drug profits.

Kenneth Miller, the attorney representing Brizendine, argued against prison time and instead asked for probation or home confinement. He told Judge Selna that Brizendine will no longer be allowed to practice law and that he was already in debt.

Miller also reasoned that Walker’s business – selling medical marijuana – is legal under state law, although Brizendine admitted to going too far in laundering the money.

Michael Brown, Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted Richard Brizendine, pointed out that the lawyer should have been well aware that his actions were illegal.

Brown told the judge, “Somebody who is in my profession who couldn’t foresee that committing this crime would lead to a loss of his license; I think that is a problem.”

Judge Selna agreed Brizendine had “done good things in life”, but was still of the opinion that some time was necessary in order to send a clear message to anyone thinking of doing the same.

He said that if a person engages in such conduct, they will go to prison.

Two teens, 17 and 16 years old, were arrested after home surveillance camera caught them in a rather brazen home invasion. The two juvenile burglars were arrested only a day apart from each other.

The first of the two boys, 17 years old, gave himself up to the police on Wednesday, the police in San Jose said. Continue reading →

A woman in East Los Angeles had the opportunity to witness first-hand what an angry United States Marshal will do when he is being filmed during a law enforcement activity.

Standing on a residential sidewalk, the woman used her camera to film a group of U.S. Marshals, in what looked like preparations to enter a home that was suspected to be a location where biker gang activity was occurring, when one of them spotted her.

Strapped with an assault rifle, the U.S. Marshal aggressively approached the woman filming, who was still holding the camera in his direction, grabbed it from her hands and then threw it to the sidewalk, smashing it on the ground. Since that was not enough, he also kicked the broken camera toward the shocked woman. Continue reading →

Boy Removed From Parent’s Custody After Educating Class on Medical Cannabis During Anti-Drug Education

On March 24th, 2015, Garden City, Kansas police executed a search warrant on the home of a medical marijuana user after her 11-year old son spoke out against an anti-drug class conducted by his school, according to the Washington Post.

Shona Banda, a sufferer of Crohn’s Disease and a cannabis-for-medical-use-advocate, has used cannabis oil to successfully treat the condition. Crohn’s disease, also known as Crohn syndrome, and regional enteritis, is an inflammatory bowel disease that can affect all parts of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus. Crohn’s can also cause complications such as anemia, skin rashes, painful inflammation of the eyes, and arthritis. In addition, Crohn’s patients face a higher risk of bowel cancer as a result of commonly occurring bowel obstruction.

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APRIL 20, 2015 – Mecklenberg County, NC

Pro football player, Greg Hardy, has petitioned for an expungement of his criminal record. According to Hardy’s attorney, Tony Scheer, “He’s been found guilty of absolutely nothing…”

This is actually true. The charges against Hardy were dismissed on the first day of trial after his accuser failed to show up to court. Hardy did, however, reach a settlement with his accuser before the trial began. Continue reading →

LANCASTER, PA

Steven Breit, a criminal defense attorney and FOX 43 legal analyst, appeared this morning to discuss expungements. The conversation began with the host, Amy Lutz, precariously asking “Is everyone eligible to get their record expunged?” Brett’s answer covers what many people are wondering: “If you were charged with a summary offense, and you are free from arrest or conviction for 5 years…you can have that summary offense expunged – that is erased from your criminal history. This is much different from states like California, where a criminal record cannot be completely erased, as the term “expungement” implies. Continue reading →

PROVIDENCE, R.I.

The state has seen more than 24,000 crimes be sealed from public view over the last two years. The push for changes in legislation comes from the criminal defense lobby, and looks to shorten the length of time an applicant has to wait until the expungement is granted and the criminal records in question are updated. The lobby is also advocating for a wider selection of crimes to be eligible for expungement, as well as increase the court’s ability to process more expungements.

In 2014, courts granted 11,598 expungements, 2,798 of which were felonies, and 8,800 misdemeanors. Now to be added to the list of expunge-able offenses are those involving possession of marijuana. Continue reading →

Fall River, MA – April 15, 2015

Jurors hearing the first-degree murder case in Massachusetts against Aaron Hernandez, a former tight end for the New England Patriots, came back Wednesday with a verdict of guilty. The murder, which occurred in 2013, was allegedly carried out in an industrial park in North Attleborough. The victim, Odin Lloyd, was a semiprofessional football player and landscaper by trade. A jogger found Lloyd’s body after he was murdered.

Hernandez, 25, was 23 years old at the time of the murder and had just signed a $40 million contract with the Patriots. The evidence presented by the prosecution over the course of several months included surveillance footage, rental car records, text messages, and elements of the crime scene. The prosecution also put 130 witnesses on the stand in building the case against Hernandez. In contrast, the defense took one day to present witnesses in an effort to rebut the evidence put forth by the prosecution, and then promptly rested.

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