Texas forced, once again, to release an innocent man from death row

Manuel Velez – a free man

A building worker from Texas, who was sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit, was released on Wednesday after spending nine years in prison, four of them on death row.

Manuel Velez, 49, emerged from Huntsville prison a free man at 11.32pm CT. He was arrested in 2005, and sentenced to death three years later, for killing a one-year-old who was partially in his care.

But over the years the conviction unravelled. Tests on the victim’s brain showed that Velez could not have caused the child’s head injuries. Further evidence revealed that the defendant, who is intellectually disabled, had suffered from woeful legal representation at trial, and that the prosecutor had acted improperly to sway the jury against him.

Golly – there’s a surprise.

Brian Stull, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who has represented Velez since 2009, said that “an innocent man went to death row because the entire system failed him. The defence counsel who are meant to defend him let him down, the prosecutor who is meant to secure justice committed misconduct, and even the judge made errors that were recognised on appeal…”

…When lawyers with the private firms Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal, and Lewis, Roca, Rothgerber took up Velez’s case after he was put on death row, they were astonished by what they found. They discovered that expert opinion had been given in 2006 – fully two years before the trial – that destroyed the state’s case against him.

A neuropathologist had examined Angel’s body and recorded blood on the brain caused by a haematoma that was “well developed”. Crucially, the brain injury was at least two weeks old and was almost certainly inflicted between 18 and 36 days before Angel died.

The timing was critical, as Velez was not in contact with Angel until he moved into the Moreno home on 14 October, 17 days before the boy died. In fact, within the 18- and 36-day period specified by the neuropathologist, Angel was some 1,000 miles away in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was on a building job.

This key detail went unnoticed by Velez’s original defence lawyers who made nothing of it at trial, even though it had been prominently incorporated into the official autopsy report on Angel Moreno. The neuropathologist who made the finding was similarly never called as a witness…

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A couple of new architectural delights

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Dutch law now dictates that meat and fish markets must be covered for hygiene purposes. Rotterdam’s Markthal (literally, Market Hall) has undergone a redesign to accommodate the requirements. The new market is housed under a huge arch from which apartments look down upon it.

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Waking up with the rising sun is one thing, but waking up inside the rising sun is quite another. Visitors to the recently completed Yanqi Lake Kempinski Hotel in China can do just that, though. The hotel has been designed to look like the sun rising over the Yanqi Lake.

Surely a couple of spots worth visiting, staying in, shopping – and just taking the time to marvel at what architectural design cen do with modern materials.

Georgia grand jury files NO CHARGES against cops who disfigured toddler

Bounkham Phonesavanh
What Bounkham Phonesavanh used to look like

A Georgia grand jury decided not to file criminal charges against the officers of the Habersham SWAT team who disfigured a toddler during a botched drug raid in May.

The SWAT team, executing a no-knock warrant on the home, told by an informant to expect armed guards and cache of weapons, tossed a flash-bang stun grenade into the home.

The grenade landed inside a playpen where a baby was sleeping.

Nineteen-month-old Bounkham Phonesavanh, affectionately known to his family as “Baby Bou Bou,” lost his nose and left nipple, sustained burns to his face and body, and suffered a collapsed lung and brain injuries…

Habersham police were searching for a relative who did not live in the house, who was not there at the time, and who was taken into custody without incident later in the day and charged only with possession of methamphetamines. They found no drugs or weapons inside the home and later admitted to being unaware there were children inside the residence…

Initially, the city of Habersham publicly vowed to cover the child’s medical expenses, but last month recanted on the promise…

The 23-person Habersham County grand jury heard evidence for six days before announcing Monday the officers involved in the incident would be cleared of any wrongdoing.

“This is happening every day to people [who are] being relentlessly and unnecessarily militarized by police who think just because they’re supposed to be upholding the law, they are above the law themselves,” Mrs. Phonesavanh said.

“It’s time to remind the cops that they should be serving and protecting our neighborhoods, not waging war on the people in them,” she said.

So-called good cops are becoming scarce everywhere in this land of guns and glory. The blue silence of cops who won’t take responsibility for the damage they bring to a community – by mistake or intent – is expected. What isn’t expected is a grand jury, a public body made of citizens representing the community as a whole, that refuses to live up to their own responsibility. Or maybe that’s just a companion piece to what American cops are becoming, have become.