Poster appeal launched to find remaining Nazi war criminals

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The Simon Wiesenthal Centre launched a poster campaign in several German cities appealing for help in tracking down the last surviving Nazi war criminals not yet brought to justice, and promising compensation to those who provide useful information.

About 2,000 posters depicting the entrance gate of Auschwitz were put up in Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne asking the public to come forward with information that may lead to the arrest of Nazis some seven decades after the end of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

“Unfortunately, very few people who committed the crimes had to pay for them,” said Efraim Zuroff, the US-based Jewish centre’s top Nazi hunter. “The passage of time in no way diminishes the crimes…”

Underneath the black-and-white picture of the death camp on the poster, the following words are emblazoned in German on a blaring red background: “Late, but not too late. Millions of innocents were murdered by Nazi war criminals. Some of the perpetrators are free and alive! Help us take them to court.”

A reward of €5,000 will be paid for information upon indictment of a suspect, €5,000 upon conviction, and a further €100 a day spent in prison – up to 150 days – for a total of €25,000, Zuroff said.

Zuroff, who is the director of the centre’s Israel office, estimated there were still about 60 people alive in Germany fit to stand trial for the crimes they allegedly committed. They are suspected of serving as guards at Nazi death camps or being members of death squads responsible for mass killings, particularly early in the war before the death camps were established.

Overdue. But, then, you already know that. So do a bunch of hypocrites in Washington and London who collaborated with keeping many of these thugs free at the end of World war 2.

Trial nears over death of Texas family’s cat – Good News UPDATE

A trial date is set for 2nd week in May in a controversial animal cruelty case involving Bastrop pastor Rick Bartlett.

Bartlett was charged with animal cruelty last year after a neighbor’s cat named Moody was found dead on the bank of the Colorado River directly underneath the Hwy 150 bridge in Bastrop…

Bartlett trapped Moody on his property on January 15, 2012. He placed Moody in a cage in the back of his pickup truck. Bartlett later admitted that he left Moody trapped in the cage for two days without any food or water.

On January 17 Bartlett drove the caged cat to the Bastrop County Animal Control office and met with Officer Susan Keys…Bartlett told Keys that he often trapped cats in his yard that he considered feral and brought them to Animal Control…But Moody wasn’t a feral cat. Officer Keys noticed Moody’s collar and name tag and she told Bartlett to return the cat to the Bell family, Moody’s owner (and Bartlett’s neighbor)…

Later that evening Keys was told about a dead cat that was found underneath the Hwy 150 bridge…It was Moody. He had fallen some 50-feet to his death.

A veterinarian later told investigators, “Moody’s injuries were caused from a compressive force caused from falling from a high level.”

When investigators caught up with Bartlett, he stated that Moody had escaped from the cage and he didn’t know what had happened to him…

Bartlett…will stand trial for animal cruelty.

Bartlett was bounced from his former gig as pastor for the Bastrop Christian Church after his arrest. He knows a good hustle when he sees one and now has set up a new church – out of his home.

None of this helps Moody or his people. Bartlett’s unwillingness to admit any responsibility, care or concern for the pet’s death is unfortunately typical of animal cruelty cases.

Texas hasn’t moved beyond the 19th Century in dealing with animal cruelty cases – and I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise, either. We ain’t much better here next door in New Mexico. It took decades to outlaw cock fighting – just a few years ago.

Meanwhile – you can sign a petition for justice for Moody over here.

UPDATE: Bartlett found guilty.

Thanks, cissyblue

Supreme Court deepens rights of accused in plea bargains

The Supreme Court considers robes to match Congressional garb

Criminal defendants have a constitutional right to effective lawyers during plea negotiations, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in a pair of 5-to-4 decisions that vastly expanded judges’ supervision of the criminal justice system. The decisions mean that what used to be informal and unregulated deal making is now subject to new constraints when bad legal advice leads defendants to reject favorable plea offers.

“Criminal justice today is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority. “The right to adequate assistance of counsel cannot be defined or enforced without taking account of the central role plea bargaining takes in securing convictions and determining sentences.”

And that…is a beancounters’ ethic at work. The leading motive for plea-bargains is the budget.

Justice Kennedy, who more often joins the court’s conservative wing in ideologically divided cases, was in this case in a coalition with the court’s four more liberal members. That alignment has sometimes arisen in recent years in cases that seemed to offend Justice Kennedy’s sense of fair play…

Claims of ineffective assistance at trial are commonplace even though trials take place under a judge’s watchful eye. Challenges to plea agreements based on misconduct by defense lawyers will presumably be common as well, given how many more convictions follow guilty pleas and the fluid nature of plea negotiations…

Scholars agreed about its significance.

RTFA for all the legalistic blather. The conservative cabal – including Chief Justice Roberts are always most concerned about the number of cases that will spin from this decision.

The best part of was the ruling about defendants having a right to an effective lawyer. While I’ve known a fair number of talented and skillful lawyers [which they coupled with care for our Constitution and dedication to ordinary people’s needs] – there seems to be a constantly growing crop of incompetents. A conclusion I feel is matched by the truly awful – but politically connected – who seem to end up as judges.

When children murder – what sentence may the courts impose?

Who speaks for Cole Cannon?

Nearly 10 years ago, in Lawrence County, Ala., a 14-year-old boy holding a baseball bat stood over a man he had robbed and repeatedly beaten, telling him, “I am God. I’ve come to take your life.”

After hitting the man in the head a final time with the bat, the 14-year-old and a friend set the man’s trailer on fire. Despite the beating, Cole Cannon was still alive and conscious. He managed to ask, “Why are y’all doing this to me?” Then he was burned alive.

The boy, Evan Miller, was sentenced to life in prison without parole, even though he was just 14 when he committed the crime. His friend, 16 at the time of the crime, was allowed to plead guilty to felony murder in exchange for testimony, and sentenced to life with a chance of parole.

Miller’s case, along with the Arkansas case of a defendant who also was sentenced to life without parole for a homicide committed at age 14, is set for argument in the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday.

At issue is whether the Constitution bans a sentence of life without parole for those who committed murder while under age 18, or whether some crimes are so repellent they demand the harshest punishment short of the death penalty, no matter what the age of the defendant

The odds are pretty good the U.S. Supreme Court, or at least a narrow majority of the nine justices, will find the Miller sentence and others like it constitutionally excessive…

“This case presents important constitutional questions regarding the propriety of imposing a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole on a 14-year-old child … ,” his petition to the Supreme Court said. “Evan Miller is one of only 73 [U.S.] children who have been condemned to be imprisoned until death for an offense committed when they were 14 years of age or younger. Evan, like nearly all of these young adolescents, was sentenced under a statute that made a life-without-parole sentence mandatory, precluding any consideration of his age or other mitigating circumstances which would call for a sentence of less than lifelong incarceration. …

More and more often I reject the concept of mandatory sentences. First, because anyone called by appointment or election to be a judge should be capable of making such decisions. If not, it is the responsibility of those who put him or her in office to rectify the mistake. Second, circumstances can vary widely enough to allow for a complete human and humane range of responses to crime.

In general – for example – I do not support the death penalty. Do I think it should be removed as a choice? No. Once again, I support a solution placing responsibility for final judgement under the guidance of a judge – not what may be a slogan for re-election.

I will never forget what we’re judging is a sentence for someone found guilty of a terrible crime. Who speaks for the victim?

Another Texas conviction overturned – prosecutor will be investigated for evidence tampering

Michael Morton in the middle

State District Judge Louis Sturns of Tarrant County will lead a court of inquiry into complaints of prosecutorial misconduct against former Williamson County prosecutor Ken Anderson, who won a murder conviction in 1987 against a defendant who spent 25 years in prison before he was exonerated by DNA evidence.

Michael Morton was convicted of fatally beating his wife in their Austin home in 1986. Attorneys say the wrongful conviction would not have happened if Anderson, who is now a Williamson County state district judge, had not deliberately withheld evidence that indicated Morton’s innocence.

“This is a historic moment for Texas justice,” said John Raley, the Houston lawyer who has worked pro bono on Morton’s case for seven years. “We are confident that Judge Sturns will handle this important case with the seriousness and probity demonstrated by Judge [Sid] Harle and [Texas Supreme Court Chief] Justice [Wallace] Jefferson…”

Last week, Harle recommended that Jefferson appoint such a court after he decided that there was probable cause to believe that Anderson should face charges of contempt of court, tampering with evidence and tampering with government records…

Morton contended during his 1987 trial that his wife’s killer must have entered their home after he left for work about 5:30 a.m. Anderson told the jury that Morton, who had no criminal history, beat his wife to death in a perverted rage because she denied him sex. Meanwhile, Morton’s lawyers say, Anderson was concealing evidence that pointed to the very scenario Morton described.

Morton was sentenced to life in prison but continued to maintain his innocence. Starting in 2005, he pleaded with the court to test DNA on a collection of evidence, including a bandanna found near his home shortly after the murder.

Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley fought the request for DNA testing, based on advice from Anderson. In 2010, though, a Texas court ordered the testing. The results showed Christine Morton’s blood on the bandanna mixed with the DNA of Mark A. Norwood, a felon who lived near the Mortons at the time.

A Williamson County grand jury indicted Norwood this month. Norwood’s DNA has also been identified on a pubic hair found at the scene of the similar murder in 1988 in Austin…

The Innocence Project probably could spend all their time in Texas and Illinois – and that would cover 99% of those convicted illegally of violent crimes. Do we have any states left where the justice system considers protecting the innocent as important as getting a high conviction rate?

Swiss bankers classified as fugitives after skipping federal court

Wegelin & Co, corporate headquarters, St. Gallen, Switzerland
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Wegelin & Co., the 270-year-old Swiss bank facing criminal charges in a U.S. crackdown on firms suspected of aiding tax evasion, failed to appear at a court hearing as prosecutors called the bank a “fugitive.”

Prosecutors said after the hearing…in Manhattan federal court that three Wegelin client managers charged in the case also failed to appear and were considered fugitives.

When no defendants or defense attorneys showed up in court, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff asked prosecutors for a proposal on how to proceed. Prosecutors said they will confer with the Justice Department and advise Rakoff on their proposals. “Unlike an individual, arresting a company is somewhat difficult,” Rakoff said…

Wegelin is the first overseas bank to be indicted by the U.S. for aiding tax fraud, federal prosecutors in New York said this month. The three Wegelin client managers at the Zurich branch, Michael Berlinka, Urs Frei and Roger Keller, were also indicted.

The managers serviced “undeclared accounts” for U.S. taxpayers, meaning the income derived from them wasn’t reported to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, according to the superseding indictment filed this month.

Nothing new about international bankers considering themselves above the law. Especially when an historic function of their services is aiding their clients in defrauding the tax departments of one or another government.

For the first time in modern history we have a Department of Justice that actively seeks to repatriate the funds hidden abroad – instead of just relying on the crooks for fundraising.

Falsely accused – Thomas Haynesworth free after 27 years in jail

A Virginia appeals court declared Thomas Haynesworth an innocent man Tuesday, clearing his name and acknowledging that he spent 27 years behind bars for rapes he did not commit.

It is the first time the state has issued a “writ of actual innocence” in a rape case without the certainty of DNA evidence. Haynesworth, 46, was supported by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II and two state prosecutors — all of whom concluded that he was mistakenly identified by a rape victim as he walked to a Richmond market for sweet potatoes and bread one February afternoon in 1984.

“It’s a blessing,’’ Haynesworth said as he stood with his attorneys and Cuccinelli. “There are a lot of people behind the scenes who believed in me. Twenty-seven years, I never gave up. I kept pushing. I ain’t give up hope.

“I am very happy. Me and my family can finally put this behind us, and I can go on with my life. And I can finally vote.”

The case shows how far Virginia has come in allowing convicts to argue their innocence. Historically, prisoners were barred from introducing new evidence more than three weeks after sentencing, and in the 1990s, then-Attorney General Mary Sue Terry famously said, “Evidence of innocence is irrelevant.” But when DNA testing resulted in hundreds of exonerations nationwide, it prompted Virginia lawmakers to open the door for courts to reconsider guilt based first on genetic evidence and later on other evidence, such as recanted testimony, fingerprints or ballistics.

Although Haynesworth was released on parole in March, he has not been fully free. Now, his photo has been taken off the state’s sex offender registry. He is allowed to use the Internet. Finally, he can take a woman on a date without first introducing her to a parole officer.

Our system of justice is once again found whole by exception rather than the rule.

Many states, many jurisdictions consider such case only an imposition upon the “track record” of prosecutors who would rather be known as successful politicians, police departments more interested in conviction rates than preventing crime or public safety.

Racism is still a given in the all-American equation.

Cop/clown kills robber with his own gun

An off-duty Chicago police officer dressed up as a clown for a South Side fundraiser shot and killed a teen who held him at gunpoint tonight after the event, authorities said.

The officer…was in his clown outfit for a fundraiser for a day-care business. The event, attended by a group of 50 children, was near West 87th Street and South Damen Avenue.

At 10:10 p.m. after the event ended, the officer went to his car and a teen approached him, asking him for money, authorities said. When the officer said he had no money, the teen pulled a gun on him, authorities said.

During a struggle with the teen, the officer grabbed hold of the gun, opened fire and killed him.

The officer sustained minor injuries, according to a release from police News Affairs.

Don’t carry a gun unless you’re prepared to use it. Don’t pull a gun on someone unless you’re capable of using it. Don’t get close enough to let someone take your gun away – and use it on you.

In this case – I’d say instant justice was meted out.

BofA finally gets taste of its own medicine

“The branch manager was visibly shaken.”

Months after Bank of America wrongly foreclosed on a house Warren and Maureen Nyerges had already paid for, they were still fighting to get reimbursed for the court battle.

So on Friday, their attorney showed up at a branch office in Naples with a moving truck and sheriff’s deputies who had a judge’s permission to seize the furniture if necessary. An hour later, the bank had written a check for $5,772.88.

“The branch manager was visibly shaken,” attorney Todd Allen said Monday, recalling the visit to the bank last week. “At that point I was willing to take the desk and the chair he was sitting in.”

After the moving company and sheriff’s deputies get their share, the Nyerges should receive the rest of the money this week, ending a bizarre saga that started when they paid Bank of America $165,000 cash for a 2,700-square-foot foreclosed home in Naples in 2009.

About four months later, a process server knocked on their door and handed Warren Nyerges a notice of foreclosure…

“It was mind boggling,” said Nyerges, a 46-year-old retired police officer. “To try to unscrew the screw up, it’s not as easy as it sounds.”…

In September 2010, a Collier county judge ordered Bank of America to pay the couple’s $2,534 attorney fees. But by last week, the bank hadn’t paid up, so Allen got a judge’s permission to seize assets…

This isn’t the first time that Bank of America has tried to foreclose on a property that was owned by a person without a mortgage…

And Nyerges said he’s still upset with Bank of America.

“They couldn’t even spell our name right in the apology,” he said.

Does the attitude of the monster mega-bank sound all too familiar?

American students think civics courses are about fixing Hondas

Fewer than half of American eighth graders knew the purpose of the Bill of Rights on the most recent national civics examination, and only one in 10 demonstrated acceptable knowledge of the checks and balances among the legislative, executive and judicial branches, according to test results just released

At the same time, three-quarters of high school seniors who took the test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, were unable to demonstrate skills like identifying the effect of United States foreign policy on other nations or naming a power granted to Congress by the Constitution…

“The results confirm an alarming and continuing trend that civics in America is in decline,” said Charles N. Quigley, executive director of the Center for Civic Education, a nonprofit group in California. “During the past decade or so, educational policy and practice appear to have focused more and more upon developing the worker at the expense of developing the citizen.”

One bright spot was that Hispanic students, who make up a growing proportion of the country’s population and student body, narrowed the gap between their scores and those of non-Hispanic white students. On average, Hispanic eighth-graders scored 137 and non-Hispanic whites 160. That 23-point gap was down from 29 points in 2006. Among high school seniors, the gap narrowed to 19 points from 24 points.

The achievement gap between blacks and whites in civics, about 25 points at the fourth- and eighth-grade levels and 29 points among high school seniors, did not change significantly.

The results showed that a smaller proportion of fourth and eighth graders demonstrated proficiency in civics than in any other subject the federal government has tested since 2005, except history, American students’ worst subject.

We face difficult challenges at home and abroad,” Justice O’Connor said in a statement. “Meanwhile, divisive rhetoric and a culture of sound bites threaten to drown out rational dialogue and debate. We cannot afford to continue to neglect the preparation of future generations for active and informed citizenship.”

Of course, Justice O’Connor assumes that our political parties actually would welcome an informed citizenship. I can’t imagine why.