In The News
A case of "Do as we say, not as we do."
Earlier this year the U.S. State Department issued a stinging report on human rights abuses in China, citing "instances of extrajudicial killings, torture and mistreatment of prisoners, forced confessions, arbitrary arrest and detention, lengthy incommunicado detention and denial of due process.
"Prison conditions at most facilities remained harsh. In many cases, particularly sensitive political cases, the judicial system denies criminal defendants basic legal safeguards and due process because authorities attach higher priority to maintaining public order and suppressing political opposition than to enforcing legal norms."
To emphasize the point, President Clinton said to reporters,"China cannot purchase stability at the expense of freedom."
Boy shot by federal agent
The fatal shooting of a Houston, Texas boy in the car of a drug suspect's vehicle stopped to be searched was accidental, a federal agent told homicide investigators.
Alvin Ray Onezine, 19, was in a car stopped by members of the Gang Task Force. As the car was being searched, the weapon of federal agent Roland Ballesteros accidentally discharged, striking Onezine, police said. Onezine was taken to the hospital, where he later died.
Ballesteros and other federal agents involved in the incident initially refused to give statements to police, and were on the verge of being arrested before they did so. It was unknown whether narcotics were found in the car.
The car's gotta go!
Mayor Rudy Giuliani has empowered every police officer in New York to seize any car whose driver he decides is guilty of drunken driving.
In the original pronouncement of this policy he said the city would return the cars if the people were acquitted.
Later, the mayor decided he'd keep the cars of those proven innocent, explaining to the New York Times, "Let's say somebody is acquitted, and it's one of those acquittals in which the person was guilty, but there is just not quite enough evidence."
Shooting an unarmed man
A Washington, D.C. police officer shot an unarmed man in the back during a confrontation outside a fast-food restaurant. The man, who was shot from two feet away, died a short time later.
This fatal shooting was the second time in two weeks that a local police officer had killed an unarmed citizen. In both cases, the officers were white and the citizens were black, raising renewed concerns of racism.
Leroy Warren, chairman of the national NAACP's criminal justice committee, expressed outrage to The Washington Post. "If they were doing what they were supposed to be doing, you wouldn't be having these problems. There's no penalty for shooting black people."
Shooting victim files lawsuit
The family of an 18-year-old Mexican man shot in the back by a drug task force officer as he crossed the Rio Grande last month is seeking $25 million from the DEA.
A bullet struck Abecnego Monje Ortiz between the shoulder blades as he ran through a rural area of Maverick County, Texas on Jan. 25, leaving him paralyzed.
"I crossed the border in order to seek work in the United States, carrying nothing more than a jug of water," Monje says in the claim, which was filed as the first step toward a possible lawsuit. "At the moment I was shot, I was running in the opposite direction from the man who shot me."
Chronic pain untreated
Many Americans with chronic pain don't receive the treatment they need because of "misapplied" fears about addiction and real fears about federal law enforcement, an expert in the field told an ethics conference at Creighton University in Omaha. Dr. Steven D. Passik, director of oncology symptom control research at the Indiana Community Cancer Care Center, added the DEA, rather than the medical community, decides which levels of narcotics are allowable for pain treatment, resulting in excruciating agony for many Americans
Officers face murder charges
Four New York City police officers who killed an unarmed African immigrant in a barrage of bullets were indicted in March on charges of second-degree murder, a city spokesperson said. Some of the were also indicted on lesser charges, according to the source.
Amadou Diallo, 22, was killed Feb. 4 in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment building when the officers fired 41 bullets at him, hitting him 19 times. An attorney has said the officerswho were looking for a rape suspectclaimed Diallo was reaching for a gun, but the street vendor was completely unarmed.
Court limits drug testing
The Supreme Court, limiting drug testing of students, refused Monday to allow a school district to test all those who violate its rules. Although individuals who appear to be under the influence of drugs can be tested at school, officials may not routinely test groups of students, under the ruling that the high court let stand.
The Constitution's 4th Amendment protects students, as well as adults, from unreasonable searches by public officials, the ruling stressed.
The Monmouth County, New Jersey prosecutor's decision to charge a group of eighth graders with drug possession, lewdness, simple assault and improper touching has stunned local residents.
Investigators say the group of boys returning from a school dance exposed themselves and tried to smoke marijuana during the ride on the school bus. Members of the same group were later accused of touching fellow students on the backsides in the school playground during recess. The students have not been identified because of their age.
Prisons on the prairie
With minimal opposition, the Iowa Senate approved a methamphetamine punishment bill that includes a mandatory prison sentence of up to 99 years for people who make and sell meth to children.
On the same day, with no discussion and little dissent, the Iowa House approved a significant change in the state's marijuana laws. Under current law, giving another person an ounce or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor. The proposed law would make anything more than a half-ounce a felony.
The bill was quickly approved 86-5.
In a drug sting gone bad, Charlotte, S.C. police let a suspected dealer get away with $17,000 worth of cocaine that the police supplied.
U.S. Marshals later arrested the suspect, but the cocaine was missing.
The incident occurred Jan. 15, when an undercover officer met a man in a parking lot and sold him a kilo, or 2.2 pounds of cocaine. Twenty officers were watching, waiting to move in, but the officers had radio trouble. Somehow, none of the 20 officers saw the exchange, allowing the suspect and cocaine to escape.
Life for refusing to 'snitch'
Reed Prior sits in prison for dealing drugs. He is in prison for life, his family argues, because he refused to snitch.
At his sentencing, Prior told the judge that snitching was repugnant.
U.S. District Judge Ronald E. Longstaff called the life sentence unjust and begged Prior to assist in the investigation of others for his own good.
Nearly three years later, Prior, 49, stays silent in a federal prison in Greenville, Ill., where he will remain until he dies.
His parents have begun to speak out. They say his case illustrates a justice system based not on what people do, but whom they turn in.
Death of child-informant leads to lawsuit
Gregory 'Sky' Erickson died at age 15, bound and gagged with red bandanas, symbols of a local gang of drug dealers, and shot in the back of the head.
A federal court lawsuit brought by Erickson's father, Gregory Erickson Sr., 42, of Estherville, Iowa, argues that law-enforcement officials who recruited the boy as an informant despite his youth placed his son in harm's way.
"In lieu of getting sent away for a year or two, Sky had to do as he was asked," his father said. "It necessitated his getting down and dirty with people who would not hesitate to do him serious harm."
10-year-old facing drug charges
A 10-year-old boy in Tampa, Florida has been placed under house arrest for 21 days while prosecutors decide how to proceed with his case.
The boy's family maintains their child was walking to the cafeteria when a fellow student picked up a bag from the ground and said it belonged to the boy. Police and administrators at the school the boy attends say classmates saw the drugs and told a teacher, who in turn alerted authorities.
Family sues after raid
A federal jury has awarded Paul and Patty Mueller of O'Fallon, Missouri, $2 million for a mistaken raid on their home. Police acted on what later turned out to be false information from an informant, who later admitted making up a story about 100 hidden guns at the Mueller's home in order to get a lighter sentence for automobile theft.
The detective responsible for the raid was ordered to pay the restitution to the Muellers.
Police shoot unarmed boy
A Concord, North Carolina police officer shot an unarmed 15-year-old boy during a drug raid. According to police, officers went to the open door and announced, "Search warrant. Everybody on the floor."
Officer Lennie Rivera entered first and immediately fired, hitting Thomas Roosevelt Edwards Jr. in the back. Edwards and five other children were in the house when the police went inside.
New York seeks mass DNA data
Governor Pataki recently unveiled his plan for a massive expansion of genetic profiling to cover all felony and attempted-felony convictions, a measure that would add car thieves, tax evaders and drug offenders to the DNA databank's current collection of violent criminals. The plan also calls to study the feasibility of taking DNA from suspects on arrest.
Informant accused of murder
A Fort Worth, Texas man accused of killing a woman in December was an informant who was released from jail at police request. He walked free after he agreed to provide police with assistance.
Police lost track of Joshua Edwards for nearly two weeks before the slaying of Debbie Ralph, who interrupted a burglary at the cost of her life.
Drug czar threatens CA Attorney General
While in Washington, D.C., California Attorney General Bill Lockyer met with White House drug czar Barry R. McCaffrey and U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno to discuss California's Proposition 215, legalizing marijuana for medical uses. Lockyer said he told General McCaffrey that state laws authorize him to conduct certain marijuana related research and clinical trials. McCaffrey warned Lockyer that federal law supercedes state law, and Lockyer would be arrested and imprisoned if he did so.
McCaffery and Reno are both appointed officials, while Lockyer was duly elected by the citizens of California.