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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Matthew Clarke

Cops Strip Search Woman in Public...Charges Dropped

by Matt Clarke

On August 4, 2017, prosecutors dropped criminal charges against two Harris County sheriff's deputies who publicly performed a body cavity search on a Black woman on June 20, 2015. This prompted her attorney, Sam Cammaack, to release a dash-cam video recording of the incident he calls "rape by cop."

Charnesia Corley was a 20-year-old student when the two deputies initiated a traffic stop, alleging she had failed to fully halt at a stop sign and did not use turn signals. Claiming to have smelled burning marijuana, they ordered her out of her car in a Texaco gas station parking lot. The video recording shows that she was stripped below the waist and examined for 11 minutes by a female officer using a flashlight.

According to a federal lawsuit filed by Corley, "[wjhen one of the Deputies tried to insert her fingers into Ms. Corley's vagina, Ms. Corley protested. At that point, the Deputies forcibly threw Ms. Corley to the ground, while she was still handcuffed, pinned her down with her legs spread apart, threatened to break her legs and without consent penetrated her vagina in a purported search for marijuana."

The deputies maintain they never ...

Parents Sue Deputy Who “Bullied” Their Slain Son into Becoming an Informant

by Matt Clarke

The parents of a North Dakota State College of Science student have filed a lawsuit against a deputy sheriff and the county he works for, alleging he used two arrests--for sales of marijuana totaling 3.3 grams – to bully their son into becoming a confidential informant, with fatal consequences.

Andrew Sadek, 20, was discovered with a fatal gunshot wound to the head on June 27, 2014. Lying at the bottom of the Red River near the campus where he was enrolled, his body had been weighed down with a backpack full of rocks. Police told his parents, John and Tammy Sadek, that their son committed suicide. The medical examiner’s report said the gunshot killed him but could not conclusively rule the death a suicide. A toxicology drug screen was negative and no firearm was found.

In the years since Andrew’s death, his parents have come to believe that he was murdered because he was a police informant. And they blame Richland County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Weber.

It was in April 2013 that Andrew twice sold small amounts of marijuana to a friend who was acting as a confidential informant (C.I.). The first buy was for ...

Reuters: Tasers Contributed to Many Deaths

by Matt Clarke

A recent investigation by Reuters revealed that over 1,000 people died after being socked by Taser "conducted energy weapons." Tasers are marketed as a "non-lethal" alternative to firearms, but Reuters discovered that the Tasers' electroshock was listed as a cause or contributing factor in 153 of the deaths.

The actual number may be much higher. Reuters was able to access only 712 of the autopsy records for the 1,005 post-Taser-shock deaths because they are not public records in some states. Taser International, which recently renamed itself Axon Enterprises, Inc., has always maintained that its weapons are almost never to blame when someone dies after being shocked. The company says the death is almost always caused by an underlying physiological condition, such as a heart problem, or other external factors such as drug use or additional application of force by police. But this may be a distinction without a difference as the core question is whether the person would have died had the Taser not been used, not whether the Taser is fatal to a young, health person who has never used drugs--the kind of person the police rarely deal with.

Axon claims that only 24 ...

ACLU Suit: Police Forced Catheters Into Adults and Child

by Matt Clarke

In July 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota (ACLU) filed a lawsuit alleging law enforcement authorities in South Dakota forced catheters into four men, one woman, and a toddler to acquire urine samples for drug tests. Two of the men were willing to voluntarily provide urine samples, but police indulged their "sadistic desires" by forcible catheterizing them anyway, according to the lawsuit.

The 3-year-old boy was catheterized in February 2017 after his mother's probationer boyfriend failed a drug test. The boy screamed as he was held down and complained of pain for days thereafter. No drugs were found in his urine, but he allegedly developed a staph infection caused by the catheterization.

Forcibly catheterizing can be dangerous according to Dr. Maurice Garcia, a University of California at San Francisco urologist and catheter expert.

"It's sort of like someone forcing food into your mouth," said Dr. Garcia. "You resist by tightening your lips. The muscles down in the pelvic floor, if they tighten, can make it close to impossible to get a catheter in there. And, if it's forced in, it can tear the walls of the urethra close to where the ...

Houston Police End Use of Error-Prone Drug Field Tests

by Matthew Clarke

In the summer of 2017, the Houston Police Department announced that it was ending its longstanding practice of using $2 field test kits for drugs that had frequently been used to persuade defendants to plead guilty—even when they were innocent.

In December 2016, the Timothy Cole Exoneration Review Committee, which was created by the Texas Legislature in 2015, issued its final report. The report called the use of inexpensive drug field tests “a significant concern” due to their “questionable reliability.” In Houston alone, the crime lab discovered over 300 drug convictions based on a positive field test of a substance that turned out not to be a drug at all. Former Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland told the Houston Chronicle, “I don’t think any law enforcement agency in America should be doing this anymore.”

The known unreliability of the tests prompted Portland, Oregon to require lab confirmation before guilty pleas can be entered. Despite the widespread knowledge that the tests are unreliable and many factually innocent people have been convicted based upon them, many jurisdictions continue to permit prosecutors to use the tests to obtain guilty pleas even without confirmation by lab testing.

The drug ...

U.S. Murder Clearance Rates Among Lowest in the World

by Matt Clarke

Statistically, U.S. law enforcement agencies are the worst crime solvers in the Western world. According to official data, there are arrests for about one-eighth of burglaries, about one-third of rapes, and about two-thirds of murders. But official methods of reporting can distort and exaggerate murder clearance rates, and the official clearance rate has held steady for three decades, despite strong declines in the rate murders are being committed.

According to FBI statistics, Flint, Michigan has the worst murder clearance rate at 17.5%. It is followed by Honolulu, Hawaii (18.8%), Midland, Michigan (23.1%), Saginaw, Michigan (23.3%), and Lima, Ohio (24.5%).

Although a lack of trust between police and poor minority communities—especially in the wake of multiple video recordings of police shooting unarmed Black citizens—is often used as an explanation for plummeting murder clearance rates in those communities, some affluent areas also have low clearance rates. For instance, Palm Beach, Florida and Long Island, New York clear only about one-third of their murder cases. That is comparable to the dismal clearance rates reported by Chicago and New Orleans, where gang-related murders push up the murder rate while depressing the clearance rate.

According to ...

No Qualified Immunity to Trooper Who Failed to Secure Treatment for Arrestee

by Matt Clarke

On April 27, 2016, the Eighth Circuit held that an Arkansas state trooper was not entitled to qualified immunity when he failed to seek medical care for a man he arrested who was exhibiting obvious medical problems and found dead at a detention center a few hours later.

Jeffery Alan Barton was involved in a single-vehicle accident, and Arkansas State Trooper Zachary Owens and other law enforcement officers responded to the scene. They found Barton swaying and using his truck to steady himself; a breath test showed he had a blood alcohol level of .11, and he was arrested DWI.

While he was being searched, Barton fell to the ground and was unresponsive. Malven Arkansas Police Officer Tim Callison checked his pulse. He and Owens carried the unresponsive Barton to Owens’s patrol car.

Owens drove Barton to the Hot Springs County Detention Center. He was unable to respond to questions during booking, and spoke with slurred speech when he spoke at all. At one point, he fell off a bench onto the floor.

Barton could not walk to the holding cell without help from jail trustees. He was found dead in the holding cell a few hours ...

Connecticut Supreme Court: Death Penalty Abolition is Retroactive

by Matt Clarke

On August 12, 2015, the Supreme Court of Connecticut ruled that to execute a person following the state legislature's prospective abolition of the death penalty would violate the state constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Eduardo Santiago was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in Connecticut. He appealed. While his appeal was pending, the legislature abolished the death penalty, replacing it with life-without-parole, but made it only applicable to new crimes.

The Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, but reversed the death sentence because the prosecutor had withheld potentially mitigating evidence. Santiago continued to be eligible for the death penalty in the retrial of his penalty phase. Santiago filed a motion for reconsideration, alleging that the abolition of the death penalty was a fundamental change in the state's evolving standards of decency so that the death penalty now violates the state constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The Supreme Court examined the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment found in Article I, Sections 8 and 9 of the Connecticut Constitution. It also examined the history of the prohibition all the way back to the colonial code of 1672. In doing ...

Pennsylvania Police Motor Vehicle Recordings Not Exempt From Disclosure

by Matt Clarke

On September 14, 2016, a Pennsylvania appellate court held that video and audio recordings made by police vehicles were not automatically exempt from disclosure under the Right-to-Know Law, 65 P.S. §67.101-76.3104 (RTKL) or the Criminal History Record Information Act, P.S. §§9101-9183 (CHRIA).

Michelle Grove made a request to the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) under the RTKL for a copy of the police report and any video/audio recordings made by PSP when officers responded to a traffic accident. The PSP provided her a public information release report stating that both drivers had been cited, one for failing to yield right-of-way and the other for failure to wear a seat belt. The PSP also informed Grove they would not release the motor vehicle recordings (MVRs) made by the responding vehicles because they were exempt from disclosure under the RTKL as "criminal investigative records" and under the CHRIA as "pertaining to audio recordings, telephone or radio transmissions received by dispatch personnel, including 911 recordings."

Grove appealed to the Office of Open Records (OOR) which found that the recordings were not automatically exempt under either exemption because MVRs recorded many incidents that were not part of ...

Faulty Forensics and Lab Scandals Highlight Urgent Need for Enforceable Scientific Standards

by Matt Clarke

A 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences (“NAS”) criticizing the varying quality of crime labs throughout the nation and questioning the scientific basis of several forensic methods that were routinely used to convict criminal defendants led to the hope that enforceable standards would soon be developed for forensic labs and the scientific methods introduced in court validated. That hope has proven to be overly optimistic, as prosecutors across the nation continue to introduce forensic testimony that makes unproven claims based on invalidated and even disproven methods such as bite mark analysis, microscopic hair comparison, and bullet groove and tool mark comparison. Even the gold standard cited in the NAS report—DNA testing—has proven to be fallible when comparison of complex, multiple-donor crime scene samples depends upon the subjective interpretation of forensic technicians.

The problems with forensic tests themselves are daunting, but they pale in comparison to the problems caused by corrupt and inept crime lab technicians who have tainted tens of thousands of criminal cases in recent years. Even when the technicians do their job honestly and competently, some prosecutors put a spin on the results that is anything but scientific.

Bite Mark Analysis

One common ...


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