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Forum Post: Houston Officer Kills Double Amputee in Wheelchair

Posted 11 years ago on Sept. 23, 2012, 4:10 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Houston officer kills double amputee in wheelchair

By The Associated Press | Associated Press – 15 hrs ago


HOUSTON (AP) — A Houston police officer shot and killed a one-armed, one-legged man in a wheelchair Saturday inside a group home after police say the double amputee threatened the officer and aggressively waved a metal object that turned out to be a pen.

Police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said the man cornered the officer in his wheelchair and was making threats while trying to stab the officer with the pen. At the time, the officer did not know what the metal object was that the man was waving, Silva said. She said the man came "within inches to a foot" of the officer and did not follow instructions to calm down and remain still.

"Fearing for his partner's safety and his own safety, he discharged his weapon," Silva told The Associated Press.

Police did not immediately release the name of the man who was killed. They had been called to the home after a caretaker there called and reported that the man in wheelchair was causing a disturbance.

The owner of the group home, John Garcia, told the Houston Chronicle that the man had a history of mental illness and had been living at the house about 18 months. Garcia said the man had told him that he lost a leg above the knee and all of one arm when he was hit by a train.

"He sometimes would go off a bit, but you just ignore it," Garcia told the newspaper.

Silva identified the officer as Matthew Jacob Marin, a five-year veteran of the department. He was immediately placed on three-day administrative leave, which is standard in all shootings involving officers.

Houston police records indicate that Marin also fatally shot a suspect in 2009. Investigators at the time said Marin came upon a man stabbing his neighbor to death at an apartment complex and opened fired when the suspect refused to drop the knife.

On Saturday, Marin and his partner arrived at the group home around 2:30 a.m. Silva said there were several people at the house at the time. The caretaker who called police waited on the porch while the officers went inside, she said.

"It was close quarters in the area of the house," Silva said. "The officer was forced into an area where he had no way to get out."


New York Prisoner Gets Five Years in Solitary for Cell Phone Smuggled in by Guard

Sunday, 23 September 2012 12:32 By Jean Casella and James Ridgeway, Truthout | Report


Philip Miller was midway through a twenty-year sentence for robbery at Sing Sing Prison in New York, with an almost spotless prison record, when he was caught with a mobile phone in his cell in April 2010. He was charged with two disciplinary violations: "possession of contraband" and also "altering state property," since he had hidden the cell phone and charger in "a compartment carved out of the windowsill."

Miller was brought before an internal prison disciplinary hearing and pled guilty to the two charges. But he sought to call various inmates who could attest to his good behavior and to describe what actually had happened. The hearing officer denied him his request, claiming that he, the prison officer, knew all about Miller and it wasn't necessary to call the witnesses. Miller was found guilty of both charges and sentenced to 60 months—five years—in solitary, with a proviso that 24 months might be suspended if he incurred no further disciplinary charges. Despite the nonviolent nature of his offenses, Miller was shipped off to serve his time at Southport, the all-solitary supermax facility south of Elmira.

Long stretches in the so-called Special Housing Unit ("the SHU" or, more commonly, "the box") is an everyday punishment in New York State prisons. Currently, about 4,500 inmates are serving time in some form of 23-hour-a-day lockdown, with sentences ranging from months to decades. As we wrote in an earlier article, New York leads the nation in the use of "disciplinary segregation," and isolation "is very much a punishment of first resort, doled out for minor rule violations as well as major offenses. In New York, the most common reason for a stint in solitary is creating a 'disturbance' or 'demonstration.'...Second is 'dirty urine'—testing positive for drugs of any kind...Other infractions include refusing to obey orders, 'interfering with employees,' being 'out of place' and possession of contraband—not only a shiv but a joint, a cellphone or too many postage stamps."

Miller appealed his conviction and sentence within the prison system, insisting that he had been denied his right to have witnesses testify on his behalf. He lost. He then went to state court and lost there. Finally, he took his case to the state court's appellate division where the decision against him, handed down in August 2012, contained this rather incoherent passage:

Petitioner's claim that he was improperly denied the right to call character witnesses to mitigate the penalty to be imposed as a result of his guilty plea is also unavailing. Petitioner's witnesses would have testified about his positive prison record, which was known to the Hearing Officer and considered in the disposition of this matter. Since the Hearing Officer considered petitioner's character before imposing the penalty, the testimony of the witnesses would have been redundant and, therefore, properly excluded.

Out of the panel of five judges in the appellate court, four of them upheld the lower court's decision unreservedly. The fifth, Judge J. Garry, "concurred in part and dissented in part." In his opinion, Judge Garry wrote: "While I do not disagree with the resolution of petitioner's constitutional and evidentiary challenges, I cannot countenance the penalty imposed, i.e., confinement for 60 months in the special housing unit (hereinafter SHU), with 24 months suspended. The severity of this penalty is disproportionate to the offense.''

In explaining why the punishment was excessive, Judge Garry pointed to prisoners charged with violent offenses who had in fact received shorter sentences in the box. He also revealed another aspect of the case: Philip Miller had not, in fact, had the cell phone smuggled into prison for him. He had bought it from another prisoner, who had in turn bought it from a guard.

In explaining the penalty, the Hearing Officer stated...that the penalty was intended to deter petitioner and others from similar conduct in the future. However, he further stated that the penalty was justified by "the sophistication of this scheme to smuggle a cell phone into this facility. This aspect of the penalty is unsupported by the record, as petitioner was not found guilty of smuggling or conspiring to smuggle cell phones into the prison. The primary participants in the scheme were a correction officer who brought contraband into the facility and certain inmates who received the contraband and resold it to other inmates. The evidence did not reveal that petitioner was one of these participants, rather than a mere purchaser who acquired the cell phone from one of them, and thereafter concealed it, nor did the evidence reveal use of this phone to facilitate the smuggling.

The corrections officer in question was 12-year veteran Leon Strand. According to information provided upon request by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision's Office of Public Information, Strand was "arrested on felony dangerous contraband charges by the New York State Police on May 21, 2010." The following day, Strand was suspended without pay, and he "resigned from his Correction Officer position while facing DOCCS disciplinary charges." The Public Information Office also reported that "on November 23, 2010, Strand pleaded guilty to Promoting Prison Contraband," but was not aware what sentence he had received. Records show that Strand never served any time in the New York State prison system, and as far as we can ascertain, never did any jail time, either.

Philip Miller remains in solitary confinement at Southport. According to the DOCCS Public Information Office, he received an additional small reduction in his sentence for good behavior, and is now eligible to return to the general population on January 27, 2013, after serving 32 months and 16 days in the SHU.

Sarah Kerr of the Legal Aid Society's Prisoners Rights Project brought Miller's case to our attention, and commented on it in an email:

That Philip Miller was sentenced to five years in solitary confinement for possessing a cell phone introduced to the prison by a member of DOCCS Correction staff demonstrates the need for time limits on the use of solitary confinement in our prisons. Although 24 months of the sentence were suspended, even 36 months is an excessive, harsh and inhumane sentence. Moreover, Mr. Miller will have to endure 3 years of the harsh conditions in isolation without breaking any more prison rules to guarantee that the suspended 24 months are not invoked by DOCCS. As noted by the dissent of Judge Garry, this penalty is disproportionate to the offense and shockingly unfair.


Banks Threaten Elderly Veterans With Foreclosure

Sunday, 23 September 2012 11:07 By Viji Sundaram, New America Media | Report


San Francisco - Robert Moses is 92, an African American and a World War II Navy veteran.

Don Baird is a couple of weeks shy of his 90th birthday, is scheduled for heart surgery next week, and is also a World War II veteran.

Aside from being former servicemen, both men also share one other thing: they are about to lose the homes they owned, each for more than four decades, to foreclosure.



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[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 11 years ago

Judge exonerates former LA gang member of murder

By LINDA DEUTSCH | Associated Press – 11 hrs ago


LOS ANGELES (AP) — A courtroom erupted in applause, cheers and shouts of "We love you" as a former gang member imprisoned for 19 years for a murder he didn't commit was exonerated and set free Monday.

John Edward Smith, who was still in jail clothing when he appeared in court, smiled broadly, acknowledging his excited family and friends.

Adding to the Hollywood-style courtroom drama, those applauding for Smith included pop star Chris Brown, who was in the same courtroom for his probation hearing involving the 2009 beating of his then-girlfriend Rihanna.

Outside court, Smith's lawyer Deirdre O'Connor said Brown shook her hand and congratulated her.

"Thank you for your enthusiasm," Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg told the crowd as she vacated Smith's convictions for murder and attempted murder in a gang-related drive-by shooting. Prosecutors told her they were convinced that the lone eyewitness to the 1993 incident had lied at Smith's trial, naming him as the shooter. Smith always maintained he was at his grandmother's house when the shooting occurred several blocks away.

"Thank you for the opportunity to do justice," the judge told lawyers for both sides after she announced her ruling.

Smith, wearing glasses and a tan striped polo shirt, was released from a Los Angeles County jail at about 8:30 p.m. He was greeted by a host of TV cameras.

"I had good days and bad days, I stayed hopeful and that's all I could do," he told the media gathered outside the downtown jail. "I'm not bitter at all, because that ain't going to get me nowhere. I've got to move on."

He said he was looking forward to "going home and seeing my grandmother," who raised him. Family members drove him to her house, which she had mortgaged to pay for his initial defense, O'Connor said.

The grandmother, 79-year-old Laura Neal, used a walker to attend the hearing earlier in the day, and wept when Schnegg announced her decision.

"I always knew he didn't do it," Neal told reporters after court. "I'm happy and sad. But the part of me that was in there with him — I'm free now too."

She said it was difficult to wait through the weekend after Smith's hearing was delayed Friday.

"It was hell," Neal said. "Friday was a big disappointment."

Smith's lawyer, O'Connor, explained, "The closer you get to freedom, the harder it is to wait another day."

The 37-year-old Smith was 18 when he went to prison. He maintained he was at his grandmother's house with family when the shooting took place Sept. 9, 1993, in a gang-infested area.

He said he knew nothing about the crime until his mother called to tell him about it.

The only eyewitness — a victim who was shot and survived — said police pressured him to identify Smith as the shooter.

Prosecutors told the judge they now believe he lied, and Schnegg found the conviction was based on perjured testimony.

Smith's exoneration was pursued by Innocence Matters, a public interest law firm in Torrance.

The eyewitness, Landu Mvuemba, met with Innocence Matters representatives in 2010 and immediately blurted out that he had lied at the trial, said O'Connor, who heads the group.

"Within the first two minutes of the interview, Mvuemba recanted," O'Connor said. Mvuemba was 16 at the time of the shooting.

He told representatives of Innocence Matters, "The police told me they knew who did it," a defense motion stated.

O'Connor said Smith wept when she called him with the news about Mvuemba. "He said, 'Why did he do it? Why did he lie?'" O'Connor recalled.

Mvuemba said police pointed to Smith, whom he had known in elementary school, and told him other witnesses had identified Smith as the shooter. Mvuemba said he also was shown a photo of his friend DeAnthony Williams, who died in the shooting.

"I felt a lot of pressure to go along with it," Mvuemba said.

The two victims had been on the street examining the scene of another shooting the night before when a car pulled up and someone opened fire.

Mvuemba said he tried three times to tell authorities that he didn't see enough to testify, but his pleas were ignored.

"Mvuemba knew it was wrong to identify Mr. Smith as the man who shot him," according to the defense motion. "But when he saw his deceased friend's crying mother in the courtroom, he felt as if he had no other choice."

Mvuemba is currently imprisoned on a rape conviction.

Judge Schnegg said she held many meetings with the defense and prosecution in the year since the recanting was disclosed.

She told Smith in court: "You had a very committed attorney, and you had a prosecution team that did the right thing."

Schnegg also said lacked sufficient information to declare Smith factually innocent, but she vacated his convictions for murder and attempted murder, and ordered him released.

O'Connor said Smith's trial was undermined by ineffective assistance of attorneys who failed to investigate the case properly at trial and on appeal. She said lawyers and police often take "shortcuts" in gang cases.

"Mr. Smith was not the shooter," the motion said. "He was not at the scene of the crime."

Smith's sister, Tiana Goodman, 25, said he would be meeting nieces and nephews who were born while he was in prison.

"This is a big day for our family," she said, tears running down her cheeks. "He kept his faith and never gave up."

[-] 1 points by TrevorMnemonic (5827) 11 years ago

the police use Stand Your Ground more than George Zimmerman

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (647) 11 years ago

How does one enter a room unencumbered but then end up cornered by a one armed and one legged man in a wheel chair? I guess it's possible.

The officer enters the room and tries to communicate with the person in the wheel chair face to face by going to the other side of the room, at which point the wheel chair bound person just goes forward and the police person is caught in a corner of the room with the guy swinging at the officer with what looks like a knife.

If the officer never fully enters the room, they remain in control of their own safety, but once they have entered the room and presumably walked to the other side of the room to face the wheelchair bound person, they actually have lost their way out of the room if the person in the wheelchair is flailing a weapon around.

If the other officer attempts to grab the back posts of the wheelchair, the knife could then be flailed behind the wheelchair, thus preventing control of the wheelchair by either officer.

It sounds like a silly situation but I guess it could have appeared dangerous since the guy in the chair was waiving some type of potential weapon.

I bet police departments start teaching how to handle a person in a wheelchair in an enclosed space after this story gets out.

[-] 1 points by jdjohn1990 (3) 11 years ago

can you imagine if a civilian pulled this off?

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (647) 11 years ago

You mean if the same thing happened to a civilian who was trying to calm down an allegedly irate one legged, one armed wheel chair bound man, yeah, it's possible nobody would believe them.

[-] 1 points by thoreau42 (595) 11 years ago

What do you mean? The situation was "handled" perfectly fine, since officers typically care about their own safety, first and foremost. Don't take my word for it, the "police spokesman" already said it. Obey or die. But even obedience isn't required, sometimes you just have to die; John T. Williams, Oscar Grant, Derek Hale, DeAunta Farrow, Jose Guerena, Andrew Scott........the list goes on and onnnnnnnn.

[-] 1 points by TrevorMnemonic (5827) 11 years ago

the best is when they kick in your door with guns drawn and you fight back because you're not sure what is happening because they flash grenaded you and you have no idea it's police and it seems more like a home invasion and then they shoot you and they had "every right" to do so even if they had the wrong house based on their incompetence.

It's happened many times. They also shoot a lot of dogs. Because you know... dogs...

[-] 1 points by thoreau42 (595) 11 years ago

Welcome to the USSA.

[-] 1 points by TrevorMnemonic (5827) 11 years ago

Drugs are bad mmkay

[-] 1 points by DebtNEUTRALITYpetition (647) 11 years ago

You left out that police officers typically try and separate the possibly hostile combatant from everyone else while also caring about their own safety first.

[-] 0 points by thoreau42 (595) 11 years ago

Oh right, just like they did when they shot 9 bystanders outside the Empire State Building? Amerika's finest!

[-] 1 points by thoreau42 (595) 11 years ago

Will Grigg covers the police once a week. http://freedominourtime.blogspot.com/

[-] 0 points by CitizenofAmerika (-71) 11 years ago

What does being African American have to do with it?