Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Missouri executes man for killing girlfriend and three children

 The 5th Execution of 2023

Missouri executed 58-year-old Leonard Taylor on February 7, 2023, who was convicted of killing his girlfriend and her three children at their home in Jennings nearly two decades ago, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

A state executioner delivered a fatal dose of pentobarbital at 6:07 p.m., and Taylor was pronounced dead a short time later, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections.

“Muslims don’t die. We live eternally in the hearts of our family and friends,” Taylor wrote in his final statement following a verse from the Quran. “From Allah we come, and to Allah we all shall return. Everybody will get their turn to die.”

Taylor was the third person to be executed in Missouri in three months. His death marked only the second time since 2015 that more than one person was executed in a calendar year.

He was convicted in 2008 of killing 28-year-old Angela Rowe and her three children, Alexus Conley, 10, AcQreya Conley, 6, and Tyrese Conley, 5, at their home on Park Lane in Jennings. He has insisted he is innocent of the killings.

Rowe’s older sister, Gerjuan Rowe, attended Tuesday’s execution along with eight other loved ones.

“Justice was served,” Rowe said. “Now, I get a little peace.”

Rowe and her children were found Dec. 3, 2004. Rowe was covered by blankets and shot four times, once fatally in the head. The children were also shot and lined up on a bed.

Prosecutors said they believed the family was shot on the night of Nov. 23 or early morning of Nov. 24, 2004.

Taylor had called his brother just before midnight, then again at 12:05 a.m. Nov. 24, and admitted to the killings. The brother told police Taylor stayed in the house with the bodies because he was waiting for a letter from his wife in California.

On Nov. 26, Taylor’s sister-in-law drove him to the airport. She testified at trial she saw him drop a long-barreled revolver into a sewer before he left.

Taylor was arrested Dec. 9 in Kentucky in possession of fake IDs and pamphlets about creating a false identity, authorities said. Police later tested the sunglasses he wore that day and found blood that matched Rowe’s DNA.

A jury sentenced Taylor to death on Feb. 29, 2008, for the four murders.

Taylor had since filed several appeals, including a request last month asking St. Louis County prosecutor Wesley Bell to hold a hearing to review discrepancies in the state’s evidence and consider new declarations from Taylor’s daughter and her mother saying Taylor was actually in Los Angeles at the time of the killings.

Bell denied that request last week, finding “the facts are not there to support a credible case of innocence.”

On Monday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson denied Taylor’s petition for clemency.

“Leonard Taylor brutally murdered a mother and her three children. The evidence shows Taylor committed these atrocities and a jury found him guilty,” Parson said in a statement. “Despite his self-serving claim of innocence, the facts of his guilt in this gruesome quadruple homicide remain.”

Taylor, meanwhile, met with his three daughters, his sister, his two attorneys and a spiritual adviser.

On Tuesday morning at around 11 a.m., he ate a last meal of a seafood platter, cheeseburger, fries and a milkshake.

At 5:52 p.m., it was announced all pending appeals and petitions, including one before the U.S. Supreme Court, had been denied. At 6:06 p.m., the order for execution was given.

Taylor was pronounced dead at 6:16 p.m.

Afterward, Gerjuan Rowe reflected on the years waiting for Taylor’s death. She said it was painful to answer questions from investigators during his appeals and see his photo on her television screen.

She said she still missed her sister and her nieces and nephew and wondered what they would be like now as adults.

The execution, she said, gave her a bit of peace.

Still, “It’s not going to change nothing,” she said. “Not really.”

To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, February 6, 2023

Mangino a guest on The Daily on The Law and Crime Network

Watch my appearance on The Daily on The Law and Crime Network discussing the leading live trials of the day. 

To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Friday, February 3, 2023

Texas executes man for 2007 killing of police officer

The 4th Execution of 2023

Texas executed Wesley Ruiz  on February 1, 2023 for fatally shooting a Dallas police officer nearly 16 years ago after a high-speed chase, reported The Associated Press.

Ruiz, 43, received a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas, for the March 2007 killing of Dallas Police Senior Corporal Mark Nix.

“I would like to apologize to Mark and the Nix family for taking him away from you,” Ruiz said as he was laying strapped to a gurney in the death chamber. “I hope this brings you closure.”

He never looked at Nix’s relatives and friends, including the slain officer’s mother and sister, who watched through a window a few feet from him. Ruiz thanked his family and friends for supporting him and urged his children to “stand tall and continue to make me proud.”

“Don’t worry about me. I’m ready to fly,” he said. “All right warden, I’m ready to ride.”

As the lethal dose of the powerful sedative pentobarbital began taking effect, he took two quick breaths, then began snoring. His 11th snore was his last and there was no further movement. Twenty-two minutes later, at 6:41 p.m., he was pronounced dead.

Immediately before his statement, a spiritual adviser standing near Ruiz offered a brief prayer. Outside the brick walls of the prison, a group of about a dozen pro-police motorcyclists sat on their bikes in a cold drizzle, revving their engines and nearly drowning out her words for those inside.

Ruiz was the second inmate put to death this year in Texas and the fourth in the U.S. Seven other executions are scheduled in Texas for later this year, including one next week.

Nearly 16 years ago Ruiz led officers on a high-speed chase after being spotted driving a car that matched the description of one used by a murder suspect. Authorities said Ruiz fired one shot at Nix when the officer tried to break the vehicle’s passenger window after the chase. The bullet hit Nix’s badge, splintered it and sent fragments into his neck, severing an artery. He later died at a hospital.

Nix, 33, a U.S. Navy veteran of Operation Desert Storm, had been on the Dallas force for nearly seven years and was engaged to be married when he was killed.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier Wednesday declined an appeal from Ruiz’s attorneys to halt the execution. The defense had argued that jurors relied on “overtly racist” and “blatant anti-Hispanic stereotypes” in appraising whether Ruiz posed a future danger, an element needed to secure a death sentence in Texas. Ruiz was Hispanic.

In court documents filed late Tuesday with the Supreme Court, the Texas Attorney General’s Office said Ruiz’s claim of juror bias had no merit because a review of the allegations conducted last week by Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot found no such bias. One of the jurors accused of bias by Ruiz’s attorneys told Creuzot that, “I was not nor am not bias(ed) to anyone or any race,” according to the court filing.

Last week, U.S. District Judge David Godbey in Dallas denied a request to stay Ruiz’s execution, saying his attorneys failed to show that jurors had made statements during his trial showing “overt racial bias.” On Monday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals also denied a similar stay request on claims of racial bias. The appeals court did not consider the merits of the claim, but rejected it on procedural grounds.

Ruiz’s attorneys previously argued unsuccessfully that an expert witness for the prosecution falsely testified at the 2008 trial about Ruiz being an ongoing threat. His attorneys alleged prosecutors knew about the false testimony but remained silent about it. In his ruling, Godbey said the expert’s testimony “was quite possibly harmless” and even if it had been corrected, it would not have changed the jury’s decision to sentence Ruiz to death.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday unanimously declined to commute Ruiz’s death sentence to a lesser penalty.

Ruiz was one of five Texas death row inmates who sued to stop the state’s prison system from using what they allege are expired and unsafe execution drugs. Despite a civil court judge in Austin preliminarily agreeing with the claims, the state’s top two courts allowed one of the inmates who had been part of the litigation to be executed on Jan. 10.

Prison officials deny the lawsuit’s claims and say the state’s supply of execution drugs is safe.

At his trial, Ruiz testified he was afraid for his life when he fired in self-defense on Nix after the officer allegedly threatened to kill him. He also said he believed police fired their weapons first.

“I didn’t try to kill the officer. I just tried to stop him,” Ruiz testified.

Ruiz also said he fled from police that day because he had illegal drugs in his car and had taken drugs.

Gabriel Luchiano, who knew Nix when he worked as a security guard, said the officer always responded quickly when people needed help at the convenience store in northwest Dallas where Luchiano worked.

He was a “guardian angel,” said Luchiano. “It’s still painful no matter what. Nothing is going to close it.”

To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Mangino appears on Scripps News to discuss the killing of Tyre Nichols

Watch my interview on Scripps News, formerly Newsy, discussing the homicide charges against five former Memphis police officers for the murder of Tyre Nichols.

To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Mangino a guest on Law and Crime Network

Watch my guest appearance on Law and Crime Network discussing the double homicide trial of disgraced South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh.


To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Balko: Elite police units are part of the problem

Radley Balko writes in The New York Times, "giving roving teams of police officers added authority, elite status, a long leash and a vague mandate is a formula for abuse."

The website of the Memphis Police Department includes an entire section called “Reimagine Policing.” The introduction emphasizes that trust is the key to effective law enforcement and proclaims the department’s participation in reform efforts such as President Barack Obama’s 21st Century Policing program, de-escalation training and the “8 Can’t Wait” reforms proposed by the group Campaign Zero.

Yet in 2021, as homicides in the city soared, the city announced the formation of the Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods, or SCORPION. The ‌teams, which included four groups of 10 officers each, would saturate crime hot spots in the city in unmarked cars and make pretextual traffic stops ‌to investigate homicides, aggravated assaults, robberies and carjackings.

Programs like SCORPION are a big part of the problem.

These units are typically touted as the best of the best — teams of highly experienced, carefully selected officers with stable temperaments, who have earned the right to work with less supervision. It isn’t difficult to see the dangers of telling police officers again and again that they are “elite,” but what’s really remarkable is how far that ideal is from the reality. As Stephen Downing, a retired Los Angeles deputy police chief and former SWAT officer, once told me, “The guys who really want to be on the SWAT team are the last people you should be putting on the SWAT team.” These units tend to attract aggressive, rules-skirting officers who then bring in like-minded colleagues to join them.

One former Memphis officer told CBS News that ‌SCORPION hired young and inexperienced officers with a propensity for aggression. Their “training” consisted of “three days of PowerPoint presentations, one day of criminal apprehension instruction and one day at the firing range.” One of the five officers indicted in Nichols’s murder had a prior complaint against him, and the civil rights attorney Ben Crump said he has already heard from other people who say they were abused by the unit.

The name of the team gives the game away. You call a unit SCORPION or Strike Force because you want to instill fear and because you want to attract police officers who enjoy being feared.

Memphis is hardly alone. In the early 1970s, Detroit officials responded to a surge in street violence with a program called Stop the Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets, or STRESS. Early on, the units — which often, like SCORPION, included Black officers — gave politicians bragging rights to a record of arrests and gun confiscations. But behind that record were rogue cops with a cowboy mentality. They were accused of planting evidence, physical abuse and corruption. Over a two-year period, the units killed at least 22 people, almost all of them Black. The city eventually ended the program after a STRESS unit raided an apartment where five Wayne County sheriff’s deputies — all Black — were playing poker. The resulting shootout left one deputy dead and another permanently disabled.

In the 50 years since, a similar story has played out in cities across the country, with remarkable consistency. Perhaps the most infamous was the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart scandal of the late 1990s, which involved a unit called Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums program, or CRASH. More than 70 officers were implicated in planting guns and drug evidence, selling narcotics themselves and shooting and beating people without provocation.

Around the same time, the results of an investigation into Los Angeles’s Special Investigations Section — which had killed so many people it earned the nickname “Death Squad” — caused the city to pay out about $125 million in settlements to victims and court costs.

A decade earlier, Chicago created the Special Operations Section, or S.O.S., in response to rising crime in that city. By the mid-2000s, whistle-blowers and official investigations accused S.O.S. officers of armed robbery, drug dealing, planting evidence, burglary, “taxing” drug dealers and kidnapping. One member, Keith Herrera, told “60 Minutes” that S.O.S. officers pulled over motorists without cause, confiscated their keys, then broke into their homes and stole from them. The head of the unit — only one of numerous scandal-plagued elite units in the city’s history — eventually pleaded guilty to hiring a hit man to kill Officer Herrera.

And it was officers from the N.Y.P.D.’s Street Crimes Unit — its motto: “We own the night” — who shot and killed an unarmed immigrant, Amadou Diallo, after mistaking his wallet for a gun. Though the unit was officially disbanded, later incarnations took the lead in the city’s notorious stop-and-frisk policy and were implicated in some of the city’s most notorious police killings, including the deaths of Eric GarnerSean Bell and Kimani GrayA 2018 investigation by The Intercept found that though these units account for just 6 percent of N.Y.P.D. officers, they were involved in more than 30 percent of fatal shootings by police officers. The street crimes units were again disbanded after the George Floyd protests in 2020. But last year, in response to a sharp rise in crime, Eric Adams restarted them.

Scandals involving elite police units have also hit IndianapolisAtlantaPhiladelphiaNewarkPomonaMilwaukeeGreensboro and Fresno, among others. Most recently, eight officers from a unit in Baltimore were convicted and imprisoned after allegations that they robbed city residents, stole from local businesses, sold drugs and carried BB guns to plant on people.

The evidence is overwhelming: Giving roving teams of police officers added authority, elite status, a long leash and a vague mandate is a formula for abuse.

From STRESS to SCORPION, police and city officials have often claimed that these units helped reduce the crime rate. It’s hard to say if they’re right. Crime data is notoriously unreliable, and it’s all but impossible to isolate a rise or fall in crime in a specific city to a single variable. Violent crime did drop in Memphis last year, but it also dropped in most large cities, after a two-year spike.

But even if true, the implication ought to give us pause. It suggests that residents of the neighborhoods these units patrol must choose between living in fear of crime or living in fear of the police.

To read more CLICK HERE

 

Monday, January 30, 2023

Diversity is not a panacea to race based police violence

As numerous researchers told the Los Angeles Time's Jaweed Kaleem, diversity isn’t a panacea to police violence, wrote Erika D. Smith of the Times.

“Studies indicate that Black officers are just as brutal and at times even more brutal against Black bodies as their white counterparts,” said Duane Loynes Sr., an assistant professor at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., who studies the relationship between Black communities and police. “If a system is problematic, it doesn’t matter who you plug into it. You will get the same result.”

Of course, none of this is exactly news to Black people, much less to Lora King, Rodney King's daughter. King was brutalized by police on video on 1991.

 “I know my dad’s situation,” she said of King, who died in 2012. “And [some of] the bystanders were African American cops who did nothing.”

This is why, when activists with Black Lives Matter takes to the streets to demand justice for an act of police brutality, the race of the officers involved is almost never mentioned — it’s so irrelevant.

And yet, almost 32 years after the Rodney King beating, many still seem confused and shocked that Nichols was beaten by five Black cops in a city where more than half the police force is Black and most residents are too.

Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith were all members of the Memphis Police Department’s aggressive violent-crime unit, “SCORPION.” The unit has since been disbanded. And the officers have been fired, arrested, charged and released on bail.

Their deadly encounter with Nichols started as so many do — with a traffic stop.

“You gonna get your ass blown the f— out,” one officer yells at Nichols, who is seated in his car. Then, with guns pointed at him, an officer drags him from the driver’s seat.

“I didn’t do anything,” Nichols says. “All right, I’m on the ground.”

A few minutes later, an officer tells Nichols: “Watch out, I’m gonna baton the f— out of you!” Then another officer punches him in the face. Others hold him up as more blows are delivered.

“All right, all right,” Nichols says, moaning and trying desperately to comply with their orders.

Throughout the beating, he screams for his mother, who was at home only a short distance away. Near the end of the recording, the officers can be heard laughing and joking as Nichols, propped up against a car, slumps over.

 “Hey, sit up, bro,” one officer tells Nichols, who, by this point, was lying on the ground in pain. “Sit up, man.”

I wouldn’t advise anyone to watch the video, even the snippets, but if you do, you’ll see what looks more like someone getting jumped in an alley outside of a dive bar than police officers trying to arrest someone.

That all five were comfortable carrying out such senseless savagery while not only wearing body cameras but doing it under a pole-mounted police surveillance camera, is indicative of a toxic culture of policing. A “groupthink,” as Chief Davis called it, that is bigger than “bad apples.”

Sure, it’s extremely disappointing that not one of them looked at Nichols and saw a reflection of their own Blackness — and a recognition of the brutality that so many Black people have endured over the decades by people with a badge and a gun.

“They have brought shame to their own families,” Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, told CNN on Friday. “They brought shame to the Black community.”

They also betrayed the civil rights activists who’ve been fighting to protect Black lives for more decades than I’ve been alive.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who also has drawn comparisons between Nichols and King, acknowledged “that these officers are Black makes it more egregious to those of us in the civil rights movement.” But “these officers should not be allowed to hide their deeds behind their Blackness. We are against all police brutality — not just white police brutality.”

And police brutality, at its core, is about systemic racism, not the racism of individual officers. It’s about enforcing a system of power that is built on white supremacy and carried out by overpolicing low-income communities of color, like an occupying force.

Anyone, even Black cops, can be a tool of that system because anyone can be a tool of white supremacy.

So, no, diversifying police departments won’t help. What will help are new laws that fundamentally change how police departments operate, whether it’s requiring more active monitoring of officers’ mental health or somehow changing their role in carrying out traffic stops. We have to be more intentional about explicitly forbidding and punishing behavior that needs to stop.

“Whatever we’re doing, it’s not working,” Lora King told me. “It’s not working because we’re still in the same place going into infinity sign. So the whole everything needs to be reconstructed.”

Nichols, who died days after his beating, swollen and bloodied on a ventilator in a Memphis hospital, had lived in Sacramento until just a few years ago. He leaves behind a 4-year-old son.

Like the daughter of Rodney King, his son will one day have to make sense of a system of policing and of power that a majority of Americans refuse to meaningfully change because they benefit from it — even as it continues to destroy Black lives, one way or another.

“It’s sad we even have to compare this. It’s sad that it’s even happening,” King said, trying to come up with the words. “It doesn’t make sense. I can never make sense of it. It’s sickening.”

To read more CLICK HERE