Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Penn State: Let the Civil Suits Begin

The Legal Intelligencer is reporting that the first civil law suit in the Penn State sex scandal and cover-up has been filed in Philadelphia.  Zack Needles wrote that the lawsuit against embattled former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, the Second Mile and Penn State Uuniversity itself alleges sex abuse and a conspiracy to cover it up.

The suit, filed on behalf of an alleged victim, identified only as John Doe, was filed by St. Paul, Minn.-based attorney Jeffrey R. Anderson.  He said during a press conference this morning that the suit was filed in Philadelphia because one of the alleged incidents of sex abuse occurred there during a trip Sandusky took with the plaintiff.

Anderson said the victim first reported his allegations to law enforcement on Tuesday.

The complaint is short on specific details — Anderson said several times that he wanted to protect the victim and avoid compromising any ongoing criminal investigations—but alleges that, from 1992 to 1996, Sandusky sexually abused the plaintiff, reported the Intelligencer.According to Marci A. Hamilton, a Washington Crossing, Pa.-based attorney who is of counsel to Anderson's firm, the plaintiff was 10 when the abuse began and 14 when it stopped.

The complaint alleges Sandusky sexually abused the plaintiff "over 100 times" during the course of those four years "within Pennsylvania and outside Pennsylvania; in the facilities of Penn State, Particularly the football coach's locker room; at times within Philadelphia County; at facilities out of state connected with a Penn State bowl game; and at the Sandusky home."

The complaint also alleged counts of civil conspiracy to endanger children, vicarious liability for the sex abuse, negligent supervision, premises liability, negligent misrepresentation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress against both Penn State and The Second Mile. Anderson said that the suit is about "institutional recklessness."

The Legal Intellegencer

Mass Incarceration Follows the Model of Health Epidemic

Dr. Ronald Fraser wrote an interesting op-ed column in the Times of Trenton using Columbia Professor Ernest Drucker's new book, “A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America," to explain America’s addiction to prisons and mass incarceration. Fraser cites Drucker's use of an epidemic scenario to show how excessive incarceration spread from state to state.

Fraser wrote:

From 1970 to 2009, the total number of federal prisoners increased from 21,094 to 208,118. State prison inmates went from 177,737 to 1.4 million. When the 767,620 persons in local jails are added in, America’s grand total for 2009 was nearly 2.4 million people behind bars — a world record.

Fraser summarized Drucker's epidemic model:

The outbreak. To show his toughness on drug dealers, New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller sponsored the so-called Rockefeller drug laws of 1973. These laws, says Drucker, launched America’s prison epidemic. “Adopted in response to the rise in heroin use in New York in the 1960s,” he writes, “these laws mandated an elaborate new set of lengthy sentences for many drug offenses. In some cases, sentences for possession and sales of small quantities of drugs were equal to those given for many violent crimes — rape, assault and robbery.”
The epidemic spreads. The Rockefeller laws then became the model used by lawmakers in other states to adopt their own statutes that called for severe sentences for the possession and sale of drugs. In this way, the initial outbreak became contagious and spread throughout the nation.
Exposed populations. In New York, exposure to the Rockefeller laws was concentrated in the black and Hispanic communities — Drucker calls them “feeder communities” — and, by 1990, those convicted of violating these drug laws accounted for one-third of the state’s entire prison population. The incarceration rate for blacks and Hispanics was 30 times higher than for whites.
This pattern was repeated in other states as well, where new drug laws hit black and Hispanic communities especially hard.
Sustainability. While continued prosecution of low-level crimes is the engine that drives large prison populations, Drucker claims the epidemic is sustained by post-prison parole policies. More than 1 million paroled ex-convicts are constantly at risk of reincarceration. Violations of administrative and technical parole rules, not new criminal charges, annually account for about one-third of all state prison admissions. Today, two-thirds of all released inmates are returned to prison within three years.
Long-term harm. Exposure to the criminal justice system brings on two types of lasting consequences. First, ex-convicts who are re-entering society are often unable to find a job, decent housing and other social services. In addition, says Drucker, 25 percent to 30 percent of the children growing up in the so-called feeder communities have a parent behind bars. “These children of the incarcerated,” he says, “are the second major reason mass incarceration has become self-sustaining. ... Estimates are that between one-third and one-half of all juvenile hall inmates have a parent who has been incarcerated.”

Drucker concludes that “[w]e can now identify the features of an infectious disease gone out of control — not drug use itself, but how we handle America’s drug problems. Our decision to criminalize drug use in the United States has caused our epidemic of incarceration; hence, reform of our drug policies must be the first focus of our preventive strategy.” Simply by not incarcerating new cases involving nonviolent, small-time drug offenders would immediately cut prison admissions by 30 percent, Drucker says.

New York’s Rockefeller Drug Law Reform Act of 2009 revoked the mandatory sentences found in the original draconian statute, and it grants judges greater freedom in sentencing, including the option of sending addicted offenders to treatment, not prison. Earlier drug law reforms in 2004 and 2005 contributed to a decline in New York’s prison population from 70,199 in 2000, to 58,687 in 2009.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kennedy Assassin Sirhan Sirhan Presents Novel Manchurian Defense

William F. Pepper and Laurie D. Dusek attorneys for Robert F. Kennedy's assassin Sirhan Sirhan have presented the Manchurian defense on behalf of their infamous client. The Manchurian defense derives from the movie The Manchurian Candidate released by MGM in 1962.  The movie portrayed a supposed war hero who was brainwashed into becoming a unwitting assassin.

Sirhan is now 67-years-old and remains in prison for the 1968 assassination in a Los Angeles Hotel. Attorneys say Sirhan should be released from prison because he was hypno-programmed to be a diversion for Kennedy's real assassin. The Manchurian defense did not work with the California Parole Board.

Sirhan Sirhan "was an involuntary participant in the crimes being committed because he was subjected to sophisticated hypno programming and memory implantation techniques which rendered him unable to consciously control his thoughts and actions at the time the crimes were being committed," court papers said, reported CNN.
Three bullets struck Kennedy's body while a fourth bullet passed through the shoulder of his suit coat. Kennedy, the most seriously wounded of the six victims, died the next day. The other five people survived their wounds.

Fifty years later we learn that The Manchurian Candidate is not science fiction but actually mainstream science according to a Harvard professor. Daniel Brown, an associate clinical professor in psychology at Harvard Medical School who submitted a statement to the parole board after interviewing Sirhan for 60 hours over a three-year period, reported CNN. Brown says Sirhan now remembers that when he fired his shots in the pantry he believed he was at a gun range and shooting at circular targets, according to Pepper.

Brown believes Sirhan was programmed to do this so as to cause a distraction in the pantry, allowing a second gunman to secretly shoot Kennedy from behind, according to Sirhan's attorneys. Brown is described in Sirhan's court papers as "one of the world's foremost experts in hypno programming."

CNN reported that Brown says Sirhan now remembers hearing loud sounds he describes as "the thunderclap of other bullets" being fired by another gun in the pantry, the defense attorneys said. Brown says Sirhan also recalls seeing flashes in front of him that he associates with gunfire inside the pantry but not coming from his own weapon, according to Pepper.

Hey, the twinkie defense worked for Dan White after he assassinated San Fransisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978.  Time will tell if the Manchurian defense will work for Sirhan Sirhan.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Penn State: Is Missing DA a Case of Suicide?

Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar disappeared in 2005. Now, Penn State is in the midst of imploding as the result of a salacious sex scandal and cover-up. Gricar disappearance has been linked to Penn State. In 1998, Gricar decline to prosecute assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky the guy in the center of the Penn State fire storm. Was it murder, did Gricar run away to avoid a difficult investigation and prosecution or could it have been suicide.

The New York Times recently reported that back on April 15, 2005 Gricar took a day off from work. At about 11:30 a.m., he called his girlfriend, Patricia Fornicola, to say he was taking a drive on Route 192. About 12 hours later, she reported him missing.

The next day, Gricar’s Mini Cooper was found in a parking lot in Lewisburg, about 50 miles from his home in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Gricar’s cellphone was in the car, but not his laptop, wallet or keys, which were never recovered, reported the Times.

Months later, the laptop was found in the Susquehanna River without its hard drive, which was discovered later. It was too damaged to yield any information. On the fourth anniversary of his disappearance, investigators revealed that a search of his home computer yielded a history of Internet searches for phrases like “how to wreck a hard drive,” according to a report at the time in The Centre Daily Times.

Renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht said he believes the disappearance of Gricar is somehow linked to the Penn State sex scandal and cover-up. But not in the way you might imagine.

Gricar decided not to prosecute Jerry Sandusky in 1998, despite having enough evidence to do so. Wecht told WPXI-TV guilt could have drove Gricar to suicide. "It might have stopped this. I might have kept other children from being victimized. So you do have a plausible suicidal scenario," Wecht said.

Wecht’s suicide theory might not be that far fetched. Roy Gricar was Ray Gricar’s brother. He lived in Ohio and also disappeared. His car was also abandoned next to a river.

Roy disappeared in 1996, and eventually, the body turned up as well. According to, Roy Gricar was found a few days later in the Great Miami River outside of Dayton, Ohio. Joggers found his body about a mile downstream from his abandoned car. The coroner ruled it a suicide, a lonely and tragic end for a man who had been diagnosed as bipolar.

Ray Gricar was declared dead this summer by a Centre County court. Ray’s disappearance and Roy’s death seem eerily similar. If we knew more about Ray Gricar could we gain some insight into this revived mystery? Could we put to rest the Penn State Connection?

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Will Changes in Child Abuse Reporting Help or Hurt

Dean Richard J. Gelles of the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice makes a compelling argument against expanding mandated reporter laws in Pennsylvania. As lawmakers scramble to make law in the wake of the Penn State sex scandal and cover-up, Gelles examines the ramification of a new more stringent reporting law in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer column.

Dean Gelles writes in part:

In 2009, the most recent year for which data are available, government agencies throughout the country received 3.3 million reports of suspected child abuse and neglect, involving some five million children. The agencies investigated two million of these reports, leaving about a million uninvestigated, primarily because they didn't include necessary information (e.g., the name or address of the victim or offender) or because they didn't meet the state's definition of child abuse or neglect. These two million investigations found that 442,000 children were actually abused or neglected, leaving 1.6 million reports for which the investigators were unable to uncover sufficient evidence that abuse or neglect had occurred.

The Inquirer column continues:

So what would happen if new laws forced more citizens to report suspicions of child abuse or else face stiff punishments? In all likelihood, the number of reports would increase (which is probably already happening in Pennsylvania). The staffs of the agencies that investigate those reports would also have to increase. But they would likely be using the same tools they use today to determine whether abuse occurred, and the increased reports would probably cause the substantiation rate to decline.

Dean Gelles concludes:

While I would like to believe that investigations alone increase the protection of children, I know otherwise. Forty years after the first federal mandatory reporting law was enacted, there isn't a single study showing that investigations alone increase the safety of children. Investigations without services do not prevent abuse.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

New Jersey: Fewer police, fewer arrests spells trouble for neighborhoods

New Jersey police departments are arresting fewer offenders for minor offenses.  The declining arrests are the result of a budget crisis that swapped local municipalities resulting in mass police layoffs. 

The fewer "quality of life" arrests strategy is in direct contradiction to the Professor John Q. Wilson's Broken Window Theory brought to prominence in  New York City.  The Broken Window Theory of crime control practiced by then-Police Commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Rudy Guilaini emphasized that vigorous pursuit of the subway fare jumpers, the squeegee men, graffiti and other minor offenses that effect the quality of neighborhoods.

If you let one broken window occur without consequences then there will be a second, third and the neighborhood will begin to deteriorate and more serious crime will follow.  A crackdown on minor infractions, the idea goes, creates more community pride and puts behind bars more people who might otherwise be committing serious crimes. New York City has enjoyed a unprecedented decline in violent crime and homicide in part because of the work of Commissioner Bratton and his courageous decision to fight crime from the bottom up.

New Jersey seems to be going in the opposite direction.  Some experts believe the New Jersey strategy will have dire consequences.  Newark, Trenton, Paterson, Atlantic City and Camden, all densely populated cities with significant crime problems — all faced with precarious tax revenue and declining aid from a state government that is also cash-strapped — have all made deep cuts in their police departments since the start of 2010.

An Associated Press analysis of municipal court data shows that when police are laid off, department priorities shift: Arrests and summonses of all kinds drop, with enforcement for minor crimes and traffic violations suffering the most as police focus their remaining resources on more serious offenses.
The strategy may make sense, but experts say it leaves a troubling gap in law enforcement.

"People are committing crimes and they're not suffering the consequences for it," Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk told the AP. "I think it has emboldened those who are committing the crimes. They do not get arrested, and consequently, they continue committing these crimes."

From January 2009 through November 2010, Newark police made arrests or issued summonses about 5,100 times a month for offenses classified as "other" infractions, such as curfew, noise and littering violations. Since the layoffs, the AP found, the number has dropped by nearly half, to 2,600 a month.
In Camden, monthly reports of traffic summonses for infractions like speeding and running stop lights plunged from 3,820 to 1,850 post-layoffs.

In Paterson, arrests for charges like shoplifting and possession of small amount of drugs went from just over 700 a month before the April layoffs to an average 545 in the five months afterward.
The drop-off in arrests might not be immediately noticeable on the streets, but police experts are worried about the long-term impact.

Since the 1980s, police departments across the country have paid more attention to so-called quality-of-life crimes. A crackdown on minor infractions, the idea goes, creates more community pride and puts behind bars more people who might otherwise be committing serious crimes.

The new data show that layoffs are undermining that approach, said Wayne Fisher, director of the Police Institute at Rutgers University's Newark campus. "We begin the downward spiral," Fisher told the AP. "We may go back to the kind of crime level we were all used to in the 70s and into the 80s."

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Friday, November 25, 2011

NYC: Police Killings Down 1,100% in 40 Years

The New York City Police Department’s annual firearms-discharge report provides further evidence that New York City has evolved in to one of the safest major cities in the world.  Not only have homicides declined dramatically in the last decade and a half, but police shootings are a fraction of what they were 40 years ago.

Last year, the police shot and killed 8 people and injured 16.  The Police Department said the 2010 statistics marked record lows, reported the New York Times.  The department began keeping records in 1971, a year in which the police in New York City fatally shot 93 people and injured 221 others.

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Homicides Hit Four Decade Low

The nation's homicide rate fell to 4.8 homicides per 100,000 U.S. residents in 2010, its lowest level in four decades, the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics recently announced . Much of the decline was in the nation's largest cities, those with a population of one million or more, where the homicide rate dropped dramatically from 35.5 homicides per 100,000 U.S. residents in 1991 to a low of 11.9 per 100,000 in 2008.

The sharp increase in homicides from the mid-1980s through the early 1990s, and much of the subsequent decline, is attributable to gun violence by teens (age 14 to 17) and young adults (age 18 to 24). Despite the recent decline, the number of gun homicides committed by teens and young adults in 2008 remained similar to the counts of the mid-1980s.

Most murders were intraracial. From 1980 through 2008, 84 percent of white homicide victims were murdered by whites and 93 percent of black victims were murdered by blacks. During this same period, blacks were disproportionately represented among homicide victims and offenders. Blacks were six times more likely than whites to be homicide victims and seven times more likely than whites to commit homicide.

The number of homicides known to involve adult or juvenile gang violence has quadrupled since 1980, increasing from about 220 homicides in 1980 to 960 homicides in 2008. From 1980 to 2008, gang violence increased from one percent to six percent of all homicides. During this same period, gun involvement in gang-related homicides increased from 73 percent to 92 percent.

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The Cautionary Instruction: Rape by any other name is still rape

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
November 25, 2011

A serious debate has ensued in the wake of the Penn State sex scandal and cover-up relating to the appropriate terminology to use when referring to the alleged rape of a young boy. Arthur S. Brisbane of The New York Times recently wrote about the problems faced by media when reporting on sexual assault.
“Victims’ advocates echo what the readers told me in their e-mails: language in news media reports -- and, for that matter, in the court system itself -- consistently underplays the brutality of sex crimes and misapplies terms that imply consent.
The Los Angeles Times also struggled with the issue. The Times made an interesting observation about the charges brought against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. He was charged with "multiple counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, corruption of minors, endangering the welfare of a child, indecent assault and unlawful contact with a minor, as well as single counts of aggravated indecent assault and attempted indecent assault.” The charges did not specify rape, so the Times did not initially use that term.
Pennsylvania has sanitized the label affixed to one of the most egregious of criminal acts. With the exception of murder, the anal rape of a child is one of society’s most heinous crimes. Yet, Pennsylvania does not call it rape. The Crimes Code calls it involuntary deviate sexual intercourse (IDSI).
Both the rape and IDSI statutes include the element of force. To include the term “involuntary” in the statute’s title seems redundant. More to the point, a child does not have the capacity to consent to sex, thus any contact is involuntary. Deviate refers to an act that is “socially or morally unacceptable” a clumsy reference to the oral or anal nature of the involuntary penetration. The IDSI statute provides, “Sexual intercourse per os or per anus between human beings.” Intercourse seems to imply mutual participation in sexual activity.
Senator Kim Ward (D., Westmoreland) is proposing a measure that would create a task force to review and tweak child abuse and reporting laws.
The task force “would look at these issues, conduct hearings over a six-month period, and come back with recommendations for overall addressing what the changes should be, to look at who should report, what should be reported, and to whom,” said Scott Hollander, Executive Director of KidsVoice.
The legislature needs to act, whether through a task force or existing committee, the IDSI statute needs to change. The legislature should amend the title and definition of IDSI so that it reflects what it really is – rape. Such a change will insure that an adult male anally sodomizing a 10-year-old boy will, in fact, have the act referred to as rape, not 'having sex' or 'being forced to have sex’ or ‘engaging in involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.’

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Altoona Mirror: Examining the Legal Fallout from McQueary Email

Below is a pretty thorough legal analysis by William Kibler of The Altoona Mirror with regard to the recent email by Mike McQueary which seems to contradict his testimony before the grand jury investigating the Penn State sex scandal and cover-up.

Kibler writes, that McQueary may have damaged his credibility this week as a prosecution witness in the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse case, when he claimed he contacted police after allegedly witnessing Sandusky raping a boy, according to legal experts.

The claim seems at odds with the grand jury presentment in the case and with local police agencies, which said McQueary didn't report the rape in 2002.

McQueary's claim, made to a friend in an email and released to The Associated Press, "absolutely" damages his credibility as a witness, said Thomas M. Dickey, an Altoona defense lawyer.

Other legal experts aren't so sure, writes Kibler.

McQueary's claim was the good news for Sandusky's defense this week - after the bad news of Sandusky's televised interview with Bob Costas on NBC, in which he admitted to showering with boys, Dickey said.

While Sandusky's admission gives ground unnecessarily, McQueary's claim is "a hole," an opening that the defense can exploit at trial, Dickey said.

"Pin him down, turn that one lie into 30 lies" by "pounding" for inconsistencies among all the scraps of communication the defense can find, he said. "Everything that person ever said or thought relative to that case."

But even one lie helps, reported Kibler.

"False in one, false in all," he said.

It's not surprising the opening came as it did, Dickey said.

"Usually when you find the good stuff, it's when people have their guards down, like an email to a friend," he said.

Defense lawyer Patrick Artur of Philadelphia was more circumspect.

The grand jury presentment isn't evidence, merely a summary of what the grand jury found, Artur said.

"That summary could well leave out a lot of specific information," former Blair County District Attorney William Haberstroh said. "You almost would need to see the transcript."

Whether the email statement contradicts McQueary's grand jury testimony depends on exactly what prosecutors asked him and how he answered, Haberstroh said.

If prosecutors didn't ask directly whether he went to police, it's not necessarily surprising he didn't volunteer the information, because prosecutors generally keep their questioning narrow and focused in grand jury proceedings, Haberstroh said.

They don't want to bring up extraneous issues that could get in the way of convincing the grand jury there's probable cause to recommend charges, Haberstroh said.

"So we don't know whether [McQueary's email statement] is contradictory or not," Artur said.

McQueary made his recent claim under duress. Media commentators have attacked him for not stopping the rape and not reporting it to police, based on the grand jury presentment, writes Kibler.

"He wanted to leave the impression he did something," Artur said. "That he didn't just whistle past the showers and keep on going."

But prosecutors and his own lawyer should tell him to "zip it," Artur said.

Likewise, it's natural for defendants to want to talk, but Sandusky needs to bide time until trial, Dickey said.

"If I were representing Sandusky, I would be sitting back watching them all unravel," he said.

The upcoming preliminary hearing will be an opportunity for the defense to gather ammunition to inflict further damage, generating lots of specifics it can exploit at trial for inconsistencies, Dickey said.

"You have to attack, attack, attack their credibility," Dickey said. "To show these people are lying, stretching the truth, exaggerating, whatever."

Those kinds of attacks can be fruitful, writes Kibler.

"The truth of the matter is that most people exaggerate, say things they don't mean, even say things that are not true, all the time," said John Burkoff, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

And defense lawyers can turn an acorn into an oak tree, Artur said.

Marshaling witnesses to present credible testimony at trial in a case like Sandusky's is a path fraught with peril for the prosecution, Burkoff said.

The "scorching" coverage of the case may have given other victims the confidence to come forward to reveal abuse by Sandusky, whose community stature could have been intimidating before, he said.

But that coverage also might embolden false victims to come forward, he said.

If the prosecution isn't careful enough to cull them out, and if one gets into the witness group at trial, and the defense exposes that victim, it could jeopardize the whole case, he said.

Conversely, if there's an absolutely convincing case against one victim, the "spillover effect" can help convince the trial jury about the rest, he said.

In the grand jury presentment, the alleged 2002 rape stood out as probably the most convincing incident, so the doubt that may be cast by McQueary's recent email could be especially damaging, it seems.

"I'm willing to predict you're going to see more and more inconsistencies," Dickey said.

Still, a single exaggeration or lie - if such was the case with McQueary's email - is rarely enough to totally discredit testimony, Burkoff said.

McQueary's claim isn't going to destroy the state's case, Artur predicted.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Oregon Governor Puts the Kibosh on Executions

This week Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber placed a moratorium on all executions, issued a temporary reprieve stopping the December 6 execution of execution volunteer Gary Haugen, according to the Oregonian.  The governor urged the state to "find a better solution" to a system that he said is arbitrary, expensive and "fails to meet basic standards of justice."

Oregon became the latest of five states to abolish or back away from the death penalty. New York's highest court ruled the death penalty statute unconstitutional in 2004. New Jersey repealed its death penalty law in 2007. New Mexico followed suit two years later. And Illinois abolished it earlier this year.

"In my mind, it is a perversion of justice," Governor Kitzhaber said at a crowded news conference, his voice strained and uncharacteristically quavering at times. "I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer and I will not allow further executions while I am governor," reported the Oregonian.

Haugen volunteered to be executed by lethal injection. He appeared to overcome the last obstacle earlier this week when the state Supreme Court allowed the execution to proceed. Governor Kitzhaber said he made up his mind last week and wanted to wait for the legal issues to play out before making a public declaration.

Oregon has abolished and reinstated the death penalty several times since it was first enacted in 1864, and Governor Kitzhaber said he did not know if people will support repealing capital punishment, reported the Oregonian.

The reprieve for Haugen remains in place as long as Governor Kitzhaber is governor.  However, Haugen may file an appeal because it is his intention to be executed.

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California Sheriffs Invested with Authority to Decide Length of Prison Stays

California has gone through an unprecedented realignment of its prison system shifting responsibility for a significant number of prisoners from state prisons to local county jails. This realignment has also shifted responsibility from the courts to the sheriff in what could be called an inappropriate shift of responsibility from the judiciary to the executive branch.
County lawmakers can actually grant the authority to a sheriff to release individuals who are in jail on bond pretrial, a significant portion of the county jail population. The sheriff will also make decisions on diversion like electronic monitoring, house arrest and work release.
The change has come as a result of California's Prison Realignment legislation which to effect on October 1.  The realignment changes the punishment for a large group of felonies. Some California counties were using state prison for offenders who committed these low-level, non-violent felonies. When the state was ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court to reduce its prison population, the low-level non-violent offender along with parole violators were targeted as inmates who should not be in state prison.
However a review by The Associated Press has revealed that crimes that qualify for local sentences include at least two dozen offenses that can be considered serious or violent, reported KPCC-FM.
Among them: Involuntary manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, killing or injuring a police officer while resisting arrest, participating in a lynching, possession of weapons of mass destruction, possessing explosives, threatening a witness or juror, and using arson or explosives to terrorize a health facility or church. Assault, battery, statutory rape and sexual exploitation by doctors or psychotherapists are also covered by the prison realignment law and carry sentences that will be served in a county jail instead of state prison.
"These crimes include a variety of offenses that would strike many civilians as far from trivial," Public Policy Institute of California researcher Dean Misczynski wrote in a recent analysis of the new law.
A list of 500 criminal code sections to be covered by the law was compiled by the California District Attorneys Association and posted late last month to its website. The state attorney general's office confirmed the association's review was accurate but said defendants with a previous felony conviction or those charged with enhancements would still be sent to state prison.
California counties don’t have the space to house all the inmates currently in county jails as well as the new realigned population. Counties may have to release inmates early to make space for more dangerous or violent offenders.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley has been making noise about the problem, according to the LA Weekly News. “I'm suggesting that the measurable crime rate is going to spike…There's going to be approximately 8,000 individuals sent to state prison -- non-violent, non-serious, non-registerable sex offenders -- that will by law will have to serve their sentences locally. The current county jail system does not have the capacity to handle that under even optimistic, rosy scenarios.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Lie: The Lesson of Mike McQueary

It is easy to craft your own reality when having faced a moral decision—one scrutinized the world over—and finding you came up on the wrong end of the country’s collective moral compass.

The lesson of Mike McQueary is simple.   We can't undo the decisions we make no matter how painful the consequences.  Sometimes a little white lie here or a twist of facts there can soften the blow, but when the world is watching—the lie—only compounds the problem.

McQueary was a golden boy.  He was a high school football star at State College High School.  He decided to stay home and play for Penn State, although Penn State was not his first choice.  He played quarterback for one of the top college football programs in America and did it well. He set records as a Penn State quarterback in 1996 and 1997.

In 2002, McQueary was a graduate assistant at his alma mater. He wasn’t fresh out of college. After a failed attempt to make an NFL team, McQueary had returned to Happy Valley.  First, as a graduate assistant, then administrative assistant, then his current position as recruiting coordinator and position coach. McQueary was 28 years old.

On March 1, 2002, McQueary witnessed a horrific crime.  With the exception of murder, it is difficult to conceive of a more heinous crime than the anal rape of a young boy.  That is exactly what McQueary witnessed on that March evening.
According to the grand jury presentment that resulted in the indictment of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, Athletic Director Tim Curley and University Vice-President Gary Schultz, McQueary entered the football locker room, approached the shower and heard the rhythmic slapping of sexual intercourse.  He looked in the shower and allegedly observed Sandusky anally raping a 10-year-old boy.

The presentment is specific—the perpetrator and the victim looked at McQueary and he “immediately left.”  The presentment found that “no one,” not McQueary, nor Paterno, Curley, Schultz or President Graham Spanier or any other representative of Penn State contacted the police.

The presentment is not a verbatim transcript of the grand jury testimony, but it is telling that specific findings within the presentment seem to contradict what McQueary wrote in a recent email to a friend.

The November 8 email from McQueary to a friend, made available to The Associated Press, said: "I did stop it, not physically ... but made sure it was stopped when I left that locker room ... I did have discussions with police and with the official at the university in charge of police .... no one can imagine my thoughts or wants to be in my shoes for those 30-45 seconds ... trust me."

The clear conflict between McQueary’s testimony and the email became more complicated. The State College Police and campus police deny that McQueary reported the alleged rape. "Absolutely not," State College Police chief Tom King told NBC News when asked if McQueary had reported what he had witnessed, as he claimed in the email. "We don't have any records of him coming to us."

Penn State University police offered a similar denial. "At this point we have no record of any police report being filed in 2002" by McQueary in connection with the Sandusky case, a university spokeswoman told the Boston Globe.

McQueary reported the alleged rape to Head Football Coach Joe Paterno, but his reaction at least according to the presentment was less than heroic.  In fact, a grown man who witnesses the rape of a child and does nothing to stop it could certainly be construed as a coward.  Had McQueary observed someone holding a child’s head under water in the locker room whirlpool that March evening, would he have intervened?

Why would Mike McQueary include in an email something he failed to mention to the grand jury?  Maybe what he included in the email isn’t true at all.  Maybe, McQueary’s email was an effort to save face among a group of friends who were dismayed at his inaction.  Could McQueary have been so embarrassed by his moral lapse in judgment that he felt compelled to lie to his friends about his role.

Many men would rather be referred to as a liar than as someone who aids or abets the rape of a young boy.  It happens every day in prisons across the country. Sex offenders refuse to accept responsibility for crimes against children because they fear retribution from other inmates or just refuse to acknowledge that they could commit such an awful crime.

McQueary may well have told the grand jury exactly what he did, but his efforts at rehabilitating his reputation may prove costly to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as it prepares to prosecute a man accused of unthinkable crimes.


U.S. Dominates the World in Incarceration Rates

Albert R. Hunt of Bloomberg News wrote an interesting piece entitle, “A Country of Inmates” published recently in The New York Times. Although the column covers a lot of ground the following excerpts provide a vivid picture of prison overcrowding in the United States.

Hunt wrote:

The United States has 2.3 million people behind bars, almost one in every 100 Americans. The U.S. prison population has more than doubled over the past 15 years, and one in nine black children has a parent in jail.

Proportionally, the United States has four times as many prisoners as Israel, six times as many as Canada or China, eight times as many as Germany and 13 times as many as Japan.

With just a little more than four percent of the world’s population, the United States accounts for a quarter of the planet’s prisoners and has more inmates than the leading 35 European countries combined. Almost all the other nations with high per capita prison rates are in the developing world.

The prison explosion hasn’t been driven by an increase in crime. In fact, the crime rate, notably for violent offenses, is dropping across the United States, a phenomenon that began about 20 years ago.

Hunt continued:

The latest F.B.I. figures show that murder, rape and robberies have fallen to an almost half-century low; to be sure, they remain higher than in other major industrialized countries.

There are many theories for this decline. The most accepted is that community police work in major metropolitan areas has improved markedly, focusing on potential high-crime areas. There are countless other hypotheses, even ranging to controversial claims that more accessible abortion has reduced a number of unwanted children who were more likely to have committed crimes.

To read more:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pennsylvania Commutes Few Life Sentences

The Lancaster New Era has explored the growing number of geriatric inmates serving life sentences in Pennsylvania. Nearly 4,800 men and women currently are serving life sentences in state prisons. The most recent figures available — from a 2005 state government report — show that the number of elderly lifers in Pennsylvania grew 35 percent from 2001 to 2004, when it reached 1,077.

The governor and Board of Pardons commute few life sentences. The New Era wrote, the state Board of Pardons considers inmates' applications for commutation, or reduction of a sentence currently being served.

Commutation of life sentences once was common. In the 1970s and 1980s, hundreds of applications were heard and commutations granted. But both have dropped sharply in recent years.

A 1997 state constitutional amendment changed the pardon board's makeup. It now includes the lieutenant governor, attorney general and three appointees: a crime victim, corrections expert, and physician, psychiatrist or psychologist.

The amendment also requires a unanimous vote — as opposed to the previous majority — to recommend commutation of a death or life sentence.

The push for the amendment was fueled in part by the case of Reginald McFadden, who had served 26 years of his life sentence in 1994, when Governor Robert Casey granted a commutation recommended by the board, 4-1.

Three months after his release, McFadden was arrested for rape and two killings in New York.

The New Era found that since 1995, the board has heard 28 applications for commutation of a life sentence. Governors granted six of the 10 recommended commutations.

To read more:

The New York Times: Confusing Sex and Rape

Arthur S. Brisbane of The New York Times takes an interesting look at how the media and even those related to criminal investigations and lawmaking use terms for sex and rape interchangeably.  The column is worth reading.  It appears the problem, at least in Pennsylvania, starts with the legislature.
In Pennsylvania, anal rape or oral rape has a rather sanitized label of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.  The law needs to be changed especially when dealing with a child.  A 10-year-old boy cannot consent to intercourse deviate or otherwise.  The legislature should amend the title and definition of the law so that it reflects what it really is—deviate rape.  
Brisbane wrote within the context of the Penn State sex scandal and cover-up:
(R)eporting on allegations of sex crimes poses a challenge not only to get the story right but to deliver it in language that puts the facts in the proper light.
Some readers, responding to The New York Time’s first reports on the case, strongly objected to wording in the articles that, in their view, either underplayed the details or wrongly applied the language of consensual sex to the narrative.
The objections focused on the most severe of the accusations against Mr. Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant coach. According to the grand jury report, he subjected a boy estimated to be 10 years old to “anal intercourse” in locker room showers at the university in 2002.
Brisbane noted that “four days into The Time’s news coverage, the newspaper introduced the term “rape” into some of its descriptions of the 2002 incident.”Joe Sexton, the sports editor, told me the paper had “no reluctance to use ‘rape’ ” and was not trying “to somehow shy away from the graphic nature of the allegations.” He said the charges included a variety of acts, so the paper had used “sexual assault” to cover the range. Further, he said, the paper’s reporting on Penn State officials’ accounts of their actions required careful wording, as none of them besides the graduate assistant had acknowledged that rape was involved.
It is common for newspapers to use terms like “sexual assault” and “sexual abuse” and “have sex” when reporting on sex crimes. Perhaps, though, it’s time that The Times and other news organizations take another look at the language they use. Victims’ advocates echo what the readers told me in their e-mails: language in news media reports — and, for that matter, in the court system itself — consistently underplays the brutality of sex crimes and misapplies terms that imply consent.
Brisbane's New York Times column continues:
“We constantly talk about victims having sex with their perpetrator,” said Claudia J. Bayliff, project attorney for the National Judicial Education Program and a longtime advocate for victims of sex crimes. “We talk about children performing oral sex on their perpetrator, which suggests a consensual act and a volitional act. We use ‘fondled,’ ‘had sex with,’ ‘performed oral sex on’ — all those kinds of terms.”
Wendy Murphy, an adjunct professor at the New England School of Law, runs a program there whose mission is to persuade court systems to use language that strips out vagueness and the implication of consent. She told me she has worked with journalists and finds they are largely untrained on the subject.
Newspapers, she said, shy away from publishing the explicit details that really tell the story. “People are eating their cornflakes,” she said. “They don’t want to read ‘the penis was forced into the child’s mouth.’ ”
But, she added, “my argument back is always, come on, if there is one thing newspapers have always said it is: ‘We are sorry to offend but we are going to tell the truth. We are not going to soft-pedal it for you.’ ”
This is not an easy fix, and the Sandusky case illustrates why. It is complex, with 40 charges involved, and the details of the allegations are extremely unsavory. How can a reporter characterize the facts accurately and without compounding the victimization?
Marci Hamilton, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University and an advocate for victims of clergy sex crimes, suggested that news organizations should be both general and specific. “I don’t think the terms ‘sexually abuse’ or ‘molestation’ are inappropriate,” she said. “The problem is when they are the only terms used. In this case, you have eight victims with stories told about them. Each is quite different. A journalist who doesn’t make it clear the spectrum of inappropriate behavior is letting us down.”
Using a broad term like “sexually assault” or “sexually abuse” is reasonable, in other words, but only if the specifics are not spared. In my view, and that of several victims’ advocates I spoke with, the term “rape” is appropriate in describing the most severe allegations in the Sandusky case. But there is a problem there, as well.
“Rape” is a word in flux. The Times stylebook says to use it to mean “forced intercourse, or intercourse with a child below the age of consent.” In many cases, though, the justice system doesn’t use the word. In the Sandusky case, the charges do not include the word “rape” because he was charged under the statute covering “Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse.”
Ms. Murphy, of the New England School of Law, said that in surveying the 50 states, she found “something like 40 different terms to describe the act of rape of a child.”
To read more:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Death Penalty Update 2011

Last week, Idaho carried out its first execution in 17 years.  Idaho's execution was the 42 execution of 2011.  There have been 42 executions stayed--canceled--this year.

With one more execution scheduled in Oregon on December 6th, we will find out if America will carry out more executions than it cancels in 2011.  Regardless of the outcome in Oregon, 2011's execution totals will fall short of 2010.  There were 46 executions carried out in 2010.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there are 20 executions scheduled nationwide through 2013.  Twelve of those executions are scheduled in Ohio. Don't be surprised. In 2010 and 2011, Ohio trailed only Texas in the number of executions carried out across the country.

Idaho Carries Out First Execution in 17 Years

The 43nd Execution of 2011

Idaho executed Paul Ezra Rhoades on November 18th for his role in the 1987 murders of two women.  It was the first execution in Idaho in 17 years, according to The Associated Press.

Rhoades was declared dead at 9:15 a.m. at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution after being administered state’s new three drug lethal injection protocol.

Rhoades was convicted in the kidnapping and murders of 34-year-old Susan Michelbacher and 21-year-old Stacy Dawn Baldwin. He was also sentenced to life in prison for the murder of 20-year-old Nolan Haddon.

The killings occurred during a three-week span in the winter of 1987. Prosecutors said he snatched Michelbacher, a special education teacher, into his van, raped her, shot her nine times and continued the sexual assault either as she lay dying or after she was already dead, reported The Associated Press.

Baldwin died in similar fashion. The newlywed and convenience store worker was abducted at gunpoint and taken to a remote area where he tried to sexually assault her. She fought back, and as she was scrambling away on all fours, he shot her twice and left her to die alone in the snow.

According to the Idaho  Department of Corrections, Rhoades spent his final days watching television, reading and doing artwork. He has also been talkative while meeting with family members, his attorney and his spiritual advisor, and engaging in conversations with the correctional officers who are monitoring him.

His last meal was the  same meal that is offered to all other Idaho Maximum Security inmates. The meal consisted of hot dogs, sauerkraut, mustard, ketchup, onions, relish, baked beans, veggie sticks, ranch dressing, fruit with gelatin and strawberry ice cream cups.

Rhoades' final statement was a mixed bag of contrition and denial. According to KTVB-TV, Rhoades said, "I'm sorry for the part I played in your wife's death. Bert Michelbacher, For Haddon, you still have to keep looking. I can't help you, I'm sorry for your family. I can't help you, I took part in the Michelbacher death, I can't help you guys, sorry."

He then faced the section that contained his representatives, and he said "Mom, goodbye," he then turned and faced the warden Randy Blades and said, "You guys, I forgive you, I really do." 

Rhoades, an Idaho Falls native, was the first Idaho inmate to be executed since 1994 and the only person to be involuntarily put to death in the state since 1957. The last inmate to be executed gave up all of his remaining appeals and asked the state to carry out his lethal injection.

Rhoades is the 1,277 person executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977.  His execution is the 43rd and final execution of 2011.  There were 46 executions carried out in 2010.

To read more:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Cautionary Instruction: Legislators race to capital to prevent PSU repeat

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
November 18, 2011

The Penn State sex scandal and cover-up has generated a bevy of activity at the state capital. As with other high profile criminal prosecutions legislators look to law making as a way to prevent future victimization.
Last Sunday, Governor Tom Corbett appeared on NBC's Meet the Press. Governor Corbett replied, “Absolutely,” when asked whether Pennsylvania’s Mandated Reporter Law should be changed. He added, “I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bill passed between now and the end of this year.”
However, with a flurry of bills being proposed in the state House and Senate, Governor Corbett cautioned lawmakers to move deliberately as they consider legislative fixes to the Penn State scandal. Everybody wants "to do something," Corbett said. "We should do something. But we need to do it in a very thoughtful, deliberative process."
Below is by no means an exhaustive list of pending or proposed legislation but it provides a glimpse into the bi-partisan reaction of state legislators to the scandal at Penn State.
State Sen. Kim Ward (R., Westmoreland) has authored a bill that would make it mandatory for anyone employed by a college or university to report child abuse. The bill also would require that any allegations go directly to the head of the institution and to the state Department of Public Welfare.
Rep. Kevin Boyle (D., Phila.) introduced a bill that would mandate all child abuse allegations be reported directly to the police.
A bill proposed by Rep. Mike Vereb (R., Montgomery) would create an offense of sexual assault by a sports official -- including coaches, referees, and employees of nonprofits that engage in sports activities.
State Sen. Wayne Fontana, (D., Pittsburgh), said he would ask Senate leaders to move a bill he first introduced in 2005 that would amend state law to require any professional who works with children to report suspected child abuse to police.
Rep. Louise Bishop (D., Phila.) and Rep. Todd Stephens (R., Montgomery), are proposing legislation that would make it mandatory to promptly report suspected sex crimes against minors.
State Rep. Dan Deasy, (D., Westwood), has proposed a bill that would require an individual who witnesses or an individual who is told by a direct witness about a sexual crime against a child to report it to law enforcement. Failure to report could result in a third-degree felony charge, which carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison.
State Sen. Larry Farnese, (D., Phila.), recently proposed a bill that would bar pension payments to state and city employees convicted of sex crimes against children.
Reactionary legislation has, at times, done more harm than good. The General Assembly would do well to heed Governor Corbett’s admonishment. Proceed with caution. Do not rush legislation and give due deference to the experts who regularly deal with child sex abuse. Let something positive come from this enormous human tragedy.

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Federal Budget: Weak on Law Enforcement

'Certainly, there will be police officer jobs that will be lost' 

This week the Congress passed a bill that provided a detailed budget for the federal government. Lawmakers approved a $130.4 billion measure to fund five Cabinet departments, a budget bill that will keep the government in operation until mid-December.

Apparently austerity means less crime fighting resources.  The picture is not rosy for local law enforcement according to the Washington Post.  At the Justice Department, for instance, the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program would lose $296 million.

“Certainly, there will be police officer jobs that will be lost,” said Walter McNeil, a Florida police chief who is president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, told the Post.

The explanation from Congress was the “challenging budget environment.” But, for Steve Ellis at the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, another explanation suggested itself: the end of earmarks.
According to the Post, previously, members of Congress had used these to steer COPS grants to their districts — in 2010, there were 568 earmarks in the program. Earmarks are no longer used, Ellis said, and Congress has decided that COPS is not a high priority.

“They’re having to fill in the picture and color between the lines they set out,” Ellis told the Post. In the same bill, Congress added millions to the budgets of the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

To read more:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Penn State: NCAA Launches Investigation

The NCAA has launched an investigation into the Penn State University football program in the wake of the sex scandal and cover-up involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, according to CNN.

The investigation will explore how the university handled the reported child sex abuse and the failure of top level administrators to intervene, report or investigate the allegations.

"This unprecedented situation demands the NCAA evaluate the university's accountability" and the application of NCAA bylaws, said the president of the NCAA, Mark Emmert, in a letter to the university.

"While the criminal justice process clearly takes precedence over any NCAA actions, the association is closely monitoring the situation," he said, according to CNN.

Penn State President Rod Erickson said he has pledged "Penn State's full cooperation with the NCAA review."

To read more:

PA Senate Finally Moves on Megan's Law Loopholes

The Pennsylvania Senate voted of 49-0, this week to move a bill intended to close a loophole in Megan's Law, according to The Associated Press.  The bill was sponsored by embattled State Senator Jane Orie. It now goes to the House.

The legislation would close loopholes in the state Megan's Law, which requires sex offenders to register with state police and provide up-to-date information about where they live and work. It also would make the state law conform with federal law.

The bill would require state police to include more information about offenders on their Megan's Law website, expand the list of offenses subject to the law and extend the registration requirement to the most serious juvenile offenders, reported The Associated Press.

Legislators are denying that the Penn State scandal and cover-up has been the impetus to to get something done with the Megan's Law loopholes.  It has been more than a year since Governor Ed Rendell vetoed the Megan's Law amendments which were attached to the Castle Doctrine Law.

Senate leader Joe Scarnati said the Penn State scandal and cover-up case brought more attention, but this is a bill that already had enough eyes on it and steam behind it. “Anytime something like that occurs, it shines a light back on the focus on bills and it gives a little more of a push,” Scarnati told CBS 21 in Harrisburg. “But this is already something that had been in the pipeline for some time.”

Florida Executes Killer of Ohio Mom and Daughters

The 41st Execution of 2011

Sixty-five-year-old, Oba Chandler was executed in Florida this week for the rape and murder of a36-year-old mother and her two teenage daughters who were traveling back to Ohio after a trip to Disney World in 1989, reported Reuters.

They met Chandler in Tampa, where they stopped to ask for directions after becoming lost searching for their motel, authorities said. Chandler gave them directions to a Days Inn and then apparently offered to take them on a sunset cruise on his boat, "Gypsy One," that evening on Tampa Bay.

The mother and daughters were never seen alive again. Their three bodies -- bound, gagged and naked below the waist -- were found floating in Tampa Bay three days later.

Chandler was convicted in 1994 and sentenced to death on three counts of first-degree murder. He was pronounced dead on November 16, 2011 at 4:25 p.m. at the Florida State Prison near Starke, according to Reuters.

Chandler's last meal consisted of two salami sandwiches on white bread and half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He made no final statement, reported Reuters.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Penn State: McQueary Deals Cover-up Investigation a Hit

Mike McQueary--Penn State assistant football coach, and witness to the alleged sexual assault of a child by Jerry Sandusky--is, at this point, the case's only known disinterested witness.  He has nothing to gain by testifying against Sandusky.  Prosecutors have a fondness for disinterested witnesses.  However smitten the prosecution was with McQueary that love affair might be starting to fade.

On November 8, McQueary wrote an email to a friend, "I did stop it, not physically ... but made sure it was stopped when I left that locker room ... I did have discussions with police and with the official at the university in charge of police .... no one can imagine my thoughts or wants to be in my shoes for those 30-45 seconds ... trust me."

The problem is that McQueary didn't tell the grand jury about stopping the sexual assault or that he called the police.  More importantly, there seems to be another, bigger problem.

Both Penn State's campus police and the State College police department say they never received a report from McQueary related to an allegation of child sexual abuse by Sandusky.

A spokesperson for Penn State's campus police told CBS News that they never received a sex abuse report from McQueary. Separately, State College Police Chief Thomas R. King told CBS News that his department has no record of ever being contacted by McQueary regarding an alleged sexual assault by Sandusky.

The university also has its own police force. Penn State administrators said they were looking into whether McQueary contacted campus police. A university official also told CBS News Tuesday that, to her knowledge, no police report was filed.

Now, McQueary will have to explain himself.  Maybe not to CBS News but he will have to explain himself in some court room to a judge and a jury. 

To read more:

Mangino on MSNBC: Penn State Sex Scandal and Cover-Up

On MSNBC's The Ed Show on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 to disucss the Penn State sex scandal and cover-up. Click below to watch the interview:

Penn State: U.S. Senate may Investigate Scandal and Cover-Up

U.S. Senator Bob Casey has asked for a hearing in front of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions into how federal laws apply to the investigation of the child sex-abuse scandal and cover-up that has consumed Penn State University, reported The Associated Press.

Pennsylvania is not one of the 18 states that require all adults to report suspected child abuse.

Casey's request results from the Penn State sex scandal and cover-up allegedly involving to former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who is charged with abusing eight children over a 15-year period.

Also charged in the apparent cover-up were Penn State administrators former athletic director Tim Curley and former senior vice president Gary Schultz. They are accused of not reporting alleged abuse on the campus to law enforcement and with lying to a grand jury.

"The serious nature of these allegations and the evidence on the public record of failure to report by individuals at Penn State warrants an immediate review of the relationship between federal and state reporting requirements on child abuse and neglect" Casey, a Democrat, wrote in a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

To read more:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Powerful Editorial on Penn State Sex Scandal and Cover-Up

Editorial in the Knoxville News Sentinal, November 16, 2011.

Coaching legend Joe Paterno's "Grand Experiment" lies in ruins at Pennsylvania State University, demolished by a horribly blind hubris that put the reputation of a football program above the health and safety of children.
The child sex allegations against former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky and the subsequent cover-up by university officials show the horrifying results of such disregard for human suffering.
Sandusky faces 40 counts stemming from allegations he raped, fondled and otherwise sexually exploited eight boys beginning in the 1990s. A grand jury presentment states he met the boys through a charity he founded, The Second Mile, which helps troubled youth. The former heir apparent to Paterno has denied the allegations, most recently Monday evening on NBC.
Sandusky's indictment was startling enough. The reaction of university officials was unbelievable and unconscionable.
The most graphic encounter detailed in the grand jury report came from a graduate assistant coach, later identified as former Penn State quarterback Mike McQueary. McQueary testified that in 2002 he witnessed Sandusky raping a boy who appeared to be about 10 years old in a shower at the Nittany Lions' football complex.
McQueary did not report the rape to police. Instead, he went to the most powerful man on campus, Paterno. Paterno didn't notify authorities, either. All he did was tell athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz, whose duties include overseeing the campus police.
They did nothing other than bar Sandusky from bringing boys to campus, a shameful abdication of responsibility.
Paterno, Curley, Schultz, Penn State president Graham Spanier and Second Mile CEO Jack Raykovitz have lost their jobs. Curley and Schultz face perjury charges in connection with their grand jury testimony. Civil lawsuits against some, if not all, are virtually guaranteed. The victims will continue to suffer.
Paterno's "Grand Experiment" was the belief that a university could have an elite football program, graduate most of the players and adhere to the rules. Outwardly, he succeeded. In his nearly 46 years as head coach, Penn State won two national titles, graduated nearly nine players in 10 and never once was investigated by the NCAA. Paterno, 84, became the most revered — and powerful — member of the Penn State family. Paterno was so powerful that when his two bosses, Curley and Spanier, asked him to step down in 2004, he dismissed them as though swatting flies.
Inwardly, though, Penn State was rotting. Nothing, not even child rape, could be allowed to tarnish its carefully crafted image.
Institutional integrity begins with personal integrity. Loyalty — to a school, a coach, an employer or an officeholder — can be a virtue, but misplaced loyalty, as the Penn State horrors show, is a destructive vice. Society depends on a higher quality — that of simple human decency.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ohio Executes Mentally Ill Killer

The 40th Execution of 2011

Ohio executed Reginald Brooks on November 15, 2011.  Brooks fatally shot his three sons while they slept in 1982, shortly after his wife filed for divorce.  He was executed by lethal injection with each of his hands clenched in an obscene gesture.

Brooks was dressed in the standard white T-shirt and blue pants, he declined to make a final statement and remained silent as he received the lethal injection. Witnesses, which included his former wife and her sisters, had a view of his left hand, its middle finger raised. Prison officials said he was making the same gesture with his right hand, according to The Associated Press.

Brooks' actions appear to have been unprecedented since the state resumed executions in 1999. Condemned Ohio inmates in the past have criticized their sentences, professed their innocence, given angry final statements and pleaded to be spared, but never made an obscene gesture.

At 66, Brooks is the oldest person put to death since Ohio resumed executions.

The defense argued he was a paranoid schizophrenic who suffered from mental illness long before he shot his sons in the head as they slept at their East Cleveland home on a Saturday morning. Defense attorneys said Brooks believed his co-workers and wife were poisoning him and that he maintained his innocence, offering conspiracy theories about the killings that involved police, his relatives and a look-alike, reported The Associated Press.

Prosecutors acknowledged Brooks was mentally ill but disputed the notions that it caused the murders or made him incompetent. They said he planned merciless killings, bought a revolver two weeks in advance, confirmed he'd be home alone with the boys, targeted them when they wouldn't resist and fled on a bus with a suitcase containing a birth certificate and personal items that could help him start a new life.

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