Monday, July 31, 2023

No more listening in on police in New York City

The NYPD’s plan to encrypt police radios, which prevents the media and those without the proper codes from tuning in, has begun with six precincts covering Brooklyn disappearing from traditional broadcast bands this week — but that’s just the first step, NYPD Chief of Information Technology Ruben Beltran told The New York Daily News.

In the coming months, police radio encryptions are expected to spread and will be “deployed similarly,” Beltran said.

The only people being able to listen in would be the NYPD “partners” such as FDNY, EMS, other law enforcement agencies and first responders like volunteer ambulance services, Beltran said following a promotion ceremony at the NYPD Police Academy in Queens.

 “We do plan to expand this as we do this upgrade to our technology,” Beltran said. “This is 40-year-old technology we are upgrading.”

Beltran wouldn’t give a timeline on the upgrades, except to say that it’s a “multi-year process.”

He said the department is evaluating methods that would allow media outlets to listen in, but gave no promises at Friday’s press conference.

“We’re trying to see what will be the best balance between keeping the police safe, the community safe and media access,” Beltran said.

Methods used by other cities that have encrypted their police radios include broadcasting the messages to the public on a 30-minute delay so police could get to the scene before reporters and cameramen do.

The NYPD has been working on ways to encrypt their radios before the pandemic, claiming it would prevent criminals from listening in and act on information about police movements they glean from the broadcasts.

“We have a history of our radios being used againt us,” Beltran said. “Our radios are one of the most important pieces of technology we have. It’s more important than our firearms, but they’re also hijacked by adversaries and bad actors.”

To read more CLICK HERE


Saturday, July 29, 2023

Mangino discussed Pennsylvania co-ed's faked disappearance with Nancy Grace

Listen to my interview with Nancy Grace on Crime Stories about the Jeannette, Pennsylvania college student who faked her disappearance because she wasn't going to graduate.

To listen to the interview CLICK HERE

Friday, July 28, 2023

City of Philadelphia suing gun shops over straw purchases

Philadelphia is suing three local gun shops that city officials allege have knowingly sold firearms to “straw purchasers” who buy guns on behalf of people who are legally prohibited from doing so, such as juveniles or people with criminal records, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“These gun shop owners turn a blind eye to the consequences of their actions,” Mayor Jim Kenney said at a City  news conference. “They know exactly what they’re doing. … They are profiting off the mayhem that they help create.”

Kenney has long complained that the city’s hands are tied when it comes to combating the ongoing gun violence crisis due to Pennsylvania’s weak gun laws, which allow weapons to flow freely into the city, and to the state’s prohibition on municipalities enacting their own gun control measures.

At gun buyback programs, Philadelphians turns their firearms over to the city’s Police Department

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of attempts by the city to gain some leverage over the issue through the courts. It comes three weeks after Kenney announced a separate lawsuit aimed at manufacturers of “ghost guns,” untraceable and increasingly common weapons that can be purchased without background checks and assembled at home.

Little has come so far of the city’s various attempts at litigation over gun control. But Kenney said his administration will pursue every opportunity it has to reduce shootings and homicides.

As of Monday, Philadelphia police had recorded 240 homicides in 2023, a staggering sum that underscores the city is still mired in a persistent public safety crisis that began in 2020. This year’s total is 22% lower than at the same point in 2021, a year in which the city set a record with 562 homicides.

Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Tuesday she is optimistic the numbers will continue going in the right direction.

To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Mangino discusses developments in Hunter Biden plea deal on WMFJ-TV

Watch my interview with Lindsay McCoy on WFMJ-TV21 discussing the status of Hunter Biden's plea deal and Donald Trump's problems in Georgia.

To watch the interview CLICK HERE

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

America's obsession with life in prison

The Sentencing Project: 

Before America’s era of mass incarceration took hold in the early 1970s, the number of individuals in prison was less than 200,000. Today, it’s 1.4 million; and more than 200,000 people are serving life sentences – one out of every seven in prison. More people are sentenced to life in prison in America than there were people in prison serving any sentence in 1970.

To read more CLICK HERE

Monday, July 24, 2023

Israel passes law limiting the Supreme Court’s ability to overturn government decisions

The Israeli Parliament passed a law that limits the Supreme Court’s ability to overturn decisions made by government ministers, completing the first stage of a wider and deeply contentious effort to curb the influence of the judiciary.

The court is now barred from overruling the national government using the legal standard of “reasonableness,” a concept that judges previously used to block ministerial appointments and contest planning decisions, among other government measures.

The enactment of the law is the government’s first victory in a seven-month effort to reduce the court’s power. Previous plans that would have allowed Parliament to overrule the court’s decisions and give the government more sway over who gets to be a Supreme Court justice were suspended by the government in March, after an eruption of street protests, labor strikes and disquiet in the military.

Right-wing ministers and lawmakers took selfies in the parliamentary plenum rule to celebrate their victory. The vote was 64 in favor and zero against, after members of the opposition left the chamber, boycotting the vote they had no chance of winning.

The new law passed despite a similar level of opposition, as well as criticism from the Biden administration. Large parts of the country fear that the legislation undermines the quality of Israel’s democracy and will allow the government — the most ultranationalist and ultraconservative in Israeli history — to build a less pluralist society.

The government and its supporters say that the legislation will in fact improve democracy by giving elected lawmakers greater autonomy over unelected judges, allowing them to more easily carry out the policies that they were elected to enact. The court can still overrule the government using other legal measures.

This disagreement is part of a much wider and long-running social dispute about the nature and future of Israeli society. The ruling coalition and its base generally have a more religious and conservative vision, and see the court as an obstacle to that goal. The opposition tends to have a more secular and diverse vision, and consider the court as a standard-bearer for their cause.

Right-wing ministers and lawmakers took selfies in the parliamentary plenum rule to celebrate their victory. The vote was 64 in favor and zero against, after members of the opposition left the chamber, boycotting the vote they had no chance of winning.

To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Renowned forensic scientist Henry Lee liable for fabricating evidence

Famed forensic scientist Henry Lee was found liable for fabricating evidence in a murder case that sent two Connecticut men to prison for decades for a crime they did not commit, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Ralph “Ricky” Birch and Shawn Henning were convicted in the Dec. 1, 1985, slaying of Everett Carr, based in part on testimony about what Lee said were bloodstains on a towel found in the 65-year-old’s home in New Milford, 55 miles (88.5 kilometers) southwest of Hartford.

A judge vacated the felony murder convictions in 2020, and the men filed a federal wrongful conviction lawsuit naming Lee, eight police investigators and the town of New Milford.

The ruling Friday sends the case against the police and the town to trial. In granting a motion for summary judgement against Lee, the only outstanding issue for a jury in his case will be the amount of damages.

Lee, the former head of the state’s forensic laboratory and now a professor emeritus at the University of New Haven’s Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Lee, 84, rocketed to fame after his testimony in the 1995 O.J. Simpson murder trial, in which he questioned the handling of blood evidence. He also served as a consultant in other high-profile investigations, including the 1996 slaying of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey in Colorado; the 2004 murder trial of Scott Peterson, who was accused of killing his pregnant wife Laci; and the 2007 murder trial of record producer Phil Spector.

When Birch and Henning were put on trial in 1989, jurors heard about an extremely bloody crime scene. Carr had been stabbed 27 times, had his throat cut and suffered seven blows to the head.

No forensic evidence existed linking Birch and Henning to the crime. No blood was found on their clothes or in their car. The crime scene included hairs and more than 40 fingerprints, but none matched the two men.

Prosecutors presented evidence from Lee — not yet famous — that it was possible for the assailants to avoid getting much blood on them.

Lee also testified that a towel, which later was suggested could have been touched by the killers while cleaning up, was found in a bathroom near the crime the scene with stains that he tested and were consistent with blood.

Tests done after the trial, when the men were appealing their convictions, showed the substance was not blood.

In his ruling Friday, which was first reported by The Hartford Courant, U.S. District Judge Victor Bolden ruled that Lee presented no evidence to back up his testimony.

“Other than stating that he performed the test, however, the record contains no evidence that any such test was performed,” the judge wrote. “In fact, as plaintiffs noted, Dr. Lee’s own experts concluded that there is no ‘written documentation or photographic’ evidence that Dr. Lee performed the TMB blood test. And there is evidence in this record that the tests actually conducted did not indicate the presence of blood.”

The judge also ruled that Lee failed to properly use an immunity defense that could have shielded him from damages and was no longer eligible to use that argument.

Elizabeth Benton, a spokesperson for Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, whose office defended Lee and the police detectives in the case, said it was reviewing the decision and evaluating the next steps.

Birch served more than 30 years of a 55-year sentence for felony murder before being released in 2019 after a judge ordered a new trial. Henning, who was 17 when the crime occurred, was granted probation in 2018.

After their convictions were vacated in 2020, Lee defended his conduct in the investigation.

“In my 57-year career, I have investigated over 8,000 cases and never, ever was accused of any wrongdoing or for testifying intentionally wrong,” Lee told a throng of reporters. “This is the first case that I have to defend myself.”

Lee’s work in several other cases has come under scrutiny, including in the murder case against Spector, in which he was accused of taking evidence from the crime scene.

To read more CLICK HERE

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Inside the 'polygon' the Giglo Beach serial killer investigation

They called it the polygon.

Using phone records and a sophisticated system that maps the reach of cell towers, a team of investigators had drawn the irregular shape across a map of tree-lined streets in the Long Island suburb of Massapequa Park. By 2021, the investigators had been able to shrink the polygon so that it covered only several hundred homes, reported The New York Times.

In one of those homes, the investigators believed, lived a serial killer.

A decade before, 11 bodies had been found in the underbrush around Gilgo Beach, a remote stretch of sand five miles away on the South Shore. Four women had been bound with tape or belts or wrapped in shrouds of camouflage-patterned burlap, the sort that hunters use for blinds. They had worked as escorts and had gone missing after going to meet a client.

Each, shortly before she disappeared, had been in contact with a different disposable cellphone. Investigators eventually determined that during the workday, some of the phones had been in a small area of Midtown Manhattan near Penn Station, and at night they pinged in the polygon, mirroring the tidal movements of the 150,000 Long Island residents who head into Manhattan each day.

Last Friday, Suffolk County authorities announced that they had arrested a man who they believed had killed the four women: Rex Heuermann, a 59-year-old architect who had an office near Penn Station and lived on a quiet street right where they had expected to find him. He was charged with three of the murders, to which he has pleaded not guilty, and was named as the prime suspect in the fourth.

The arrest ended years of anguish for some of the victims’ families. But the investigation also raised an unsettling question: Could the authorities have solved the case years earlier?

The following account is drawn from a 32-page bail application and interviews with current and former investigators and Suffolk County’s top law enforcement officials.

The case had unfolded fitfully over more than a decade. But it took a new police commissioner and his task force just six weeks to uncover a crucial clue in the sprawling case file.

Working under Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison, the core group of about 10 investigators was drawn from his department, the sheriff’s office, F.B.I. and State Police and worked closely with District Attorney Ray Tierney of Suffolk County and his prosecutors.

They worked in a beige office, its walls covered with maps, photos and a giant timeline, scouring their suspect’s digital and daily life — email addresses, social media accounts, search history.

All the while, Mr. Heuermann was searching, too, asking Google the same question that so many of his neighbors had been asking each other for more than a decade: “why hasn’t the long island serial killer been caught?”

Picking up the trail of a serial killer is an exceptional challenge. The killer often has no personal connection to the victims. If the victims lived on society’s margins, months or years can go by before their disappearances are treated as serious matters — or even recognized as the work of a single murderer.

The realization that a serial killer was hunting on Long Island’s South Shore came in December 2010, when a Suffolk County police officer, John Mallia, and his canine partner, a German shepherd named Blue, were searching for a 24-year-old woman named Shannan Gilbert, who had gone missing in the area. 

Instead, over several days they found four other bodies near Gilgo Beach. They had been placed roughly 10 yards from Ocean Parkway, the main east-west thoroughfare that traverses a barrier island off the South Shore. After they discovered the bodies, investigators searched for evidence nearby with meticulous care — “sifting the sand like gold miners around each body,” one investigator recalled.

Ms. Gilbert’s corpse and other remains, including those that the authorities described as a man wearing women’s clothing and a toddler, would be found along the same roadway over the following year. The grisly discoveries riveted the region as the police speculated that the killings might be the work of more than one person.

But the first four bodies — all petite women in their 20s who had gone missing in the previous four years — seemed linked. Investigators surmised they had been killed by the same man, in part because of the way the bodies were wrapped and their proximity. And there was reason to believe that a witness might have gotten a look at the man.

To read more CLICK HERE

Friday, July 21, 2023

Oklahoma and Alabama carry out executions on the same day

The 14th and 15th Executions of 2023 


Alabama executed a man on Friday for the 2001 beating death of a woman as the state resumed lethal injections after two failed executions prompted the governor to order an internal review of procedures, reported Newser. James Barber, 64, was pronounced dead at 1:56am after receiving a lethal injection at a south Alabama prison. Barber was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2001 beating death of 75-year-old Dorothy Epps. Prosecutors said Barber, a handyman, confessed to killing Epps with a claw hammer and fleeing with her purse. Jurors voted 11-1 to recommend a death sentence, which a judge imposed. Before he was put to death, Barber told his family he loved them and apologized to Epps' family, the AP reports.

It was the first execution carried out in Alabama this year after the state halted executions last fall. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced a pause on executions in November to conduct an internal review of procedures. The move came after the state halted two lethal injections because of difficulties inserting IVs into the condemned men's veins, and Barber said this week that he felt "trepidation." Barber's attorneys unsuccessfully asked the courts to block the execution, saying the state has a pattern of failing "to carry out a lethal injection execution in a constitutional manner." The Supreme Court denied Barber's request for a stay without comment.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissent from the decision that was joined by Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. She said the court was allowing "Alabama to experiment again with a human life." "The Court should not allow Alabama to test the efficacy of its internal review by using Barber as its 'guinea pig.'" Sotomayor wrote. Barber's execution came hours after Oklahoma executed Jemaine Cannon, 51, for stabbing a Tulsa woman, 20-year-old mother of two Sharonda Clark, to death with a butcher knife in 1995 after his escape from a prison work center. It was the state's second execution this year, the AP reports.

Oklahoma executed a man Thursday for stabbing a Tulsa woman to death with a butcher knife in 1995 after his escape from a prison work center.

Jemaine Cannon, 51, received a lethal injection at 10:01 a.m. and was pronounced dead 12 minutes later at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. It was the second execution in Oklahoma this year and the ninth since the state resumed lethal injections in 2021.

Cannon was convicted of killing 20-year-old Sharonda Clark, a mother of two with whom Cannon had been living at an apartment in Tulsa after his escape weeks earlier from a prison work center in southwest Oklahoma. Cannon had been serving a 15-year sentence for the violent assault of another woman who suffered permanent injuries after prosecutors say Cannon raped her and beat her viciously with a claw hammer, iron and kitchen toaster.

A federal appeals court late Wednesday denied Cannon’s last-minute appeal seeking a stay of execution in which Cannon claimed, among other things, that he was Native American and not subject to Oklahoma jurisdiction. Asked if he had any last words, Cannon said: “Yes, I confess with my mouth and believe in my heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. Therefore I am saved. Thank you.”

Cannon was executed on the same day that Alabama planned to execute James Barber for the 2001 beating death of a woman. It would be Alabama’s first lethal injection after a pause in executions following a string of problems with inserting the IVs.


Jemaine Cannon was executed on July 20, 2023 in Alabama. The victim's eldest daughter, Yeh-Sehn White, and Sharonda Clark’s sister, Shaya Duncan, witnessed Cannon’s execution and described it as peaceful, reported The Associated Press.

“In my opinion, he died in a very favorable way,” White said. “Unfortunately my mom did not have that opportunity.”

Cannon claimed at a clemency hearing before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board last month that he killed Clark in self-defense.

“I am deeply disheartened that the act of defending my life and the acts that she initiated against me ever happened,” Cannon told the board via a video feed from the state penitentiary.

Cannon’s attorney, Mark Henricksen, also told the panel that Cannon’s trial and appellate attorneys were ineffective for not presenting evidence to support that claim. His trial attorneys presented no witnesses or exhibits and rested after prosecutors presented their case, Henricksen said.

In a statement sent to The Associated Press this week, Henricksen said the state’s decision to proceed with Cannon’s execution amounted to “historic barbarism.”

“Mr. Cannon has endured abuse and neglect for fifty years by those charged with his care,” Henricksen said. “He sits in his cell a model prisoner. He is nearly deaf, blind, and nearing death by natural causes. The decision to proceed with this particular execution is obscene.”

But White and prosecutors from the attorney general’s office urged the state to execute Cannon, and the board rejected clemency on a 3-2 vote..

Oklahoma uses a three-drug lethal injection protocol beginning with the sedative midazolam, followed by the paralytic vecuronium bromide and finally potassium chloride, which stops the heart. The state had one of the nation’s busiest death chambers until problems in 2014 and 2015 led to a de facto moratorium.

Richard Glossip was just hours from being executed in September 2015 when prison officials realized they received the wrong lethal drug. It was later learned that the same wrong drug had been used to execute an inmate in January 2015.

The drug mix-ups followed a botched execution in April 2014 in which inmate Clayton Lockett struggled on a gurney before dying 43 minutes into his lethal injection — and after the state’s prisons chief ordered executioners to stop. 

To read more CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE


Thursday, July 20, 2023

Executions schedule for today in Oklahoma and Alabama

There are two executions scheduled today, one in Oklahoma and the other in Alabama. Oklahoma plan to execute Jemaine Cannon by lethal injection. He was sentenced to death for the 1995 murder of Sharonda White Clark, a mother of two. 

Alabama intends to execute James Barber, who is on death row for a 2001 murder. He is concerned about Alabama lethal injection procedure, given Alabama’s recent history of executions. The state failed to carry out its last two attempts. 

To read about Oklahoma CLICK HERE

To read about Alabama CLICK HERE

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

School board meetings are now the cultural battlefield

Time and again over the last two years, parents and protesters have derailed school board meetings across the country, reported ProPublica. Once considered tame, even boring, the meetings have become polarized battlegrounds over COVID-19 safety measures, LGBTQ+ student rights, “obscene” library books and attempts to teach children about systemic racism in America.

On dozens of occasions, the tensions at the meetings have escalated into not just shouting matches and threats but also arrests and criminal charges.

ProPublica identified nearly 90 incidents in 30 states going back to the spring of 2021. (That’s when the majority of boards resumed gathering in-person after predominantly holding meetings virtually.) Our examination — the first wide-ranging analysis of school board unrest — found that at least 59 people were arrested or charged over an 18-month period, from May 2021 to November 2022. Prosecutors dismissed the vast majority of the cases, most of them involving charges of trespassing, resisting an officer or disrupting a public meeting. Almost all of the incidents were in suburban districts, and nearly every participant was white.

To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Illinois Supreme Court affirms law eliminating cash bail

The Illinois Supreme Court upheld a measure eliminating cash bail in the state, finding that Democratic legislators acted properly when they passed the law, which will transform the Illinois criminal justice system and limit judges’ ability to hold defendants in jail before trial, reported The New York Times.

The Illinois law, which went beyond similar bail overhauls in other states, was part of a national push to reduce jail populations and end a system in which wealth can determine whether a defendant returns home to await trial. But it infuriated many county prosecutors and sheriffs, who asserted that the law was passed improperly and made the state less safe.

In its ruling on Tuesday, the Supreme Court said cash bail would end in Illinois on Sept. 18.

Cash bail has been widely used for decades. Rather than sit in jail waiting for a trial that may not begin for months, a defendant is allowed to deposit money with the court and remain free. But if they fail to show up when they are supposed to, the defendant risks losing that money.

Civil rights groups and politicians, many of them Democrats, have long called for limiting or abolishing that system, and for allowing more defendants to be released without having to put up money. Critics say the cash bail system is unfair to poor defendants, who risk losing jobs or homes if they cannot afford to post bail.

“Someone’s experience with the criminal justice system should not vary based on their income level,” Attorney General Kwame Raoul, a Democrat, said in a statement praising the 5-to-2 decision.

But law enforcement groups have spoken in ominous terms about what the change would mean for public safety. In a court brief, lawyers for the union representing rank-and-file Chicago police officers said the law “sets forth a recipe for increases in crime, recidivism, dysfunction in the criminal prosecution system, and danger to police officers and the communities they serve.”

New Jersey and New Mexico have vastly reduced the use of cash bail but have not ended it completely. New York has eliminated it for certain types of offenses but not others. Those moves also led to fierce opposition, and some second-guessing.

The Illinois law passed with broad Democratic support and was signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, part of a shift to the political left since Democrats reclaimed full control of state government in the 2018 election.

Republicans voiced their opposition to the cash bail law during last year’s campaigns, but Mr. Pritzker won re-election by a wide margin and Democrats kept legislative majorities.

To read more CLICK HERE

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Tree of Life Synagogue killer eligible for the death penalty

A Pennsylvania federal jury on found the gunman responsible for the shooting deaths of 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania eligible for the death penalty. Robert Bowers now faces an additional trial in which the same jury will determine whether he should be sentenced to death or given life imprisonment, reported Jurist. A Pennsylvania federal jury previously found Bowers guilty on 63 criminal charges—including hate crimes—on June 16.

According to local reporters from KDKA within the room, which was otherwise closed to cameras, the jury weighed three questions in determining Bowers’ eligibility for the death penalty. Those three questions were:

  • Is Bowers 18 or older?
  • Did Bowers have the criminal intent to commit the crimes he was convicted of?
  • Was there one or more aggravating factors present in the commission of those crimes?

After less than two hours of deliberation, the jury returned and unanimously answered “yes” to all three questions. As a result, the same panel of jurors will now sit for an additional trial in which federal prosecutors from the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania and Bowers’ defense counsel will present evidence and testimony as to whether or not Bowers should suffer the death penalty. That trial is set to begin as soon as Monday, July 17.

In closing statements, prior to the jury’s Thursday verdict, prosecutors argued Bowers “intended to hunt down and kill every Jew he could find.” They continued, “He fired his rifle more than 70 times in the Tree of Life synagogue, each time he pulled the trigger, he was proving his intent to kill.” In response, in their closing statements, the defense argued that Bowers was “delusional” at the time of the shooting and therefore did not possess the intent that prosecutors claimed.

Outside of the courthouse on Thursday, reporters spoke to President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh Jeffrey Finkelstein, who said, “This is clear that this was hatred of Jews. This was antisemitism. It is not mental health. They are two different things.” Finkelstein also told reporters that he had spoken to the families of some of the victims. He said that they are eager to share their stories in the upcoming trial to determine Bowers’ sentence.

Under federal law, a criminal defendant is eligible for the death penalty in only three circumstances: if they are charged with a death penalty-eligible crime, if they have a high level of culpability or intent to kill the victim, or if there are one or more aggravating factors present in the case. In this case, 11 of the 63 charges against Bowers involved the obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death under 18 U.S.C. § 247, which made Bowers eligible for the death penalty. On top of that, prosecutors presented and proved that there were aggravating factors present in the case which warranted the application of the death penalty.

The shooting occurred at the Tree of Life Synagogue on October 27, 2018 during Shabbat services. Bowers entered the building with multiple firearms and opened fire on the congregation gathered inside, resulting in 11 deaths and 7 injuries. Over the course of Bowers’ trial, prosecutors revealed evidence of Bowers’ participation in and consumption of white supremacist media. This evidence is what ultimately led the jury to convict Bowers on all 63 criminal charges.

To read more CLICK HERE

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Mangino's quote to Fox News used by New York Post and the UK's Daily News

My quote was included in Michael Ruiz's article for Fox News. The quote was picked up by The New York Post and Daily Mail in the UK.

Hours after murder suspect Michael Burham escaped a Pennsylvania jail near the New York state line, a couple in Western New York reported coming home to find their dog dead and some male clothing stolen out of their bedroom. 

"It's not a coincidence," Lauraine Peterson, the burglary victim, told Fox News Digital Monday.

That is because she believes Burham has been in her area before. In May, after he allegedly gunned down Kala Hodgkin in Jamestown, New York, Peterson and her boyfriend Harold Lobb noticed a suspicious light coming from their neighbor's home when they knew the owner was out of town, she said.

Police arrived at the time to find broken windows, but whoever was inside had fled after charging a cellphone, Peterson said.

Police returned Friday, about 12 hours after Burham escaped the Warren County Jail by climbing down a rope made of bedsheets, prompting an interstate manhunt. He was being held on kidnapping and related charges and is also suspected of rape and murder in New York.

"Our clothes are missing, and our dog is killed," said Peterson, who is a nurse. Food was also missing from the freezer, she said, but the couple's firearms were securely locked in their safe.

Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Col. George Bivens said during a Monday news briefing that police had investigated multiple burglaries in Warren County and neighboring areas, including across the state line in New York, but had found no "direct" connection to Burham's movements. Jamestown, New York, is about 20 miles from the jail.

Peterson said the missing clothes were a blue, hooded sweatshirt with her boyfriend's business name on the left upper chest, "Lobbs Automotive," and a car logo printed across the back, as well as a pair of dark gray sweatpants.

Police said Friday that Burham had previously last been seen wearing a denim jacket over his orange-striped jail jumpsuit and orange "Crocs-style" shoes.

Peterson and Lobb took in a rescue dog two years ago, she said. The pup weighed only 2.5 pounds and could barely walk. They nursed her back to health and named her "Sweetpea," and the grateful canine had grown to be very protective of their home, barking at bears, bobcats and other wildlife that wandered near the house, Peterson said.

"She really was blossoming into quite the little personality," Peterson said. "I'm sure the dog went after him."

Lobb left for work around 7:30 a.m. Friday, she said, and she went out to breakfast with friends an hour later. Then around 11 a.m., a passing driver knocked on their door, but they were not home. He then tried Lobb's daughter in the detached apartment and said he had found the dog dead on the side of the road, according to Peterson.

"If my dog was on him, she'd have chased him across the road," Peterson said. "I don't know if she got hit by a car, or did her throw her?"

Pennsylvania State Police believe Burham is still in the area and are asking anyone with information on his whereabouts to call 814-728-3600 or 911. 

A combined reward for information from the U.S. Marshals Service and Warren County Crime Stoppers is $9,500.

Burham is described as a "self-taught survivalist with military training." Police said he should be considered armed and dangerous.

The surrounding area is very rural and abuts the Allegheny State Park in Pennsylvania. 

"If you have the survival skills, there's a lot of opportunity to evade police," said Matt Mangino, a former Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, district attorney. "I think its inevitable that police are going to find him – it just depends how long it's going to take, and what other damage or victims might come about because of this man."

Fox News

New York Post

The Daily Mail UK

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Missouri felons not entitled to self-defense

 Missouri is one of only four states where there are no limits on which felonies can trigger a felony-murder charge, and, once prosecutors invoke the law, defendants can no longer claim they acted in self-defense, reports The Appeal. Having previous felonies means having a gun for self-defense is a felony for illegally possessing a gun. In the eyes of the law, the rest of what happens no longer mattered.

There are at least 10 men in the state of Missouri who are serving sentences for felony murder in cases where they maintain that they killed someone in self-defense, according to a three-month investigation by The Appeal and the Yale Investigative Reporting Lab. The Appeal also spoke to 10 public defenders across the state. Eight said they either had such a case in their district or knew of one nearby.

Of the 10 men who say they shot someone to save their own lives, seven had prior felony convictions at the time of the shooting.

According to a study by the Sentencing Project, there were at least 67,800 felons on parole or probation in Missouri in 2020. The situation raises questions about who Missouri believes deserves the right to fight back if someone is trying to kill them.

“If you are a convicted felon in Missouri, you have lost your right to self-defense,” Hatley told The Appeal.

Ruth Petsch, the district defender in Kansas City—Missouri’s largest city—seethed as she spoke about the law’s impact in her district.

“Once you become a felon, you lose all these rights to keep a job. It’s harder to get housing. It’s harder to get assistance,” she said. “You’re left in a neighborhood where you’re more likely to have someone put a gun in your face like that. But in Missouri, once you become a felon, you just have to get shot.”

To read more CLICK HERE

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Protection orders in Pennsylvania may soon extend to pets

 John L. Micek writing in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star:

You might have missed it during the hubbub over the state budget earlier this month, but a bill providing important protections to Pennsylvanians’ four-footed friends is on its way to the state Senate.

That’s because lawmakers in the lower chamber voted 130-73 last week to approve legislation expanding protection from abuse orders to include animals and house pets, thus “ensuring the safety and well-being of both domestic violence victims and their beloved animal companions,” the legislation’s sponsors, Reps. Christina Sappey, D-Chester, and Natalie Mihalek, R-Allegheny, said in a joint statement.

The legislation comes in response to the sadly unsurprising news that abusers often target pets when they’re trying to get back at someone who has filed a protection from abuse order. That finding is backed up by “extensive research,” the lawmakers said.

The bill has the backing of more than 70 law enforcement, domestic violence, and animal welfare organizations, pointing to the very real need for its enactment, Sappey and Mihalik said.

“Pets are family members and play an essential role in offering comfort to individuals experiencing abuse,” Sappey said. “It is imperative that we take action to safeguard animals in conjunction with the well-being of those suffering from domestic violence. I’m pleased to see the bipartisan support this legislation has received.”

Mihalik echoed that sentiment.

“The decision to leave an abusive environment is difficult enough. Making certain that a pet can live free from abuse needs to be part of the PFA system, so it doesn’t further complicate the victim’s decision and also safeguards a loyal part of the family,” Mihalek said. “I want to thank Representative Sappey for working with me on this and seeing it as high as a priority as I do.”

Animal welfare advocates called on the state Senate to approve the measure.

“Victims of domestic abuse often delay leaving an abusive situation because they fear the abuser will harm their animals. By permitting the inclusion of pets within a protection order, [the bill] would make it easier for victims to leave a dangerous situation with their entire family, including their pets,” Kristen Tullo, the Pennsylvania state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said.

Natalie Ahwesh, the executive director of Humane Action Pittsburgh, called the bill a “commonsense, bipartisan issue.

“Abusers often use family pets as leverage in their torment of their victims, threatening to harm or kill them if victims leave. With this bill, we can protect both animals and humans,” Ahwesh said.

To read more CLICK HERE


Monday, July 10, 2023

Changes may soon be coming to Pennsylvania's probation system

Recently, a bipartisan reform package passed the upper chamber 45-4. Senate Bill 838 would make exiting the probation program easier for people who reach educational or employment goals. It would also end the practice of prolonging an individual's participation in the program for minor offenses, such as a traffic ticket, reported the Erie Times-News.

“I’ve said this before, and I will continue to say it — people deserve second chances,” state Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) said in a press release. 

Williams co-sponsored the bill with several fellow Democrats and Republican colleagues as well, including state Sen. Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne), chair of the Judiciary Committee, and state Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington), secretary of the GOP caucus. The four opposing votes came from conservative Republicans.

For likely dissimilar reasons, Senate Bill 838 is opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

"It continues to permit judges to stack probation sentences and to impose probation 'tails' — a term of probation imposed after a period of incarceration," the ACLU has written of the bill. "It fails to provide an automatic, or even efficient, way to terminate probation early — doing little to reduce the number of people under supervision."

Jessica Jackson, chief advocacy and operations officer at the REFORM Alliance, said this criticism ignores several substantial improvements to the system.

"A vote 'no' is a vote for the status quo," Jackson told the USA TODAY Network. "Did we get everything we wanted? No. But this is a compromise effort."

"This isn't the end of reforms in Pennsylvania," she added, "but it's an incredible first step."

The bill represents an evidence-based modernization of the system that's partly modeled after a successful York County pilot program implemented in 2016, according to Jackson. Stringent conditions — such as being confined to one county, prohibited from being in the presence of a felon and barred from being around alcohol — would no longer be automatically applied.

"We're limiting the number of things that a person could be incarcerated for under a technical violation," Jackson said.

The bill's fate is unclear in the lower chamber. Beth Rementer, press secretary for House Majority Leader Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery), said the reform package is still under review.

To read more CLICK HERE


Sunday, July 9, 2023

SCOTUS decides reckless satisfies intent for threat

The First Amendment does not, and never has, protected threats of violence, and this week the Supreme Court clarified the standard for criminalizing “true-threats,” resolving a circuit split in the process. In Counterman v. Colorado, the Court, in an opinion written by Justice Elena Kagan, held that although a person needs to intend for words to be threatening to rise to the level of criminality, a showing that a person was acting recklessly when they made the statement would satisfy the intent requirement, reported Lawfare.  

What Is a “True-Threat”?

The Court began by defining a “true-threat” as a “‘serious expression’ conveying that a speaker means to ‘commit an act of unlawful violence.’” The Court reiterated, however, their distinction that a true-threat is different from “jests, ‘hyperbole,’ or other statements that when taken in context do not convey a real possibility that violence will follow.”  

he Court decided between three different mens rea standards for the prosecution to be able to convict someone under a true-threats theory: (a) The defendant wanted his words to be perceived as a threat (purposeful); (b) he knew to a practical certainty that his words would be taken as a threat (knowledge); and (c) he consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the conduct would cause harm to another (recklessness). Out of these three standards, recklessness prevailed as the path forward: “In the threats context, it means that a speaker is aware ‘that others could regard his statements as’ threatening violence and ‘delivers them anyway.’” The Court noted that reckless defendants have done more than make a bad mistake, but have consciously accepted a substantial risk of inflicting serious harm. Their formulation of the path forward took into consideration the “competing value” found in “protecting against the profound harms, to both individuals and society, that attend true threats of violence—as evidenced by this case” against chilling protected speech.  

Therefore, the Court ruled that, to find that someone communicated a true-threat, a party must prove the defendant at least acted recklessly when he or she conveyed the threat to another.  

To read more CLICK HERE


Saturday, July 8, 2023

Mangino discusses life or death for former boarder patrol agent convicted of double murder

Watch my interview with Judge Ashley Willcott and Matt Johnson on Court TV discussing the penalty phase of convicted double murderer Ronald Anthony Burgos-Aviles a former border patrol agent in Texas.

To watch the interview CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE

Alabama gears up for dangerous nitrogen hypoxia execution

It is not unusual for the rollout of a new execution method to be bumpy, but what is happening with Alabama’s effort to begin using nitrogen hypoxia is setting a new standard for incompetence and disarray in the death penalty system, reported Slate. After botching three lethal injection executions last year, state officials have sent mixed signals about whether the state would be ready to use nitrogen hypoxia when it plans to execute James Barber on July 20.

Barber was convicted of the 2001 beating death of 75-year-old Dorothy Epps. Prosecutors said Barber confessed to killing Epps with a claw hammer. Jurors voted 11–1 to recommend a death sentence, which the judge then imposed.

Barber’s would be the first execution after Gov. Kay Ivey paused executions for the state Department of Corrections to review execution procedures. In February, she announced that the review was finished and that the state was ready to get back in the execution business.

On June 20, the state attorney general’s office seemed to signal that Alabama could use nitrogen hypoxia to execute Barber in its reply to a suit he brought seeking an order to stop the state from putting him to death by lethal injection. Barber asked the court to require Alabama to “carry out the execution of Mr. Barber only by nitrogen hypoxia.” His lawsuit said that the method was a “readily available alternative.”

According to an article in Reason, “Barber wants to die by nitrogen hypoxia—which involves suffocating the inmate in a gas chamber by increasing the proportion of nitrogen in the air—rather than lethal injection … because [he claims] it will be more humane than death by lethal injection, especially considering the state’s recent record.”

In its brief in Barber’s suit, the attorney general’s office told the court that if it issues an injunction in this case, the judge should  limit its “scope so as to permit Barber’s July 20, 2023, execution to be conducted by nitrogen hypoxia.” However, a spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Corrections quickly confused matters by saying that the department was not ready to carry out a nitrogen hypoxia execution and would not be by July 20. 

 “The Alabama Department of Corrections has completed many of the preparations necessary for conducting executions by nitrogen hypoxia,” the spokesperson continued. “The protocol for carrying out executions by this method is not yet complete. Once the nitrogen hypoxia protocol is complete, ADOC personnel will need sufficient time to be thoroughly trained before an execution can be conducted using this method.”

Further muddying the issue, the commissioner of ADOC, John Hamm, when speaking to reporters after a legislative committee meeting, referred questions about the protocol to the attorney general’s office. “You’d have to ask the AG’s office on the actual protocol,” Hamm said. So, is Alabama ready to carry out executions using nitrogen hypoxia, or not?

Nitrogen hypoxia’s on-again, off-again status in Alabama began in 2018 when it became the third state to add it to its menu of execution options. At the time, state Sen. Trip Pittman, who sponsored the nitrogen hypoxia legislation, made familiar promises and followed the usual playbook used when officials propose new methods of execution.

Echoing what proponents had said about the electric chair the 1880s, the gas chamber in the 1920s, and lethal injection in the 1970s, Pittman said, “I believe [nitrogen hypoxia] is a more humane option … One that is less invasive, and one that I think needs to be an option for the condemned.” He compared the method to the way that passengers on a plane pass out when the aircraft depressurizes.

Alabama was following the lead of Oklahoma, which in 2015 became to first state to authorize execution by nitrogen hypoxia. Mississippi followed suit in 2017. But right from the start, there was little to inspire confidence that this method would deliver the humane executions that other execution methods have also falsely promised.

The idea of using nitrogen hypoxia in executions came from Michael Copeland, then an assistant professor of criminal justice at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, who co-authored a white paper on the subject with two of his colleagues at the university. Even though neither he nor his co-authors had any medical training or scientific expertise, Copeland proposed it to Mike Christian, a state legislator who had been a high school classmate.

According to a report from the Equal Justice Initiative, Oklahoma state Rep. Mike Christian became interested in the method after he “reportedly saw a documentary about killing humans that included a segment on nitrogen inhalation.” The process, Christian claimed, “is fast and painless. It’s foolproof.”

But so far, none of the states that adopted it have actually used nitrogen hypoxia in an execution. And even if they were ready to do so, it is not clear that they will be able to obtain the nitrogen needed to carry it out.

The Equal Justice Initiative further reports that “Airgas, an industrial gas distributor that is one of Alabama’s largest suppliers, has announced it will not supply gas for executions. ‘Supplying nitrogen for the purpose of human execution is not consistent with our company values,’ the company said in a statement.”

The company’s CEO added that Airgas is not “working with the state of Alabama, or anyone else, to develop nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method.”

Thus it is not surprising that Alabama has had trouble developing and finalizing a protocol for executions by nitrogen hypoxia. And unlike other methods, any error in the process could be fatal for anyone participating in or witnessing those executions, so getting the protocol right is especially high-stakes.

As Robert Dunham, who is the former executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, warns, “Nitrogen is colorless, and it is odorless, and the same thing that led the Oklahoma legislature to think that this would be swift and painless—the fact that people were unaware that they were being poisoned at depth or at altitude—those very same factors could make it potentially lethal if gas leaks into areas where the execution team was.”

Or as Joel Zivot, an expert on methods of execution, puts it: Execution by nitrogen hypoxia “may be bloodless, but it won’t be simple.”

There is no room for error in executions by nitrogen hypoxia, which cannot be reassuring in a state like Alabama, with its ghoulish history of botched executions. The state’s recent bureaucratic snafus and grotesquely comedic miscommunications between the agencies responsible for carrying out its executions only add to the sense that if Alabama really were to use it in Barber’s execution, it could turn into a tragedy for him and for everyone who so casually and irresponsibly touted it as a fix for this country’s broken death penalty system.

To read more CLICK HERE