Posts Tagged ‘current-events’

PHILIP CHISM – The 16-year-old Danvers High School student who was found guilty of murdering his math teacher when he was just 14 will have a probation requirements hearing, but will not appear at it.  Colleen Ritzer, 24, a teacher at Danvers High School was found murdered in the woods near the school in October of 2013.  In addition, Chism’s sentencing date for the murder conviction has been pushed back to February 26th from the original date of tomorrow after a request from a juvenile probation official.  Chism was convicted of aggravated rape, robbery, and first-degree murder and faces life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 – 25 years.  He faces separate charges of attempted murder for an unrelated incident at a state-run facility where he was awaiting trial.  A hearing on that matter has been set for Feb. 11th.  Chism is accused of attacking a female employee.

Sources:  |  NECN

DYLANN ROOF – The court will draw from a pool of 600 potential jurors for the trial of Dylann Roof, 21, who is accused of murdering 9 people at a Charleston church last year.  He faces 9 counts of murder in state court as well as 33 federal charges (which include hate crimes and obstruction of the practice of religion).  He’s accused of entering Mother Emanuel Church during a Bible study meeting and opening fire upon the parishioners, which included state Senator Clementa Pinckney.  He injured 3 people and killed 9.  Jury selection is scheduled for June 28th.  The state prosecution has announced their intent to seek the death penalty.  The federal prosecution has stated they will most likely make a decision in March on whether to seek the death penalty.  The judge said that the large pool is necessary due to the complexity of the case.  The pool is about twice as large as a typical trial.

Sources:  WSAV  |  The Guardian  |  Post and Courier

DYLANN ROOF-INSPIRED THEATER SHOOTING – The drifter who walked into a Louisiana movie theater last summer and shot several people left behind a hate journal in which he thanked the man accused of a Charleston church shooting for the “wake up call”.  “Had Dylann Roof reached political maturity he would have seen the word is not [racial slur] but liberal,” 59-year-old John “Rusty” Houser wrote shortly before he fatally-shot two women at a Lafayette theater.  Houser was a former bar owner from Georgia with a long history of mental illness.  He committed suicide after his deadly shooting spree as cops closed in on him.  His journal was found in the Motel 6 he was staying at, entitled:  “Reasons for My Actions.”  Houser was a fan of Donald Trump, who is currently running for Republican Presidential nomination.  He called America “a filth farm” and “If you have not stood against filth, you are now a soft target.”  Houser bashed the media and went on a sexist, racist, and homophobic rant including saying that “40% of whites are now as depraved as the majority of blacks.”  Houser also appeared to rail against religion as well stating, “God is not good.”  In addition, he wrote that women and blacks are not “mentally” equal to white men.  In his final entries, he mentioned “Trainwreck”, the movie that was screening when he entered to begin shooting and a movie time.  “My choice is clear for anyone that is a leader. If you see the truth, you know what is to come.”

Sources:  NBCNews  |  Slate

MCSTAY FAMILY MURDER – Charles “Chase” Merritt, a former business partner of Joseph McStay, is accused of killing the family of 4 and hiding their bodies in shallow graves in the Mojave Desert near Victorville, California.  Prosecutors allege that his motive was greed and that he killed the family with a sledgehammer.  Merritt has fired his defense attorneys.  Following a closed hearing Thursday in San Bernardino Superior Court in which Judge Michael A. Smith conferred with Merritt’s attorneys – Jimmy Mettias, David Askander, Sharon Brunner and Rajan Maline – Smith granted Merritt’s request.  He found that there was a “breakdown in the attorney-client relationship…”  A hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday where it will be decided whether he will retain or be appointed a new attorney or represent himself.  The trial is scheduled to begin in April.

Merritt, 58, faces the death penalty if convicted of the February 2010 beating deaths of Joseph, 40, his wife, Summer, 43, and their children, Gianni, 4, and Joseph Jr., 3.  Prosecutors allege that Merritt was a gambling addict who was heavily in debt and killed Joseph McStay and his family.  He allegedly withdrew $21,000 out of McStay’s online business account after the family vanished.  He then patronized some casinos in the California area.  The family was discovered by a man riding a dirt bike in the Mojave Desert.  Autopsies concluded that the family was beaten to death by a blunt object.  Investigators believe it was the 3 lb. Stanley sledgehammer found in the shallow grave with Summer McStay and one of her sons.  The prosecution believes the victims were tortured before dying given the extent of their injuries including to their heads, legs, arms, and torsos.

The McStay family was last seen alive on Feb. 4, 2010 when Joseph McStay went to lunch with Merritt at a Chick-fil-A near where Merritt lived to talk business.  Joseph McStay owned the online company Earth Inspired Products, which sold custom-made decorative water fountains.

Sources:  SBSUN  |  Daily Bulletin  |  SBSUN 2 |  Daily Mail



A federal judge in Pennsylvania granted Bill Cosby’s motion to dismiss a defamation lawsuit pending against him.  Renita Hill, one of more than 50 women who have publicly accused the comedian of sexual assault filed a lawsuit in October of last year alleging that the actor and his lawyer defamed her.  Judge Arthur J. Schwab dismissed the claims against Cosby ruling that the statements “do not support a claim for defamation as defined by Pennsylvania law.”

Hill’s claims of defamation stemmed from three instances:

  1. When Cosby and his lawyer said that the accusers needed to be “fact-checked.”
  2. In November of 2014, following Hill’s public accusation against Cosby, his lawyer said to the Washington Post that the women had “unsubstantiated, fantastical stories.”  Cosby declined to respond to the “innuendos” made against him when asked for comment by Florida Today.
  3. When the comedian’s wife, Camille, then wrote a letter to the Washington Post claiming that the news organization failed to “vet” the accusers.

In the ruling, Judge Schwab found no grounds for defamation, writing that the three instances were “pure opinion” and a “far cry from labeling [Hill] as liars or extortionists.”

“None of the facts alleged by [Hill] supported her claims for defamation, false light, or intentional infliction of emotional distress under Pennsylvania law,” Cosby’s lawyers said in a statement after the ruling. “It is our hope that courts in other jurisdictions with similar matters will respond in like manner.”

Hill intends to appeal.  “We are disappointed, but remain committed to seeking justice in this matter. We strongly disagree with the judge’s reasoning that Cosby’s statements are constitutionally protected opinions,” George Kontos, Renita Hill’s lawyer, told CNN.

Amongst all of the lawsuits and public accusations against Cosby of sexual assault, including drugging women to rape them, he is also facing aggravated indecent assault for an alleged 2004 attack on Andrea Constand in Pennsylvania.

Sources:  CNN

Ben Baker, 43, of Chicago was convicted of drug possession in 2005 and sentenced to 14 years in prison, but last year, the Exoneration Project discovered evidence that the investigators framed Baker.  He was eventually released from the Robinson Correctional Center this week and sent home.  Baker’s legal team knew for more than a day that he was no longer convicted of what a corrupt officer framed him for, but Baker had no idea.  He said, “I was coming from the gym, from a fitness class they provide there. I was standing, waiting.  The officer told me to pack my stuff. I was going home. I told him, ‘Stop playing.’ ”

“This is what we do this work for.  This conviction should have never happened, but we are delighted that once the case got on their radar, the state’s attorney’s office acted quickly and decisively,” said Joshua Tepfer, a lawyer with the Exoneration Project.

Sergeant Ronald Watts and a number of officers on his squad testified that Baker was selling drugs out of one of the city’s public housing buildings, the Ida B. Wells building.  Baker has always maintained his innocence and said that the authorities were framing him.

At trial, he testified that Sgt. Watts had previously tried to frame him for drug-related cases when he refused to give Watts $1,000 for “protection”.   Baker refused to pay the money and got out of those false charges later.  He subsequently complained to another officer Alvin Jones, but he didn’t know that Jones was part of the scheme.  Jones responded it was all “part of the game…you win some, you lose some.  Next time we get you, it will stick.”

Watts and the other officers testified that Baker was lying and the jury convicted him.

Officer Douglas Nichols, who worked under Watts’ command, testified that he saw Baker with drug bags packaged for distribution and tried to capture him, but he fled.  Officer Robert Gonzalez, also a member of Watts’ team, testified that he arrested Baker in the lobby after Baker got away from Nichols and that he found heroin, crack cocaine, and $800 in his pocket.

Baker told the court that Watts and his officers were the ones with a criminal empire in the housing complex.  They often stole narcotics proceeds and shook down dealers for “protection money”, and even pinned cases on innocent residents if they refused to play ball with them.

At the sentencing hearing, the trial judge fully believed the officers stating that he thought Baker’s accusations were unfounded.  He sentenced Baker to 18 years, but that sentence was later reduced to 14 years.  The accusations “[hold] no water at all,” Judge Toomin said.

It turns out that the criminals were the ones wearing the badges in this case. (more…)