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OH AG DeWine Investigates Police Killing Of Black Wal-Mart Shopper

While the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., gets lots of attention, a shooting of a black man by white police officers near Dayton last month has had a more measured response, reports NPR. Police officers shot and killed John Crawford, 22, in Beavercreek, Oh., after he picked up an air rifle BB gun in the store and carried it. A customer called 911. Officers say they gave Crawford two chances to drop the gun and then fired their weapons when he did not comply. His family's attorney said, "There's absolutely no indication that the police gave Mr. Crawford any kind of signal."

Beavercreek Police Chief Dennis Evers turned over the investigation to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. DeWine's office has spoken with at least 50 witnesses. Last month the attorney general showed a portion of the video to John Crawford's family. "Like all of us, Mr. Crawford's parents have questions about how this tragic event unfolded, and I felt it was only right that they be included as early as possible in this investigation," DeWine said.

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Challenged Bite Mark Evidence Cited In Mississippi Death Row Appeal

Forensic dentistry, matching body wounds with the dentition of the accused. has played a role in hundreds of murder and rape cases, sometimes helping to put defendants on death row. The New York Times says mounting evidence shows that the technique is prone to bias and unreliable. Disputed bite-mark identification is at the center of an appeal filed yesterday at the Mississippi Supreme Court. Eddie Lee Howard Jr., 61, has been on death row for two decades for the murder and rape of an 84-year-old woman. He was convicted after what many experts call a far-fetched match of his teeth to purported bite wounds, found after the woman’s body had been buried and exhumed.

 

 

The identification was made by Dr. Michael West, a Mississippi dentist who was sought out by prosecutors across the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s but whose freewheeling methods “put a huge black eye on bite-mark evidence,” said Dr. Richard Souviron, a Florida-based dental expert. Snce 2000, at least 17 people convicted of murder or rape based on “expert” bite matches have been exonerated and freed, usually because DNA tests showed they had been wrongfully accused, says The Innocence Project. Without glaring new proof of innocence, courts have been reluctant to reopen cases based on even the most dubious of dental claims, says the Innocence Project's Chris Fabricant.

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NFL Hires Three Domestic Policy Advisers; NOW Says "It's Not Enough"

Three experts in domestic violence will serve as consultants to the National Football League, the Associated Press reports. Commissioner Roger Goodell said Lisa Friel, Jane Randel and Rita Smith will work as "senior advisers." They will "help lead and shape the NFL's policies and programs relating to domestic violence and sexual assault," he told teams. Goodell has been under heavy criticism for his handling of the domestic abuse case involving star running back Ray Rice. Rice was initially suspended for two games. Goodell at first defended the punishment, but more than a month later, he told owners he "didn't get it right" and that first-time domestic violence offenders would face a six-game suspension going forward.

Rice was released by the Baltimore Ravens and indefinitely suspended by the league after video surfaced of the assault on his then-fiancee. Friel led the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit in the New York County District Attorney's Office for more than a decade. Randel is co-founder of No More, a campaign against domestic violence and sexual assault. Smith is former director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Goodell said Anna Isaacson,  NFL vice president of community affairs and philanthropy, will become its vice president of social responsibility. The National Organization for Women, which is calling for Goodell's resignation, called the appointments of the senior advisers "a step in the right direction — but it's not enough." NOW said "the fact that Roger Goodell is assigning a current member of his leadership team to oversee new policies shows once again that he just doesn't get it."

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Television Stations Protest Exclusion From Retrial On Jodi Arias Sentence

An attorney representing five local Phoenix television stations asked a Maricopa County Superior Court judge to reconsider her ban on video coverage of the Jodi Arias retrial, the Arizona Republic reports. First Amendment attorney David Bodney pleaded yesterday with Judge Sherry Stephens to allow the local news stations to air video clips of the trial on the evening news. Stephens has ruled that she will allow the upcoming sentencing retrial to be videotaped, but the tapes cannot be shown until after the trial is over.

Stephens said she would rule by the end of the week. Arias, 34, was convicted of first-degree murder last year for killing her former lover Travis Alexander, 30. Alexander was found dead in his home in 2008, shot in the head, his throat slit, with nearly 30 stab wounds. The guilty verdict stands. The only decision for the new jury will be whether to sentence her to life or death, and that retrial is scheduled to start impaneling a new jury on Sept. 29. Most pretrial hearings in the past year have been closed to the media and public.

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Chicago Police To Test Body Cameras; Rules On Usage Up For Debate

The Chicago Police Department is preparing to try out body cameras on some officers, joining a growing trend that is raising hopes of increased police professionalism but also a raft of difficult questions about how the cameras should be used properly, reports the Chicago Tribune. The cameras are intended to capture an officer's interaction with the public on video and audio, providing potentially critical evidence. The technology has won early backing from disparate groups that often clash over law enforcement issues, from the American Civil Liberties Union and the state NAACP to the union that represents rank-and-file Chicago police officers and the Independent Police Review Authority.

 

 

 

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Online Gamers Take Up "Swatting," Fooling Police Departments Nationwide

One caller to 911 said he shot co-workers at a Colorado video game company and had hostages. Another in Florida said her drunk father was wielding a machine gun and threatening their family. A third caller on Long Island claimed to have killed his mother and threatened to shoot first responders. Each time, SWAT teams found no violent criminals or wounded victims but rather video game players sitting at their computers, the startled victims of a hoax known as "swatting," the Associated Press reports. The hoax that initially targeted celebrities has now become a way for players of combat-themed video games to retaliate against opponents while thousands of spectators watch. AP says, "The perpetrators can watch their hijinks unfold minute by minute in a window that shows a live video image of other players."

"It's like creating your own episode of 'Cops,'" said Dr. John Grohol, a psychologist who studies online behavior. The players, who are often many miles away, look up opponents' addresses in phone directories, sometimes using services that can find unlisted numbers. They also exploit online programs that trick 911 dispatchers into believing an emergency call is coming from the victim's phone or address. All the while, they conceal their own identities and locations. "You can literally do it from around the world," said Justin Cappos, a computer scientist at New York University. "It can be very challenging (to solve) depending on the sophistication of the person doing it."

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Three-Fourths Of Police Departments Not Using Body Cameras

Last month's deadly police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., accelerated interest in the use of officer body cameras to help identify potential misconduct, but 75 percent of law enforcement agencies were not using the technology as of last summer, says a new Justice Department-funded study reported by USA Today. The survey of 254 law enforcement agencies found that nearly one-third of the agencies that did deploy the cameras had no written policies governing their use.

Body camera technology has been emerging in the past decade, while dashboard surveillance cameras have been around longer. "The recent emergence of body-worn cameras has already had an impact on policing, and this impact will only increase as more agencies adopt this technology,'' said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum, which wrote the report. The report says some law enforcement authorities are crediting the strategy with improving accountability. The report said the decision to use the technology "should not be entered into lightly.'' "Once an agency goes down the road of deploying body-worn cameras and once the public comes to expect the availability of video records it will become increasingly difficult to have second thoughts or to scale back a...camera program,'' he said.

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Davis CA Rejection Of MRAP Highlights Police Military Surplus In State

The police department of the modest college town of Davis is among the latest California beneficiaries of surplus military equipment: a $700,000 armored MRAP (mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle) that police chief Landy Black called the “perfect vehicle to perform rescues of victims and potential victims during active shooter incidents.” The New York Times says the City Council directed Black to get rid of it in the face of an uproar, with many invoking the use of similar equipment against protesters in Ferguson, Mo.

“This thing has a turret — it’s the kind of thing that is used in Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Mayor Dan Wolk. "Our community is the kind of community that is not going to take well to having this kind of vehicle. We are not a crime-ridden city.” He added, “When it comes to help from Washington we, like most communities, have a long wish list. But a tank, or MRAP, or whatever you choose to call it, is not on that list.” The Council’s decision set off  concern among police officials across the state and highlighted the fact that California has one of the highest concentrations of surplus military equipment in the nation.

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