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The Trial of Bradley Manning — Rule of Law or Rule of Intimidation, Retaliation & Retribution
By Ann Wright
December 17, 2011 „Information Clearing House“ – – Yesterday, December 16, 2011, 40 supporters of Bradley Manning saw him in person in the military courtroom at Fort Meade, Maryland and another 60 saw him on a video feed from the court, the first time Manning has been seen by the public in 19 months. Over 100 other supporters, including 50 from Occupy Wall Street who had bused down from New York City, were at the front gates of Fort Meade in solidarity with Manning.
Hundreds of supporters will gather today, Saturday, December 17, for a large rally and march.
For his first court appearance, Bradley was in what looked to be a new military uniform and typically military, he had a fresh haircut. He was not in shackles in the courtroom, but it appeared in a photo that he was shackled in the van that brought him to the court. Manning talked freely with his civilian defense counsel and his two military legal counsels.
He did not turn around and look at the people in the court, but as he was brought in and taken out during the various recesses of the court, he no doubt noticed supporters in Bradley Manning t-shirts.
Bradley Manning has been imprisoned for 19 months, since May, 2010, without a trial. Yesterday, December 16, 2011, an Article 32 hearing began at Fort Meade, Maryland, in which an investigating officer will determine whether there is sufficient evidence of the crimes with which the military has charged him for the case to be referred to a General court-martial.
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James L. Owens Jr., who spent 20 years behind bars on burglary and murder charges only to be freed in 2008 by a DNA discovery, has filed a $15 million lawsuit claiming Baltimore police and prosecutors intentionally suppressed exculpatory information in his case.
Owens, 46, says investigators pressured a key witness, who was later convicted as an accomplice in the case, into changing stories mid-trial in 1988 and that a jailhouse informant, who claimed Owens confessed, testified in exchange for special favors. The defense team wasn’t told of either circumstance, according to the civil suit, which was moved into federal court recently from the city, where it was originally filed.
Both men convicted in Colleen Williar’s death, including Owens, won the right to new trials and eventually freedom after a DNA test showed that blood and semen from the scene belonged to someone else. Each man claims he’s innocent, but the victim’s family has refused to accept it.
„They’re both as guilty as can be,“ Williar’s mother said when Owens was released.
She could not be reached for this story, nor could the prosecutor who originally tried the case. Attorneys for the Police Department and the Baltimore state’s attorney’s office did not respond to messages, and spokespeople for the agencies declined to comment.
The lawsuit combined with older court filings and newspaper reports tell a confusing tale.
Williar’s brother, who would later commit suicide, discovered her nude body in an upstairs bedroom of her O’Donnell Heights home on Aug. 2, 1987. And only one man, James A. Thompson Jr., appeared to know anything about it.
He approached police the next day, claiming he’d found the murder weapon, a bloody knife, near the scene and asking for a $1,000 reward. When police pressed him, he said a friend, Owens, told him where to find the knife, which he then cleaned and kept.
Police arrested Owens based on Thompson’s statement and took him into custody. While in jail, an informant also came forward, claiming that Owens confessed to the attack, the lawsuit says, and promising to testify in exchange for „help in getting … released, better conditions of confinement, and other rewards.“
The informant and Thompson were the state’s best trial witnesses. But on the morning he was scheduled to testify, Thompson changed his story again, claiming that the knife was his, but that Owens took it from him and returned it bloody.
That’s the version of events he first told the jury.
„Despite the fact that Mr. Thompson had shown himself to be untrustworthy and a habitual liar, [police and prosecutors] decided that his third story was, as they would describe it later, ’sellable‘ to a jury,“ Owens‘ lawsuit claims.
The prosecutor grew suspicious of Thompson, however, and asked investigators to retrieve blood and hair samples, according to Owens‘ lawsuit. A forensic expert suggested at the time that Thompson’s hair looked like it matched strands found at the murder scene.
Police told Thompson of the discovery, and over several hours of interrogation, demanded an explanation.
Thompson told several stories, then, ending with this: He said he stood at the foot of the bed masturbating while Owens attacked Williar. He was called back to the witness stand and confessed, shocking onlookers and the jury.
Owens was convicted of burglary and murder, though he was acquitted of the rape. Thompson later recanted before Owens‘ sentencing, but it was too late. Owens was ordered to life in prison. Thompson was convicted of rape, murder and burglary in a separate trial and also sentenced to life.
Both men spent years in prison, until the Innocence Project, which works to overturn unjust convictions, got involved in the case. The group fought for DNA analysis of semen found at the scene and blood found on Thompson’s pants. None of it matched the victim or the defendants.
Owens won a new trial based on the results, and prosecutors chose to drop the charges against him in 2008, rather than retry the case. By then, five of the original witnesses were dead, and Thompson was no longer willing to testify.
Last year, Thompson was also granted a new trial, but he took a plea deal — entering an „Alford plea“ to second-degree murder — rather than take his chances in another jury trial. He was sentenced to time served. Such a plea acknowledges that there is sufficient evidence to convict him but doesn’t admit guilt.
One of Owens‘ attorneys in the civil case, James Gentry Jr., who has worked as both a police officer and a prosecutor, says police and prosecutors likely „jumped to conclusions“ without thorough investigation.
„We believe that it was pretty outrageous conduct,“ Gentry said, adding that his team are „operating under the assumption“ that both Thompson and Owens are innocent.
„It’s a crazy case“ he said.
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UPDATE: Convicted murderer’s mom comments on re-trial
Posted: Nov 23, 2011 2:50 PM by Brittany Wooley- KTVQ News
Updated: Nov 23, 2011 3:43 PM
BILLINGS- Q2’s Brittany Wooley sat down with Barry Beach’s mother, Bobbi Clincher, Wednesday morning before she set out for Deer Lodge to visit her son.
Clincher says it has been a long journey to get to this point but that she and Beach both have a strong faith in God and believe the journey has served a purpose.
During Beach’s 28 years in prison, legislation has been passed through the Montana Legislature because of his case, and Clincher says Beach has had many experiences, both good and bad, in prison that he needed to have.
But, she says, Beach is almost 50-years-old, and it is time for him to be given the rest of his life back and for appropriate justice to be served.
„This is not just about Barry. It is about justice for Kim also, Kim Nees, and I’m sure Kim is happy about this decision too because whatever the outcome will be, eventually, at least she will have this justice, knowing that someone innocent of the crime is not going to be behind bars, hopefully,“ Clincher says.
She says she holds no animosity towards anyone for waiting so long to come forward as witnesses or for not speaking out at all.
BILLINGS- After 28 years in prison for a murder of a Poplar teen, a man who has maintained his innocence is getting the chance to make his case before a new jury.
District judge Wayne Phillips of Lewistown has ordered a re-trial in the conviction of Barry Beach for the 1979 bludgeoning death of 17-year-old Kimberly Nees.
New witnesses came forward during an August evidentiary hearing testifying that over the years several girls have admitted to the murder.
According to information from a 1985 Montana State Supreme Court opinion, Beach’s conviction was based almost entirely upon his 1983 confession to police in Louisiana, a conviction Beach maintains was coerced by police.
The five year statute of limitations has long expired. However, the Montana State Supreme Court allowed for an evidentiary hearing, and Phillips decided the new evidence warrants a re-trial.
Beach is currently serving a 100-year sentence without the possibility of parole.
Phillips ordered the trial in Roosevelt County, but the state can appeal the decision.
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After serving nearly 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife, Michael Morton was freed this afternoon in Texas, exonerated by DNA evidence that connected another man to his wife’s bludgeoning.
The former grocery store employee, who is now 57, was released Tuesday afternoon when he appeared before the 26th Judicial Court of Williamston County Texas.
„I know there are a lot of things you want to ask me. I will say this: Colors seem real bright to me now, and the women are real good looking,“ Morton joked afterward to reporters.
His mother, Pat Morton, told the Austin American-Statesman, „This is one of the happiest days of my life, and I thank God for it.“ …
WELCOME BACK IN LIFE, Michael!
|Chicago Judge Overturns Murder Convictionsof Four MenPosted: 16 Nov 2011 03:11 PM PST / I read this: InnocenceProject.org
A Cook County circuit court judge today vacated the convictions of four Illinois men of a 1994 rape and murder – six months after DNA testresults pointed to their innocence and implicated the real perpetrator.The judge set bail for Michael Saunders and Harold Richardson, who have both served 17 years-more than half of their lives – in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. Prosecutors must decide whether to dismiss the charges against them. Also cleared today are Terrill Swift, who is on parole, and Vincent Thames, who completed his sentence and was released recently.
Teenagers at the time, all men were interrogated without a family member or guardian present and were coerced into confessing to the crime. Earlier this year, DNA testing on semen recovered from the victim matched a man who was convicted of a nearly identical murder and whom the prosecution believes committed another murder and additional assaults with the same modus operandi.
The Cook County State’s Attorney has consistently opposed vacating the men’s convictions, arguing that the DNA match alone is not enough to prove innocence.
Mr. Swift, now 34, said his confession came out of fear and exhaustion. After being questioned for hours by police, he was told he could go home if he signed the confession.
„I was 17, I’d never been in any type of trouble like that,“ Swift told a New York Times reporter. „I didn’t know the weight or the magnitude of what a confession could do. It cost me 17 years of my life.“