Archive for July, 2011

Promises Broken: Obama’s Attack on the Constitution

July 29, 2011

By Thomas R. Eddlem – www.thenewamerican.com – July 28, 2011  

“I taught the Constitution for 10 years. I believe in the Constitution, and I will obey the Constitution of the United States. We’re not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end run around Congress.”
         — Barack Obama, May 18, 2008, at a campaign stop in Billings, Montana

President Obama began his presidency with great promise, publicly pledging to end many of the Bush administration attacks against the U.S. Constitution. Obama had pledged during his initial election campaign to end signing statements as a back-door method of legislating (usurping the legislative branch’s powers under Article I of the Constitution), warrantless surveillance (violating the Fourth Amendment), detention without habeas corpus (Fifth Amendment) or trial (Sixth Amendment), torture (Eighth Amendment), and excessive executive branch secrecy under the “executive privilege” and “state secrets” claims, and pledged that he would not engage in offensive wars without the approval of Congress (Congress’ power under Article I, Section 8).

During his first week as President, Obama appeared to be making great progress toward fulfilling those promises to return the executive branch of government to the limits of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Obama signed three executive orders to ban torture and limit interrogations to the Army Field Manual, to close Guantanamo prison within one year and grant detainees in the war on terror prisoner-of-war status, and to limit the use of executive privilege and executive branch secrecy.

Since that first week, however, Obama has beaten a fast-track retreat on nearly all of these promises related to the U.S. Constitution and, in some instances, even committed worse offenses against the Constitution than the Bush administration. Following is a survey of those campaign promises and how Obama has fulfilled or — in nearly every case — reneged on them.

Signing Statements: Total Backtrack
Candidate Obama told the Boston Globe on November 20, 2007 that he would never use signing statements — a public announcement by the President attached to a bill Congress has enacted into law — to undo the will of Congress. He correctly noted that the Bush administration had unconstitutionally done precisely this on a regular basis:

I will not use signing statements to nullify or undermine congressional instructions as enacted into law. The problem with this administration is that it has attached signing statements to legislation in an effort to change the meaning of the legislation, to avoid enforcing certain provisions of the legislation that the President does not like, and to raise implausible or dubious constitutional objections to the legislation. The fact that President Bush has issued signing statements to challenge over 1,100 laws — more than any president in history — is a clear abuse of this prerogative.

Yet within months of taking office, Obama had already used signing statements to put Congress on notice he would ignore provisions of laws he had signed on foreign relations, as well as on domestic spending bills. Even Congressmen in his own party complained to Obama in a letter that he had unconstitutionally usurped the exclusively legislative power to make rules for the spending of federal monies.

“We were surprised to read your signing statement in which you expressed the view that you are constitutionally free to ignore the conditions duly adopted in the legislative process regarding funding for the international financial institutions,” Congressmen Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and David Obey (D-Wis.) wrote in a letter to Obama July 21, 2009. “During the previous administration, all of us were critical of the President’s [i.e., Bush’s] assertion that he could pick and choose which aspects of congressional statutes he was required to enforce. We were therefore chagrined to see you appear to express a similar attitude.”

Obama upped the executive-branch-arrogance ante with a signing statement on four of his “czars” in April 2011. In a bill he helped to broker to stop the government from shutting down, Obama brazenly declared he would ignore the law’s provisions to defund the “czar” positions. Obama’s signing statement noted that the bill would “prohibit the use of funds for several positions that involve providing advice directly to the President,” but that “Legislative efforts that significantly impede the President’s ability to exercise his supervisory and coordinating authorities or to obtain the views of the appropriate senior advisers violate the separation of powers.” In short, Obama said he would ignore the clear law about federal funding for his “czars,” themselves created without any explicit congressional authority. Of course, this is a clear violation of the Constitution. Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution stipulates, “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law,” and Section 8 stipulates that all laws must be passed by Congress.

Obama turned the U.S. Constitution on its head in that signing statement, taking for himself and the imperial presidency a power that is exclusively reserved to Congress. James Madison noted that this was a vital power of the legislative branch in The Federalist No. 58:

The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose the supplies requisite for the support of government. They, in a word, hold the purse — that powerful instrument by which we behold, in the history of the British Constitution, an infant and humble representation of the people gradually enlarging the sphere of its activity and importance, and finally reducing, as far as it seems to have wished, all the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of the government. This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.

Indefinite Detention Without Trial, Habeas Corpus: Total Backtrack
Obama’s campaign website pledged that “as president, Barack Obama will close the detention facility at Guantanamo.” Obama has broken this promise, issuing an executive order in March 2011 keeping the prison open.

While there’s nothing about the Guantanamo prison itself that is unconstitutional, the chief objection to Guantanamo has been that it has been a symbol of keeping detainees outside the reach of the law. And Obama’s campaign in 2008 noted this:

The right of habeas corpus allows prisoners to ask a court to determine whether they are being lawfully imprisoned. Recently, this right has been denied to those deemed enemy combatants. Barack Obama strongly supports bipartisan efforts to restore habeas rights.

Indeed, Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution bans the President from denying habeas corpus, and the Fifth and Sixth Amendments guarantee “due process of law” and a “trial by jury” without any exceptions. The United States even gave the very worst perpetrators of the holocaust during World War II a trial by jury, despite the risk of a German backlash and Nazi resurgence. Yet within a month of taking office, Obama administration officials had taken exactly the same view as the Bush administration with regard to detainees challenging their imprisonment in court. The New York Times reported on February 21, 2009, “The Obama administration has told a federal judge that military detainees in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their imprisonment there, embracing a key argument of former President Bush’s legal team.”

Since that time, Obama has ruled that about 50 of those detained at Guantanamo would remain imprisoned forever without a trial by jury, including even trial by a military commission jury. Even today, at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan — which has 10 times the number of detainees as Guantanamo — none of the 1,700 detainees can challenge their detention in a court.

Abolish Torture: Progress, but Not Completed
President Obama issued an executive order January 22, 2009 designed to end torture. The executive order purported to restrict interrogations to methods in the Army Field Manual, comply with Geneva accords on treatment of prisoners of war, and restrict extraordinary rendition to states engaging in torture. Obama’s executive order required of U.S. government officials that detainees “shall in all circumstances be treated humanely and shall not be subjected to violence to life and person (including murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment, and torture), nor to outrages upon personal dignity (including humiliating and degrading treatment).”

And Obama has appeared to have made some progress in minimizing some of the worst torture excesses during the Bush administration. “Waterboarding” has apparently been discontinued.

But news reports of torture of detainees continue to reach the news media, especially from secret “black site” prisons in Afghanistan. The Washington Post reported black site torture continued into 2009, which included punching, slapping, and prolonged 24-hour-a-day darkness and isolation, sleep deprivation, and forced nudity. This torture and secret prison network has apparently continued to this day. “The most secretive of roughly 20 temporary sites is run by the military’s elite counterterrorism unit, the Joint Special Operations Command, at Bagram Air Base,” Associated Press writer Kimberly Dozier wrote on April 8, 2011. Dozier reported much of the same torture tactics being employed, including forced nudity and sensory deprivation in 24-hour dark cells. Wired magazine observed that all Obama did was transfer the government body responsible for torture. “Under President Obama, the CIA is barred from holding terrorism detainees in secret prisons. That’s the Joint Special Operations Command’s job now.”

Warrantless Surveillance: Total Backtrack
Asked by the Boston Globe’s Charlie Savage on November 20, 2007, “Does the president have inherent powers under the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, regardless of federal statutes?” Obama responded:

The Supreme Court has never held that the president has such powers. As president, I will follow existing law, and when it comes to U.S. citizens and residents, I will only authorize surveillance for national security purposes consistent with FISA and other federal statutes.

Obama also added: “Warrantless surveillance of American citizens, in defiance of FISA, is unlawful and unconstitutional.” On a campaign flyer, “The War We Need To Win,” Obama categorically pledged to “Eliminate warrantless wiretaps.”

But Obama’s record on unconstitutional warrantless surveillance is no different from that of the Bush administration. By April 2009, the Obama administration had pledged to keep intact the Bush-era NSA surveillance program, and to fight for it in court. “In a dangerous world,” Obama said in a statement released April 16, 2009, “the United States must sometimes carry out intelligence operations and protect information that is classified for purposes of national security. I have already fought for that principle in court and will do so again in the future.”

Obama also sought renewal of the Patriot Act without amendment (despite a campaign pledge to the contrary) and even expanded FBI warrantless access to Americans’ Internet traffic.

“State Secrets” and Executive Privilege: Total Backtrack
Candidate Obama pledged to curb the excessive Bush administration use of executive privilege and the “state secrets” privilege. Asked by the Boston Globe, “Does executive privilege cover testimony or documents about decision-making within the executive branch not involving confidential advice communicated to the president himself?” candidate Obama stressed in 2007 that he would use executive privilege as a means to keep advice from his close staff advisers confidential and candid. But he added, “I believe the Administration’s use of executive authority to over-classify information is a bad idea.”

But Obama has utilized the same pseudo-legalistic argumentation as the Bush administration in court to justify ignoring the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Congress’ ability to know the facts.

The American Civil Liberties Union noted in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on December 9, 2010 that both Obama and Bush had “invoked the privilege to block a challenge to the government’s authority to use lethal force against a U.S. citizen without due process. This once-rare tool is being used not to protect the nation from harm, but to cover up the government’s illegal actions and prevent further embarrassment.”

In fact, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Obama has used the so-called “state secrets privilege” even more broadly than the Bush administration. Moreover, the Obama administration has even argued in court that the new reason it needs to have warrantless surveillance powers is itself a state secret; i.e., they can’t even tell the courts why they want to keep warrantless surveillance secret.

How secretive is the Obama government? Ironically, Obama even classified the ceremony of an “openness in government” award it had received.

* * *

What’s no longer a secret is that the Obama administration has continued the attack on the U.S. Constitution. Obama has even expanded that attack. Only Congress can restore the Constitution by reining in the runaway executive branch’s attack on the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Extreme measures — such as impeachment — may be the only remedy that will restore the U.S. Constitution.

Obama’s Assassination List Includes American Citizens

July 29, 2011

By Thomas R. Eddlem – www.thenewamerican.com – July 29, 2011

President Obama campaigned in 2007 and 2008 on behalf of honoring the Constitution’s trial rights for suspected terrorists, and a restoration of protecting individual rights under the U.S. Constitution. But Obama hasn’t merely continued the Bush policy of detaining terror suspects without trial, he’s put many suspected law-breakers — including “dozens” of U.S. citizens — on assassination lists.

“To me, terrorists should not be able to hide behind their passports and their citizenship, and that includes U.S. citizens, whether they are overseas or whether they are here in the United States,” Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John O. Brennan told the Washington Times in June 2010. Brennan said at that time that “dozens” of American citizens were on Obama’s assassination list. New Mexico native Anwar al-Awlaki is reportedly on the assassination list, but the list itself remains classified. Anwar al-Awlaki is thought to be hiding out from the United States in Yemen.

Candidate Obama didn’t even believe a President had the right to arrest and hold a U.S. citizen without charges before 2008, let alone assassinate them. When asked in a December 2007 Boston Globe interview, “Does the Constitution permit a president to detain US citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants?” Obama replied: “No. I reject the Bush Administration’s claim that the President has plenary authority under the Constitution to detain U.S. citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants.”

Obama’s campaign literature was even more explicit that suspected criminals deserve trials: “[Barack Obama] firmly believes that those who pose a danger to this country should be swiftly tried and brought to justice, but those who do not should have sufficient due process to ensure that we are not wrongfully denying them their liberty.”

Obama’s jump from requiring trials as a candidate to extra-judicial assassinations is the reverse principle that emerged from the post-World War II Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals. Toward the end of WWII, the U.S. Secretaries of State and War and the Attorney General wrote a memorandum to President Roosevelt (January 22, 1945) stating that the Allies, in response to Nazi atrocities,

…could, if they elected, put to death the most notorious Nazi criminals, such as Hitler or Himmler, without trial or hearing. We do not favor this method. While it has the advantages of a sure and swift disposition, it would be violative of the most fundamental principles of justice, common to all the United Nations. This would encourage the Germans to turn these criminals into martyrs, and, in any event, only a few individuals could be reached in this way.

We think that the just and effective solution lies in the use of the judicial method. Condemnation of these criminals after a trial, moreover, would command maximum public support in our own times and receive the respect of history. The use of the judicial method will, in addition, make available for all mankind to study in future years an authentic record of Nazi crimes and criminality.

President Obama has completely reversed this Nuremberg principle.

Candidate Obama pledged to kill Osama bin Laden, a war criminal and mass murderer of this generation. “We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaida,” Obama claimed in the Second Presidential Debate October 7, 2008. “That has to be our biggest national security priority.” But it was unclear from the context of that debate if Obama meant he would kill bin Laden through a military assassination or capital punishment after a jury trial. His statements earlier in the same campaign seemed to indicate the latter. “I think that, if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and we’ve exhausted all other options, we should take him out before he plans to kill another 3,000 Americans. I think that’s common sense,” Obama said in primary debate August 19, 2007. The “exhausted all other options” phrase seems to indicate he would make an honest attempt to bring bin Laden to justice just like the Nazi war criminals.

But that never happened. And Obama’s extra-judicial killing of bin Laden drew the ire of a Nuremberg prosecutor. “Jubilation over the death of the most hunted mass murderer is understandable, but was it really justifiable self-defense, or was it premeditated illegal assassination?” asked Benjamin B. Ferencz, a prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, in a May 3 letter to the New York Times. Ferencz, 92, told the London Guardian of media reports of bin Laden’s killing: “The picture I get is that a bunch of highly trained, heavily armed soldiers find an old guy in pyjamas and shoot him in the chest and head, and that borders, without access to more facts, on murder.” He added: “Even [the head of the Luftwaffe Hermann] Göring had a right to trial.”

Ferencz noted that “the Nuremberg trials earned worldwide respect by giving Hitler’s worst henchmen a fair trial so that truth would be revealed and justice under law would prevail. Secret nonjudicial decisions based on political or military considerations undermine democracy. The public is entitled to know the complete truth.” Ferencz also told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation after the bin Laden killing:

We had that same issue come up long before, at Nuremberg where there was a sharp division. The British were in favor of a political solution, which meant taking out somebody and shooting them. We didn’t know clearly who and how many. The Russians were also in favor of just shooting all the top leaders before you could stop counting. And the Americans said, “No way. We’re going to give them a fair trial and under the rule of law, with all the rights. It will be an open and public trial.” And that decision, in my judgment, was absolutely the correct decision. It has withstood the test of time. America was hailed throughout the world for its fairness and for the way they conducted themselves against their terrible enemy. And I was hoping we would continue that tradition.

But Obama has apparently discontinued that tradition with the bin Laden killing and his own private assassination list that includes “dozens” of U.S. citizens that his advisors say may be killed inside the United States.

Washington Twp., Fayette Co., PA Police Officer, Father, Charged with Murdering 92 Year-Old Woman

July 28, 2011

From the Observer – Reporter Newspaper -Washington, PA, July 25, 2011

A police officer charged in the slaying of his 92-year-old neighbor in California Borough spent large sums of her money, knowing his father was stealing the cash from her in the months leading up to the homicide, police allege in a court record.

David James McClelland, 36, a part-time officer in Washington Township, Fayette County, admitted to initially being given nearly $26,000 in moldy, older bills from his father, David A. McClelland, in June 2010, state police noted in the affidavit supporting the arrests of the McClellands early Saturday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They were charged five days after Evelyn Stepko was found in her basement face-down in a pool of blood after having been stabbed twice in the neck. A fingerprint found on a bloody latex glove in her 1076 Pike Run Drive house connected the 56-year-old father to the homicide, state police said.

Armed with a search warrant Friday, police entered the younger suspect’s small, two-story frame house at 12 School St. and found a lock box hidden under his bed. The box contained nearly $2,000 in old, musty $50 bills, which were consistent with the large amount of money police found in Stepko’s house, the affidavit indicates.

Bones Found in Louisiana Bank Chimney Identified

July 28, 2011

From The Associated Press – July 26, 2011

ABBEVILLE, La. (AP) — Authorities say bones found in the chimney of a bank in Louisiana have been identified and belong to a man who has been missing for 27 years.

The man’s remains were found in May when the bank started renovations. Abbeville police Lt. David Hardy says the remains belong to Joseph W. Schexnider. He was 22 years old when his family last saw him in January 1984.

At that time, Schexnider was wanted for possessing a stolen car, but it’s not clear exactly why or when Schexnider entered the chimney.

Officials couldn’t determine how he died, but police speculate that he starved.

The bank closed off the chimney in the mid to late 1980s.

Man Dies After Being Shocked By CMPD Officer’s Taser

July 21, 2011

From http://www.wsoctv.com

A man is dead after being shocked by a police officer’s Taser Wednesday night.

According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, officers were called to the CATS Lynx Blue Line station on Woodlawn Road around 10:30 p.m. to respond to a report of a man beating and choking a woman. When Officer Michael Forbes and several other officers arrived, police said, they ordered the man to stop and sit down.

Police said the man then raised his hand to strike the woman again, and Forbes shocked him with a Taser.

The man became unresponsive and police called for Medic.

Emergency workers arrived shortly after and tried to revive the man.
He was taken to Carolinas Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.

Family members identified the man as 21-year-old La’Reko Williams.

Jasmine Moore, the mother of Williams’ 1-year-old child, said she has never known him to be physically violent.

“I didn’t believe it,” she said. “I didn’t know what to say, what to do.”

The woman who was with the suspect was taken to police headquarters to be interviewed, police said.

Police Chief Rodney Monroe said police will review surveillance video from the Lynx platform. There are several cameras around the station, he said, and he believes they will show exactly what happened.

“I couldn’t explain this,” Monroe said. “When I received the initial notification, I had to read it several times to make sure I wasn’t reading something from the past.

“Monroe said police do not yet know where the Taser probes hit the man, but officers are instructed not to aim for the chest.

“We should be able to identify where they were located. We’ll have to go back to Medic,” he said.

Tasers also have mechanical meters that show when it was deployed and how long it was used. Investigators are analyzing that information and hope to have the answers at some point Thursday morning, Monroe said.

Forbes has been a member of CMPD since 2007 and is currently assigned to the Westover Division as a patrol officer, according to a police statement.

Detectives with the department’s Homicide Unit are conducting the death investigation while detectives with the Internal Affairs Unit will conduct a separate investigation to determine whether or not CMPD policies and procedures were adhered to during the incident.

The incident came after it was announced a federal jury ordered Taser International Inc. to pay $10 million to the family of a Charlotte teenager who died after a police officer shocked him with a Taser.

Lincoln Co., Maine Sheriff Investigating Elderly Woman Abandoned in Cabin

July 20, 2011

By Sevil Omer Senior writer/editor – msnbc.com / 7/20/2011

Three suspects ripped off an 85-year-old California woman, held her against her will in an abusive cross-country trip and then abandoned her in a 100-degree, broken-down cabin, Maine authorities say.

“She had been in the hot cabin for a number of days,” Lincoln County Sheriff’s Detective Robert McFetridge said Wednesday. “She had food, but it was not edible. She had electricity, but the light bulb had burned out. She couldn’t walk and she was dressed in a night shirt. We didn’t know who she was.”

The victim, whose identity was not released, was taken to a hospital in Edgecomb, Maine, where she was listed in good condition Wednesday.

Police said the woman’s ordeal spanned nearly three years and more than 3,000 miles.

“Every time I talk to her, she slowly comes out of her shell,” McFetridge told msnbc.com. “They exploited her, isolated her from the world, they controlled what she saw, what she heard and who she talked to. This is a textbook case of elder abuse and financial exploitation.”

Police arrested twins Barbara and Nicholas Davis, 41, and their godson, Jonathan Stevens, 20, on Monday. Each faces a felony charge of endangering the welfare of a dependent person. They were released on $10,000 bail and are due in court Sept. 29.

McFetridge described the victim as a painfully thin, intelligent and gentle. He said she suffered from severe hearing loss, if not profound. “I have to shout in her ear to talk to her,” he said. She could barely see.

“She understands what is going on around her and can describe some of the events that led up to her being where she is,” he said. “I’m trying hard to find out what happened to her.”

Here’s what he knows so far:

  • The elderly woman sold her home in Los Angeles for $600,000. She moved into an apartment complex in the area and was befriended by the three suspects in 2008.
  • The three told her they wanted to take her to southern Nevada, to show her some property they wanted to buy in Henderson or Las Vegas. In 2009, she was picked up and carried into a car; that was the last time she saw her home.
  • The three are suspected of taking control of her money and accounts.
  • She has no known family members, but possibly a few estranged cousins.
  • The suspects drove cross-country, ending their journey in Maine, where they lived here and there over the past year. The suspects purchased property in Maine and a new truck.

“We need to find out as much as possible so that we can find out where all her assets have gone,” McFetridge said.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Detective Robert McFetridge at (207)-882-7332.

 

Port St. Lucie, FL Police Say Teen Killed Parents, Then had a Party

July 20, 2011

From The Associated Press – July 18, 2011

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A 17-year-old boy is accused of bludgeoning his parents with a hammer, then hosting dozens of friends for a party while their bodies lay in the bedroom, police said Monday.

Tyler Hadley of Port St. Lucie is charged with twin counts of first-degree murder in the deaths, which authorities say happened Saturday. He is being held without bond at a juvenile detention center in Fort Pierce and it’s not immediately known whether he has an attorney.

This photo provided by the St. Lucie county Sheriff's office on Monday, July 18, 2011, shows Tyler Hadley, 17, of Port St. Lucie, Fla. Hadley is accused of beating his parents to death with a hammer and then throwing a party. He is being held on two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his parents, Blake and Mary-Jo Hadley. The bodies were discovered early Sunday morning after police received a tip.. (AP Photo/ St. Lucie county Sheriff's office)

This photo provided by the St. Lucie county Sheriff’s office on Monday, July 18, 2011

The parents — Blake and Mary-Jo Hadley — were believed to have been struck with the hammer in their heads and torsos sometime after their son posted on Facebook around 1:15 p.m. Saturday alerting friends to an evening party at his house, about 50 miles north of West Palm Beach.

This undated photo provided by the Port St. Lucie police shows Mary Jo Hadley. Hadley's 17-year-old son Tyler Hadley is accused of beating his parents to death with a hammer and then throwing a party. The bodies were discovered early Sunday morning, July 18, 2011 after police received a tip. (AP Photo/Port St. Lucie Police)

This undated photo provided by the Port St. Lucie police shows Mary Jo Hadley.

 

Investigators believe the parents were attacked outside their master bedroom and the bodies were moved into the bedroom and the door locked.

As many as 60 people attended the party that night, according to Port St. Lucie Police spokesman Tom Nichols. They were loud enough to prompt a noise complaint and a visit by police officers. When they arrived at 1:30 a.m. Sunday to warn about the noise, the party was already breaking up, Nichols said.

Then, police said, they received a tip that murder may have taken place. They returned to the home at 4:20 a.m., finding the bodies covered with towels, files, books and other household items, and the hammer between them.

The mother, 47, was an elementary school teacher. The father, 54, worked for Florida Power and Light.

Autopsies were underway, but police said they believed they died of blunt-force trauma.

Hadley had attended St. Lucie West Centennial High School, according to police, but had not graduated. They said they did not know what the motive was.

Autopsy: NYC Boy Was Given Drugs, Then Smothered

July 20, 2011

From The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The medical examiner says an 8-year-old New York City boy who was abducted off a street in a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, killed and dismembered last week was given a combination of drugs before he was smothered.

Police say Leiby Kletzky got lost leaving day camp and asked the suspect for help before he was killed last week.

Levi Aron has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and kidnapping.

Levi Aron is arraigned in Brooklyn criminal court Thursday, July 14, 2011, in New York. Aron, 35, is charged with luring 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky to his home on Monday, and then smothering him and chopping him up when he learned that a search was under way for the missing child. Detectives found the boy's feet in Aron's freezer. (AP Photo/Louis Lanzano, Pool)

Levi Aron is arraigned in Brooklyn criminal court Thursday, July 14, 2011

The cause of death was intoxication from a muscle relaxant, an anti-psychotic drug and two pain medications, followed by smothering.

Police say video cameras captured their fateful encounter while Leiby’s mother waited anxiously just a few blocks away. Detectives later found the boy’s severed feet, wrapped in plastic, in Aron’s freezer, as well as a cutting board and three bloody carving knives.

Charlotte, NC Homicide Suspect is Denied TV Footage From ‘The First 48’

July 20, 2011

Judge says defense not entitled to video shot for ‘The First 48’ documentary covering local murder case.

By Gary L. Wright, Charlotte Observer of February 4, 2011

A TV documentary show on homicide investigations will not have to turn over its video footage to a Charlotte lawyer defending a murder suspect.

Superior Court Judge Eric Levinson ruled Thursday that defense lawyer Jeremy Smith and his client are not entitled to video taken for “The First 48” television program.

Levinson said the video is not essential to the defense and that journalists are protected by N.C. law from having to turn over the video.

“I don’t think the law is on your side,” the judge told murder suspect Jonathan Fitzgerald, who is awaiting trial in an August 2010 stabbing death.

Smith, talking to reporters outside the courthouse, said: “Obviously, we’re disappointed. … Not getting the video violates my client’s constitutional rights and hampers my ability to represent him.”

Smith said he would talk to his client before deciding whether to appeal.

Police departments, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, have given “The First 48” extraordinary access to videotape murder scenes and investigations. The video is later broadcast on the A&E network TV program that chronicles police in U.S. cities trying to solve murders.

Smith said he believes the TV program has video of the crime scene, investigative interviews and the capture of his client in Cabarrus County. He said his client is entitled to review all the evidence gathered in the case, and that he considers the TV program’s footage possible evidence.

“It would assist in his defense if something was done wrong,” Smith told the judge.

But lawyers for the TV show say their videographers are journalists protected by N.C. law from being compelled to disclose the information they gather.

Before a judge can order the video footage to be turned over, they argued, the defense must show that the information is essential to the defendant’s case and is unavailable from other sources.

“The defense is on a fishing expedition,” Jon Buchan, one of the TV show’s attorneys, told the judge.

Fitzgerald, 19, is charged with murder in connection with the August 2010 slaying of Oscar Alvarado Chavez. The 22-year-old victim was stabbed to death in his car. Police have said a man and a woman met Chavez to buy heroin, but robbed and killed him instead.

Levinson’s ruling Thursday is not binding on other judges.

“The First 48” program’s video footage of murder investigations in Charlotte could be the subject of similar legal battles in coming months.

“I think every defense lawyer in these murders will request the TV show’s video just in case there’s something in the footage that the police don’t know about,” Charlotte lawyer George Laughrun told the Observer.

CMPD has sanctioned the TV program, Laughrun said.

“I don’t think the TV program can hide behind the journalistic privilege because they’re basically working hand in hand with the police,” Laughrun said. “They’re at the murder scenes because the police gave them permission to be there. That makes them almost quasi police – not for the investigations but for gathering information.”

“The First 48” focuses on the first two days of a murder investigation – the period widely believed to be the most crucial to catching a killer.

But critics worry that embedding cameras with investigators can jeopardize officers, the investigations and the public. The TV show recently came under sharp criticism after a crew following detectives in Detroit taped a raid that left a 7-year-old girl dead. Police accidentally shot the girl after bursting into a home in search of a murder suspect. The killing raised questions about whether the presence of cameras led officers to act brashly.

Smith, in seeking the “The First 48” video, argued the TV company had gathered the information on behalf of CMPD. The company that produces the television series, he said, is part of the “prosecutorial agency” in the case and is required to turn over its complete file in his client’s case.

But lawyers for the TV program said all the witness interviews, including a confession by the murder suspect, were recorded by CMPD, and that the material has been turned over to the defense.

The independent television producers, the lawyers said, were not working on behalf of the government to catch and convict killers.

The video was taken to serve the program’s own interests – not to further the police interest in solving the murder, they argued.

$10 million Verdict in Taser Case

July 20, 2011

From The Charlotte Business Journal

Taser International Inc. must pay $10 million to the family of a Charlotte teenager who died after being shocked by a Charlotte policeman.

A federal court jury returned the verdict for wrongful death of 17-year-old Darryl Turner, who collapsed and died in a Food Lion grocery store in northeast Charlotte on March 20, 2008. An alleged dispute between Turner and his manager led the policeman to use the Taser, striking Turner in the chest. He went into cardiac arrest and died.

Lawyers for Turner’s family convinced the jury that the manufacturer knew but failed to warn its customers the product could cause heart problems if administered near the heart. The company’s animal studies demonstrated the risk, says Charles Everage, a Charlotte attorney who helped represent Turner’s parents, Devoid Turner and Tammy Lou Fontenot.

Taser International’s attorneys were unsuccessful in convincing the jury that Turner had heart problems and contributed to his death through disruptive behavior and drug possession. The company also says independent studies show no risk of cardiac arrest if the device strikes the chest.

“This was a sad and tragic incident, and our hearts go out to Mr. Turner’s family,” Doug Klint, president and general counsel at Taser International, says in a press release. “We can certainly understand how the jury felt deep compassion for Mr. Turner’s family, and how this compassion may have overwhelmed the scientific evidence presented in this case.”

The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company (NASDAQ:TASR) intends to appeal the verdict.

The lawsuit was heard in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. District Judge Robert Conrad presided.

Taser International says the verdict amount will be offset by a $730,000 settlement from the city of Charlotte and $40,000 settlement for a worker’s compensation claim. About $6 million of the $9.23 million net award will be covered by the company’s insurance if the verdict withstands the appeals process.

Everage notes the verdict contained no award for punitive damages. “This is 100 percent compensatory damages,” he says.