TIME Australia

Australian Woman Arrested in Deaths of 8 Children

Australia Children Killed
Emergency services workers cover off the perimeter fence of a house where eight children have been found dead in a Cairns suburb in far north Queensland, Australia, Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. Graeme Bint—AP

(SYDNEY) — An Australian woman was arrested for murder in the killings of eight children, seven of whom are believed to be her own, police said Saturday. The children were found dead inside the woman’s home.

The 37-year-old woman, who is recovering in a hospital from stab wounds, was under guard and speaking with police, Queensland Police Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar said. She has not yet been charged.

Police haven’t said how the children died. But Asnicar said they’re examining several knives in the home that may have been the weapon used to kill them.

The children ranged in age from 18 months to 14 years, Asnicar said. The woman is thought to be the mother of seven of the children. The eighth is believed to be her niece.

Queensland police were called to the home in the Cairns suburb of Manoora on Friday morning after receiving a report of a woman with serious injuries. When they got to the house, they found the bodies of the children.

The woman, whose name has not been released, was also found in the home with the children, suffering from stab wounds to the chest. Asnicar said she is in stable condition, lucid and talking to police.

“We’re not looking for anybody else — we’re comfortable that the community at large is safe,” Asnicar said.

A coroner was conducting autopsies to determine the causes of death, and police were continuing to comb through the house for evidence.

“They’re looking to establish 100 percent what happened in that house when these offenses were committed,” Asnicar said.

He dismissed rumors that the house had been the subject of calls from the Department of Social Services.

“It’s not a problem house as has been speculated,” he said. “This is an ordinary neighborhood — a lot of good people, a lot of kids in the area. This is something that has caught everybody by surprise. It’s just an absolutely tragic thing.”

Lisa Thaiday, who said she was the injured woman’s cousin, said earlier that one of the woman’s other sons, a 20-year-old, came home and found his brothers and sisters dead inside the house.

“I’m going to see him now, he needs comforting,” Thaiday said. “We’re a big family … I just can’t believe it. We just found out (about) those poor babies.”

The tragedy comes as Australia is still reeling from the shock of a deadly siege in a Sydney cafe. On Monday, a gunman burst into the cafe in the heart of the city and took 18 hostages. Two hostages were dead along with the gunman after police stormed in 16 hours later in a bid to end the siege. Police had earlier said there were 17 hostages in the cafe, but revised the number after a new count.

“The news out of Cairns is heartbreaking,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a statement. “All parents would feel a gut-wrenching sadness at what has happened. This is an unspeakable crime. These are trying days for our country.”

TIME Law Enforcement

FBI Inquiry Finds Rampant Mishandling of Evidence

An internal probe found the bureau is holding two tons more drugs than records showed

An internal review of the FBI’s evidence handling procedures found a system rife with serious errors, according to a new report, including evidence mislabeled, mishandled or lost altogether, and in every region of the United States.

The survey of more than 41,000 pieces of evidence found the FBI holding less money but more guns and drugs than records indicated, the New York Times reports. Officials say most problems are the result of the FBI’s move in 2012 from a paper-based to a digital accounting system. The review could complicate criminal prosecutions throughout the U.S.

Read more at the Times

TIME Crime

20-Day-Old Baby Reunited With Mother After Carjacking

The baby appears to be fine, but would undergo a precautionary medical check-up

A 20-day-old baby who was in a car that was stolen from a Kentucky gas station Thursday night was reunited with his mother after the vehicle was found hours later about seven miles away, police said.

An Amber Alert had been issued for the infant, Henry Flores, after his mother’s Volkswagen was stolen while he was in the backseat, Florence police said in a statement. The alert was canceled after two women who had received text message notifications about the stolen vehicle spotted it at a different gas station. The pair found the sleeping baby in the backseat of the…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 19

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. America needs a new testament of hope: “Demanding that we trade confusion and bewilderment for a fight for change that only hope and radical optimism can sustain.”

By Darren Walker in Human Parts on Medium

2. Data Integrity Unit: A team of detectives and data analysts is boosting the accuracy of crime statistics in Los Angeles.

By Joel Rubin and Ben Post in the Los Angeles Times

3. This remarkable community gives autistic children a connection inside the world of Minecraft — and might save their lives.

By Charlie Warzel in BuzzFeed

4. Experts are debating whether artificial intelligence is a threat to humanity. It’s very possible that machines with far less intelligence will cause us harm.

By Mark Bishop in New Scientist

5. The Innovative State: Governments should make markets, not just fix them.

By Mariana Mazzucato in Foreign Affairs

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Crime

Colorado Movie Theater Shooter’s Parents Plead for His Life

"He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness," James Holmes' parents said

The parents of the man accused of killing 12 people when he opened fire in a Colorado movie theater in 2012 are pleading that their mentally ill son be spared the death penalty.

In a letter published Friday in the Denver Post, Robert and Arlene Holmes argued that their son James has a “serious mental illness” and should be either imprisoned for the rest of his life or placed in an institution for the mentally ill, but not executed. “We have read postings on the Internet that have likened him to a monster,” the couple wrote. “He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness.

“We believe that the death penalty is morally wrong, especially when the condemned is mentally ill,” the added.

After multiple delays, jury selection for Holmes’ trial is scheduled in January. Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

TIME Australia

Eight Children Found Dead at Home in Australia’s Far North

Police carry equipment near a road block outside a house where eight children have been found dead  in the Cairns suburb of Manoora, Australia, Friday Dec. 19, 2014.
Police carry equipment near a road block outside a house where eight children have been found dead in the Cairns suburb of Manoora, Australia, Friday Dec. 19, 2014. Graeme Bint—AP

Community preparing for the festive season receives devastating shock

Eight children, ranging in age from 18 months to 15 years, were found dead inside a home in the northern Australian city of Cairns on Friday.

Police went to the house in the suburb of Manoora after receiving reports of an injured woman, the Associated Press said. On arrival, the police found the bodies of the children inside the residence. They were reportedly stabbed.

The 34-year-old woman, believed to be the mother of seven of the children, is currently being treated for her injuries, according to authorities. Police said they are unable to confirm her relationship to the victims, however, and added that she is not in custody for the time being.

The Queensland Ambulance Service says the woman had a wound to her chest, and is currently in stable condition after being taken to he hospital.

Dozens of police vehicles are at the scene, according to the ABC.

Cairns detective inspector Bruno Asnicar, speaking to reporters at around 4.30 p.m. local time, said the identification of the children is an ongoing process and more details on that front might emerge on Saturday. Asnicar also said that there were no formal suspects as yet. “Everybody who’s had any involvement in the past two or three days is a person of interest, but we’re not identifying particular suspects at this stage.”

The top police official said it was “right up there” with the most serious cases he had dealt with in his career.

“These are trying days for our country,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a statement released Friday afternoon. “All parents would feel a gut-wrenching sadness at what has happened.”

Friday’s incident comes four days after a gunman took more than a dozen people hostage at a café in Sydney, resulting in three deaths including his own.

TIME Crime

Investigators Say Arsonists Responsible for Massive L.A. Fire

The damage was estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars

Federal investigators believe a fire that took down an entire apartment complex in downtown Los Angeles last week was set on purpose.

It took 250 firefighters an hour and a half to put out the blaze at the Da Vinci apartment complex after responding to an initial call at 1:09 a.m. on Dec. 10.

Local authorities will likely launch an arson investigation, the Los Angeles Times reports. Authorities say they are searching for two unidentified witnesses who were on the scene at the Da Vinci apartment complex, where the fire took 250 firefighters an hour and a half to put out. A surveillance video caught one man walking down the street near the building before the fire began, and the other was seen on news footage trying to get through a construction fence and move toward the building once the fire was burning.

Investigators said they determined that arson was likely given how quickly the complex burned. The fire consumed half the building before the firefighters arrived, despite the fact that the fire station was just a few hundred yards away, and the damage was estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars.

[Los Angeles Times]

TIME Law

Nebraska and Oklahoma Are Trying to Kill Colorado’s Buzz

By suing over Colorado's legalization of marijuana

Two neighbors of Colorado filed suit against the state on Thursday, claiming its legalization of marijuana has pushed some of the drug over state lines and asking the Supreme Court to strike the law down.

Attorneys general in Nebraska and Oklahoma allege that Colorado’s legalization violates the Supremacy clause of the constitution, which specifies that federal law takes precedence over state law. “Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states, undermining Plaintiff States’ own marijuana bans, draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems,” the suit alleges, according to the Denver Post.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said at a news conference that pot from Colorado has been turning up at Nebraska’s border, which has led to an increase in arrest and prosecutions. “Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost,” Bruning said, according to the Omaha World-Herald, adding that “federal law undisputedly prohibits the production and sale of marijuana.”

Kevin A. Sabet, President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a bipartisan organization made up of mental and public health professionals, supports the lawsuit. “We support this action by the attorneys general of Oklahoma and Nebraska because Colorado’s decisions regarding marijuana are not without consequences to neighboring states, and indeed all Americans,” Sabet said said. “The legalization of marijuana is clearly in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and is not implemented in a vacuum.” Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM, seeks a “middle road between incarceration and legalization” in dealing with pot offenses.

Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers said in a statement that he plans to defend the state’s marijuana laws in court. “It appears the plaintiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado,” he said. “We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court.”

TIME Crime

NYC Rapper Pleads Not Guilty to Gun, Drug Charges

RB/Bauer-Griffin

(NEW YORK) — An up-and-coming rapper pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges he moonlighted as a gun-toting member of a New York City street gang responsible for several shootings during turf wars over drug trafficking.

Ackquille Pollard, who performs under the name Bobby Shmurda, was ordered held on $2 million bail at a hearing in state Supreme Court in Manhattan. His attorney, Howard Greenberg, failed to convince a judge that his client should be released without bail because he was framed and had no reason to run.

“He is a legitimate entertainer,” Greenberg said. “He is rich. He is busy. He is always on tour.”

The Brooklyn-born Pollard is best known for the hit song “Hot Boy.” He also put out a music video that popularized a dance craze called the “Shmoney dance,” and reportedly signed a lucrative record deal with Epic Records.

Greenberg claimed Epic had agreed to help Pollard make bail. A spokesman for the label declined to comment.

Police arrested Pollard on conspiracy, reckless endangerment and gun possession on Wednesday after he left a recording studio near Radio City Music Hall. Police found two handguns and a small amount of crack cocaine in a car in which he was riding, authorities said.

An indictment naming Pollard charges more than 15 defendants with a variety of crimes including murder, attempted murder, assault and drug dealing. The gang’s gun play left one rival dead, injured an innocent bystander sitting on folding chair outside a Brooklyn home and caused pandemonium outside a nightclub in Miami Beach, Florida, authorities said.

Police seized 21 guns during the investigation, 10 of them while making arrests on Wednesday.

The case carries some “deeply disturbing themes: The gang members’ enthrallment with guns, and a cavalier disregard for human life,” Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said at a news conference.

The hip-hop artist’s songs and videos were “almost like a real-life document of what they were doing on the street,” added James Essig, head of a New York Police Department unit that made the arrests.

The court papers allege that Pollard fired a gun toward a crowd of people outside a barbershop in Brooklyn earlier this year. They also say he was present last year during a confrontation between rival drug gangs outside a Brooklyn courthouse where shots were fired.

The evidence includes several recorded phone conversations, including some between Pollard and gang members serving time on Rikers Island, the indictment says. The gang used code words, referring to firearms as “tone,” ”socks” or “CDs,” narcotics as “crills,” and shootings as “sun tans,” it says.

During a conversation on April 28, Pollard bragged, “I am two socks Bobby right now,” the indictment says. Another defendant commented, “Bobby out here with two CDs on him like in the wild wild west or something.”

A “Hot Boy” video posted on YouTube in August has been viewed tens of millions of times, and Pollard performed the song for a national television audience this month on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

“My music is straight facts,” Pollard recently told New York Magazine. “There are a lot of gangsters in my ‘hood.”

Pollard’s criminal history included two arrests for gun and drug possession, authorities said. If convicted of conspiracy, he faces a maximum sentence of 8 to 25 years in prison.

___

Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.

TIME Crime

I Started Serial, But It Didn’t End the Way I Had Hoped

Adnan Syed
Adnan Syed, now 34, was sentenced to life in prison after he was convicted in 2000 of killing his Woodlawn High School classmate and former girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Yusuf Syed—AP

Rabia Chaudry is a National Security Fellow at the New America Foundation.

When I found out that Sarah Koenig had failed to find evidence of a smoking gun, I felt like a failure.

Serial was not what I expected. It also was not what I wanted.

Fifteen years after Adnan Syed was arrested, when I decided it was time to get a journalist to look at what I have always held as a wrongful conviction, I did it thinking that reporters can go places most of us can’t. They have ways of tracking down information, getting people to talk, and resources the average person doesn’t. A year ago I was not hoping Sarah Koenig would create a show based on the case that would become a worldwide sensation; I was hoping she would uncover the truth about who killed Hae Min Lee—a truth that would exonerate Adnan.

In her search for the truth, Koenig has taken us all along for the ride with her. Like the rest of the fans, I listened each Thursday with anticipation; unlike most others, I also listened with anxiety and trepidation. Koenig did dozens of interviews that I wasn’t privy to, and found many documents I had never seen before. And each week, while I was aware of the major plot points and flaws in the case, she revealed morsels of information I had never heard or considered. Would it make Adnan look good? Would it make him look bad? What would people, people who don’t know him one bit, think about him this week?

I can’t lie. I haven’t always been happy with Koenig’s reporting, with her not drawing hard and fast conclusions about issues and people. I wanted Koenig’s judgement, but in most cases she refused, or wasn’t able, to give it. I wanted her to be an advocate for Adnan, but she couldn’t be. I understood why, but I hoped otherwise.

Read more Everything We Know as Serial’s Season 1 Ends

What she did do successfully was blow wide open the idea of a fair criminal justice process. She brought to light questions of religious and ethnic bias, prosecutorial misconduct, police manipulation of witnesses, reasonable doubt, evidential reliability, ineffective assistance of counsel, maximum sentences, juvenile detention, and appellate logjams. It sounds like a crazy litany of “everything-that-could-go-wrong” in a trial, except that all of these things did go wrong in Adnan’s case. And Adnan’s case is no outlier – for any and every wrongfully convicted person, you can assume almost everything went wrong.

A few weeks ago Koenig visited me do a follow-up interview. None of that interview made it into the remaining episodes, but at that time, and on the mic, she told me that after a year of investigating, she had failed to find a smoking gun. She found nothing that either condemned Adnan for certain, and nothing that exonerated him for certain.

It was not a punch to the gut, necessarily, but a quiet closing of a chapter that I had held open for 15 years. In the midst of the enormous coverage of the case and show, of hearty congratulations for staying on it, of lots of movement by the different teams of lawyers now working to help Adnan, I felt like a failure.

After making the decision unilaterally to get media involved, I’ve felt heavily responsible for the pain it’s forced Adnan and his loved ones to go through. It would be worth it, I hoped. Something concrete would surface. Koenig wouldn’t tolerate the fuzziness. She would dig till she struck rock.

Read more Adnan Syed’s Family Finds Comfort in ‘Serial’ Podcast

It never seemed like a possibility that the only thing digging deep would do is bring up more mud, cloud up the air further. A single point of clarity is what I hoped for, and that eluded me. It eluded Koenig.

I’ve been asked a number of times if I regret taking the case to her. On that count, I say absolutely not. As disheartening as it is that no smoking gun was found, the case has ironically been brought back to life because of the mud, not in spite of it. If reasonable doubt existed 15 years ago, it abounds now.

Other attorneys blogged about the inconsistencies in the investigation, and in the trial. National organizations have come forward, compelled by the religious bigotry that the state injected into the case. The Innocence Project is pushing forward with testing DNA evidence. Volunteer lawyers and firms have stepped up to advocate for Adnan and develop a grassroots campaign for him. Old classmates and friends, and even old lawyers, of Adnan have come forward to help. The post-conviction appeal has gotten new life thanks to the Court of Special Appeals taking an interest and because of Koenig’s interview with Asia McClain. And I’ll continue to blog, sharing documents and information, updating people on Adnan and his case.

Not all is lost then. We are back to where we were before Koenig, before Serial. Back in court, but this time with millions of eyes watching. It’s nearly impossible to tell how all of the legal machinations will bear out, there are many ways this could go. But it is going, slowly but surely, somewhere.

In that same last interview Koenig did with me, she asked me if I would ever walk away from the case, from Adnan. I told her that if it was proven to me irrefutably that he was guilty, I would walk away. A little later, over tea, I asked her what would happen after Serial. Would she walk away? She said no. And the chapter I thought permanently closed opened back up again, if only a little.

Read next: 7 Great Podcasts To Get Hooked On Now That Serial’s Over

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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