TIME Crime

Two Teens Are in Custody After Five People Found Dead in Oklahoma

The case is a homicide investigation

(BROKEN ARROW, Okla.) — Police in eastern Oklahoma say five people have been found dead and two teenagers were taken into custody.

In a news release, Broken Arrow police Sgt. Thomas Cooper says officers were called to an address Wednesday night around 11:30 p.m. for an unknown problem.

When they arrived, Cooper says officers found the five deceased victims and a child who was still alive and was brought to the hospital in critical condition. Another child was found unharmed.

The news release says a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old, who are both related to the victims, were taken into custody.

The news release calls the case a homicide investigation. No other details were immediately available.

Broken Arrow is southeast of Tulsa.

TIME Crime

Homicide Rate Spikes in Major American Cities

Chicago Police Murder
Anthony Souffle—Chicago Tribune/TNS/Sipa A police officer rests his hand on his forehead at the scene where a 23-year old man was shot in the early morning hours of July 6, 2015 in Chicago.

Baltimore, Milwaukee, New Orleans and St. Louis have been especially hard-hit

After years of declining homicide rates, 2015 has been a dark year in several large American cities, with incidents as much as doubling in some areas.

Milwaukee has seen twice as many murders this year as it did in the first half of 2014, according to USA Today. Baltimore, New Orleans and St. Louis saw spikes of 33% or more, and cities like Chicago, Dallas, Houston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. have also seen increases.

It may be too soon to say whether this is a trend or an anomaly —i ndeed, several major cities have seen decreases in homicide rates, including Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Diego. While some experts say the numbers reflect a struggle on the part of law enforcement to fund the necessary programs to keep decreasing the homicide rate, others say the numbers may even out as the year progresses.

[USA Today]

TIME Crime

U.S. Cities See a Wave of Homicides

Violence Baltimore police
Karl Merton—Baltimore Sun/Getty Images Madison Street is blocked by police due to a barricade situation on May 20, 2015 in Baltimore.

Some cite local problems; others blame a "Ferguson effect"

For a number of cities around the country, the summer of 2015 is beginning to look like the end of the years-long decline in violent crime.

Baltimore, Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York City, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., among others, have all seen significant increases in their murder rates through the first half of 2015.

Homicides in St. Louis, for example, are up almost 60% from last year while robberies are up 40%. In Washington, D.C., 73 people have been killed so far this year, up from 62 last year, an 18% jump. In Milwaukee, murders have doubled since last year, while in nearby Chicago homicides have jumped almost 20%.

It’s unclear what’s driving the increase across multiple cities, as some cities are dealing with localized issues that may not apply when looking at the rising crime rates elsewhere. St. Louis police say that judges have been too lenient against criminals who have had histories of illegal gun possession and prosecutors haven’t aggressively pursued murder charges.

In Milwaukee, officials say they’re dealing with lax gun laws in the state, while Chicago officials blame criminals who are buying guns in states like Wisconsin and Indiana–two states with fewer firearm restrictions–and using them in criminal acts in the city.

Criminologists warn that the recent spikes could merely be an anomaly, a sort of reversion to the mean after years of declining crime rates. But there could be something else going on, what some officials have called a “Ferguson effect,” in which criminals who are angry over police-involved shootings like that of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by a white police officer in August, have felt emboldened to commit increased acts of violence.

TIME Crime

Convicted Murderers Escape New York Prison

clinton correctional facility Richard Matt David Sweat
New York State Police (L) David Sweat, (R) Richard Matt

Officials say the inmates escaped through sewer lines

A massive manhunt was underway Saturday for two convicted murders who escaped New York’s largest maximum-security prison Friday night or early Saturday morning.

David Sweat, convicted in the 2002 murder of a sheriff’s deputy, and Richard Matt, 48, convicted in the 1997 homicide of a New York businessman, were found missing from the Clinton Correctional Facility, located in Dannemora, N.Y., near the Canadian border, during a routine bed check early Saturday morning, according to Reuters and the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo inspected the prison Saturday, posting a photo on Twitter showing him retracing their escape route.

Prison officials told the Plattsburgh Press-Republican that the two men escaped through sewer lines. Officials say they found an “external breach” of the prison’s facilities that allowed the men to escape.

Authorities said that Sweat and Matt are dangerous and should not be approached.

TIME Crime

Who is Marilyn J. Mosby? A Guide to the Baltimore State’s Attorney

Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore state's attorney, speaks during a media availability on May 1, 2015 in Baltimore.
Alex Brandon—AP Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore state's attorney, speaks during a media availability in Baltimore on May 1, 2015.

The 35-year-old prosecutor announced Friday that Freddie Gray's death was being treated as a homicide

Late last year, Marilyn J. Mosby was a young insurance company attorney attempting to unseat Baltimore’s state’s attorney. Now, she’s leading the case against six Baltimore officers charged with murder, manslaughter and assault in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.

On Friday, Mosby—elected Baltimore City State’s Attorney last November—announced there was probable cause to charge police with murder in the death of Gray, a black man whose spine was severed after being detained near a West Baltimore housing project on April 12. Gray died a week later.

The 35-year-old attorney now finds herself at the center of an incident that has roiled Baltimore for weeks and renewed the nation’s focus on the intersection between race and policing.

In some ways, Mosby is an unlikely prosecutor to bring charges against police officers in the Gray case. Five generations of her family were all in law enforcement, and her grandfather was one of the first African-American police officers in Massachusetts. “I know that the majority of police officers are really hard-working officers who are risking their lives day in and day out, but those really bad ones who go rogue do a disservice to the officers who are risking their lives and taking time away from their families,” she told Baltimore Magazine in January.

Mosby was raised by a single mother in Boston, where in 1994 her 17-year-old cousin was killed near her home after being mistaken for a drug dealer. She was the first in her family to graduate from college and attended Tuskegee University in Alabama, studying political science. She later attended Boston College Law School and worked as assistant state’s attorney in the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s office.

She was working as field counsel for Liberty Mutual Insurance when she decided to run for Baltimore’s state’s attorney, campaigning on a pledge to keep repeat offenders off the street and vowing to start a diversion program that would help young drug offenders avoid getting more serious criminal records. Her surprise victory in November over Gregg Bernstein, who had served one term as the city’s state’s attorney, made her the youngest chief prosecutor in a major U.S. city.

In the run-up to Gray’s charges, Mosby had been criticized for her lack of experience having never held elected office before, as well as a potential conflict of interest regarding her husband Nick, who is a city council member representing the neighborhood where Gray was arrested. Mosby has brushed off that criticism, saying that she doesn’t answer to the city council but by the constituents who elected her.

Still, Mosby was under significant pressure to bring about charges against the officers involved in Gray’s death after a series of violent protests that forced Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to bring in thousands of National Guard troops to keep the peace.

Now that charges have been brought, she’ll face yet more scrutiny — not least from Baltimore’s police union, which accused Mosby Friday of having a conflict of interest in this case due to her “close relationship” with the Gray family attorney. According to the Baltimore Sun, Billy Murphy, the Gray family’s attorney, gave Mosby $5,000 for her campaign and was part of her transition committee.

Back in January, Mosby acknowledged the long-standing problems between residents and the police, hoping she could help bridge that trust gap between residents and police. “There are barriers of distrust within the community and law enforcement,” she told Baltimore Magazine. “And we’ve got to find ways to bring down these barriers. It’s never been more evident than now, right?”

TIME Crime

Why a Medical Examiner Called Eric Garner’s Death a ‘Homicide’

Eric Garner Police Brutality Death
Ramsey Orta

The word doesn't mean the same thing to medical examiners

New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo killed Eric Garner on July 17 when he grabbed him by the neck and, with other officers, threw him to the ground and pinned him there. But did he commit homicide? And if so, was it a crime?

Everyone from Charles Barkley to Judge Andrew Napolitano has weighed in with an opinion on the matter. The resulting confusion has the potential to take the hard, painful question of equal justice in America and make it harder and more painful.

The key to clearing up the confusion is to understand the difference between two uses of the word “homicide” and to focus not on the medical cause of Garner’s death but on Pantaleo’s behavior.

On Aug. 1, a New York City medical examiner determined that the cause of death in the Garner case was “homicide,” specifically the neck compressions from the Pantaleo’s chokehold and “the compression of [Garner’s] chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police,” according to spokeswoman, Julie Bolcer.

But “homicide” in this context doesn’t mean what you think. It’s one of five categories medical examiners use to label causes of death and it indicates that “someone’s intentional actions led to the death of another person,” says Gregory G. Davis, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners. The other four labels are suicide, accident, natural, and undetermined, Davis says.

So in a medical examiner’s report “homicide” just means one person intentionally did something that led to the death of someone else. It doesn’t mean the death was intentional and it doesn’t mean it was a crime.

Criminally negligent homicide, on the other hand, is a class E felony in New York State. Someone who commits it can go to jail for around one to four years. A lot of things are class E felonies in New York State, like arson, computer trespass, auto stripping and residential mortgage fraud.

Was Pantaleo criminally negligent in killing Garner? He was, according to New York State law, if he failed “to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk” that Garner would die from his actions, and that failure was “a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.”

Nobody should dispute that Pantaleo committed homicide—that fact was determined Aug. 1. Was Pantaleo’s behavior a gross deviation from the standard of care that a police officer should take when confronting an unarmed father of six whom he suspects may have been selling cigarettes illegally? Napolitano and many others who have watched the video of Garner’s killing think Pantaleo’s behavior was criminally negligent. The Staten Island grand jury apparently did not.

As to the confusion about the different uses of “homicide,” why don’t medical examiners try using a different word to indicate someone has killed someone else so that it doesn’t get mistaken for a legal judgment?

“There are only so many words that we have,” says the National Association of Medical Examiner’s Davis.

TIME Hong Kong

British Banker Rurik Jutting Is Fit to Stand Trial for Hong Kong Murders

Rurik George Caton Jutting
Vincent Yu—AP In this photo taken through tinted glass, Rurik George Caton Jutting, a 29-year-old British banker, sits in a prison bus arriving at a court in Hong Kong on Nov. 10, 2014

However, the high-profile case will now be adjourned until July 2015 to allow for extensive DNA testing of evidence

A young British banker accused of murdering two young Indonesian women in his Hong Kong apartment, leaving the body of one of them to rot in a suitcase for days, is psychologically fit to stand trial.

A judge said in a Hong Kong court on Monday that a report, based on two weeks of psychiatric testing, had cleared the way for judicial proceedings against Rurik George Caton Jutting, 29.

Judge Bina Chainrai also accepted the prosecution’s request to adjourn the case until July 6 to allow 28 weeks for the DNA testing of some 200 pieces of evidence. The defense had no objection to the adjournment.

Jutting, dressed in the same “New York” T-shirt he has worn on his previous court appearances, stood with his hands folded, index finger twitching, as he watched the proceedings. Jutting has not entered a plea in the case and will not do so until at least his next court appearance in almost eight months’ time. He is being held without bail in a Hong Kong jail.

Prosecutors contend that Jutting, a Cambridge graduate and former Bank of America Merrill Lynch employee, murdered Seneng Mujiasih, 28, also known as Jesse Lorena, and Sumarti Ningsih, 23, on different days in his apartment in Hong Kong Island’s gaudy Wan Chai district. Both women had left Indonesia for Hong Kong to earn more than they could back home, in hopes of supporting their families and bettering themselves upon their return.

The case has fascinated an affluent city that is both unused to violent crime and to seeing the lives of its thousands of poor temporary foreign workers, like Sumarti and Seneng, thrown into such stark relief.

TIME South Korea

South Korean Ferry Captain Sentenced to 36 Years in Prison

SKOREA-ACCIDENT-BOAT-TRIAL
Wonsuk Choi—AFP/Getty Images Sewol ferry captain Lee Joon-seok, center, is escorted upon his arrival at the Gwangju District Court in the southwestern South Korean city of Gwangju on June 24, 2014

The chief engineer received a 30-year sentence, while the other 13 members of the crew will serve up to 20 years

The South Korean ferry captain in charge of the vessel that capsized in April and killed more than 300 people, most of them high school students, was sentenced to 36 years in prison on Tuesday.

Lee Joon-seok, 68, on trial along with 14 other crew members for their role in the sinking of the Sewol ferry, was convicted of gross negligence, according to the Associated Press. Prosecutors had demanded that Lee be given the death penalty.

The ship’s chief engineer was convicted of murder and handed a 30-year sentence while the rest of the crew were given sentences ranging from five to 20 years, South Korean agency Yonhap News reported.

Earlier in the day, South Korean authorities called off the search for the bodies of remaining victims with nine still unaccounted for.

[AP]

TIME justice

Suspicious Prison Deaths Put a Spotlight on Florida

Florida Department of Corrections Latandra Ellington

Several deaths while in prison custody are under investigation

On Oct. 1, Latandra Ellington was found dead inside the Lowell Correction Institution in Ocala, Fla., apparently from repeated blows to her stomach. About a week and a half before, the 36-year-old inmate had written a letter to her aunt, saying she was concerned for her safety in prison and claimed that an officer named “Sgt. Q” was threatening to kill her.

According to attorneys representing Ellington’s family, an independent autopsy shows blunt force trauma and hemorrhaging to her body from what appeared to be punches or kicks. The attorneys, along with several organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International, are calling for a federal investigation into her death.

The Ellington case is one of several suspicious deaths in state prisons that have made headlines in Florida, including a deadly incident in 2010 involving Randall Jordan-Aparo, who reportedly died while being gassed in his cell, and Darren Rainey, who died in 2012 after being forced to take a scalding hot shower that caused his skin to separate from his body.

Ellington’s death is the third fatality in custody at Lowell this year. Two others at the prison are under review by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

While the inmate mortality rate in Florida and across the country has remained relatively steady over the last decade, Florida outpaces most states in terms of mortality rate per 100,000 inmates, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Florida Department of Corrections. In 2001, 182 prisoners died in Florida compared with 297 in 2011, but the population also grew at a similar rate over that same time period. The mortality rate per 100,000 prisoners slightly increased from 253 in 2001 to 294 in 2011.

Part of that may be due to the rapidly aging prison population in Florida, which mirrors the state’s population generally. From 2001 to 2008, the number of Florida inmates who were 55 and older increased by 161%, says Bill Bales, a criminology professor at Florida State University. And the number of federal and state prisoners in the U.S. who were 55 and older increased 94% in the same time period, according to Pew Research.

Overall and nationwide, the largest share of prisoner deaths—almost 90%—are due to illness. But the share of state prisoner deaths due to homicide—which includes homicide committed by other inmates, prison staff or those resulting from assaults prior to incarceration—have increased from 1.4% in 2001 to 2.1% in 2011 around the country, according to BJS.

This year in Florida, there have been three homicides and one suicide in state prisons. Investigations into 99 other deaths are currently pending.

Dan Mears, a criminal justice professor at the University of Florida, says prisons with increases in suspicious inmate deaths often have problems that start at the top and work their way down. Florida’s Department of Corrections, for example, has gone through four leadership changes in the last five years.

“At the end of the day, when you’re asking why some prisons have higher rates of suicide or higher rates of suspicious deaths and why they increase over time, it’s often because they’re being poorly administered—and oftentimes they’ve hired new officers who aren’t as highly trained,” Mears says. “That could potentially fuel those deaths.”

Mears adds that badly run prisons often have inadequate training for officers and don’t properly teach them how to handle conflicts with inmates, which can often lead to fatal consequences.

In September, the Florida DOC fired dozens of employees, many of whom have been involved in deaths that are currently under investigation, including that of Jordan-Aparo, who was gassed in his cell. Their dismissal letters said they were fired for participating “in a force incident that resulted in the death of an inmate.”

A Lowell prison official, Sgt. Patrick Quercioli, is now being investigated in Ellington’s death, according to the Miami Herald, and has been arrested twice while tallying 22 use-of-force filings while working for the DOC.

“Our department should be held to the highest standards, and I have zero tolerance for anything,” DOC Secretary Michael Crews said in a statement.

As the state reviews the case, attorneys for Ellington’s family, who also represent the family of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen shot and killed by George Zimmerman in February 2012, are calling for the Department of Justice to investigate.

“She was not sentenced to the death sentence,” said civil rights attorney Daryl Parks, according to the Herald. “The Department of Corrections certainly owed her far greater protection.”

TIME Crime

Slender Man Stabbing Suspect Deemed Incompetent for Trial

Enthusiasts Enjoy Comic Con As It Opens In London
Dan Kitwood—Getty Images Yasmin Ouard poses as Slenderman from the series Mobile Hornets ahead of the MCM London Comic Con Expo

A 12-year-old suspect in the stabbing linked to the fictional online character reportedly believes she has Vulcan Mind control

A Wisconsin circuit court judge ruled Friday that one of the two 12-year old girls charged with stabbing a classmate in Wisconsin is incompetent to stand trial for attempted homicide.

This May, two girls allegedly stabbed their classmate during a sleepover to prove their loyalty to the popular online fictional character Slender Man. The creepy figure has been linked to three separate acts of violence, according to ABC News.

Wisconsin law requires any person age 10 and over to be charged as an adult for severe crimes. In this case, the victim was allegedly stabbed 19 times in a nearby woods, with the blade narrowly missing an main artery near her heart. She managed to crawl out of the woods and was found by a passing biker.

Psychologist Brooke Lundbohm of the Wisconsin Forensic Unit analyzed the suspect in question this June. According to the Journal Sentinal, Lundbohm said the 12-year old claimed she could hear and see things like unicorns, the Slender Man and the Harry Potter character Voldemort. Psychiatrist Kenneth Robbins testified that the suspect believes she has Vulcan mind control and is more concerned with angering Slender Man than the prospect of a long prison sentence.

The defendant’s attorneys hope to move the case from adult to juvenile court, where the maximum sentence would be 25 years.

[JournalSentinal]

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