TIME Crime

$2.5 Million Settlement for Hot Jail Cell Death on Rikers Island

The temperature in Jerome Murdough's cell on New York City's Rikers Island is said to have exceeded 100 degrees when he was found dead in February

The family of a New York City prisoner who died in an overheated jail cell will receive $2.5 million to settle a wrongful-death suit, the city comptroller’s office announced Friday.

“A mother lost a son, the City lost a citizen. It is my hope that this settlement provides some small measure of closure for the family of Mr. Murdough,” said city comptroller Scott M. Stringer in a statement, referring to the deceased inmate.

The Rikers Island prison complex, where Jerome Murdough was found dead this past February in a cell where the temperature exceeded 100 degrees, has been the subject of frequent criticism for the poor treatment of prisoners in recent months. In this particular case, jail officials had received reports of high temperatures but had not fixed acted to solve the problem.

At the time of his death, the 56-year-old prisoner was awaiting trial for trespassing. Murdough, who is said to have suffered from mental illness, was arrested a week prior to his death as he sought shelter from the cold in a public housing building.

“This is a very awful thing I’m going through, and I hope that no one else will have to ever go through anything like this,” said the inmate’s mother Alma Murdough, at a Friday press conference.

TIME justice

Philadelphia Cops Offer Safe Space for Craigslist Exchanges

Man handing woman US dollar banknotes, close-up
PM Images/Getty Images

Residents of the suburb of Conshohocken can swap their used futons for cash in the safe surroundings of their local police station

A police department in the Philadelphia suburb of Conshohocken is offering its lobby and parking lot as a venue to buy and sell items from Craigslist and other online marketplaces. The location is well-lit and has 24-hour surveillance so that you can feel safe exchanging your used futon for money.

“I figured there’s got to be a better place for people who don’t know each other to complete these transactions,”Conshohocken Police officer Steve Vallone said, the AP reports. “Why not allow people to complete their online transactions from here? It seems like the perfect match.”

The offer came shortly after an alleged rapist was charged with killing a local man he met through Craigslist, according to NBC News in Philadelphia.

Similar measures have been taken in Hillsborough County in Florida, where residents can visit four of the police station’s parking lots to engage in cash transactions.

[NBC]

TIME Law

Report: FBI Created Fake News Article With Spyware to Track Suspect

FBI Director Robert Muller Speaks About Bureau Reforms
The Federal Bureau of Investigation seal is shown at the FBI Headquarters July 26, 2006 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

The FBI maintains that its fake news article was justified

The FBI created a fake Seattle Times article containing surveillance software in order to track a school bomb-threat suspect in 2007, according to documents obtained by an advocacy group.

The controversy was publicized Monday evening on Twitter by Christopher Soghoian, a technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, who linked to the FBI documents (pages 61-62) obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights organization. While the FBI’s use of data gathering software in this investigation was reported in 2007 by WIRED, which acquired an FBI affidavit seeking a search warrant for the tool’s use, the latest documents reveal for the first time the FBI’s use of a false news article.

According to the documents, the link to the article was “in the style of the Seattle Times” and used a false Associated Press byline. The article, titled “Bomb threat at high school downplayed by local police department,” was mocked up with subscriber and advertising information.

The link was then e-mailed to the to the MySpace account of the suspect, who police believe was responsible for a series of bomb threats at Timberline High School in Lacey, Wash. When clicked on, the link would deploy FBI software to track his location and computer IP address.

“We are outraged that the FBI, with the apparent assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, misappropriated the name of The Seattle Times to secretly install spyware on the computer of a crime suspect,” said Seattle Times Editor Kathy Best in a statement Monday evening.

AP’s Director of Media Relations Paul Colford also criticized the FBI’s actions, writing in a statement that, “We are extremely concerned and find it unacceptable that the FBI misappropriated the name of The Associated Press and published a false story attributed to AP. This ploy violated AP’s name and undermined AP’s credibility.”

The FBI in Seattle maintains that its technique was justified in locating the suspect, who was arrested on June 14, 2007, two days after the dateline that appeared on the agents’ e-mail correspondence discussing the plan.

“Every effort we made in this investigation had the goal of preventing a tragic event like what happened at Marysville and Seattle Pacific University,” Frank Montoya Jr., an FBI agent overseeing its Seattle operations, told the Seattle Times. “We identified a specific subject of an investigation and used a technique that we deemed would be effective in preventing a possible act of violence in a school setting.”

A spokeswoman for FBI’s Seattle unit also defended the strategy to the Seattle Times, arguing that the FBI did not use a “real Seattle Times article, but material generated by the FBI in styles common in reporting and online media.”

TIME justice

Ferguson Cop Skips Sixth Court Date, Letting Suspect Walk Free

Activists March In Ferguson On Nat'l Day Of Action Against Police Brutality
Demonstrators project a wanted poster with a picture of Police Officer Darren Wilson on a wall near the pollice station in Ferguson, Missouri. Scott Olson—Getty Images

Officer Darren Wilson, who shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August, has refused to turn up to numerous court dates while on paid administrative leave

The Ferguson police officer who shot dead an unarmed teenager there in August failed to appear in a Missouri court Monday for the hearing of a man he arrested on felony drug charges, forcing the judge to let the suspect walk free.

The ruling to dismiss the case marks the sixth time Officer Darren Wilson’s absence from court has resulted in a dismissal, a county attorney told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Attorneys for the defendant, Christopher A. Brooks, said Wilson could not be compelled to appear in court so long as he was on paid administrative leave from the police force.

Darren Wilson has remained in hiding since Brown’s shooting in August prompted weeks of angry demonstration in Ferguson, Miss., with many calling for Wilson’s arrest for murder.

[St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

TIME Bizarre

Top European Court Tells Nude Activist to Put Some Clothes On

Naked Rambler Stephen Gough Makes His Way South Following Release From Saughton Prison
Stephen Gough the naked rambler makes his way south through Scotland following his release from Saughton Prison yesterday after serving his latest sentence on Oct. 6, 2012 in Peebles, Scotland. Jeff J Mitchell—Getty Images

European Court of Human Rights tells "Naked Rambler" that refusing to wear clothes does not represent freedom of expression

Britain’s “naked rambler” does not have a fundamental human right to ramble through the English and Scottish countryside in the buff, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday.

Stephen Gough, a.k.a. the “Naked Rambler,” argued that he was wrongfully convicted (30 times) and jailed (for 7 years) for his nude treks through the British countryside, which he said should have been protected under his right to privacy and free expression, NBC News reports.

The Strasbourg-based justices, however, ruled that “he had plenty of other ways of expressing his opinions” and determined that his particular form of expression constituted “deliberately repetitive antisocial conduct.”

Gough first started making headlines in 2003 for his insistent determination to remain nude on the streets, in court, or even in prison, where, according to the BBC, he was sequestered from the rest of the prison population because of his refusal to wear clothing.

[NBC News]

TIME justice

Report: Investigators Mistreated Monica Lewinsky in Clinton Probe

Monica Lewinsky
Monica Lewinsky speaks to attendees at Forbes Under 30 Summit at the Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pa on October 20, 2014. Star Shooter—Star Shooter/MediaPunch/IPx

According to a December 2000 report thought sealed from public view

Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky was mistreated in 1998 by authorities who were looking into her alleged affair with former President Bill Clinton, according to a newly released government report from two years after the incident.

The report, thought to be sealed from the public but recently obtained by the Washington Post via a Freedom of Information Act request, details a 12-hour meeting in January 1998 between Lewinsky, FBI agents and prosecutors.

Lewinsky had been scheduled to meet with Linda Tripp, a White House secretary, at the food court of a Washington, D.C.-area mall. Instead, she was ambushed by federal agents and prosecutors. According to Lewinsky’s version of events — detailed in a rare public appearance earlier this week — when she asked to see an attorney, she was told her cooperation would be worth less if she spoke to counsel and told she could receive some 27 years in prison for allegedly lying about her affair with the President in an affidavit, among other crimes.

The findings vindicate her side of how things played out that day and, the report found, call into question ethical decisions made during the aggressive questioning of Lewinsky and her mother by lawyers working for Ken Starr’s Office of Independent Counsel.

[The Washington Post]

TIME justice

Examiner: Michael Brown Had Close-Range Hand Wound

News Report Offers New Details Of Encounter Between Michael Brown And Ferguson Cop
Neighborhood residents light candles at a memorial for 18-year-old Michael Brown on Canfield Street on October 20, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Scott Olson—Getty Images

Two experts said the slain teenager's autopsy supports the claim that Brown struggled with the officer who shot him

Michael Brown was shot in the hand at close range, according to an analysis of the slain teenager’s autopsy by two experts not involved in the case. That revelation sheds a small amount of light on Brown’s death, which triggered months of sometimes violent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, but still leaves unanswered questions about the sequence of events that led to police officer Darren Wilson shooting and killing the unarmed Brown on Aug. 9.

Wilson has told investigators that Brown struggled for Wilson’s pistol inside a police SUV and that Wilson fired the gun twice, hitting Brown once in the hand, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Wilson later shot and killed Brown, igniting violent protests and national outrage. St. Louis medical examiner Dr. Michael Graham said Tuesday that the autopsy “does support that there was a significant altercation at the car.”

Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist in San Francisco, said the autopsy shows Brown was facing Wilson when Brown took a shot to the forehead, two shots to the chest and a shot to the upper right arm. Melinek said that contradicts witnesses who claim Brown was shot while running away from Wilson or while his hands were up.

Neither Melinek nor Graham are involved in the investigation.

[St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

TIME Crime

Missouri Governor Forms Ferguson Commission to Address Inequality

Missouri Gov. Nixon Announces Creation Of Independent Commission On Ferguson
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announces a plan to create a commission to address issues raised by recent events in Ferguson, Missouri on October 21, 2014 in St Louis, Missouri. Scott Olson—Getty Images

“If we want peace in our streets, we must work together to create a more just and equal society"

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced Tuesday the formation of a regional commission to address inequality in Ferguson, Mo., the site of ongoing protests after an unarmed black teen was shot and killed in August by a white police officer.

The “Ferguson Commission” will include leaders in business, public safety, education as well as “ordinary citizens” who will investigate issues of poverty, law enforcement and education in the St. Louis suburb and provide policy recommendations, Nixon said in a press conference.

“Legitimate issues have been raised by thoughtful voices on all sides,” Nixon said. “Shouting past one another will not move us to where we need to go.”

The commission, which is not tasked with examining Brown’s death, will be appointed by early November, Nixon’s spokesman Scott Holste told the Wall Street Journal. The governor expects the group to provide recommendations by early spring.

Nixon’s announcement follows months of protests, some violent, over the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, whose case is currently under review by a grand jury. The commission’s announcement also comes on the heels of a Monday arrest of a Missouri state senator who was arrested in Ferguson after reportedly refusing to comply with police orders during a demonstration there.

“If we want peace in our streets, we must work together to create a more just and equal society,” Nixon said. “This is a defining moment that will determine whether this place will be known as a region marred by racial division and unrest, or a region that pulled together to rise above and heal.”

[Wall Street Journal]

TIME South Africa

Oscar Pistorius Gets 5 Years for the Culpable Homicide of Reeva Steenkamp

South African Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius attends his sentencing at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria
South African Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius attends his sentencing at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria Oct. 21, 2014 Herman Verwey—Reuters

The Paralympic gold medalist was acquitted of murder last month

Athlete Oscar Pistorius was sentenced Tuesday to five years imprisonment for the Valentine’s Day killing of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

The 27-year-old double-amputee was found guilty of culpable homicide after shooting Steenkamp through the toilet door of his home in Pretoria on Feb. 14, 2013.

The “Blade Runner,” as Pistorius is known due to his trademark prosthetic limbs, claims he thought an intruder lurked inside, but the state maintained that he shot four times with the intention of killing Steenkamp after the couple had argued.

The South African was acquitted of murder by Judge Thokozile Masipa last month after a high-profile trial that was televised around the world.

In sentencing Pistorius, Masipa said she weighed, “The personal circumstances of the accused and interests of society.”

She added: “A non-custodial sentence would send the wrong message to the community, but a long sentence would also not be appropriate.”

Pistorius made history as the first Paralympian to compete against able-bodied athletes at the 2012 London Olympics. He has apparently been suffering from depression since Steenkamp’s death.

A separate firearms charge received three years imprisonment, suspended for five years.

Read next: Heated Reaction in South Africa to Pistorius Sentence

TIME justice

Supreme Court Allows Texas Voter ID Law to Stand Ahead of Midterms

Voter ID Test
A voter shows his photo identification to an election official at an early voting polling site, in Austin, Texas on Feb. 26, 2014. Eric Gay—AP

Three justices issued a dissent calling the law "purposefully discriminatory"

The Supreme Court decided Saturday that Texas can enforce its controversial voter identification law in November’s midterm elections, despite recently blocking several similar laws in other states.

The law, which requires Texas voters to show photo identification like a driver’s or gun license, a military ID or a passport, is championed by some who argue that it reduces voter fraud. However, critics say it’s a means of disenfranchising voters, particularly minority groups and the poor, who can be less likely to have the government-issued identification required by the law.

While the Court left its decision over the law unexplained, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a dissent criticizing the voter ID rules, calling them “a purposefully discriminatory law” that undermines “public confidence in elections.” Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Ginsburg’s dissent, the New York Times reports.

A report released this month by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office showed that voter ID laws similar to those in Texas contributed to lower voter turnouts in two states in 2012—between about 2.2 and 3.2 percentage points in Tennessee and 2 percentage points in Kansas. Those declines were greater among younger and black voters.

Critics of the Texas law say it would disenfranchise 600,000 registered voters in Texas, disproportionately affecting blacks and Hispanic or Latino voters. Texas officials have countered by saying that estimates of the number of people who could be deterred from voting by the law are unfounded.

After many months of legal wrangling, the Texas law, first passed in 2011, was blocked earlier this month by Texas Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of the Federal District Court in Corpus Christi. The Supreme Court’s decision overturns Gonzales’ injunction against the law, allowing it to be applied.

In the absence of an official explanation of the Court’s decision, some observers are speculating the justices allowed the law to stand to prevent confusion so close to the November’s elections. Those observers feel that reluctance to disturb the status quo as voting looms near has been the single common thread tying together several of the Court’s seemingly discordant decisions regarding voter ID laws in recent weeks.

[New York Times]

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