Death Penalty Looming For Boston Marathon Bomber

Monday, 21. April 2014

22949189_s (1)The trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old accused killing three and injuring 260 spectators near the finish line of the Boston marathon won’t begin until November, and while a guilty verdict may seen like a foregone conclusion, the biggest question is whether or not the prosecution will pursue the death penalty.

Video surveillance captured Tsarnaev placing a package near the blast site and using a cell phone just moments before the explosion, and he even took credit for the bombings while on the run, writing a note that said, “I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished. Now I don’t like killing innocent people it is forbidden in Islam but due to said (unintelligible) it is allowed.”

A criminal defense team led by Judy Clarke, a public defender who has defended some of the nation’s most notorious criminals, including “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, is tasked with defending Tsarnaev. Avery Appelman said the defense will need to portray Tsarnaev as an impressionable youth who fell prey to his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed during the ensuing manhunt.

“Tsarnaev was only 19-years-old when he allegedly participated in this horrifying act,” said Appelman. “His cognition is not fully developed, and as anyone with an older brother will tell you, sometimes it’s easy to look up to them even if they aren’t setting a very good example. I’m sure there will be numerous witnesses for both the prosecution and defense that will focus solely on painting Tsarnaev’s mental make-up in a way that strengthens their side’s case.”

Is The Death Penalty What The People Want?

The death penalty may be seen as the ultimate price for one’s actions, but some people view death as an “easy way out.” Life in jail may be a more appropriate sentence for such an unspeakable crime, and many Americans tend to agree. According to a poll by the Boston Globe, 57 percent of readers were in favor of a life sentence for Tsarnaev, while only 33 percent preferred the death penalty. Others believe that the largely Catholic community of Boston will attempt to avoid the death penalty, as Pope Francis has openly opposed the practice.

Lillian Campbell, whose granddaughter was killed in the bombing, said she doesn’t want Tsarnaev to be put to death.

“When they came out with this part about the death sentence … I said, well, I don’t really care what they do with them. Because whatever they do, it’s not going to bring her back,” Campbell said. “I’ll never forget her, ever, no matter how much they say. Or what they do with the guy who did it. So I wouldn’t wish anyone dead. I wouldn’t.”

Related source: CNN

Burglary Penalties in Minnesota

Thursday, 17. April 2014

BurglaryMany people believe the crime of burglary is defined as breaking into a residence a stealing someone else’s property, but that’s not necessarily the case. In it’s least criminal degree (4th), Minnesota defines the act of burglary as:

Entering a building without consent with intent to commit a misdemeanor other than stealing, or entering a building without consent and committing a misdemeanor other than to stealing while in the building, either directly or as an accomplice.

In layman’s terms, you can be charged with Burglary in the Fourth Degree even if you don’t steal anything. If you break into a residence and intentionally damage property, you can be charged with Burglary.

1st and 2nd Degree

As noted above, Burglary in the Fourth Degree is the least criminal burglary charge, so it stands to reason there are four degrees of burglary. They are Burglary in the First, Second, Third and Fourth Degrees. All four charges are detailed below.

Burglary in the First Degree is the most severe of the burglary classifications. In order for the crime to be considered a First Degree offense, the following factors must be present.

  • With intent to commit a crime, a burglar breaks into a building or residence that is occupied by at least one person at the time of the break-in.
  • The burglar possesses a dangerous weapon or any instrument that the victim believes is a dangerous weapon; or
  • The burglar assaults the victim inside the home or on the building’s property.

A person guilty of Burglary in the First Degree in Minnesota can be sentenced to 20 years in prison and fines up to $35,000.

Burglary in the Second Degree is the “Ocean’s Eleven” of burglaries. In essence, Burglary in the Second Degree occurs when a burglar uses tools to gain access to a bank, pharmacy, or other area of a business where securities or valuable papers are kept. Maximum penalties for this offense are 10 years in prison and/or fines up to $20,000.

3rd and 4th Degree

Burglary in the Third Degree is your basic small scale burglary. This offense occurs when a person enters a building without consent and:

  • Steals, commits a felony or gross misdemeanor; or
  • Intends to steal, commit a felony or gross misdemeanor; or
  • Is an accomplice to a party who steals or commits a felony or gross misdemeanor.

A person convicted of Burglary in the Third Degree in Minnesota can be sentenced to five years in prison and fined up to $10,000.

As mentioned above, Burglary in the Fourth Degree occurs when a person enters a building without consent with the intention of committing a misdemeanor. A person can be sentenced to one year in prison and fines up to $3,000 if they are convicted of Burglary in the Fourth degree.

The Felony Murder Rule: The Ryan Holle Case

Wednesday, 16. April 2014

Ryan HolleFew people have sympathy for convicted murderers, and rightly so, but you may feel differently after hearing the story of Ryan Holle, who was convicted of murder at the age of 21.

What’s unique about Holle’s case is that the prosecution fully admits that the 21-year-old was sleeping, miles away from the incident, when the killing occurred. So why was Holle sentenced to life in prison for murder? Because of an outdated law called the Felony Murder Law.

Holle’s Role

In the early morning hours of March 10, 2003, Holle was hanging with some friends after a night out partying. Holle decided he wanted to call it a night and go to bed, but his buddies had other ideas. William Allen Jr., Holle’s housemate, asked if he could borrow the 21-year-old’s car. Having no need for it since he was about to turn in for the night, Holle handed his housemate the keys.

Allen and three associates drove to the house of a well-known drug dealer a few miles away. They knew the dealer had a safe in her house, and they planned to rob it. The group went inside the house and threatened the woman and her family. During the robbery, one of the men, Charles Miller Jr., bludgeoned the drug dealer’s 18-year-old daughter to death with a shotgun he found inside the house. The group made off with a pound of marijuana and $1,425.

The Felony Murder Rule

Not surprisingly, the men were arrested for the crime shortly thereafter. What was surprising was the fact that authorities also arrested Holle, despite witness reports that he was not at the scene when the crime took place. Police decided to charge Holle with first-degree murder under a legal doctrine known as the Felony Murder Rule, which states:

Anybody who participates in a felony offense is criminally liable for any deaths that occur during or in furtherance of that felony. 

In other words, because Holle lent his car to his friend, which they then used to commit a felony, the prosecution merely needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Holle knew his friends were going to use his car to aid in a felony offense.

Holle gave a statement to police in which he seemed to admit to knowing that his friends were going to go commit a robbery, and as the prosecutor explained during trial, “No car, no murder.”

Holle changed his stance in an interview in 2007, saying he “honestly thought they were going to get food,” adding that he didn’t think they were serious about the robbery plans.

“When they mentioned what as going on, I thought it was a joke,” he said.

They jury didn’t see it Holle’s way, and he received the same sentence as the four men at the scene of the crime – Life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Is It Justice?

It’s worth noting that the wife/drug dealer was sentenced to three years in prison for marijuana possession, but when you compare her misdeeds to those of Holle, is it really fair?

As the father pointed out during the trial, “It never would have happened unless Ryan Holle had lent the car,” but can’t the same be said about the mother? If she hadn’t been a known drug dealer with a stash of marijuana and cash, the crime would never have occurred. She got three years, but Holle could easily spend over 50 years behind bars.

Where is the justice in that?

Several Students Arrested in Dinkytown Riot

Monday, 14. April 2014

Dinkytown riot19 people, including some University of Minnesota students, were arrested Saturday in Dinkytown after a riot broke out following Minnesota’s loss in the NCAA Frozen Four championship game. 

The chaos erupted just minutes after the Gophers fell to Union College by a score of 7-4, a final tally that few saw coming when you consider Minnesota entered the Frozen Four as the odds on favorite to win the championship. Many people made their way to Dinkytown in hopes of celebrating a championship in the streets, and they didn’t take too kindly to being denied the opportunity.

The crowd began throwing rocks and beer bottles at a gathering of officers who had been dispatched to quell the impending riot. Officers responded by firing pepper spray, rubber pellets and beanbags into the crowd. One recent grad said Dinkytown “felt like a war zone.”

“There shouldn’t be riots right now. We didn’t even win,” said 22-year-old Austin Duket.

James Anderson, who rooms with Duket, said students were looking for a reason to party, and the prospect of rioting – win or lose – was already a forgone conclusion before the game.

“After Thursday, (the riots) were an event. People were like, ‘You guys want to go to the riot on Saturday?’”

Although the full arrest tally is unknown, the police scanner reported that numerous individuals were arrested for “assaultive behavior.” Officers also responded to two reports of arson and several cases of property damage, although it’s uncertain how many arrests were made in connection with those crimes.

Avery Appelman comments

As a huge hockey fan, it pains me that the Gophers fell just short of the ultimate goal, but destructive rioting is the wrong way to handle a loss. I’ve never understood why destroying public or private property in the wake of a sporting event made someone feel better.

These students could face heavy fines, and that’s just the beginning. If they have any priors, if they caused a large amount of damage, or if they were the ones who started the fires, they could face jail time. Thankfully, it doesn’t sound as if any pedestrians or officers were seriously injured during the fracas.

If you need to physically express yourself following a loss, go for a run or hit the punching bag at the gym. If you can’t channel your emotions, you might be looking for a lawyer in the near future.

Related source: Pioneer Press.

9-Month-Old Baby Accused of Attempted Murder

Wednesday, 9. April 2014

Baby Accused of MurderWhile most 9-month-olds are still working on saying their first word, a Pakistani toddler has been charged with attempted murder in a case that points out a number of shortcomings in the country’s legal system. 

Mohammed Musa, not even a year old, has been charged with attempted murder along with his father and other family members for his role in throwing rocks at gas company officials.

Musa wept during a court appearance last week, although the crying was most likely caused by teething, not because he could comprehend the severity of the charges levied against him. He also drank from a bottle while in court.

“Everyone in the court was saying, ‘How can such a small child be implicated in any case?’ What kind of police do we have?” said grandfather Muhammad Yasin.

Direct Contradiction

The charges are extremely questionable when you consider that Pakistan recently increased the minimum age of criminal responsibility from seven years to 12 in 2013.

The grandfather believes the charges are all part of an elaborate move to get the accused evicted from their property.

“The police and gas company officials came without any notice and started removing gas meters from houses,” said Yasin. “Residents started protesting and blocked the road but ended the protest when senior police officers arrived in the area and assured them that no injustice would be done. But later we found out that cases have been filed against us.”

Judge Shows Some Sense

Judge Rafaqat Ali Qamar ordered the criminal inspector to be suspended and granted the child bail, but he added that the child will have to appear at a scheduled hearing on April 12.

“The court should have simply referred the minor’s case to the High Court to drop the charges against the innocent child and acquit him from the case,” said Chaudhry Irfan Sadiq, who is representing the family in the criminal matter. “This case also exposes the incompetence of our police force and the way they are operating.”

Shoaib Suddle, a retired police chief, noted that the current legal system gives the benefit of the doubt to the accuser, in contrast to the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ motto adopted by other nations.

“The moment they are able to file a complaint, accusers expect that without any evidence people should be locked up and the investigation should follow, whereas the world over it is the other way around.”

Mel Welch comments

The age of criminal responsibility doesn’t have a defined age in the United States. Instead, the majority of states rely on what is known as common law, which holds that from age 7 to 14, children cannot be presumed to bear responsibility for the actions, but they can be held responsible. 13 states, Minnesota not included, have their own laws on the age of criminal responsibility, which ranges anywhere from 6 years to 12 years of age.

The notion of holding a 9-month-old responsible for his actions is ludicrous. The child cannot formulate intent at such a young age, nor can he comprehend his actions. Really, at that age, the only thing he knows how to do is cry when he’s hungry and sleep when he’s tired. The real crime here is the infantile actions of the criminal inspector.

Related source:

Two Students Handcuffed in Underwear For Leaving Door Open

Tuesday, 8. April 2014

Open Door ArrestTwo students at the University of Utah were handcuffed wearing only their pajamas last month after police entered their residence because their front door was open.

The whole ordeal began around 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 29, at the Union Meadows apartment complex on campus. A concerned resident called police to report that their neighbor’s door was wide open at an odd hour. Three officers arrived on scene and entered the apartment after they heard no response when they announced their presence.

“They made several loud announcements, saying it was the police; they got no response,” said Lt. Justin Hoyal of the Unified Police Department.

Ramiro Aguirre, who lives at the apartment, said he never heard the officers announce their presence or enter the apartment because he was, like so many at that hour, sleeping.

“If they did announce themselves, I was dead asleep,” said Aguirre.

Questionable Tactics

The officers began to secure the apartment, and not surprisingly, they found Aguirre and roommate Ben Mertlich asleep in their respective rooms. That’s when the roommates say the officers used some questionable tactics.

“When I came to it, someone’s pulling me out of bed and to the floor,” said Aguirre.

“I just wake up to an officer with a flashlight and Taser,” added Mertlich. “As soon as you see the situation, a guy in his underwear in bed, it’s pretty obvious he’s not a burglar.”

The roommates were handcuffed because the police described their demeanor as “belligerent,” but Aguirre said it was all a misunderstanding.

According to Hoyer, when “the officer was asking the individual in bed to show his hands were he could see him; he brought it out and flipped the officer off.”

“Well I’m asleep in my own house at 3 in the morning, I didn’t know it was a cop, I thought it was one of my friends playing a joke,” Aguirre added.

The two were later questioned as to why the door was left open, and they explained that the latch was broken. The officers eventually freed the residents from their handcuffs, but the roommates said the ordeal was unsettling.

“It’s pretty vulnerable to be in that position. You have nothing, you have no defense,” Mertlich said.

The roommates are deciding if they want to press charges, but since they were released and nothing was damaged during the search, it seems unlikely that a case will proceed.

Related source: Fox 13 Now

Student Suspended For Wearing “Welcome to the Gun Show” Shirt

Tuesday, 1. April 2014

Welcome to the Gun Show shirtWe’ve heard stories where children have been suspended from school for making weapons out of Poptarts and with their fingers, but the latest story simply takes the cake.

A Maple Grove student was suspended from school for three days for wearing a t-shirt that had the word “gun” written on it.

Jeffery Warner, 17, didn’t give a second thought to his attire Monday morning when he put on his new “Welcome to the Gun Show” t-shirt. The shirt, which has been recreated above, refers to Warner’s biceps as the “guns.” A few of Warner’s friends got a chuckle when they saw their friend donning the orange shirt, but they never expected what would happen next.

“Between third and fourth period I got a call down to the office on the loudspeaker,” said Warner. “I never get in trouble, so I figured it was about Prom or something.”

When Warner arrived in the office, he was greeted by the principal and the district superintendent. He said that’s when he began to worry.

“I started running every scenario through my head, but for the life of me I couldn’t think of anything I did wrong,” said Warner.

“You’re Suspended”

Warner was led to a conference room where he was asked if he knew why he was there. He said he hadn’t the faintest idea, and that’s when the principal handed him the Maple Grove student conduct policy.

“He had highlighted the weapon policy, but it still didn’t dawn on me, even after I read the section that said guns of all kind are forbidden,” said Warner. “I told him I didn’t have a weapon, and he pointed at my chest and said, ‘I’m looking at it right now!’”

Once Warner came to the conclusion that the principal was talking about his shirt, he offered to go home and change. The principal said that it was too late.

“We wouldn’t let a kid who brought a knife to school go home and return without the knife, so why would we let Warner do the same?” said Principal Roy Kafest. “We felt that it was only fair to punish him the same way we’d punish anyone else who brought a weapon to school.”

Superintendent Don Belivettei echoed Kafest’s sentiments.

“Zero tolerance means just that,” said Belivettei. “Keeping our students safe is our top priority.”

Principal Kafest declined further comment, saying he was late for a meeting with a freshman who wrote the word “luger” on a history paper about World War II.

Warner said he planned to hire Appelman Law Firm to challenge the matter in court.

Related source: StockGraphicDesigns

Cancer Patient Arrested For Failing to Pay $5 Dog Renewal Fee

Thursday, 27. March 2014

Dog JailWe can assure you, this isn’t the same story we wrote last week about the 84-year-old cancer patient who was arrested because her dogs got loose. This is simply another case of authorities ignoring common sense to pursue the letter of the law.

Earlier this week, 41-year-old Ann Musser was placed in handcuffs and taken to the Hampshire County House of Correction because officers uncovered she had a warrant out for her arrest. What was her heinous crime, you might ask? Failing to pay a $5 dog renewal fee enforced by the city of Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Musser’s tale is similar to Mary Root’s story, as both women have had other things on their minds. Like Root, Musser had been recently diagnosed with cancer, and she was looking forward to an upcoming surgery. She said the failure to pay the fee was an oversight.

“Your priorities are a little different when you are fighting death,” said her husband, Ozzie Ercan. “It’s easy to lose track of how important those little pieces of paper are.”

Tried To Pay It

The city of Holyoke is unique in that it requires all dog owners to pay a $5 annual fee to renew their dog license. After Musser missed the initial deadline, she was mailed a letter saying she needed to pay the fee and a $25 late fee within 21 days or the matter would be handed over to the court. She again failed to pay the fine, and a warrant was issued for her arrest. She later paid the $30 total fee, but that didn’t clear her arrest warrant.

Musser tried to go to court to settle the matter, but she left before she could complete the process because she felt her health was in danger. See, Musser was at a stage of cancer treatment that leaves her neutropenic, meaning her body’s ability to fight off infection is weakened. The longer she’s exposed to airborne viruses, the more likely she is to develop a serious or deadly complication. Her doctors advised against being in crowds, but it was unavoidable at the courthouse. Despite telling the clerks and bailiffs about her condition, she had to wait just like everyone else. Eventually, after more than three hours in court, Musser left without settling her warrant.

“I knew I was taking a risk, but I had paid my fee and the late fee,” she said. “I didn’t know what else to do, so I left, knowing that it could come back to bite me – and it did.”

Taken Downtown

The warrant finally came to fruition one night when Musser’s husband was driving home. Ercan had forgotten his wallet, and he was pulled over in his driveway by a police officer. The officer was kind enough to let Ercan go inside and get his wallet, but since the vehicle was in his wife’s name, he asked to see her license as well. When he ran her name, the arrest warrant surfaced.

“They came back and said ‘We’re going to have to arrest you,’” she said.

Musser’s husband tried to tell the officer about his wife’s condition, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.

“They said, ‘There’s nothing we can do. Sorry, we’re going to have to arrest you,’” said Musser.

Although her husband was able to bail her out within five hours, Musser was exposed to some potentially deadly conditions inside her cell.

“I was literally barefoot in a cement cell for an hour and a half. They gave me a blanket that may have been clean, but I didn’t know who used it. There was a mattress, but it had some stuff on it, so I didn’t want to sit on it. And the glass wall had all these finger smears, and it looked like someone spit on the window and it dried there,” she said. “I didn’t want to touch anything.”

Musser later went to court and had the warrant removed from the system. She said the city can rest easy knowing there’s one less ‘criminal’ on the streets.

“Holyoke is safe again,” she mused.

Related source:

Could Criminals Soon Face 1,000-Year Prison Sentences?

Wednesday, 19. March 2014

Elderly CriminalYou may have heard about some extreme cases where judges have sentenced criminals to 100 or more years in prison, but many of these criminals will die before serving the duration of their sentence. That all could change in the near future as some biotech scientists say we may soon have the ability to keep people alive for 1,000 years, meaning sentences could extend into the hundreds or thousands of years. 

“Some crimes are so bad they require a really long period of punishment, and a lot of people seem to get out of that punishment by dying,” said Oxford University scientist Dr. Rebecca Roache. She added that in some particularly heinous crimes, the prison sentences are “laughably inadequate.”

One specific child abuse case struck a nerve with Dr. Roache. She detailed the story of Magdelena Luczak and Mariusk Krezolek, who beat, starved, tortured and murdered Luczak’s four-year-old son. Dr. Roache said the pair, who received a 30-year sentence for their crimes, will receive far better treatment than Luczak’s child.

“They will, for example, be fed and watered, housed in clean cells, allowed access to a toilet and washing facilities, allowed out of their cells for exercise and recreation,” said Dr. Roache.

Extending Sentences

The technology to extend criminal sentences is a two-pronged approach. The first avenue scientists are pursuing involves anti-aging research. Scientists have long been looking at extending lifespans through injections or supplements, and they feel that they are on the edge of a breakthrough. If the technology soon becomes available, even if it only adds a few years onto the median lifespan, it would ensure some criminal spend more time behind bars.

The second approach scientists are researching is a little more controversial. Some believe that influencing the perception of time is a way to artificially lengthen prison sentences. Dr. Roache noted that there are already several drugs available that distort a person’s sense of time, and she added that science might not be too far away from developing a pill that makes a prisoner feel like they are serving a 1,000-year sentence.

Despite her curiousity into the science, Dr. Roache notes the arguments against psychoactive medication.

“Of course, there is a widely held view that any amount of tinkering with a person’s brain is unacceptably invasive.” she said. ‘But you might not need to interfere with the brain directly.”

Mel Welch comments

While I think Dr. Roache is being overly optimistic about how close the science community is to extending lifespans into the thousands of years, I simply cannot get on board with this plan.

The idea of keeping someone alive to extend his or her sentence seems like a huge waste of taxpayer money. Is it really worth it to keep someone alive, someone who likely has limited or little control over their bodily actions at this point in their life (is a 150-year-old really going to be moving about his cell?) just so he doesn’t die, with the taxpayers footing the bill?

And the point about drugging a prisoner to alter their mind is just too abusurd to comment on. Do we really want to play judge, jury, doctor and god with someone’s life?

Related sources:, Aeon,

Great-Grandmother Jailed For Puppy Violation

Tuesday, 18. March 2014

Grandma jailAn 81-year-old great-grandmother was recently forced to spend two nights in jail after she couldn’t afford to pay a $7,000 fine she received for being unable to contain her dogs.

Mary Magdalene Root, the senior citizen at the center of the case, is fighting an uphill battle to keep her dogs and stay out of jail. The whole ordeal began over a year ago when Root left her house to run some errands. Before leaving, Root placed her two dogs in her yard, but the pups were able to break free of the restraints and wandered down the street.

According to her neighbors, the dogs continued to escape the yard when Root would leave the house, but instead of helping the 81-year-old cancer survivor come up with a plan to contain her dogs when she left the house, they simply took pictures of the loose dogs and called Animal Control.

Animal Control slapped Root with a $7,000 fine. Failure to pay meant the elderly woman could spend up to a year in jail. When it came time for her court appearance, Root was a no-show, but only because her doctor advised her not to go on a count of her failing health.

Ruling With An Iron Fist

Root’s defense attorneys asked the judge for leniency, as the senior citizen had no criminal history and was in poor health. However, the judge decided to make an example out of Root, and she ordered her arrested, placed her bail at $2,500, and ordered that her dogs could not remain on the property.

“She gave me the works. I feel like I’m a criminal, but yet I don’t feel like I’ve done anything,” Root said of the judge.

Root couldn’t afford to make bail, so she was held in jail for two days.

“I’m struggling to pay my house taxes,” said Root. “I couldn’t pay it.”

Thankfully for Root, a Good Samaritan stepped forward and paid the bond on the third day.

“There are very nice people out there,” said Root. “But then there are some people who are so struck on the strictness of the law. I don’t know whether maybe that needs to be looked at,” Root said.

Ordeal Not Over

Despite being released from jail, Root’s ordeal is far from over. She can’t return to the home she’s lived in for the last 44 years if she wants to keep her dogs. It wasn’t specified where Root has taken temporary shelter, but she said she has no intention of giving up her dogs.

“I love them,” she said “They keep me company and I love them.”

Mel Welch comments

Another example of the disconnectedness of those who purport to fulfill and uphold the letter of the law, while ignoring the presumption of innocence this woman has in the face of allegations. A woman’s two small dogs got out a couple of times, and maybe committed the awful imposition of crapping in a neighbor’s yard – that is worth $7000 and the displacement of a great-grandmother from her home?!

It must take that many years for common sense to take hold – or maybe one must give it up altogether to lord power over others.

Related source: CBS


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