Archive for the ‘Troy King’ category

Alabama’s Mike Nifong

May 8, 2007

I first posted about him here. Today, the Decatur Daily has an update.

In a nut shell, back in 2005, Assistant Attorney General Don Valeska – the chief of Troy King’s violent crimes division – knowingly hid favorable evidence from the defense and then lied about it to the court. When the truth was revealed, the judge responded by dismissing the state’s case. Alacrap reversed that action, but still granted the defendant a new trial.

So now Valeska is whining that the judge is biased. Right. Here’s some of the judge’s response:

“He can lie to me personally all he wants, but I will not allow him to lie to the court,” [Morgan County Circuit Judge Glenn] Thompson stated in a response he filed with the state Court of Criminal Appeals.

Thompson explained.

“Throughout the trial of the case, the defense counsel repeatedly requested that they be given access to material collected by the Decatur Police Department and submitted to the FBI, as well as any information provided by the FBI to the Decatur Police Department. Knowing full well that his representations to the Circuit Court of Morgan County were untrue, Mr. Valeska repeatedly represented that no such material existed,” Thompson’s response states. . . .

The judge explained his position on dismissing the capital murder charges against Moore.

“This court found that the actions of Assistant Attorney General Valeska representing the state of Alabama were so egregious that the only appropriate remedy under the law and the facts was to dismiss the charges pending against the defendant.” . . .

Also, Thompson commented on Valeska’s courtroom behavior.

“He refused to turn off his cell phone and after warning, allowed his cell phone to ring in court repeatedly,” Thompson stated. “It is my recollection, although I am not certain of the exact number, that on at least six occasions Mr. Valeska’s cell phone rang in open court. This court refrained from finding him in contempt although after each session he was repeatedly warned not to allow his cell phone to ring in court.”

Thompson further stated in his response that Valeska would be treated fairly in his courtroom during Moore’s second trial.

“I can assure the Court of Criminal Appeals that Mr. Valeska, if he appears for the re-trial of Mr. Moore, has nothing to fear from this court so long as he tells the whole truth without parsing words and turns off his cell phone,” Thompson stated. “Not only will the state of Alabama get a fair trial but the defendant will also get a fair trial.”

Biased? Only against attorneys so confident in the righteousness of their position that they think they can lie, cheat, or steal in order to win a case.

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Should Troy King Investigate Beth Chapman?

April 17, 2007

As Dan highlights today, Beth Chapman – our Secretary of State – recently issued, through the office of Secretary of State, this press release:

Secretary of State Beth Chapman announced her opposition to legislation which supports the expansion of the gambling industry in Alabama. The legislation is on the special order calendar in the House of Representatives. Chapman said, “It is my sincere belief that gambling is bad for Alabama families, therefore it is bad for Alabama.”

Chapman said some of those endorsing the legislation are being deceptive. “Anyone who hears that the Christian Coalition endorses any gambling bill should know that the organization has been taken hostage by those who do not support the same family values the average Alabamian supports.”

Like Dan points out, that statement has absolutely no relevance to anything in the job description of Secretary of State. Of course Beth Chapman the individual is perfectly free to express her opinions on gambling and on the Christian Coalition. But Beth Chapman is most certainly NOT free to use Alabama’s resources to promote her personal opinion. And that is just what she did here, using not only the S-o-S office’s time, computers, and perhaps employees, but its prestige to promote her own personal agenda.

The press release has nothing to do with the office of Secretaty of State, yet it is a press release of the Secretary of State. So why did Beth Chapman use the office’s resources for something completely irrelevant to the office? Dan’s commentators  were quick to point out an obvious possibility: Chapman’s own plans to run for a higher office.

If that is the real reason for the release, than she has probably violated Alabama Code 36-12-61:

It shall be unlawful for any officer or employee of the State of Alabama to use or to permit to be used any state-owned property of any character or description, including stationery, stamps, office equipment, office supplies, automobiles or any other property used by him, in his custody or under his control for the promotion or advancement of the interest of any candidate for the nomination or election to any public office of the State of Alabama.

Or consider Ala. Code 17-1-7(c):

No person in the employment of the State of Alabama, a county, or a city whether classified or unclassified, shall use any state, county, or city funds, property or time, for any political activities. 

So how about it Troy Boy? Maybe there is a legitimate reason for the press release, but this sure smells funny. And you can’t be too vigilant about the electoral process, right? Here’s what you said after the arrest of our former S-o-S for using her office to promote her own candidacy:

“It is deeply troubling when a person who was charged with overseeing our election laws is accused of breaking the very laws she swore to uphold, and of betraying the system whose integrity was entrusted to her,” said Attorney General King. “If the people are to have confidence in their government, it is imperative that such allegations be thoroughly investigated, and where evidence warrants, that the case be prosecuted, regardless of who may be affected.”

I’m not asking for an arrest. But I think this deserves a “thorough investigation?” Don’t you?

Plea Bargains Suck

April 12, 2007

Man. The one time I wanted to see Troy King in all out glory hound mode, he goes and settles the case.

A political consultant from Vestavia Hills admitted Tuesday to misdemeanor crimes that he ran a false ad during the 2006 Jefferson County Commission primary race, and he failed to register a political action committee.

Rick Spina, 48, said he pleaded guilty rather than going through the expense and trouble of fighting the charges in court. . . .

Jefferson County District Judge Katrina Ross fined Spina $2,000 on the charge of fraudulently saying he was representing a candidate in a damaging manner. She suspended a 12-month sentence.

As I explained in this post, the reason I was so giddily looking forward to a trial was that the alleged “damaging manner” was linking Jim Carns to Roy Moore:

Man I hope this goes to trial. They have to introduce evidence that linking Moore to Carns was damaging. Someone’s got to take the stand and explain that Moore is a joke. The closing argument will have to emphasize that Moore is such a well-recognized idiot that the mere association of his name with a candidate would cause that candidate to lose. This is just too awesome. I promise you I will think of some reason to be at the courthouse that day.

Oh well, I guess we all know that’s the truth anyway.

Troy’s Package

March 27, 2007

Hee hee, the A.G.’s legislative package is definitely not soft on crime, but it comes up short on substance.

There isn’t anything in it that is truly stupid. Some of his ideas even make sense. I agree that fleeing in a car from the police probably ought to be a felony and not just a misdemeanor, as it is now.

Then there’s a few that make me wonder if the purpose is anything other than giving him a chance to thump his chest:

King’s package also addresses technology once only available to police – electronic stun guns – that’s now available commerically [sic] to the public.

His legislation, drafted at the request of law enforcement, would prohibit their sale to anyone under 18 and to make it a separate crime, punishable by one to 10 years in prison, to use one to commit another crime.

King said he’s not aware of any crimes being committed with stun guns in Alabama yet, but he figures it’s only a matter of time.

I guess his recently declared love for the right to bear arms only goes so far.  

Other proposals have serious constitutional problems:

Another way TV and technology figures into King’s legislative package is in child abuse and molestation cases. King has prepared legislation that would allow a young victim to testify via closed-circuit television in a separate room from the defendant. Currently, they can testify in the judge’s chambers away from any spectators, but the defendant is present.

“The reason we see the number of plea bargains we do is because these child victims emotionally and psychologically have a difficult time testifying. The are terrified” of being near the defendants, King said.

Here’s the key parts of that bill (sb 265):

§15-25-2.

“(a) In any criminal prosecution referred to in Section 15-25-1, the court may, upon motion of the district attorney or Attorney General, for good cause shown and after notice to the defendant, may order the taking of a videotaped deposition of an alleged victim of or witness to said the crime who is under the age of 16 at the time of such the order.

(b) On any motion for a videotaped deposition of the victim or a witness, the court shall consider the age and maturity of the child, the nature of the offense, the nature of testimony that may be expected, and the possible effect that such the testimony in person at trial may have on the victim or witness, along with any other relevant matters that may be required by Supreme Court rule.

(c) During the taping of a videotaped depositions deposition authorized pursuant to this section, the following persons shall be in the room with the child: , the attorney of the parents of the child would be allowed to be present at the tapings. If the court orders that a deposition of the victim or witness shall be had as provided herein, the district attorney shall make all necessary arrangements to have the same videotaped. The prosecuting attorney, the attorney for the defendant, and a person whose presence, in the judgment of the court, contributes to the well-being of the child and who has dealt with the child in a therapeutic setting regarding the abuse. Additional persons, other than the defendant, may be admitted into the room in the discretion of the court.

(d) Such deposition shall be taken before the judge in his chambers or in such other suitable location as the court may direct and shall be conducted in the presence of the district attorney, the defendant and his attorney, and such other persons as the court in its discretion may permit, taking into consideration the welfare and well-being of the alleged child victim or witness. Examination and cross-examination of the alleged victim or witness shall proceed at the taking of the videotaped deposition as though the alleged victim or witness were testifying personally in the trial of the case. The state shall provide the attorney for the defendant with reasonable access and means to view and hear the videotaped deposition at a suitable and reasonable time prior to the trial of the case. Objections to the introduction into the record of such deposition shall be heard by the judge in whose presence the deposition was taken, and unless the court determines that its introduction in lieu of the victim’s or witness’s actual appearance as a witness at the trial will unfairly prejudice the defendant, such videotaped deposition shall be entered into the record by the state in lieu of the direct testimony of the alleged victim or witness and shall be viewed and heard at the trial of the case.

As we all know, the constitution gives us the right to confront the witnesses against us. Nevertheless, in Maryland v. Craig, Scotus upheld a Maryland procedure that allowed closed-circuit testimony:

In sum, we conclude that where necessary to protect a child witness from trauma that would be caused by testifying in the physical presence of the defendant, at least where such trauma would impair the child’s ability to communicate, the Confrontation Clause does not prohibit use of a procedure that, despite the absence of face-to-face confrontation, ensures the reliability of the evidence by subjecting it to rigorous adversarial testing and thereby preserves the essence of effective confrontation. Because there is no dispute that the child witnesses in this case testified under oath, were subject to full cross-examination, and were able to be observed by the judge, jury, and defendant as they testified, we conclude that, to the extent that a proper finding of necessity has been made, the admission of such testimony would be consonant with the Confrontation Clause.

From a quick read of Troy’s bill, I see a few important differences between it and the law upheld in Craig.

First, Troy’s applies to the victim OR a child witness. The law in Craig only involved the victim.

Second, Troy’s bill allows a pre-trial deposition. The law in Craig required the testimony be given during the trial and broadcast simultaneously to the courtroom.

Third, the threshold is much lower in Troy’s bill: “the court shall consider the age and maturity of the child, the nature of the offense, the nature of testimony that may be expected, and the possible effect that such the testimony in person at trial may have on the victim or witness.” Scotus, though, held that the court must conclude the child will suffer serious harm, rather than just “mere nervousness or excitement or some reluctance to testify.” Further, the harm must be due to the defendant himself, not just the fact of testifying.

Fourth, Scotus – Justice Scalia in particular – has really re-invigorated the confrontation clause over the last couple of years. So I’d expect future cases on this issue to tighten the rules, not loosen them.

Fifth, as a snide aside, does anyone else find it interesting that Troy thinks children are responsible enough to be executed, but not responsible enough to tell the truth under oath?

All that said, what I find most interesting about Troy’s legislative package is it’s narrow-minded focus on criminal issues. He is a general practitioner, responsible for all the state’s legal needs. But all he offers is “get-tough-on-crime” legislation. I know it would asking too much for him to address legal problems that harm the defendants. But at least he could try to address some civil issues. What does he have to offer on campaign finance issues? Or PAC to PAC? Or curbing lobbyists? How about some guidance for legislators about what kind of employment is and is not proper? Or do we have no needs more pressing than pre-emptively eliminating stun-guns?  

A Few More Answers To Castaldo Questions

March 9, 2007

This should not surprise anyone:

A perjury charge against a state investigator, who was acquitted, stemmed from his refusal “to do political things” for Attorney General Troy King, a defense attorney claimed.

A King spokesman denied the accusation by defense lawyer Jim Pino, who represented Anthony Castaldo in the trial that resulted in his acquittal on the misdemeanor perjury charge by a Jefferson County jury Wednesday.

In a hearing outside the presence of the jury, Pino told Circuit Judge William Cole that Castaldo was persecuted for “refusing to do political things at the request of the attorney general and administrative staff.” . . .

The attorney general special agent worked for King’s 2006 general election opponent John Tyson for three years. Castaldo said King asked him around late 2005 for information that could be used against Tyson in the campaign.

Castaldo said he refused and was reassigned from his duties as a special investigator for King.

King’s office denies this, and tries to make it sound like the prosecution was the independent work of JeffCo DA David Barber:

King’s office had nothing to do with the prosecution of the misdemeanor charge, which was handled by the Jefferson County district attorney’s office, spokesman Chris Bence said.

That is a load of crap. Here’s what happened:

Castaldo is accused of intentionally giving false testimony during an October 2005 gambling case when he was asked under oath by a defense lawyer, “Did you represent yourself as being an investigator for the Judicial Inquiry Commission to anybody?” Castaldo testified then, “No, I did not,” according to the trial transcript.

Troy King’s office pointed out the 2005 testimony in material sent last year to Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber, according to testimony Tuesday. Barber’s office filed the perjury charge against Castaldo, claiming his denial amounted to perjury.

King’s office initiated the whole thing. And here’s another question. The alleged representation occurred in Bessemer, and the alleged false statement may have, too. But rather than send the “material” to Bessemer DA Arthur Greene, King sent it to Barber. Why? Because Barber would be more likely to do as King wanted?

Whatever the answer, the fact is none of this would have happened had not King’s office initiated the prosecution. So the questions is why he decided to prosecute his personal assistant, a guy whose job was doing “‘favors for friends’ of the attorney general.”

What’s more likely? That the same attorney general who has as the chief of his violent crimes division a man who blatantly lied to the court about the existance of potentially exculpatory evidence in a death penalty case is now sooo concerned about honest dealings that he would turn over for criminal prosecution a man who at worst committed misdemeanor perjury? Or that the prosecution was retribution for Castaldo’s failure to do King’s dirty work?

When the news first broke that an investigator with the AG’s office was being prosecuted for perjury, I posted about it with the title “He Must Have Testified In Favor Of The Defendant.” So you know what I think.

The whole thing smelled funky from the git-go. This just is not how the world works. Like it or not, what Danny says here is true:

Right or wrong, the stereotypical behavior when law enforcement is accused of mishandling an investigation is that the accused department stands together to defend its own.

If you want an example of typical behavior, check out David Barber’s actions in this case:

Back in August, four men entered the home of Ricky Gross – a father of seven and a former sailor in the US Navy – and shot him a total of fourteen times, twelve of them in the back. Two other people witnessed the event and both say that Gross was unarmed and had not threatened anyone. Gross died from the injuries.

Nevertheless, District Attorney David Barber announced yesterday that there would be no criminal charges against the four assailants. The coroner, who was not at the scene, said there was a knife on the floor near Gross’s dead body. An autopsy revealed that Gross was drunk when he was killed. The assailants say Gross threatened them. Clearly, then, this was a case of self defense and there is no need to arrest anyone or to submit the case to a grand jury.

Not so clear? Oh yeah, the assailants were cops.

The only times the waggons get “uncircled” are when there is absolutely no plausible defense for the accused, or the accused has done something to make someone mad. Given that the jury acquitted Castaldo in about forty-five minutes, the former wasn’t the case here. So that leaves the latter, which is exactly what Castaldo now says happened.

What’s the truth? Maybe we’ll never know. But if what Castaldo says is accurate, than Troy King is unfit to be the Attorney General, a District Attorney, or any other type of prosecutor.

Prosecutors are, in my opinion, probably the most powerful people in government. Their responsibilities are truly awesome. Legislatures write laws, and those laws are enforced in courts, but whether or not to prosecute people who break laws is a decision that belongs solely to the prosecutor. They can prosecute for any reason or no reason. No-one gets to review those decisions. Maybe Castaldo was prosecuted for political reasons. That in no way would have prevented a conviction, though.

This unreviewable discretion means the prosecutor holds not just people’s lives, but the law itself, in his hands. The law is not worth much if it isn’t used. And if it is used selectively to advance political goals, the law loses its inherent authority and becomes just another tool of the political trade. It no longer commands respect.

So these are folks we really need to trust. People we know will apply the law fairly and even handedly, rather than using it to advance a political agenda. In other words, we need to know that the decision to prosecute is made soberly and rationally, free from considerations of party affiliation, personal feelings, religion, race, or anything other than the need to do justice.

If, in fact, Troy King handed Castaldo to the wolves because Castaldo would not do personal political favors for Troy King, than Troy King has betrayed our trust. He has betrayed the law. He is unfit for his office.