Monday, August 18, 2008

Amy Mullaney and a Questionable Deferred Sentence

Today's Gazette carries an article speculating on personnel changes in the DA's office. Will Amy Mullaney be retained? The role she played in granting a deferred sentence to Brad Orgill can inform that decision.

A closer look at the circumstances surrounding Orgill's deferred sentence raises questions that Mullaney may not want to answer. You see, Orgill turns out to be the only person confronting Anthony Madril on the night Madril was killed. Orgill and Madril fought a fierce and bloody fight, which was witnessed by Madril's friends. According to his friend and witness, Chas Schwartz, Madril emerged from the fight saying "I've just been stabbed." Orgill's clothing was covered in Madril's blood.

Despite having been warned by others that a deferral may not be in the best interest of justice, Mullaney offered one to Orgill before the CBI crime lab even received all the evidence in the case. Almost a year after Mullaney gave Orgill the deferred sentence, the Colorado Springs Metro Crime Lab released a report stating that Orgill could not be ruled out as Madril's assailant.

Another item of interest: About four months after being given his deferred sentence, Orgill, then 30, was accused of rape by a nineteen-year-old woman. He admitted to having provided the under-aged woman with alcohol, but insisted that their sexual contact was consensual. The woman received a medical exam, which confirmed sexual contact; the DA's office paid for the exam and the DA's office is listed as a releasee for the medical report.Orgill told the investigating police officer that he was on a deferred sentence as an accessory to murder.

About a month later, the rape accusation was settled in a most curious way: the police officer, Orgill, and Orgill's attorney sat down together, chatted about the attorney's trip to Sturgis, and then made a pretext phone call to the accuser and got her to drop the charges. When queried about the practice of making pretext phone calls to alleged rape victims, both TESSA and CSPD said that such calls would be highly unusual--if ever--made. Although providing alcohol to a minor is a violation of Orgill's deferral, as far as I know, there have been no repercussions.

The question for Mullaney: Do deferred sentences such as this one serve justice or some other agenda? The question Dan May--and Colorado Springs--faces: Should Mullaney stay or go?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Evidence and Bad Science

Today we learn that we now have proof of the execution of a man in Texas for a crime he did not commit. For details see this.

What makes this revelation especially significant is that the evidence was not DNA. Rather, it was the forensic analysis of fire evidence to determine if arson was the cause. We see in this case the tragic consequences when investigators and prosecutors seek convictions over truth.

Innocents in Prison

A paragraph from an August 7, 2007 article in The Atlantic:

Samuel Gross, a University of Michigan law professor, has calculated that 2.3 percent of all prisoners sentenced to death between 1973 and 1989 have been exonerated and freed. His research suggests that the vast majority in fact did not commit the crimes. And an unknown number of innocents have not been exonerated.
Read the entire article for some thoughtful commentary on the prevalence of wrongful convictions.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

John Newsome's Legacy

In Tuesday's primary election Dan May clobbered incumbant DA John Newsome. Over 60% of those voting voiced their displeasure with Newsome, largely because of his cavalier drinking on the job and apparent laxness in reporting travel expenses. For us there's more.

It was Newsome who replaced the now-victorious Dan May as his deputy with the much younger and less experienced Amy Mullaney. Mullaney, some may recall was exposed as John Newsome's drinking buddy by TV station KOAA. Mullaney's response to allegations that she, too, was drinking during working hours was that since she was on salary, she had no "working hours," so therefore couldn't possibly have been drinking on the job.

It was the inexperienced Mullaney who rushed to indict our son and who insisted on a premature plea agreement for Brad Orgill, the only person seen fighting with Anthony Madril.Both Newsome and Mullaney came into their positions with an excess of hubris that has not served the people of El Paso and Teller Counties. Nor has it served justice.

Congratulations are in order for Dan May. He'll have plenty of work to do in trying to restore integrity to the office of District Attorney and to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff Terry Maketa was a vocal supporter of Newsome, and Maketa has allowed his people to perform less than admirably. In our son's case, we saw his people bending the truth in sworn testimony, and mishandling of crucial evidence.

All of us can only hope that the new leadership will bring needed reforms and personnel changes.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Evidence, Guilt, and Innocence

We've discussed elsewhere the evidence problem that haunts Todd's conviction. Many have been astonished to learn how fast and loose our legal system permits the prosecution to play with vital evidence. A new web site, offers a concise description of the legal precedent that permits authorities to dispose of potentially exculpatory evidence with impunity. Take a look at the sad, but true story of Larry Youngblood and David. It's a 20-year-old US Supreme Court that sets the standard for evidence preservation. While you're at, take a moment to voice your opinion on the poll you'll find there.

Friday, August 01, 2008

An Inconvenient Rape

In the July 31, 2008, Gazette, John Newsome touts his “record as district attorney and the great things we’ve done.” Newsome goes on to talk about his new programs; among them are the “special victims unit, which handles prosecutions of sex offenders, more emphasis on economic crimes by using racketeering laws to bring down identity theft rings and attempting to stem the flow of methamphetamines from Mexico.”

Newsome points to “the support of local law enforcement, including the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association, El Paso County sheriff and the Teller County sheriff as one of his biggest strengths.”

One of our chief complaints about the District Attorney’s office is the inconvenient rape his office failed to prosecute (see the details here). When a 19 year old female alleged that Orgill sexually assaulted her (after Orgill had been given a four year deferred sentence and he was the prosecution’s star witness against Todd), she was charged with false reporting (after the trial and before Todd’s sentencing and only after the court ordered the prosecution to release this information that they failed to release before Todd’s trial). In fact, Newsome’s deputies Lindsey and Rikeman vouched for Orgill’s character in court. A policeman with the Colorado Springs Police Department assisted Orgill and his attorney with placing a pretext telephone call to this young person (Brad’s second alleged sexual assault victim). Just months before Orgill’s bloody fight with Anthony Madril, Orgill was approached by the Colorado Springs Police for purchasing child pornography online with his credit card; however, the investigation never proceeded beyond having the police come to his house to ask him questions, it just “went away”.

Having the “support of the Colorado Springs Protective Association” may indeed be helpful to Newsome, especially if it allows an economic crime of a friend to go through months of “investigation” without a recommendation to prosecute. In this case, the prosecutor’s office and police department might better be described as being in collusion. This relationship is also useful if the prosecutor himself along with his second-in- command are breaking the law and are not held accountable. The “support” of the local police and sheriff are only positive to the community if the integrity of all is intact. If, however, evidence is altered, victims are further victimized and criminals are protected from prosecution in order to protect those in power or because of relationships with those in power, there is a real problem with the system. Such a system might be described as developing tunnel vision/confirmation bias; at worst it is a system that is corrupt and views “justice” as something capriciously administered or denied at the whim of the district attorney’s office.