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Profile on Justice Zager

Iowa Supreme Court Justice Bruce Zager was born and raised in Waterloo, Iowa and is now sitting on the Iowa Supreme Court bench. He graduated from Drake Law School and is now married with three kids. In 1999, he was appointed to the District Court bench and was there for 11 years. In 2011, he was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court by Governor Branstad and his term goes until 2020. He is very proud of Iowa’s court history and shared some historic Civil Rights cases with us that took place in Iowa courts.

The first was a case from 1834.  Ralph was slave in Missouri, which was a slave state and his owner agreed he could move to IA and buy his freedom. He worked in lead mines in Dubuque and fell behind on payments so his owner came back to get him. In 1839, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled the owner couldn’t bring Ralph back to Missouri because Iowa was a free territory. A few years later, the US Supreme Court ruled other way in the  Dredd Scott case which shows that Iowa was ahead of the time.

The second case Justice Zager shared was from 1868, Clark v Board of Directors. A 12 yr old black girl was refused admission in a public school by the school board. The Iowa Supreme Court stated: “the law makes no distinction for the right of children to attend the common schools” (IA Constitution) and ruled she could attend the school. Similar to above, the US Supreme Court went other direction in Plessy v Ferguson (separate but equal). That decision stood until Brown v Board in 1954 (separate is not equal).

The third and final historic case he talked about was Coger v NW Union, in 1873. A black teacher wanted to take boat across river couldn’t buy a ticket with meals. Her meal ticket said “colored girl” so had someone else buy her a ticket and she showed up to dinner. She was asked to leave and refused until she was forcibly removed. The Iowa Supreme Court- ruled that Coger, the plaintiff, was entitiled to same rights and privileges as whites on the boat. They quoted the Iowa Constitution and the Declaration of Independence by saying: “all men are by nature free and equal”. This same type of case and treatment was not outlawed in US Supreme Court until 1964 with the Civil Rights Act.

When asked about the decision making process of the Supreme Court, he said everything that is appealed in district court goes to Supreme Court. They then decide what cases to take another look at by using a screening panel every month (where they look at 15-20 cases) to decide what cases to keep. If they don’t want it, the case goes to court of appeals. On average, they hear 110 cases each year (compared to 1000 for court of appeals). 7 members make up Iowa Supreme Court and each case is randomly assigned to a justice to work up. All of them read and prepare for every case and they conference after oral argument. If you’re not in majority but assigned the case, someone else will right it. They circulate a draft opinion to other members and then they vote. He noted that there are always multiple points flowing around the conference table when discussing a case and everyone gets a chance to speak. The most important thing, Zager said is to: “leave your ego at the door and have a thick skin”.

He noted that the most difficult cases they argue about are progression of juvenile sentencing. He also mentioned a 2004 HIV case where he dissented (did not agree with the majority). Zager’s least favorite thing is probably disciplining fellow attorneys. He noted: “most of the people who get disciplined really deserve it”. Some examples include: stealing $ from client, playing around with clients $, and ignoring the rules; common sense things that they should know better about.

When asked about expanded news media coverage, he said that Iowa is on the leading edge. Everything is open. There are rules but there is still full access and they try to keep up with modern technology. There is zero problems with transparency, in fact, the Supreme Court tries to make it as transparent as they can. He said: “what’s wrong with everybody seeing whats going on?”

One of the most important things I learned from Justice Zager is strength. He said: “you have to stand up for yourself and what you believe in” because “someone’s life in the balance and you want to get it right”. I liked how he noted that they are not bound by what the US Supreme Court says rather that: “we’re always accountable to the public”. He reiterated how he is most proud of how Iowa was ahead of its time in terms of Civil Rights and I appreciated when he quoted my favorite president when he said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Lincoln).

 

Separation of Church and State

 

I have been to an Ames city council meeting and they did not start with a prayer of any kind so I’m not sure this situation would even happen but if the Ames city council was approached by someone like atheist Justin Scott, I would hope they would handle it well.

I would advise the city council to hear out the challenger and truly listen to them. It’s like what Justin said: “the minority viewpoint is just as important as the majority”. I liked Justin’s solution of having a rotating prayer/opening from different religious denominations/atheists to make sure all groups are represented and heard. But even more than that, I really don’t see a place for religion at a city council meeting. Why is this even an issue? I agree with Justin when he talked about maintaining the separation of Church and State. There is no reason for a prayer of any kind at a city council meeting. Just start the meeting and accomplish what was set out to be accomplished.

I think that it’s easy to fall into this kind of trap like Justin noted: “although it’s common to think that we are a Christian nation, that this is a Christian town, it’s not”, meaning that there are other people with other beliefs that need to be heard. My Christian faith is something that is very important to me but I would never try to sway someone or force it upon someone and I see absolutely no need for a religious prayer of any kind at a city council meeting. I think that the point of all of this was well put by Justin: that “religious freedom for believers is just as important as it is for the right to not believe”.

 

Spotlight

 

Spotlight is a movie based on true story where the Boston Globe investigated Catholic Church priest abuse starting in 2002. This Hollywood version is very close to what happened in real life. Spotlight is a 4 person investigative team that keeps their work confidential. A column by Eileen MacNemara led to the original investigation. They didn’t find anything. Enter the new guy in charge. As an outsider, Baron doesn’t think they’ve done a thorough job investigating the case so he urges Spotlight to take a look. Sometimes when you’re inside a story, it’s hard to see the big picture.

The team started by talking to lawyers but they had to be more discreet than usual. They pulled clips from old files to help break the case. Baron wants to sue the Catholic Church but the only problem is that 53% of the Boston Globe subscriber base is Catholic. So Baron goes and meets face to face with Cardinal. There were 80 plaintiffs and allegations against Cardinal Law. Spotlight’s first interaction was with a lawyer who didn’t want to talk so they used the influence of the paper to get to some of the victims. Spotlight found SNAP, a  victim support group and talked to their leader, Salviano about past abuse from priest. He said:  “you just go along with it because he made you feel special, but he robbed me of my innocence and faith”. Silviano said he sent a box of stuff 5 years prior and the Globe didn’t do anything with it.

As the investigation continued, the team found another priest in old clips from own archives. The story comes from their own history. The individual stories are nothing compared to the whole. They discover that the Church settled the old cases and then they start to look for a pattern. They start by having a journalist follow lawyer around the street to try to talk to him. The lawyer gets interested when Spotlight is digging so the journalist starts by asking permission to take notes and promising not using name unless the victim agrees with it. Then, they interview victims to get their stories and one of the victims seemed surprised that the journalist really wants to hear the story while another victims lives spiraled down after that (drugs/alcohol/suicide). To find the pattern, Spotlight quietly looked through old priest directories because they figured that probably about 6% of all priests were in on this, their philosophy being :”if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one”.

The Globe editor wanted the focus to be on the institution (Church) rather than the individual to make a difference, he wanted to go after the system. The team got one of the priests to admit the abuse (Packwin) but before anything could become concrete, 9/11 happened and everything was put on hold. They went back to it when the timing was right and they got public records that proved Law knew about the priests. In the end, there were 600 stories published in the Boston Globe where 294 priests and brothers were accused and there were 1,000 survivors. Spotlight’s key to bringing this to light was eloquently stated: “the trick is, to keep asking”.

 

Spending Time in Blackhawk County Jail

 

Blackhawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson gave us an exclusive inside view of Blackhawk County Jail. Sheriff Thompson is in his third term as Blackhawk county sheriff. He got his undergraduate degree in communication at UNI.

There are around 240 inmates at the jail right now (out of 272 beds) who are all under direct supervision, meaning a deputy is locked with the inmates in groups of 50 for 24 hours a day. There are 3 deputy shifts of 8 hours. The average length of time that an inmate spends in Blackhawk county jail used to be around 90 days but is now closer to 4-5 months and any time someone is sentenced to something for more than a year, they go to prison. Sheriff Thompson mentioned that about a third of the inmate population was there on what he called a “forceable felony”. He has 92 deputies and 7 detention officers. The administrators and other staff members make up the 148 total staff members.

We visited the jail on a day where several bills were filed by the Iowa House of Representatives. The main bill that Sheriff Thompson was keeping an eye on was the “stand your ground”. He explained that in Iowa, you can shoot someone if they break into your house and you feel threatened (self defense). The new bill is looking to expand that. Sheriff Thompson’s concern is where then will they draw the line. A provision of the bill states that kids as young as 6 years old can handle a firearm if an adult is present. He also talked about how in 2011, the legislature took discretion away from sheriff’s in terms of providing training to carry a handgun. Now, sheriff’s can’t infringe on people carrying if they’ve had online training. Sheriff Thompson argued that there is no online training that can actually prepare someone to properly handle a firearm.

Thompson was wearing a body camera as part of what he called “The Ferguson effect” and he told us that there were around 130 cameras around the facility. He showed us what was on his belt and that included: handcuffs, gun, extra magazine, radio, and pepper spray. Sheriff Thompson does not carry a taser on his belt but others do. I thought it was really cool when he showed us his “point blank body armor”. I was not expecting it to feel the way that it did. He said that it would stop up to a .308 rifle which means that the armor is extremely strong to be able to withstand that type of firepower. Sheriff Thompson told us that during a heavy year, his department handles around 360 cases and something that I found very interesting and also very sad is that he said: “almost 80% of crimes that happen in Blackhawk county have roots in drugs”.

When asked about the media, Sheriff Thompson said that he is careful how he frames and releases information to the media but he also keeps them close. He felt that it was “very important to let them know they’re appreciated because I need them. Better relationships lead to more favorable media coverage”. He also stated that his transparency with the media buys him credibility so whenever something happens in his department, he takes the old “rip the band aid off” approach and alerts the media asap. He feels like it’s better to take the punches and then follow up the statements with decisive action. I really liked when he said: “there is a code of ethics that you have to follow and that is what we expect”. Sheriff Thompson’s character really came through in that statement and I feel good having a sheriff like that in charge.

Sheriff Thompson took us on a tour of the jail after talking to us and it was not at all what I expected. It was not nearly as loud as I thought it would be. I thought it was really interesting when he took us into the library and explained about all the different types of programs that the jail offers to keep the inmates busy and to try and help them. He talked about making sure the inmates leave with something, whatever that is. They really make an effort to make it as good as it can be (even though it’s prison, so it obviously sucks). I was also kind of struck with how easy going and friendly the entire staff seemed to be. You kind of forget with everything portrayed on TV that they’re people just like the rest of us. It was really nice to see Sheriff Thompson laughing with members of the staff.

My dad told me a story once about his childhood. My grandpa was a cop in Waterloo for like 25 years and one day when my dad was in middle school, my grandpa took him to the jail in Waterloo. He locked my dad into a cell and told him: “this is a cell, don’t end up here”. My dad told my brother and I the story when we were younger and this visit really just reminded me of that story and reinforced that idea. I did have a good time with Sheriff Thompson and I learned a lot. I am thankful that by being in this class, I’ve had the opportunities to do things many people don’t get to do.

 

Joan Becker’s Story

 

Joan Becker is a woman of astounding faith and strength. And she is also a mom, Mark Becker’s mom. Joan has been speaking for 6+ years about her story: being the mother of the young man who took the life of Parkersburg legendary coach Ed Thomas. It’s amazing to me that she has the strength to do so. One of the first things she shared with us was a conversation with her older son Brad. He had asked her how she would ever be able to completely heal if she kept opening up the wound. She said sharing her personal story gives her strength. She noted: “I so know that it is helping other people. I don’t want any other mother or father sitting in our shoes. We have nothing to lose by sharing our story”. She mentioned that hearing from families and individuals that have gotten help because of her story is what keeps her going.

Joan mentioned that Ed Thomas was one of the few people who knew what was going on with Mark and would often pull the Becker’s aside after Sunday School to ask how he was doing. When asked about that day, Joan said: “Mark believed that God was telling him to take the life of Ed Thomas. He believed in his whole mind and heart that he was doing this for the better”. Joan’s husband Dave was got a call from the neighbors who told him that there were cops in the Becker’s front lawn and that it looked like Mark was involved with Ed Thomas’ shooting. The Becker family went to the sheriff’s office for questioning and Joan stated: “God was there with us, no doubt about it”. She said that her youngest son, 17 year old Scott, was praying out loud for his parents. Joan was impressed by the support that her family received from law enforcement. The DCI agent and other people in law enforcement told the Becker family not to blame themselves.

The trial was difficult for everyone involved. Joan had a side of the story that wasn’t in the ESPY’s or in the press. She recognized that it there was really no way that a jury could say “not guilty” because the evidence was overwhelming. However, she did note that Iowa does not have a “guilty but insane” verdict. She said it was grueling to be in the courtroom and listen to testimony because they didn’t tell the whole truth. She also said that she wasn’t angry with the jury or any of the witnesses because everyone did their best. She said: “I don’t think I have to forgive the jury because I don’t blame them, they were just doing the best they knew how”.

Obviously this was a very high profile case and it was all over the media. One of the first things that the Becker family watched on TV was Aaron Thomas’ press conference where he asked people to pray for the Becker family. Joan noted that she and her family were treated with respect by the media and that no one demanded interviews. They gave interviews after the trial to show the rest of the story and she said that none of the interviewers had dry eyes by the time they were done.

When Joan was asked what caused Mark’s behavior to culminate she said she really didn’t have an answer. She did say that she never believed that he would take anybody’s life, in fact the only person he talked about killing was himself. She said that it’s easy to look back and see the shift in his behavior but at the time, everyone was so immersed day to day that they couldn’t take a step back and look at the big picture. She pointed to his first marijuana usage as the first sign. She asked Mark why he did it but never got an answer. She said that he should’ve gotten into counseling right then. She also said that the voices started to take more control and he enrolled and dropped out of college three times and moved 12 times and had 11 different jobs in a short amount of time. She confessed that Mark felt like he was a failure so he decided to self medicate and take heavy drugs but they didn’t fix the issue. Joan revealed that Mark confessed that he didn’t want to admit that he was hearing voices because he didn’t want to be labeled as crazy.

Joan and her family visit Mark in Coralville and they have a direct line to his team of doctors. Mark has been diagnosed (officially) and has been getting treatment, medication, and therapy and is doing fairly well in general population. Unfortunately for Mark and many other people with mental illnesses, it takes prison for them to get the help that they need. Joan worked extremely hard to get her son the help that he needed but was unsuccessful in doing so. She said: “We have tried so hard to get our son help and no one listened to us”. She noted that as a parent, when all she was trying to do was love and support her child, she became so weary because there came a point where she just didn’t know where to turn. About Mark, she noted: “We learned not to disagree with him, but we didn’t agree with him either. We just listened to him because we didn’t know what else to do”. She also noted that Mark feels safe in prison and that the outside world frightens him.

Joan was asked if Mark ever acknowledged what he had done or his mental illness and she said that it had been a long process. Early on, he kept fighting the idea that he did anything wrong until he read a book by a psychiatrist who had paranoid schizophrenia and then he finally admitted that he had an illness. She said: “Once he recognized that we have seen such strides in his progress”. Joan said that he is making the most out of his life now. He works full time in the prison and mentors other inmates. She is proud of him.

Forgiveness is a powerful thing and something that can be extremely difficult especially in a case like this. Joan stated however that it was easy as a mother to forgive Mark because she knew that he had no idea what he had done. She said: “as a parent, you don’t have to love what they did, but they’re still your kid so you love them”. She found it harder to forgive the people that she felt had let them down when they were trying to get Mark help. She said that Mark’s brothers have forgiven him and that the Thomas family will have to forgive him in their own time. She said that Mark still hasn’t forgiven himself and that he often apologizes and says: “why me, why Ed Thomas? I can honestly say I wasn’t myself when this happened”. Joan said that her family has healed in different ways and in different times but has always been glued together. More importantly, she said: “God kept us together”.

Joan’s goal with speaking is that she wants people with mental illness to have parity with treatment. She said we have got to get people to the right doctors where they can get a diagnosis, treatment plan, and the help that they need. She stated that “if one family could be prevented from going through this, it’s worth it. Yes this is a tragedy, but good can come out of it”. Joan Becker has amazing perspective, outstanding strength, and unshakable faith and it was inspiring to see.

 

Dean Eramo vs Rolling Stone

 

http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/page/local/eramo-vs-rolling-stone-complaint/1692/

suing Rolling Stone for 7.5 million in compensatory damages and 350,000 in punitive damages

“In fact, upon being told of Jackie’s allegations of sexual assault -which differed materially from the description Erdely and Rolling Stone published -Dean Eramo immediately offered to assist Jackie in holding her attackers accountable -by going to the police, by pursuing misconduct proceedings within the University, or by both. Dean Eramo ultimately persuaded Jackie to speak with the police, and she arranged and attended two different meetings between Jackie and officers from the University Police Department and the Charlottesville Police Department”. p. 2

 

claims were detrimental to her reputation

 

people attacked her (through letters)

 

trial held in Virginia

 

worked for UVA since 1997

 

“Dean Eramo has undergone extensive training for her work as an advocate for sexual assault victims” p. 10

 

“Many of Erdely’s stories have been criticized for their lack of factual accuracy” p. 12

 

she never called UVA “the rape school”

 

tried to get Jackie to report the assault

 

used the picture to make her look like the bad guy

 

story crumbled

 

jackie and the dean met with the cops in may 2014

 

“Erdely and Rolling Stone Publish A Rape On Campus With Actual Malice By Making A Calculated Decision Not To Pressure-Test Jackie’s Claims in Order To Publish A Biased, Preconceived Narrative Despite Serious Doubts About The Credibility for Their Sole Source” p.36

 

many of Jackie’s claims could’ve easily been disproven if she waived FERPA but Rolling Stone didn’t ask

 

acted with malice by relying on a source they doubted

 

6 counts of defamation

 

The State of Iowa vs Mark Becker

 

http://www.iowacourts.gov/About_the_Courts/Supreme_Court/Supreme_Court_Opinions/Recent_Opinions/20120720/10-0631.pdf

Filed July 20, 2012

“Mark Becker appeals his conviction for first-degree murder claiming the district court erred in refusing to give his proposed instruction defining the elements of the insanity defense and that the district court erred when it refused to instruct the jury of the consequences of a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. DECISION OF COURT OF APPEALS AND JUDGMENT OF DISTRICT COURT AFFIRMED”. -means that they upheld the guilty conviction of the district court

“On June 24, 2009, Mark Becker shot and killed Edward Thomas in a temporary high school weight room in Parkersburg, Iowa, in front of numerous high school students participating in summer workouts”. -good background on the case

“The jury rejected the insanity defense and found Becker guilty of first-degree murder. Following the guilty verdict, the district court sentenced Becker to life in prison without the possibility of parole and ordered him to pay restitution to the victim’s estate”. -good information on what happened in the district court case

was violent, withdrawn, spent time in psychiatric facilities following violent episodes

diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia on June 21 and shot Thomas 3 days later 6 times with a .22

“He reentered the weight room, approached Thomas, took out the gun, and shot Thomas six times in the head, chest and leg. He proceeded to kick and stomp on Thomas, yelling, “Fuck you, old man.” He then left the weight room screaming that he had killed Satan and telling people to go get his carcass. Thomas died from his injuries”.

“The State presented numerous witnesses who identified Becker as the shooter. The defense called numerous witnesses to testify to Becker’s history of mental problems and his behavior in the days leading up to the shooting. The defense then called two psychiatrists who offered expert testimony that at the time of the shootings Becker was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and that, as a result, Becker did not know and understand the nature or consequences of his actions and was incapable of distinguishing right from wrong in relation to those actions. In rebuttal, the State called two of its own psychiatrists. They agreed Becker suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, but they testified that he nevertheless understood the nature and consequences of his action and knew right from wrong in relation to the acts he committed”. -different psych witnesses saying different things, 2 said he didn’t understand the consequences of his actions and the other 2 said he did… who is right? or is there even a right answer?

why he appealed- “Becker appealed his conviction, claiming the district court improperly instructed the jury when it submitted the Iowa State Bar Association’s jury instructions defining the elements of the insanity defense instead of the instruction Becker requested. He also claimed the district court violated his due process rights under the Iowa Constitution when it refused to instruct the jury as to the consequences of a not- guilty-by-reason-of-insanity verdict. Finally, Becker claims the restitution order, including the expert witness fees paid to Becker’s expert witnesses, exceeded the maximum amount allowed by the statute”.

conclusion/ruling- “we conclude that Becker has not made the case for a due process violation under article I, section 9 of the Iowa Constitution under either the Medina categorical framework or the individual totality of the circumstances test”. “The instructions given by the district court, when read as a whole, fairly and accurately advised the jury of the legal standard it was to apply to Becker’s insanity defense. Becker’s appeal on this ground is without merit. Also, due process under article I, section 9 of the Iowa Constitution does not require the district court inform the jury of the consequences of a not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity verdict under the facts of this case. Becker’s conviction is affirmed”

judges votes- “All justices concur except Hecht, J., who dissents”.

 

Getting to Know Judge Staudt

 

David Staudt’s journey to becoming an Iowa District Court Judge started when he went to a private law firm after graduating law school. In 1997, he became a public defender (https://ballotpedia.org/David_Staudt). As a public defender, he worked on the highly publicized and very high profile Michelle Kehoe case as part of the defense team. He worked his way up to Chief Public defender and when asked about representing all different kinds of people as a public defender, he said “It’s just what we do” (class 1/24). Stuadt also noted that “most public defenders do it because they’re committed to helping people who are in trouble” and that most of the people he represented weren’t bad people, just did dumb things (class 1/24). He was then appointed district judge (Iowa has 8 districts) by Governor Chet Culver in September of 2010 (https://ballotpedia.org/David_Staudt).

As a district court judge, Staudt can hear anything that would be heard in the lower courts (associate district courts and magistrates) as well as money judgements greater than $10,000, divorces, civil suits, contract cases, workers compensation appeals, and felonies (class 1/24).

In the roughly six and a half years that he has served as a district court judge, Judge Staudt has seen many newsworthy cases come across his courtroom. About eleven months ago, Judge Staudt granted a new trial for a man from Waterloo who, in March 2015, was found guilty of murder. According to KCRG, Staudt granted the new trial because the jury had seen photos of the defendant that had gang affiliation (http://www.kcrg.com/content/news/Judge-Grants-New-Trial-for-Waterloo-Man-Convicted-of-Murder-370565161.html). The new trial jury found him not guilty (class 1/24).

In 2013, KCCI reported that Staudt sentenced a man to 95 years in prison with a mandatory 30 year sentence. The man was Daniel Morrissey, father of Lyric Cook-Morrissey who was abducted with her cousin in July 2012. The girls’ bodies were found the following December. Morrissey was convicted on drug charges (http://www.kcci.com/article/lyric-cook-morrissey-s-dad-going-to-prison-for-at-least-30-years/6883746).

Staudt had an intense case involving a Waterloo police officer in August, 2016. According to AP News, the officer made some inappropriate comments after a fatal shooting in 2013. The comments were recorded and Staudt found them admissible in trial as part of the defense strategy for the man who shot 18 year old Dae’Quan Campbell (https://apnews.com/8b93689be8694ebab7044a7e7f40ea70).

In 2014, Creston News Advertiser reported that Judge Staudt sentenced a  Dunkerton high schooler to five years in prison for bringing a loaded weapon to school (http://www.crestonnews.com/2014/04/30/teen-gets-prison-for-bringing-gun-to-school/a5iixxo/).

A highly emotional case for all involved was a case where a 14 year old shot and killed his 15 year old sister. Stuadt ordered Diyrun Coffer and two other 14 year olds who were with him at the time of the incident to “be placed in secure detention” (WKOW, May, 2015).

Being a district court judge involves making tough decisions like the decisions Judge Staudt made that were mentioned above. It is not an easy job because as he noted, there are “very few absolute rights in this world” but “every lawsuit is the same. There are 2 parties that can’t agree and someone has to decide” and as district judge in the great state of Iowa, the decisions fall on him.

References:

Class 1/24/17

https://ballotpedia.org/David_Staudt

KCRG: http://www.kcrg.com/content/news/Judge-Grants-New-Trial-for-Waterloo-Man-Convicted-of-Murder-370565161.html

KCCI: http://www.kcci.com/article/lyric-cook-morrissey-s-dad-going-to-prison-for-at-least-30-years/6883746

AP News: https://apnews.com/8b93689be8694ebab7044a7e7f40ea70

Creston News Advertiser: http://www.crestonnews.com/2014/04/30/teen-gets-prison-for-bringing-gun-to-school/a5iixxo/

WKOW: http://www.wkow.com/story/29096358/2015/05/Monday/teenager-charged-with-killing-his-sister-emotions-run-high-in-court

 

Michelle Kehoe Found Guilty

 

The trial of Michelle Kehoe came to a close on November 5th, 2009 when the jury found Kehoe guilty of murdering her son. The case of the State of Iowa vs. Michelle Kehoe was heard and tried in the Buchanan County District Court in November 2009. Michelle Kehoe was charged on three counts: murder in the first degree, attempt to commit murder, and child endangerment resulting in serious injury.

On October 28th, 2008, Michelle Kehoe murdered her two year old son Seth, attempted to kill her seven year old son, Sean, and attempted to kill herself. Kehoe pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

The week long trial had a jury composed of eight women and four men that took only two hours to reach a verdict. The judge read out the jury’s verdict on the first count: murder in the first degree. “We the jury find the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree” (video). The jury came back with a second verdict on attempt to commit murder: “We the jury find the defendant guilty of the attempt to commit murder”(video). And finally, the judge read the verdict on the third count: “We the jury find the defendant guilty of child endangerment resulting in serious injury” (video). After the guilty verdicts, Kehoe was sentenced to life in prison.

 

 

Source: Michelle Kehoe Guilty of Murdering Son:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lk5YsNF-1GY

 

Burke Ramsey Sues CBS For $750 Million

 

Burke Ramsey has filed a defamation lawsuit against CBS for $750,000,000. The lawsuit came after CBS and Critical Content LLC released the 20 year anniversary documentary of the Jon Benet Ramsey murder in September, 2016. Burke Ramsey, the brother of Jon Benet claims in his lawsuit that his reputation was severely damaged by the documentary (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016). Ramsey, who was 9 at the time of the murder, states that the documentary falsely points to him as the killer even though law enforcement and DNA testing have cleared him on multiple occasions (1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, and 2008) (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016). The defendants named in the case are: CBS, Critical Content LLC, Jim Clemente, Laura Richards, A. James Kolar, James R. Fitzgerald, Stanley B. Burke, Werner U. Spitz, and Henry C. Lee (also referred to as Pseudo-Experts) (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016).

Ramsey is suing the defendants in the state of Michigan on three counts which are: defamation, conspiracy to defame, and joint venture (CBS and Critical Content. His lawyers are asking for no less than $250,000,000 in compensatory damages and no less than $500,000,000 in punitive damages (designed to punish the defendants and prevent this from happening again) (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016). It is important to note that there have been prior accusations against Burke Ramsey that all resulted in settled lawsuits (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016).

The lawsuit states that there is no clear evidence against Burke that exists and the documentary was based on a book called Foreign Faction written by on of the defendants and that the experts knew from the beginning that the documentary would be based on the book. “From the outset of the production of the Documentary, the Pseudo-Experts knew that the Documentary would be scripted from Kolar’s self-published book and was never intended to be an independent reinvestigation of the murder”(Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016, p. 19). The lawsuit also claims that the Pseudo-Experts knew the whole time that the documentary would lead viewers to believe that Burke Ramsey killed his sister and that their reputations and titles would make the documentary seem legitimate to viewers regardless of the conclusions drawn. “From the outset, Defendants understood and agreed that the Documentary would be intentionally produced and structured to support the accusation that Burke killed JonBenét before Defendants ever commenced the claimed “complete reinvestigation.”” (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016, p. 18) and that they “all knowingly agreed to appear in the Documentary as actors and allow CBS and Critical Content to use their professional reputations and credentials to legitimize the false and defamatory accusation that Burke killed JonBenét” (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016, p. 19).

According to the lawsuit, Burke Ramsey approached CBS and the other defendants before suing them. “After the Documentary was broadcast, Burke promptly demanded that Defendants retract and correct the Documentary, including the false and defamatory conclusion, gist, and implication that Burke killed JonBenét. Burke further described and demanded retraction of various specific false and defamatory statements, as well as other statements the Documentary used to support the false and defamatory gist that Burke killed JonBenét” (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016, p. 28). Only after CBS failed to retract or correct the documentary did Burke file the lawsuit.

This is a pending lawsuit and there are no settlements or rulings at this time.

Sources: Ramsey v. CBS Corporation, Critical Content LLC, im Clemente, Laura Richards, A. James Kolar, James R. Fitzgerald, Stanley B. Burke, Werner U. Spitz, and Henry C. Lee, 2016 WL 7491505 (Mich.Cir.Ct.)

Note: I thought my headline and lead needed some tweaking but I felt like my first attempt provided pretty good context and direct quotes from the lawsuit

 

Burke Ramsey Defamation Case

 

In September 2016, CBS partnered with Critical Content LLC to release a 20 year anniversary, two-part, 4 hour documentary on the unsolved Jon Benet Ramsey murder case. Burke Ramsey, brother of the deceased Jon Benet has recently filed a lawsuit against CBS and Critical Content for defamation, claiming that his reputation was severely damaged by the documentary (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016). Ramsey states that the documentary falsely points to him as the killer even though law enforcement and DNA testing have cleared him on multiple occasions (1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, and 2008) (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016). The defendants named in the case are: CBS, Critical Content LLC, Jim Clemente, Laura Richards, A. James Kolar, James R. Fitzgerald, Stanley B. Burke, Werner U. Spitz, and Henry C. Lee (also referred to as Pseudo-Experts) (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016).

Ramsey is suing the defendants in the state of Michigan on three counts (defamation, conspiracy to defame, and joint venture (CBS and Critical Content) for no less than $250,000,000 in compensatory damages and no less than $500,000,000 in punitive damages (designed to punish the defendants and prevent this from happening again) (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016). It is important to note that there have been prior accusations against Burke Ramsey that all resulted in settled lawsuits (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016).

The lawsuit states that there is no clear evidence against Burke that exists and the documentary was based on a book called Foreign Faction written by on of the defendants and that the experts knew from the beginning that the documentary would be based on the book. “From the outset of the production of the Documentary, the Pseudo-Experts knew that the Documentary would be scripted from Kolar’s self-published book and was never intended to be an independent reinvestigation of the murder”(Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016, p. 19). The lawsuit also claims that the Pseudo-Experts knew the whole time that the documentary would lead viewers to believe that Burke Ramsey killed his sister and that their reputations and titles would make the documentary seem legitimate to viewers regardless of the conclusions drawn. “From the outset, Defendants understood and agreed that the Documentary would be intentionally produced and structured to support the accusation that Burke killed JonBenét before Defendants ever commenced the claimed “complete reinvestigation.”” ( Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016, p. 18) and that they “all knowingly agreed to appear in the Documentary as actors and allow CBS and Critical Content to use their professional reputations and credentials to legitimize the false and defamatory accusation that Burke killed JonBenét” (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016, p. 19).

According to the lawsuit, Burke Ramsey approached CBS and the other defendants before suing them. “After the Documentary was broadcast, Burke promptly demanded that Defendants retract and correct the Documentary, including the false and defamatory conclusion, gist, and implication that Burke killed JonBenét. Burke further described and demanded retraction of various specific false and defamatory statements, as well as other statements the Documentary used to support the false and defamatory gist that Burke killed JonBenét” (Ramsey v. CBS, Critical Content, et al, 2016, p. 28). CBS did not retract or correct the documentary so Burke filed the lawsuit.

This is a pending lawsuit and there are no settlements or rulings at this time.

Sources: Ramsey v. CBS Corporation, Critical Content LLC, im Clemente, Laura Richards, A. James Kolar, James R. Fitzgerald, Stanley B. Burke, Werner U. Spitz, and Henry C. Lee, 2016 WL 7491505 (Mich.Cir.Ct.)