Cases of Coerced Confessions: Barry Beach

_DSC4851I recently read about Barry Beach, a man from Montana, who was convicted of the 1979 murder of 17-year-old Kimberly Nees, an outstanding young woman who was about to embark on her first year of university, until she was found in the Poplar River, bludgeoned to death.

Barry was like many young adults in the 70′s, dabbling in drugs and looking for his place in the world. During the Kimberly Nees murder investigation Barry was interviewed by the police, but nothing came of it.

He ended up in Louisiana at about the time that two young women were discovered murdered in their homes. One of the police investigators heard a rumour that Barry had been questioned in a murder in Montana and decided to bring him in for questioning, but not before the police contacted the Montana authorities to get the details of the Montana murder.

Barry was interrogated for many hours, a young man away from home and feeling very afraid of the situation he was in. Towards the end of the interrogation the lead investigators brought in their “closer”, a police officer with a reputation for closing cases, usually through confessions.

Ultimately, Barry confessed to the murder of Kimberly Nees and was extradited back to Montana where he was tried, convicted and sentenced to 100 years in prison with no possibility of parole.

Ms. Nees had been beaten in her own vehicle, a crime scene that contained multiple unidentified prints, including a palm print in blood, finger prints in the car, and foot prints leading away from the vehicle to the Poplar River where her body was dumped.

No physical evidence and no DNA linked Barry to the crime, the only evidence was the confession of the frightened 18-year-old who had been threatened by Louisiana police that he would end up in dying in “old sparky”, Louisiana’s electric chair.

Criminologists have studied the phenomenon of false confessions, particularly those made by young people, and have been persuaded they are more common than once thought.

Barry protested his innocence and undertook multiple appeals, but the trial verdict stood, until “Centurion Ministries”, an innocence project organization, took up his case and secured his freedom in 2011. He was released from prison and became a well-functioning member of society, but his new life was short-lived. In 2013 the Montana Supreme Court overruled the judge who set him free and he returned to prison to serve out his sentence.

With the support of Montana’s governor and many other respected, high-profile individuals he applied to the Montana Pardon and Parole Board for clemency and his release, having served thirty years of his sentence. In June of 2014 the Board refused his application and he remains in prison.

Jim McCloskey, the director of Centurion Ministries is convinced, after 14 years of investigating Mr. Beach’s case, that he is the victim of a perverted miscarriage of justice.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Celebrities With Law Degrees

GEO CASUALLots of people have law degrees but never practice law, or they work as a lawyer for a short time and then start a new career. There are dozens of career politicians and writers who left the law to pursue other ambitions.

There are also well-known celebrities who obtained law degrees before they became actors, singers, TV personalities, or authors. Some of the more surprising include:

1. JERRY SPRINGER

Yes, the guy with the trashiest talk show on television graduated from Northwestern School of Law in Chicago, before he began his political career (Mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio) or became the number one news anchor in Cincinnati, winning ten Emmys. He has hosted a variety of other shows, including “America’s Got Talent” and is the subject of “Jerry Springer The Opera” which opened to good reviews in the United Kingdom, won Best Musical in London’s Westside and has been performed in the U.S., Canada and Australia. There is reportedly 8,000
obscenities in the show and it is rife with profanity.

2. JOHN CLEESE

Cleese, one of the funniest comedic actors, best known as part of the Monty Python troupe and the harried innkeeper at Fawlty Towers, obtained his law degree from Cambridge. His writing, directing, and acting credits are prolific. Fawlty Towers was named by the British Film Institute as one of Britain’s Top 100 British Television Shows.

He remains active with TV and film projects and in 2010 went on the road with his “Alimony Tour”, ostensibly to earn extra money after his expensive divorce from his second wife, who was a psychotherapist. In 2013 Cleese toured Canada with his “John Cleese: Last Time to See Me Alive” show, which played to sold-out audiences and critical acclaim.

3. ANDREA BOCELLI

Everyone’s favorite opera singer earned his law degree at the University of Pisa and practiced law for one year before he launched his extraordinary career in opera. Born with limited eyesight he lost his sight completely at the age of twelve. Bocelli has sold millions of records and performed all over the world. His early mentor was Luciano Pavarotti and Bocelli sang at Pavorotti’s second wedding and at his funeral.

In 2010 he received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an honour that pales in comparison to the accolades he has received from numerous countries, but particularly his home country of Italy. He made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 2011 performing a recital of operatic arias. While popular with the public, opera critics have been less than kind to Mr. Bocelli, slamming his poor technique and shaky breath support.

4. JULIO INGLESIAS

Spanish singer Julio Inglesias, father of pop star Enrique Inglesias, attended law school in Madrid in the 1960′s. He has had a superlative career, producing 77 albums, recorded in 14 languages, selling over 300 million records.

His awards, honours and prizes are too many to list. According to Sony Entertainment, he is one of the top 30 recording artists in the world. In 2012 he performed a concert in Equatorial Guinea where tickets were sold for $1,000 each.

5. HOWARD COSELL

Legendary sports broadcaster Howard Cosell obtained his law degree from the New York University of Law and practiced as an employment/union lawyer in Manhattan. His clients included high-profile athletes including Willie Mays. Cosell was involved in Little League baseball and agreed to do a weekly radio show featuring these young athletes. He did the show for free for three years and then obtained a sponsor to entice ABC Radio to give him a sports talk show, which was the launching pad for his career as a sports journalist.

His relationship with Mohammed Ali brought him greater fame and fortune and he became a fixture on Monday Night Football.

Cosell was the first to admit he was arrogant and obnoxious and took pride in his nickname “the mouth that roared.” He died in 1995.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Divorce Revenge

_DSC4179 - Version 2A Supreme Court judge in New York recently referred to a divorce litigant as “despicable”. What could possibly garner this strong reaction from an otherwise cool, calm and collected judicial official?

Just before the litigant’s wife filed for divorce, her husband decided to come clean with the tax authorities and filed amended tax returns for 2004 to 2007, disclosing an additional $1.6 million of income from his contracting business.

As a result, he owed the government $1.2 million in taxes, a sum that was coincidentally equivalent to the value of the family home. He also made it very easy for the tax authorities by attaching to his amended tax returns details of the assets he owned, the bank who held the mortgage on the family home, and other pertinent collection information.

The wife was shocked and horrified because the law in New York, as in many other jurisdictions, including British Columbia, provides that a debt incurred during the marriage for the family will be a family debt that is sharable between spouses. Unpaid income tax owed on family income is considered family debt.

The couple had been married for almost fifteen years and had four children.

The New York Supreme Court considered the husband’s evidence of the large family debt and determined that the husband had made the disclosure, not because he was being audited or investigated, but because he wished to cause as much pain as possible to his wife.

The trial judge found that his conduct was malicious and revenge was his motive.

Unfortunately, for this husband, his plan backfired, as the court held that given the egregious circumstances, he would be solely responsible for the debt.

Confucius once said, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

The Wife, The Mistress and Two Wills

BarristerYears ago I attended the funeral of a dear friend who died much too early. His memorial service was both solemn and awkward. Seated in the front row of the church were his estranged wife, his current common law wife and his girlfriend. As you can imagine, the complexity of his personal life caused difficulties in settling his estate.

In a similarly difficult case, British real estate tycoon Chris John 47, died suddenly without a will, until two wills surfaced.

One of the immediate problems was that Mr. John believed he and his wife, Helen John, were divorced, but upon his early demise it was discovered that the final divorce order had never been pronounced, albeit they had separated seven years earlier.

As a legal spouse, with entitlement to his $6 million estate, the battle lines were drawn between Mr. John’s wife and his mistress, Gillian Clemo, against a backdrop of not one, but two wills.

John’s mistress miraculously located a will three days after hearing that her boyfriend was still married to his wife. Witnesses testified that Ms. Clemo collapsed on the floor when she learned that her boyfriend and his wife were not divorced.

Mrs. John also discovered a will, but when questioned by police readily admitted she had forged the will to ensure their 15-year-old daughter received her share of the estate. She also advised the investigators she was certain that Gillian Clemo had forged the will produced by her, as the signature on the will was not her husband’s.

Ms. Clemo’s “will” named her as the primary beneficiary of her lover’s estate and permitted her to reside in his luxury home in Cardiff, Wales until Mr. John’s daughter reached the age of 27 and then it would belong to her. Ms. Clemo swore an affidavit that stated the will was genuine and she had witnessed Mr. John’s signature on the will.

Unfortunately for Ms. Clemo, the will was riddled with errors including the misspelling of Mr. John’s daughter’s name.

A forensic document examiner testified at Ms. Clemo’s trial that the signature was not Mr. John’s and a Welsh jury convicted Ms. Clemo on charges of forgery. She awaits her sentencing but is not expected to receive jail time.

With no will, the estate will be divided between Mrs. John and her daughter.

As American writer Ambrose Bierce observed: “Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate.”

STORY UPDATE

In 2011 Gillian Clemo was convicted of forgery and fined approximately $10,000. Ms. Clemo appealed the decision to no avail. However, in September of 2013 the Criminal Cases Review Commission, a body set up to review cases where there may be a miscarriage of justice, agreed to assess her case on the basis of new evidence. That evidence included a fresh handwriting analysis and the discovery of a copy of a will identical to the one allegedly forged by Ms. Clemo. With this new development, Mr. John’s estate is again in limbo.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Passionate Entreaties Against Trinity Law School Persuaded BC Lawyers

10950859361151CDPLet me recap the recent special meeting of the members of the Law Society of British Columbia, a meeting prompted by a motion from Victoria lawyer Michael Mulligan who sought to overturn the 20-7 decision of the governors (benchers) of the Law Society, who had approved the admission of future Trinity Law School students as articling students in B.C.

When the meeting began at 12:30 pm on June 10 Law Society President Jan Lindsay announced that just over 1,200 lawyers were present and a quorum was established. Family law lawyer barbara findlay (lower case is how she spells her name) moved the motion and made a passionate speech urging members to vote in favour of the motion.

Her speech was nothing short of brilliant as she referenced her struggles as a lesbian woman grappling with earlier laws that denied gays, lesbians and transgendered persons basic human rights. She did not mince words, she argued that during the time, not that many years ago, when homosexuality was labeled a mental illness, she had spent time in a mental institution, all because she was a lesbian.

Ms. findlay has been a friend and colleague of mine for many years. Recently when Canada passed laws permitting non-resident same-sex spouses to come to Canada to be divorced, if the American state they lived in would not divorce them and if they had married in Canada, she and I collaborated on several of the first cases to be heard in Canada. She had clients seeking this relief, as I did, and we compared professional notes in our efforts to serve our respective clients.

I don’t know if barbara knows I am a practicing Christian, but I know she knows that I would never skirt my duty to my clients or to the rule of law because of my religious beliefs. After all, the Bible tells us to “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s”, the ultimate statement on the intersection of Christianity and secular authority. When Jesus spoke these words the lawyers and Pharisees “marveled” at his wisdom.

Other lawyers speaking in favour of the motion also focused on the historical travesties visited upon gays and lesbians, one even referenced the Holocaust. A criminal lawyer told a tale of a gay client who stabbed a woman 99 times and linked it to his Pentecostal upbringing.

A bencher who had voted against Trinity published an article before the June 10 debate comparing the segregation of African-Americans in America’s southern states to his opinion of the inevitable result of Trinity’s community covenant which disallows sexual relations between unmarried spouses or married same-sex spouses.

Lawyers arguing against the motion, seeking to endorse the bencher’s earlier decision, could not match the often inflammatory rhetoric of their impassioned colleagues.

These lawyers argued the law. They reminded the members that B.C’s Human Rights Code specifically exempts religious groups. They confirmed that Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply to a private educational institution, its purview of protection is against fundamentally unfair governmental action.

They relied on the Supreme Court of Canada’s earlier decision in Trinity Western University v. B.C. College of Teachers where the Teacher’s College tried to block Trinity-educated teachers from becoming members and teachers in B.C. and failed.

They implored their colleagues to recognize the myriad of legal opinions from some of Canada’s brightest legal minds, and the opinion of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, yes, even that bastion of liberal thinking, all of whom supported Trinity Western’s position.

There is an expression that is common amongst lawyers: “if the facts are against you, argue the law; if the law is against you, argue the facts”.

It seems that many of B.C.’s lawyers embraced the well-spun facts, and ignored the law.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Guest Post: The Era of the “Green Rush”: Is Legalized Marijuana a Fiscal Bonanza?

As of January of 2014 there are still only two states of twenty American states that have legalized medical marijuana that also permit recreational use as well; Colorado and Washington. These two states, in many ways, will set the stage for other states that are hesitant to embrace legalized recreational marijuana.

Early reports from Colorado indicate that state is generating a successful tax revenue stream since the so-called “green rush”, however, not everyone is sold on the idea of marijuana being widely available to adults, and more available to teenagers.

The marijuana “green rush” is about the thousands of inventors, investors and John and Jane Doe Public buying into the marijuana industry. In states where marijuana is not regulated the revenue that is generated is through the underground marijuana market which provides no fiscal benefit to government coffers. With a fully regulated system, states could see millions of dollars in new revenue, not to mention increased sales from consumers purchasing new inventions and devices created to make the smoking experience more pleasurable. [1]

This boost in the Colorado economy can also help create jobs and new sources of revenue, a significant motive for legislators in other states to consider. In 2012, the Colorado Center on Law & Policy made predictions on the possible financial impact that recreational marijuana could make saying, “the passage of Amendment 64 could be a boom for the state economy. Marijuana legalization would produce hundreds of new jobs, raise millions for the construction of Colorado public schools and raise around $60 million annually in combined savings and revenue for Colorado’s budget.” [1]

Predictions on the potential revenue to be earned in Colorado is on target as sales began in January of 2014. During the first week of retail sales, marijuana dispensaries earned and exceeded the $5 million mark. [2] The state has projected annual sales to reach around $600 million, and estimates $70 million in tax revenue.[2]

The legalization of recreational marijuana is still a hot topic in which supporters and opponents have battled back and forth in regards to the pros and con, especially the message it sends to adolescents and young teens. Critics of Amendment 64 are fearful of the potential greater access that legalized marijuana could have on teens. (Lyman, 2014) [3]

For years, lawmakers have claimed marijuana is not only a harmful drug but one that can lead to a harder drug use over time. There have been serious flaws in both these theories as no study has concluded that marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol. In fact, studies have found the opposite, concluding that marijuana is safer than alcohol and tobacco and has statistically less health endangering consequences. [1]

Many parents are also on board with marijuana regulation and agree it would be better if their teens were getting the drug from a safer source such as a dispensary, if they choose to use marijuana in the first place. Regulatemarijuana.org is a website dedicated to campaigns that support marijuana regulation and is supported by parents, and even former police officers in Colorado.

Dr. Erika Joye, a nationally certified school psychologist working with the campaigns quotes, “Marijuana prohibition is the worst possible policy when it comes to keeping marijuana out of the hands of teens. If we do not regulate marijuana across the board, we are guaranteeing that sales will be entirely uncontrolled and that those selling it will not ask for ID. We are also forcing consumers into an underground market where they are likely to be exposed to other, more harmful products.” [4]

It is clear that Colorado and Washington are setting the stage for the rest of the country, with the New York Times predicting that Oregon and Alaska will be next.

Sources:
[1]Ferner, M. (2012, August 28). Why marijuana should be legalized: ‘regulate marijuana like alcohol’ campaign discusses why pot prohibition has been a failure. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/28/why-marijuana-should-be-legalized_n_1833751.html
[2]Ferner, M. (2014, January 8). Colorado recreational marijuana sales exceed $5 million in first week. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/08/marijuana-sales-colorado_n_4552371.html

[3]Lyman , R. (2014, Feb 26). Pivotal point is seen as more states consider legalizing marijuana . New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/27/us/momentum-is-seen-as-more-states-consider-legalizing-marijuana.html?_r=0

[4]Unknown. Moms and dads for marijuana regulation post yes on 64 billboard . (2012, June 28). Retrieved from http://www.regulatemarijuana.org/news/moms-and-dads-marijuana-regulation-post-yes-64-billboard

This article is a guest post by BRENDA ABBOTT, Executive Assistant at Saint Jude Retreats, an alternative to traditional substance use treatment. Saint Jude Retreats provides a program for people with substance use problems that concentrates on self-directed positive and permanent change. Saint Jude’s offers the opportunity for individuals to self-evaluate and explore avenues for life enhancement. Brenda enjoys doing research and writing articles, spending time with her family, and is currently beginning to write her first book.

Parental Alienation Leads Court to Call Father a “Wallet”

Originally posted on Children First Blog:

Lawdiva’s Blog   –   Canadian Lawyer  Georgialee Lang – Her recent story on Parental Alienation

There are many divorced fathers in Canada who believe they are nothing more than a “wallet” in their children’s eyes. It is rare however, for a judge to confirm that status in Reasons for Judgment, but that is exactly what Mr. Justice Gray did in his recent decision in Veneman v. Veneman 2012 ONSC 6324.

Mr. and Mrs. Veneman separated in 2004 after 11 years of marriage. Mr. Veneman left the family home but maintained the financial status quo and enjoyed a good relationship with the children, ages 8 and 11.

The apparent bliss of separation disappeared, however, when Mr. Veneman commenced a personal relationship with a woman he met on the internet. His ex-wife’s reaction was venomous as revealed in vulgar emails from her to Mr. Veneman where she called his girlfriend an…

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