Judge Releases Wrongfully Convicted Man (And Gives Him a Pumpkin Pie)

GEO#1While British Columbia’s Ivan Henry fights to receive compensation for his 29-year wrongful imprisonment, this week a Texas judge released Steven Mark Chaney, a man who served 28-years for the murders of John and Sally Sweek, on the basis of now-discredited “bite-mark” evidence and the almost commonplace charge of prosecutorial misconduct. The latter allegations have yet to face scrutiny in a court room.

In 1987 Dentist Jim Hales was one of two dentists that testified at Chaney’s trial that there was a “1 to a million” chance that someone other than Chaney made the bite marks found on the male victim’s body.

The jury, like other juries before and after this trial, relied on the expert evidence to convict Chaney. It is not uncommon that medical testimony from seemingly qualified doctors is considered to be scientifically infallible because of the elevated positions physicians hold in society. This, despite alibi testimony from nine of Chaney’s friends who said they saw him the day of the slayings and he couldn’t have killed the Sweeks.

Chaney’s attorney and the New York-based Innocence Project asked Judge Dominique Collins to overturn their client’s conviction after prosecutors admitted that bite-mark analysis was unreliable and flawed. Chaney received a pumpkin pie from the judge who wanted him to enjoy the taste after eating bland prison food for so long.

Steven Chaney is among a group of alleged murderers and rapists whose convictions were secured by bite-mark evidence. Since 2000 at least 24 men in the United States have been exonerated of heinous crimes after convictions based on this junk science.

The field of forensic odontology captured public and media attention during the televised trial of serial murderer Ted Bundy in Florida in 1979 when dental experts testified that Bundy’s crooked teeth matched a bite in one young victim’s flesh.

In 2009 the United States Department of Justice released a report titled “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward”. The authors criticized the use of bite-mark evidence. Since then the FBI will not rely on it and the American Dental Association will not recognize it as bonafide science.

Nonetheless, as recently as 2013 a judge in New York accepted it as evidence in the trial of Clarence Dean, a registered sex offender accused of killing a woman near Time Square in 2007.

Meanwhile Chris Fabricant, director of litigation with the New York Innocence Project says “Bite mark evidence is the poster child of unreliable forensic science.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Personal Injury Lawyer Jailed for 20 Years For Judicial Bribery and Fraud

BarristerIn an audacious criminal conspiracy Texas personal injury lawyer Marc Garrett Rosenthal was sentenced to 20 years in prison for paying Austin, Texas Judge Abel Limas to hand down court rulings favourable to his clients. He also “bought” witnesses, coaching them in their testimony; fabricated evidence; and manipulated the court system to ensure his cases were heard by his judicial co-conspirator.  This week his appeal of conviction was dismissed. Judge Limas, who was the prosecution’s star witness, had earlier been sentenced to a six-year jail term.

The Appeal Court’s Reasons set out Rosenthal’s misdeeds, several of which involved lawsuits brought by Rosenthal against Union Pacific Railway. In one instance, he acted for the estate of a man who was killed when a train struck his vehicle at a railway crossing.

Rosenthal and his legal assistant Gilbert Benavides persuaded Benavides’ cousin to make a false statement in an effort to force Union Pacific to settle the case. The cousin falsely swore that he was present at the accident scene and witnessed the train hitting the stopped vehicle without sounding its horn or warning of its approach. Attorney Rosenthal used the false testimony to induce the train corporation to pay his client a sum in excess of $1 million dollars. He also paid a kickback of $5,000 to his assistant’s cousin and $4,000 to another of Benavides’ relatives.

In another Union Pacific court action, Rosenthal represented a woman who was severely injured when she fell from the train while attempting to board illegally. The evidence revealed that Rosenthal directed his assistant to bribe the deputy sheriff present at the accident scene to testify that the train’s engineer invited the woman to board the train. The sheriff was also told to say that he overheard the train engineer say that the company “did not care if its train ran over wetbacks.”

In his effort to induce a settlement Rosenthal also advised Union Pacific that in the absence of a settlement he would erect billboards displaying Union Pacific’s alleged comments about illegal Mexican immigrants. Not surprisingly, Union Pacific settled for $575,000. The deputy sheriff was paid $4,000.

Rosenthal expanded his fraudulent scheme when he hooked up with former state legislator, Jim Solis, who began working as associate counsel in Rosenthal’s office. Solis was instructed by Rosenthal to connect with a court clerk to circumvent the regular assignment of judges to cases and obtain Judge Limas for two of Rosenthal’s pending cases. At the time Judge Limas was running for re-election. He received thousands of dollars in donations from Rosenthal and other partners in the firm.

Wiretap evidence at Rosenthal’s trial provided convincing evidence of conspiratorial ex parte conversations between the judge, Rosenthal, and Solis, and revealed payments to Judge Abel for his cooperation. He received a total of $235,000 in bribes during his eight years on the bench.

Rosenthal’s defence team suggested that Jim Solis was a rogue employee who acted without firm approval, a submission that received short shrift. Solis was sentenced to four years in prison.

Rosenthal was also placed on probation at the conclusion of his prison sentence and ordered to pay $13 million dollars in restitution.

Sadly, in the eyes of the public the greed of these men undermines all the good work that lawyers and public officials do in their communities across North America.

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” 1 Timothy 6:10

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Mediator Attacked by Former Client

B9316548187Z-1.1_20150314202542_000_GFTA6A1QO.1-0Child custody cases are notoriously difficult for clients and lawyers alike. Emotions run high and regrettably, our adversarial justice system only serves to escalate the conflict and aggravate the parties, on account of the psychological roller coaster of litigation and the drain on their bank accounts.

That’s why mediation has become so popular, particularly in child custody matters, where highly trained negotiation specialists work with parents and others to facilitate consensus and agreement for the benefit of themselves and their children.

While attorneys who deal with custody matters are sensitive to emotional eruptions and aware of the high stakes involved in custody litigation, mediators are usually sheltered from the anger of parents, who may become disenchanted with the mediation process or the results of mediation. “Settlor’s remorse” is the term used for a client who enters into a final agreement but later believes he or she gave up too much or didn’t get enough.

Litigation lawyers become skilled at determining whether their client is capable of settling or whether a client falls into the category of those who need a judge to make a decision.

Recently a lawyer/mediator in Springvale, Maine became a crime victim at the hands of a mediation client who was unhappy with his mediation. The client, Christopher Hall, age 48,  made an appointment with the mediator via text message, identifying himself as “Sue”. Arrangements were made for the attorney to attend at “Sue’s home” to discuss her services.

The mediator pulled up to “Sue’s” home and noticed an elderly man with a cane standing on the sidewalk near her car. As she alighted from her vehicle the old man suddenly rushed her and attacked her with a cane that was equipped as a stun gun, inserting the cane between the lawyer’s legs, resulting in a sudden shock to her inner thigh.

What the old man didn’t expect is that his former mediator would fight back, knocking off his long wig.

“Sue” aka Christopher Hall fled the scene jumping into a van driven by an accomplice. Acting on a tip the police identified Mr. Hall as the perpetrator and arrested him later that evening.

Because Mr. Hall’s trap failed, the planned assault of the mediator was aborted.  A police spokesperson said they were  unsure of Mr. Hall’s  actual  intentions. Did he plan to kidnap the mediator or worse, murder her?

He was charged with aggravated assault and held on bail of $250,000. His criminal record revealed previous convictions for domestic assault and terrorizing.

A frightening experience that could have ended badly, but for the woman’s decision to fight back. Of course, the notion of meeting a potential client at his or her home is wrought with danger. House calls should be reserved for regular clients who are well-known and female lawyers and mediators would be wise to refrain from personal visits to male clients.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Bill Cosby Loses Preliminary Legal Skirmish as Tattered Reputation Continues to Slide

GEO CASUALWhen you think of Bill Cosby today do you think of a family friendly comedian or a serial sexual abuser?  With his reputation tarnished it is his legal battles and the stripping of  his accolades and prestigious appointments by institutions that once honoured him that consumes media attention.

From the startling front cover of  New York magazine where photos of his 35 victims were pictured, to the removal of his honourary degrees from Marquette University and Fordham University, his tattered reputation is in free-fall. He was forced to resign from the Board of Trustees of Temple University and his ties to the University of Massachusetts, where he earned a Master’s and Doctoral degree, have been cut-off.

The United States Navy stripped him of his honourary designation as Chief Petty Officer and there has been significant pressure to remove his Star on the  Hollywood Walk of Stars, and force him to relinquish his Presidential Medal of Honour. His bronze bust at Disney World Orlando is no longer on display.

This week his lawyer’s application in Los Angeles Superior Court to dismiss alleged victim Judy Huth’s case on the basis of a technicality was denied by Judge Craig Karlan who determined that mistakes made by Ms. Huth’s previous counsel were not so serious that her claim should be thrown out.

Her former lawyer, Marc Strecker, admitted that he overlooked a section of the legal code that barred the naming of an alleged sexual offender in claims brought based on historical sexual abuse.

Mr. Cosby’s lawyer, Martin Stringer, argued that by identifying his client in the claim, he could not receive a fair trial and that the identification caused a tsunami of other complainants to come forward. Singer also attempted to persuade Judge Karlan that certain actions of Mr. Strecker were cause for dismissal of the claim, including allegations that Mr. Strecker attempted to extort $250,000 from Mr,. Cosby before the claim was filed, and attempted to sell Ms. Huth’s story to the National Enquirer ten years ago.

Mr. Cosby is scheduled to be deposed, an event that will likely see media outlets scrambling  for “leaks” and tips on his admissions during his under oath questioning.

Why Bill Cosby would put himself through the indignity of these civil cases is astounding considering his financial ability to make it all go away. I assume his many victims want their day in court, to be vindicated from Cosby’s  bold-faced denials, despite the corroboration of a phalanx of additional victims.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Mother Jailed 8 Years for Child Abduction Now Released

B9316548187Z-1.1_20150314202542_000_GFTA6A1QO.1-0One of the most litigious child abduction cases may have finally come to a conclusion.

Victoria Innes was five-years-old when her mother, Marie Carrascosa kidnapped her, taking her from the United States to Spain, despite a court order that prohibited each of her battling parents from removing her from the United States without the consent of the other parent.

To buttress this order, and as a precaution, the Court also said that Victoria’s passport must be held by her mother’s lawyer and not released.

A series of unexpected events unfolded when Ms. Carrascosa changed lawyers. Her new lawyer, Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, was unaware of the court order regarding Victoria’s passport. She released the passport to her client whereupon Ms. Carrascosa fled with Victoria to Spain, where her parents lived and where she was qualified as a lawyer.

Distraught father, Peter Innes, took immediate legal action to have Victoria returned to the State of New Jersey, obtaining an American court order for custody, however, the Spanish courts ignored the order.

Later Ms. Carrascosa returned to New Jersey without Victoria to continue the legal battle, apparently confident that the Spanish courts had jurisdiction and taking comfort in an order of the Spanish court that  barred Victoria from leaving Spain until she was 18-years-old.

But the New Jersey courts didn’t see it that way. Ms. Carrascosa was tried and sentenced in New Jersey to fourteen years in prison for contempt of court and interfering with child custody.

In the meantime, Mr. Innes launched a lawsuit against attorney Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich who was ordered to pay compensation of $950,000 to him for her negligence in releasing the passport to Ms. Carrascosa.

Typically a term of imprisonment tends to  eventually persuade an individual to comply with the law, but not in Ms. Carrascosa’s case. In her zeal to ensure her ex-husband would have no contact with Victoria she remained in prison year after year, depriving her daughter, not only of a father, but a mother as well. Victoria was in the care of her maternal grandmother in Spain.

Ms. Carrascosa’s continued defiance of the court orders and her lengthy incarceration became a legal problem for the State court who expected compliance sooner rather than later. At a hearing in 2007 appellate Judge Donald G. Collester said “She cannot be held forever. At some point in time, she will be out of jail. What are you going to do then?”

In 2014 Ms. Carrascosa received parole for the child abduction conviction but was immediately transferred to local  Bergen County jail for refusing to return Victoria to New Jersey.

It was the entreaties of her daughter to court and correctional authorities and the consent of her former husband, Mr. Innes that resulted in her final release in 2015.

Mr. Innes said:

“I know Victoria wants her mother back, and for that reason only, I support her release. I am confident that once our daughter gets to know her mother, she’ll begin to see the reality of this sad situation. It’s been 10 long years since my daughter was taken, and there’s only one thing I am sure of — no one wins in cases like this.”

No person should suffer the torment of child abduction and Peter Innes’ consent to his ex-wife’s release is proof that he understands that it should be all about what is in his daughter’s best interests, a concept that has eluded the self-centred Ms. Carrascosa.

Mr. Innes maintains a website “victoriainnes.com” and has not given up hope that one day he and his daughter will be reconciled.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Quebec’s Former Lieutenant-Governor Sentenced to 18-Month Jail Term

BarristerPerhaps one of the most prestigious appointments in Canada is that of a provincial Lieutenant-Governor, appointments made by the Governor-General of Canada in consultation with Canada’s Prime Minister and the Premier of a particular province.

The Lieutenant-Governor performs various ceremonial duties on behalf of Queen Elizabeth, while elected politicians and those appointed carry out the daily operations of government. It is a non-partisan position although politicians have been appointed and Canada prides itself on the appointment of women and minorities.

Lise Thibault was Quebec’s 27th Lieutenant-Governor appointed in 1997 by Prime Minister Chretien. She attended teacher’s college and taught adult education for several years before she worked as a host and researcher for the CBC. Her appointment was widely heralded as she was the first woman and the first disabled person to be appointed to the post in Quebec. As a result of a tobogganing accident as a teenager she was confined to a wheelchair.

Serving for over ten years, her fall from grace occurred in 2007 when federal and provincial auditors determined she had spent $700,000 in unjustified expenses including:

-$45,000 for “gifts” without the names of recipients.
-$24,000 to transport her official van to the United States while she was on vacation, rather than renting a car there.
-$12,000 to the provincial air service for a one-day fishing trip in the Gaspe region.
-$44,000 in “tips” paid by her bodyguards during hotel stays and sporting activities.

Upon her appointment she promised to bring “values” to the position, but instead defrauded two levels of government by billing them for her golf lessons, fishing rods, roof repairs at her home, and even the legal fees for her divorce lawyer.

Her defence lawyer argued she enjoyed “sovereign immunity” against criminal charges as an agent of the Queen, an arrogant position considering she was a civil servant. However, the Court rejected her argument and Judge Carol St.-Cyr described her behaviour as “highly reprehensible” and part of a “culture of deceit”.

Ms. Thibault was also ordered to reimburse the government the sum of $300,000.

Tonight she sits in a Quebec prison, despite her lawyer’s plea that at age 76 her punishment is overly severe. She is expected to be released next week pending her appeal.

Having received three honorary doctorates during her tenure as Lieutenant-Governor, it is galling that she is nothing more than a greedy crook, who managed to obtain and abuse her coveted position, forgetting that her job was to serve the citizens of Quebec.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Grandparents Jailed for Assisting in Children’s Abduction

_DSC4179 - Version 2Poor grandma and grandpa…thrown in jail for their misguided efforts to assist their daughter to flee England with her two children after the Court ordered a change in custody to their father.

The children’s mother had custody of her son, age 7 and daughter, age 2 until a judge ordered the children to be transferred to their father’s custody, leaving mom with one hour a month of supervised access. The mother’s “issues”, what ever they be, were plainly reflected in the draconian limitation placed on her time with the children.

And then a plan was hatched: Mother’s parents drove her and the children to a secret rendezvous spot under cover of night where mother, children, and six suitcases were loaded into a chauffeur driven Mercedes for the journey to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris where they hopped on a flight to Costa Rica. They had escaped, or so they thought.

Police investigators naturally began their search for the missing children at their grandparents’ home. The grandparents advised the police that the children had spent the night at their home, but in the morning when they awoke the children and their mother were gone, leaving only a note.

However, their story quickly fell apart when police discovered a text message from granny to her daughter that showed her daughter’s location in the Channel Tunnel enroute to France.

More damning evidence emerged from roadside video that showed the Mercedes and other footage displayed the abducting mother’s vehicle being driven by grandfather back to his home.

Eventually the police learned that mother and children were in Costa Rica and not surprisingly, the children were already on the local constabulary’s radar as it had been reported that the children were wandering through their hotel without supervision, their mother’s whereabouts unknown.

The children’s father’s wife and a social worker arrived in Costa Rica to retrieve the children from an orphanage and return them to England, a task that took almost six weeks to obtain the proper paperwork from local authorities. All tolled, the children’s ordeal lasted two and a half months before they landed on British soil.

Grandma was jailed for 14 months, while her husband, who was less involved, was sentenced to 12 months in prison. Judge John Wait said to the elderly offenders:

“The consequences of this case have been quite awful. You were responsible for some of this but those acts were done out of love and emotion, not for money. You knowingly flouted a court order and told lies in the Royal Courts of Justice.”

Mother remains in Costa Rica but extradition proceedings are pending. You can be sure this mother will receive a lengthy jail sentence once she is back in the United Kingdom.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang